Heimat Der Heinzel Ice Skating Christmas Market CologneAnother year, another chilly few days in December spent in the beautiful city of Cologne with my family!  At some point, it became a tradition and one I'm very keen not to break.  As far as Christmas markets go, Germany delivers the goods.  Cologne now has a very, very special place in my heart thanks to the various Christmas markets I've seen grow and develop over recent years, as well as the memories made there.  The lights, the smells, the stalls.  The decorations, the attractions, the photo-opportunities.  The list goes on and on!  So, you have a couple of days to spend in the popular city, you're surrounded by spectacular gothic architecture and you want to immerse yourself in the famous Christmas markets you've read so much about.  But where to start?  Keeping in mind these are my personal recommendations; I've put together a guide of my favourite Christmas markets to explore in Cologne.  I've also added a few other ideas of how best to spend your time there next winter, along with some luxurious accommodation suggestions.  Enjoy!


H E I M A T   D E R   H E I N Z E L

Starting with my absolute favourite, Heimat der Heinzel.  It's probably the most polished of Cologne's markets, with incredible craftsmanship going throughout the entire run of the market (just look at that entrance!).  I'll admit it hasn't long been my favourite, however this year it truly took my breath away.  The ice rink is the main attraction here, with a bridge looping over halfway, allowing you to watch ice skaters glide their way up and down while you sip on your glühwein.  There's also a ferris wheel with adorable little red carriages and a huge amount of stalls.

W H E N ?

27th November - 23rd December

11am - 10pm

Heimat der Heinzel Entrance Gate Cologne Christmas Market
Guide to Cologne Christmas Markets Travel Blogger
Crowds at Heimat der Heinzel Christmas MarketNeedless to say, the usual suspects such as Bratwurst and lebkuchen can be found at most Christmas markets, however when it comes to food, Heimat der Heinzel goes above and beyond - and never without heavily embellished stalls to add to the occasion!  This market truly is one hell of an experience and one that has a definite feel-good vibe about it.   If you're trying to decide which market to dedicate the most time to, look no further.  
Lebkuchen Hearts German Christmas Market Stall
Decorate Stall Roofs at German Christmas Market
Ice Skating Rink at Cologne Christmas Markets

N I K O L A U S D O R F
( V I L L A G E   O F   S T .  N I C H O L A S )

When visiting Nikolausdorf this year, I was surprised to find it wasn't actually that busy during the day.  Although, it's all relative!  Going by previous years, this market becomes much busier towards the evening, when locals finish work and head to the markets for after-work drinks.  Children would probably enjoy the animated giant moose head at the entrance, as well as the various animal models throughout the market, including reindeers.  Oh I should also probably mention it's bitterly cold at this market due to the wind chill factor - I finally learnt from experience and wore an extra layer this year.  Do yourself a favour and whip out the thermals!

W H E N ?

27th November - 23rd December

11am - 9pm

German Christmas Market Nikolausdorf 2017
Best Christmas Markets in Cologne Nikolausdorf
Travel Blog Guide to the Best Cologne Christmas Markets
Cologne Christmas Market Boot Mugs of Gluwein Hot Chocolate
A couple of standout features at Nikolausdorf include unusual craft stalls (I bought a couple of quartz coasters with rims I plan to paint gold - hello Anthropologie) and hard-to-find foods such as backfisch (fried fish in a bun) and chocolate-covered fruit.  This market in particular seems calmer than most, and so it's perhaps one to visit earlier in the day to help you to acclimatise.  Plus, if you're coming in the direction from Cologne Cathedral, you'll inevitably pass the dreamy streets of luxurious boutiques along the way - perfect! German Christmas Market Reindeers on Roof
Stalls Things to Buy at Cologne Christmas Markets
Food at Cologne German Christmas Market Nikolausdorf


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W E I H N A C H T S M A R K T
(D O M   M A R K E T)

Surprise, surprise.  Weihnachtsmarkt is included in my guide to Cologne's best Christmas markets!  Heimat der Heinzel may well be my personal favourite, however I can totally understand why Cologne Cathedral's market is most likely the most famous of the bunch.  The backdrop of the twin-spired medieval cathedral is breathtakingly beautiful and even more so by night.  You find yourself torn between looking ahead at the markets and above at the architecture!  The open space means lighting during the day is brilliant (for any photographers reading this), although by night you get the added bonus of listening to live music within the Nordmann fir towering 25m at the heart of the market, illuminated by 50,000 LED lights.  Yeah.  It's just as spectacular as it sounds!


WHEN?

27th November - 23rd December

11am - 9pm (Sun-Wed)

11am - 10pm (Thurs-Sat)

-  Opens 10am on Saturdays  -

Travel Blog Guide to Cologne German Christmas Markets
Weihnachtsmarkt Cologne German Christmas Market Entrance
Dom Cathedral Architecture Illuminated by Night
Nordmann Fir Tower Live Music Cologne Christmas Music

M A R K T   D E R   E N G E L

One for the romantics, Markt der Engel is the most magical of Cologne's Christmas markets.  1000 star-shaped lights are strung from the above surrounding trees - once daylight has faded, it's a sight you'll never forget.  In fact, it's become the image that now springs into my mind whenever someone mentions Christmas markets.  Dreamy.  93 stalls run the stretch of the market, each selling intricate crafts, delicious food and other treats.  Oh and even better, an enclosed (warm) Käthe Wohlfahrt store can be found near the centre of Markt der Engel, providing the perfect opportunity to pick up a commemorative glass bauble or ornate tree topper from your trip!


W H E R E ?

27th November - 23rd December

11am - 9pm (Sun-Thurs)

11am - 10pm (Fri-Sat)

Markt der Engel Cologne Christmas Market Entrance
Steaming Crepes Cooking at Christmas Market
Markt der Engel Cologne 1000 Star Lights in Trees
Sweet Desserts Pudding Food Stall German Christmas Market


OTHER THINGS TO DO 

... And there we have it!  Although, what if you've never visited Cologne before and you want to see what the city has to offer?  In between Christmas markets, it can be a great idea to check out some of Cologne's other points of interest as it prevents becoming desensitised by the markets' beauty.  Trust me, it's a thing - and a thing you (obviously) want to avoid.  It's free to enter Cologne Cathedral and it will probably be the most peaceful twenty minutes or so you'll experience that festive season.  The architecture is incredible, something that dawns on you when you realise the historic building was built by hand - no machines involved!  Check out the crib, light a candle, take a seat and then head back into the excitement of the festive stalls.
Guide to what to do in Cologne travel blogger
Beautiful snowfall against architecture in Cologne
Okay, so you can't predict snow - but wow, did it make this year's trip all the more special.  I was sipping on the most indulgent hot chocolate I've ever had while travelling, when my brother pointed out the sudden heavy snowfall outside.  Hot chocolate, festive jumpers, Christmas markets, snowfall - it's my idea of heaven!  Speaking of which, visiting boutiques in between roaming from market-to-market can be a really fun thing to do, especially with so many fashion and home stores lining the sidewalks.  There are plenty of cafés to dip into for warm drinks and biscuits.  Oh, and while we're on the topic of drinks, don't forget to pick up a festive mug (bonus point if it's boot-shaped) from one of the Christmas markets.  You leave a deposit each time you order a drink (try the gluhwein or hot chocolate with amaretto) and so then it's your choice whether you return the mugs or not.  I mean, as far as collections go, boot-shaped festive mugs are pretty fun, right?!
Solid Hot Chocolate Cube Warm Drink
Germany Cologne Christmas Market Travel Blog Guide
German Shop Christmas Gingerbread House Display

W H E R E   T O   S T A Y ?

Your options for when it comes to accommodation are endless, as is the case with most cities.  In recent years, I've always stayed with family at Hilton Cologne Hotel.  The decor is modern, it's always incredibly clean and the staff have always been consistently friendly.  I have a really lovely memory created this year, of heading back to the bar late at night for warm drinks while watching live golf on a huge screen.  Am I a fan of golf?  Can't say it's ever really occurred to me.  But it was the environment that made it all the more cosy.    

Hilton Cologne
Marzellensraße 13-17
50668 Köln
Germany


Having said that, a friend of mind recently stayed at the privately-owned Excelsior Hotel and oh my gosh, what a fabulous hotel!  The interior design is beautifully luxurious and the hotel rooms look directly out at Cologne Cathedral.  What a view.  Sure, there's a chance I'm sat here daydreaming about listening to live piano music from their extravagant bar...

Excelsior Hotel Köln
Trankgasse 1-5
50667 Köln
Germany


Psst!  The benefit of choosing accommodation located close to Cologne Cathedral is not only for ease of access to nearby Christmas markets, but also being able to navigate your way back (especially if your German is limited!) 
Hotel Hilton Cologne Christmas Tree Decoration Foyer
Christmas tree in foyer of Hotel Hilton Cologne 
Visiting the German Christmas markets in Cologne is one of my all-time favourite festive traditions.  Have you visited any Christmas markets this year?  I'd absolutely love to hear your festive thoughts - let me know in the comments below!

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With love,

Gabrielle x