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There is no better way to get into the holiday spirit than by grabbing a mug of steaming wine (glühwein) and strolling through a German Christmas market. I’ve been to Christmas markets all over Europe and to Chicago’s very own, surprisingly authentic Christkindlmarkt, but none capture the magic of the season like those in Germany. From mid-November until the end of the year, Germans and tourists alike are eating, drinking, and being merry.
Cologne offers eight Christmas markets, plus some others that pop up throughout the season. We managed to wander through six of them. While they all had some of the same shops, each one also offered something different. Ice skating, a ferris wheel, and lots of handmade goods captured the interest of both young and old.
- Christmas Market at Cologne Cathedral*
- Market of Angels*
- Village of St. Nicholas*
- Heinzels Winter Fairy Tale*
- Cologne Harbour Christmas Market*
- Winter Magic Eigelstein*
- Stadtgarten Christmas Market
- Rooftop Xmas
*Markets we visited in November 2022.
Just a quick PSA: be prepared for crowds. Everywhere we went, the markets were jam-packed with people. This isn’t the most Covid-friendly activity due to the throngs of people. If you’re nervous about getting sick or are immunocompromised, wear a mask.
Some of the most unique gifts can be found in the stalls that make up these markets. We generally come to Europe each November to do some holiday shopping. I find the best stocking stuffers and gifts for the most hard-to-shop-for individuals.
Unique and decorative beeswax candles.
Glass Christmas ornaments and decorations.
Decorated gingerbread cookies and marshmallows.
Wooden spoons and bowls.
Wooden ornaments. I love to tie these on to Christmas presents.
More Christmas ornaments.
Stormtrooper beer for the Star Wars fan or beer lover.
Food & Drink
When you’re hungry or want something to drink, these markets have you covered with everything including crepes, currywurst, empanadas, seafood, chestnuts, spaetzle, and much more. Not to mention beer, wine, and a must while visiting – glühwein.
Freshly roasted salmon.
Lots of beer and adult beverages.
One of my favorite Christmas market treats is raclette. While the dish is traditionally Swiss (and sometimes found in France), it seems to always be at German Christmas markets. The hot, melted cheese is served over bread and offered with a variety of toppings like ham, peppers, onions, and cranberries.
I chose mine with the cranberries. It’s gooey and so satisfying.
Mugs are lined up to be filled with glühwein.
A closer look at the seasonal mugs. They require a 3 euro deposit (or you can forfeit this and keep the mug as a souvenir).
Prost! Time for some glühwein.
The markets are incredibly festive with ornate entrances, wood carvings, and tons of lights twinkling everywhere in addition to giant, decorated Christmas trees.
A huge tree towers over the market near the Dom Cathedral.
A Christmas-themed ferris wheel. A second, year-round ride is found in the Harbour Market.
There are decorations everywhere. Even the trees are decked out.
Wooden carvings line the paths of one of the markets.
Germany does Christmas right. Cologne offers eight Christmas markets to get you in the spirit. From the decorations to the food to the holiday music playing through the markets, you can’t help but feel festive. Grab a mug of hot wine and check off some of your Christmas shopping.
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