If you follow my blog, you’ll already know about my love for Christmas markets. This time last week I was in my element as I was visiting the Cologne Christmas markets which were every bit as magical as I had hoped. It was busy, in fact it was incredibly busy, but for very good reason. The markets were stunning, particularly at night, and it was a great experience to be able to absorb the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas. With a week to go until Christmas, I couldn’t be more in the mood.
Arriving earlier than the friend I was visiting the markets with, I was lucky enough to actually squeeze another city into my short break. Rather than flying directly to Cologne, I flew to Dusseldorf and had a few hours in the afternoon to visit the markets there. I was looking forward to this as about ten years ago this was where I was first introduced to continental Christmas markets on a family trip and it has fueled my love for them ever since. The markets in the centre all followed on from one another quite neatly, making it possible to see quite a lot in a short space of time.
Like anywhere that you build up in your memory, it wasn’t quite as amazing as I had hoped. The wares on the stalls didn’t seem as exciting, the ice rink seemed smaller and it just didn’t have the same magic in the air that I had remembered. Possibly it was because I was on my own, or because I knew that I still had a train to catch to get to my final destination so I was whizzing round rather than taking my time. However the markets were still very good, and the shops were stunning. I could have spent a long time staring at the window displays of Galeria Kaufhof!
Arriving in Cologne in the evening, after dropping off my bags at our accommodation I headed straight to the nearest market. With stars hanging from the trees, glitter on the ground and being greeted on arrival by an angel, I knew that this was the magic I was looking for. The Angel’s Christmas Market, located on Neumarkt (two minutes walk from where we were staying) is the oldest Christmas market in the city. It was beautiful and had plenty of food and drink options (if you could reach the bar) as well as some lovely decorations. Due to its location, we ended up returning to this market each night and I enjoyed it each time.
The Cathedral Christmas market, as expected, was crowded at all times of day. However, it is definitely worth pushing through the crowds at night as you can enjoy your dinner (as we did) under what can only be described as a marquee of lights. It was beautiful, and certainly made the long queue for our crêpes worth it.
Just around the corner from the Cathedral market was a much smaller market and during the day time it was much less crowded. We were actually able to sit at a bench to enjoy our gluhwein! From here, we headed on to the old town market which is also more magical by night with lights hanging in the trees. This is where the ice rink is based, which we were both eager to have a go on. It was quite crowded, but definitely worth doing. An ice rink was the one thing that had been missing for me in Prague, so I was pleased to take full advantage of it!
Following on from here, we headed to the Harbour market which overlooks the Rhine, and was right outside the chocolate museum. Having been on our feet all day, we decided that a sit down was in order, so enjoyed a hot chocolate each from the museum cafe. We then felt ready to return to each of the markets in the dark, enjoying seeing them in a different light.
In the evening of the following day, we headed to two of the markets we had missed from our tour. One, the gay and lesbian market, was a source of intrigue as we had been informed that the chalets would be pink and purple. I have to admit I was slightly disappointed. Whilst it was very pink and purple, it seemed rather over the top and a lot of the goods being sold were penis shaped which seemed rather unnecessary.
From here, we headed on to the Village of St Nicholas. I knew immediately that I would like this market as we were welcomed into it by a talking moose head (my family have a slight obsession with moose so this was very exciting!). The market had the historic backdrop of the medieval Hahnentorburg, and there was no queue at the bar which was a bonus!
As you can tell, Cologne has a wide range of markets and we didn’t even make it to the Stadtgarten so there is more to see if I return. It was incredibly busy the entire time so not great if you don’t like crowds, but if you can cope I would certainly recommend going to Cologne at this time of year. Chloe had been previously for an afternoon and had been eager to return to see more. At the end of the weekend she was still eager to return in the future, and I had also been thoroughly enchanted.
We drank gluhwein, enjoyed a wide range of different food (somehow managing to get through a weekend in Germany without eating sausage!), and bought some lovely decorations. We managed to pack a lot in as in addition to the markets we also did some sightseeing. But that’s for another post…