Last week I dashed over to Cologne (Koln) to see the famous Christmas Markets in all their glory! After spotting a mahoosive deal with Ryanair I speedily booked two return flights from Stansted to Cologne for £19 per person, admittedly we had to travel on a week day and very late November but I found this an ideal time to visit, the markets had just opened so everywhere was fresh and relatively quiet, no queuing for us!
I should also mention that this was a day trip (a long one at that)- we flew at 7am and returned back into London around 11pm.
Once we reached the airport and worked out how to buy a ticket, we took a train from into the town centre (Köln Hauptbahnhof or Koln Hbf) for a few euros. The train station is right on-top of the Cathedral so you won’t get lost.
We visited the 4 (could have been 5 with 2 close together) main markets:
Cathedral Market-Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom
This market is next to the iconic and very beautiful Cologne Cathedral, it offers an array of homemade gifts and has festive entertainment throughout the day. It’s set close to where the shopping area of Cologne begins and there is a tourist office right opposite the Cathedral.
Chocolate Museum/Harbour Market-Kölner Hafen- Weihnachtsmarkt
The harbour museum is rather conveniently located next to the Lindt Chocolate Museum, we felt it rude not to pop in. The museum entry fee was 7-8 Euros and included a look at the factory side of production and a free sample from the ‘chocolate fountain’ hmmmm. If you haven’t time for a visit you won’t be missing out, even if you just pop into the chocolate shop for a few edible goodies. At the harbour market we tried a German Bratwurst Sausage and some rather funky cabbage which was tasty. The harbour market is quite a walk from the Cathedral market so it might be worth catching the mini-train.
Old Town/Ice-rink Market -Kölner Altstadt “Heimat der Heinzel
This was by far my favourite of the markets, it was also the largest but that could possibly be because two markets almost merge into one. The old town market had the busiest atmosphere with a number of bars serving gluhwein (mulled wine) and the most amazing hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted, we also managed to squeeze in a very small glass of beer here and for a non-beer drinker-it was lovely! All of the drinks are served in pretty themed mugs and glasses, a deposit is paid when you buy your drinks in case you choose to take it as a souvenir, return your empty mugs and the deposit is returned.
The old town market also has an ice-rink and feels much more festive and fun compared to the other markets, make this a must-see.
Angel/Town Market -Markt der Engel – Weihnachten auf dem Neumarkt
The angel market was situated in the heart of the shopping district of Cologne next to essential shops such as Zara and Primark (yes they have a huge Primarni) It was here that we ate some delicious German Reibekuchen (potato fritters) they were like little fried potato rosti’s with cheese and onion, it’s traditional to eat them with apple sauce which was surprisingly nice. I can’t wait to make these at home they were delish!
To save your feet there is a Mini Train that drives between the main markets its quite cheap about 2.50 euros for one stop or 7 euros ish for an unlimited ticket. It stops right outside the Cathedral, you wont’s miss it as it’s painted bright yellow.
I would recommend you dress comfortably and wear your walking shoes. We found a day trip was the perfect time to get around and see the markets, maybe a one night stay at the most.
Just before we got our train back to the airport (Koln Bonn) we popped into the Cathedral to light a candle and see the magnificent building from the inside (my Grandfather’s first job was as an apprentice painter at the Cathedral)
Give yourself enough time to buy a return ticket and find your platform, we spent a good 20 minutes standing on the wrong platform(it’s a bit like Waterloo)
If you fly with a budget airline like Ryanair expect queues as the bargain flights are always packed. Be aware of the baggage allowance, I packed a fold-up holdall bag in my handbag for take my gifts home in. All-in-all we had a lovely festive day out, even if we did come home with a couple of blisters!
Cologne Christmas Markets Tourist Guide: