So, we're just a few days into December and already the festive season has been completely magical! Last week I spent a few days in Germany at the heart of Cologne as per annual tradition. Having visited at Christmastime each year for as long as I can remember, the city now holds a very special place in my heart, and I've been so looking forward to sharing this year's experience with you. Considering how festive markets (weihnachtsmarkt) are becoming increasingly popular, I've divided this travel diary into a guide through my favourite Christmas Markets in Cologne, as well as my personal recommendation on where best to stay. Enjoy!
NIKOLAUSDORF MARKET AT RUDOLFPLATZ
Located at the interchange station Rudolfplatz (surprise, surprise), the Fairytale Market is brilliant for easing yourself into the festive action. As shown above, the stalls are traditionally German combined with an air of fairytale. It's approximately a 15-20 minute walk from Cologne Cathedral, seeing you pass hundreds of shops along the way - perfect for building an appetite! Due to its location, you can expect to find large groups of office workers enjoying a drink as it gets dark, so arrive early if you're looking for a calmer experience.
Perfect for: a brief day-time visit to begin your time in Cologne - plus, there's also a huge pharmacy located on the corner should you be in need of one!
COLOGNE CATHEDRAL MARKET
Arguably the most popular Christmas market in Cologne, the 150 cookie-cutter wooden pavilions sit directly next to (Roman Catholic) Cologne Cathedral. It's magical by both day and night, though if you're looking to immerse yourself in a buzzing atmosphere filled with thousands of twinkling lights and the sound of live music, be sure to visit the Kölner Dom market once it's dark. Besides the stunning cathedral backdrop, another standout feature is the illuminated Christmas tree positioned in the middle of the market. Just beautiful.
Perfect for: sampling a wide range of food, getting gorgeous photos and for enjoying an entire evening after having soaked up the tranquility of Cologne Cathedral.
HEIMAT DER HEINZEL
I'm hesitant to say which market is my favourite as it seems to change with every year; however this year, Heimat der Heinzel well and truly took my breath away! There's something to see at every turn and it's evident as soon as you step through the arch that a lot of time and effort has gone into creating a festive and entirely magical space. A lot of the roofs feature fun, festive designs such as chimneys and reindeer, while lights are strung from the surrounding trees (similar to Markt der Engel). With regard to shopping, in my opinion this is the best market for actually finding some fabulous gifts.
Perfect for: shopping, ice-skating, socialising and having an all-encompassing, beautiful experience of Cologne at Christmastime.
MARKT DER ENGEL
Possibly the most romantic of markets, the Angel Market features 1000 star lights in the trees around Neumarkt - which is worth visiting for alone! No matter how crowded it becomes, Cologne's oldest market somehow manages to remain peaceful, making it the ideal spot to meet up with friends/family or anyone you may have travelled with. Items sold from the chalets are at times slightly more luxurious than other markets, though food is still priced the same.
HILTON COLOGNE HOTEL
Having stayed at a handful of hotels at the heart of Cologne, it quickly became clear it's best to stay as close to Cologne Cathedral as possible. That way, your entire festive experience can be enjoyed on foot in an approx. 30 minute radius. It also means if you encounter difficulties locating your hotel, it's easy to get navigations back to Kölner Dom from locals! My current favourite is the Hilton Cologne, an 'upscale city centre hotel' just a block from Köln S-Bahn station and a 4 minute walk to the Cathedral.
|Sunset view from Hilton Cologne|
BEFORE YOU LEAVE...
As I've no doubt you're aware, just like every other city, Cologne has one million and one things to offer. However, if you're there purely for the Christmas markets, before you leave be sure to visit Cologne Cathedral; the interior is just as breathtaking as the exterior. Plus, just across the street on the corner, a bakery (Kamps) can be found - perfectly convenient for picking up a couple of filled rolls or oversized cakes to munch on the journey back to the airport!
The Christmas Advent Markets in Köln run from 21st November to 23rd December 2016.