Cologne Christmas Markets – The Best Insiders Guide

me-with-feuerzangen

The Cologne Christmas Markets are some of the most famous in Europe.  People travel from all over the world to come and soak up the magic of Christmas  in this lovely German city.  I’m lucky to call Cologne home and believe me it really is a magical place at this time of year!  There’s nothing better to get you in the mood for Christmas than a drinking a warm Gluhwein while taking in the atmosphere of Germany’s Magical Christmas Markets.

It’s nearly 6 years since our family moved to here Cologne and we have become somewhat experts in negotiating the Cologne Christmas Markets.  Our knowledge has been perfected through years of dedicated Gluhwein drinking and bratwurst eating.  So, instead of just helping the occasional lost tourist I thought that it might be more useful to provide a little guide to the markets.  Hopefully everything I have learnt through my Gluhwein drinking efforts will save you lots of time and trouble for planning your own trip to the markets.

For 2018, the Christmas Markets open on 26th November and then finish on 23rd December.  If you are interested to learn more about different Christmas markets across Europe, check out the favourite Christmas Markets in Europe post by Sharon at the fab Travel Eat Enjoy Repeat blog.

Introduction to the Cologne Christmas Markets

So this guide will provide everything you need to get the most out of a trip to the Cologne Christmas Markets.  I’m going to start with a few basics about the markets (how many, where they are etc).  Then I’ll give you some info about some of the other things you can do in Cologne just in case you want to take a break from the markets.  Because I’m all about the food and drink, I’m then going to make you feel hungry by talking about all the different options on the markets. After this there is a guide to each of the different Cologne Christmas Markets in detail.  Finally, at the end is a whole bunch of practical info about the different options for getting to Cologne in the first place.  I’ve also included also a few words on how to get to Cologne from the various airports in the area.  I know that this can be a bit of a minefield.  If you are looking for a Cologne hotel for Christmas, there are some great suggestions from Naomi on her Probe Around the World Blog.  As I live in Cologne, my knowledge of the hotel scene isn’t so great.

7 Special Cologne Christmas Markets

market-locations
Locations of the Christmas Markets

There are 7 fantastic Cologne Christmas Markets for you to choose from.  Every single one has its own character and feel.  This makes it a great place to visit for 2 or even 3 days.  Most of the markets are all within walking distance of each other as well, so you don’t need to worry about public transport.  However, if you do want to use the excellent tram network to get around, read more about Cologne’s travel system at the end of the post.  You can easily wander from one market to the other, eating, drinking, shopping and taking in the atmosphere of the city.

Food, Drink and Shopping

Before telling you all about the different markets themselves with some great insider tips, I’m going to whet your appetite with some of my own thoughts on the wonderful food and drink options that make the Cologne Christmas Markets so special.  I feel very lucky that some of the markets are walking distance to where I work.  This means that from the end of November the Cologne Christmas Markets are literally an extension of our staff canteen at lunchtime.

Amazing Food Choices

The selection of food options at the Cologne Christmas Markets is enormous.  It’s guaranteed that you certainly won’t go hungry. While it helps to be a meat lover, it shouldn’t put you off if you are vegetarian.  My daughter Lucy is a veggie and she has never had a problem finding yummy food on any of the markets.  Before I talk about the traditional Christmas Market food, I want to give a quick shout out to my friend Dan and the team at the Tasty Pasty Company. I wrote about them in a previous post (here) and they are well worth a visit at their stall in the Alter Markt.  Their special Christmas Pasties are the closest thing to Christmas Dinner I have ever had.  Well worth a stop.

Cologne Christmas Markets Pasty
Dan from the Tasty Pasty Company on his Stall at Heumarkt

Bratwurst and Other Meat

The go to food of everyone when they first come to the Cologne Christmas Markets is a traditional German Bratwurst. It’s a long sausage normally served in an undersized roll that leaves most of the sausage sticking out either end.  There are Bratwurst stands all over the Cologne Christmas Markets so its not hard to find one.  My personal favourite place for Bratties is in the middle of the Alter Markt at Heumarkt.  It’s right next to the big wooden house at the north end of the ice rink.  They also serve some of the best Currywurst as well.

Cologne Christmas Markets Meat Stick
Enjoying a Big Stick of Meat at Neumarkt

My personal favourite meat dish is the big stick of meat that you can get at most of the markets.  Look for the term Fleischspeiss.  The best place to buy these is in the middle of the second Alter Markt market near the ferris wheel and Apple Punch stall.  There are some great meat selections at all the Markets.  I can especially recommend the Pork sanwich stall at the Angel’s Market on Neumarkt and at the Stadtgarten Market.  There is also a wide selection of different meat options at the Cathedral Christmas Market.

Flame Grilled Salmon and Other Fishy Things

Out of all the food that you can find across all the Cologne Christmas Markets, my personal favourite is the flame grilled Salmon.  Look for the sign Flammlachs and follow the heavenly smell as the whole fish grill away in front of the fire.   It’s usually served in a bread roll (im Brotchen) with iceberg lettuce and remoulade.  You get a fork as well so you don’t have to try and eat it all with your hands.  The other option is to buy a whole plate of fish, which is served with the roll and various other garnishes.  You can’t get Flammlachs at every Christmas Market sadly.

The main Flammlachs stalls are on the left side of the Alter Markt market, in the middle of the Neumarkt Angel’s Market or at the Harbour Market.  Last year they also opened a Flammlachs stall at the Cathedral Market, which is great because it’s close to the office where I work.  It will be hard not to have a salmon roll for lunch every day with it being so close.

Cologne Christmas Markets Fish
Flammlachs is one of my Christmas Market favourites

There are other fish dishes available at all the different Cologne Christmas Markets.  One particular highlight is the fried fish at the Angel’s Market in Neumarkt.  It’s a little like a miniature version of fish and chips – really tasty with a perfect remoulade.   Then on the meat stick stall in the Alter Markt near the Ferris Wheel they also serve a stick of garlic prawns.  It’s really tasty but they only cook them to order so be prepared for a little bit of a wait.

Something Other Than Meat or Fish

As I said, my daughter Lucy is a veggie and there are plenty of options across the all the markets.  The most widely available dish is Reibekuchen, which is fried potato cakes.  It’s not exactly the most healthy option but it tastes amazing.  Normally they come served with apple sauce (Apfelmus).   On some of the Cologne Christmas Markets you can get them with cream (Schmand) and a berry sauce (Preiselbeeren – think the red sauce you get with the meatballs and gravy at IKEA).

Cologne Christmas Markets Potatos
Reibekuchen, potato heaven.

The list of the other options are almost endless and every market offers something different.  Some of our family favourites include the gorgeous Gnocchi (also next to the meat stand in the Alter Markt), Raclette (stunning grilled cheese at the Cathedral and Angel’s Market), Flammkuchen (available both in Veggie and Meat varieties at the Angel’s Market and the Stadtgarten) and finally the Mushroom with garlic and sauce (from almost every market).

Warming Drinks – Great for Cold Weather

One of the most interesting parts of the Cologne Christmas Markets are the wide range of drink selections that are available.  Whether it’s Gluhwein or Hot Chocolate that gets you in the mood for Christmas you will be in heaven.  One important thing to introduce you to is the concept of “tassen pfand”.  Almost every time I visit the markets there are tourists confused about why they are being charged more than the cost of the drink they ordered.  On all the markets you are also charged a deposit for the cup or glass that the drink is served in.  It’s usually the same price as the drink itself.  It’s useful to know that every year, every different market has a different mug design so many people think of them as collectors items.  If you want to keep the cup you either just keep it (obviously) or you can also buy a proper unused mug at one of the market stalls for the same price as the pfand.

Cologne Christmas Markets Drinks Warm
There are lot of warming drinks available on the markets

Gluhwein and Some Cheeky Additions

The traditional drink at the Cologne Christmas Markets is Gluhwein, which is a mulled wine.  Once it gets to October, we start looking forward to the Christmas Market Gluhwein.  There is nothing better for getting into the Christmas spirit than drinking Gluhwein on a cold evening with friends on one of the Christmas Markets.  Most people know of the traditional dark red Gluhwein but you can also get white (Weiss) Gluhwein as well.  You can also get Gluhwein with either Rum or Amaretto.  It’s easy to overdo it on the alcohol so pace yourself and don’t drink too much or too quickly.

Cologne Christmas Markets Gluhwein
Gluhwein is a natural choice and a real favourite

Calvados and Apple Punch

Other options that you can find on the Alter Markt and at the Stadtgarten is Calvados liqueur and Apple Punch.  The Calvados liqueur with cream is very nice indeed but again don’t go silly with them, you’ll regret it later.  The same stalls also have both an alcoholic and non-alcoholic apple punch as well that equally as nice.  The stall that sells the Apple Punch at the Alter Markt is very well placed for both the meat sticks and Dan’s Christmas Pasty stall.  It’s one of our favourite places to enjoy the markets.  There’s excellent festive music and always an amazing atmosphere.

Cologne Christmas Markets Calvados
The Calvados Drink – Exclusively at the Alter Markt

Finally, The Feuerzangenbowle – It’s on Fire!

The final drink I want to tell you about is not for the faint hearted.  It’s called the Feuerzangenbowle and its basically is Gluhwein and Rum that’s set on fire.  It’s comes in a special mug called a Feuerzangentasse which has a set of forks attached to it on which a sugar cone is placed.  The cone is then soaked in rum and the whole thing is set on fire.  It’s very nice indeed for warming your insides on a cold day.  The main place to get this is at the Alter Markt Christmas Market.  It’s great then to drink it in the themed house overlooking the Ice Rink.

feuer-zangen-bowle
The Feuerzangenbowle – Gluhwein on Fire

Shopping at the Markets

As well as food and drink there is some great shopping to be had on all the Cologne Christmas Markets.  The Angel’s Market at Neumarkt has a fantastic shop of Christmas decorations.  On the same market there is another stall that sells chocolate that looks exactly like rusty tools, it’s very clever and makes a great Christmas stocking filler for boys especially.  There are also loads of different arts, crafts and clothing for sale.  You can literally spend hours just wandering from stall to stall.  I would advise bringing a good rucksack if you plan to buy anything.  The carrier bags from the stalls are famously thin and break easily.  When the markets are busy it’s not ideal to try and drink Gluhwein, eat food and keep hold your shopping all at the same time.

Guide to the Individual Markets

As I said, there are 7 different Cologne Christmas Markets.  Each one has a different theme and feel to it.  It’s worth making a plan to try and visit as many of them as you can when you are here.  Most of them are within walking distance of each other.  The Stadtgarten is a little further away and if your legs get tired you can always use the excellent tram system that we have in Cologne (there’s more info about the trains and trams later on).

Alter Markt (Old Market)

One of the biggest and best of the markets is the one at the Alter Markt.  If you are using the tram to get there, get off at either Heumarkt or Rathaus.  The market is a great one to visit during the day time.  It’s biggest enough that you could spend all day just at this market.  In reality, it’s 2 markets in one.  First of all there is the large open market on Heumarkt itself.  This one has a large ice rink at the centre (in the picture) and a couple of great indoor areas in case it’s raining.  A fantastic spot is on the balcony of the house that overlooks the ice rink.  It’s great for people watching and getting your bearings.

Cologne Christmas Markets Alter Markt
The Alter Markt Christmas Market

The second part is on the Alter Markt.  You get to it through the street in the top left corner of Heumarkt (assuming you have your back to the tram station).  There is a small ferris wheel to one side and the big meat stall, The Tasty Pasty Company and the Apple Punch are all in the middle.  It’s a great spot for meeting people.

Angel’s Market (Neumarkt)

The Angel’s Market is a bit further from the Rhine river on the Neumarkt Square.  It’s a great market to visit at night because, as you can see in the picture, the stars in the trees give it a really magical atmosphere.  There is a wide selection of great food and a lovely bar at the west end of the market.  It’s great for hanging around with friends and it’s our spot of choice to meet up with people in the evening.

Cologne Christmas Markets Neumarkt
The Angel’s Markt at the Neumarkt

There are some great stalls to buy Christmas decorations.  All over the market are some awesome arts and crafts stalls.  This is also the market with the stall that sells the chocolate that looks like rusty tools.  It does get busy, but it’s a great market for just wandering around and soaking in the atmosphere.

Cathedral Market

The biggest single market in the city and perhaps one of the most stunning in terms of location is the Cathedral Market.  It’s located in the square right in front of the Dom Cathedral.  As you can see from picture its pretty special.  In the centre of the market is a huge Christmas tree and as the lights come on in the late afternoon the market looks even more magical than in the day time.  If you don’t feel Christmassy drinking Gluhwein on this market then you never will.

Cologne Christmas Markets Dom
The Dom Market at the Cathedral

There’s a huge selection of food stands at this market with just about everything you can imagine.  The mushrooms are especially good at this market.  If you are looking for a traditional German Bratwurst there’s a good stand for that at the left side towards the entrance to the Cathedral itself.  It’s one of my favourite places for Flammlachs (grilled Salmon) as well.  Whatever food you choose, you won’t go wrong.  There are also some excellent craft stalls at the end of the market furthest from the Cathedral.

There is often entertainment on the stage by the tree so if you can find a table its a great place to hang out.  The other good spot, especially if it’s raining, is on the right hand side under the canopy of the Roman-German Museum.  There’s a Gluhwein stand right there as well, so if it’s wet head there, grab a table and camp out in the dry until you are ready to continue exploring.

Christmas Avenue – The Gay and Lesbian Market

One thing many visitors don’t know about Cologne is that it’s one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Europe.  Every July it hosts one of the biggest Gay Pride festivals in the world and there is a vibrant gay and lesbian scene in the Cologne.  The Christmas Avenue Market is, as you might expect, one of the most fun places to soak up the Christmas atmosphere.  It is also the home of the famous Willy Waffle, which has kept locals and tourists in funny Facebook posts for many years.

Cologne Christmas Markets Waffle
The Home of the Legendary Willy Waffle

The crowd is generally younger than the other markets.  The selection of food and drinks is also much more diverse that the more traditional markets, so it’s a great place to come when you want something other than Gluhwein and Bratwurst.  There are some particularly good foods stand at this market as well as some great gift stalls with some really fun presents.  My mother-in-law loves the chocolate penis we buy her from this market every year.

Harbour Market (Chocolate Museum)

The Harbour Market is one of the smallest in the city but it’s well worth a visit.  It’s a short walk along the river south of the Cathedral and the Alter Markt Market.  The market is right in front of the entrance to the Chocolate Museum, which is also worth a visit and a great place to shelter if it’s wet.  It’s also the one that opens first, usually on the Friday before all of the other Cologne Christmas Markets open on the Sunday.

Cologne Christmas Market Museum
Another great market at the Chocolate Museum

This museum is better to visit during the day time.  There is a nice focal point bar and food area, plus the selection of food is really great given the small size of the market.  There’s a food stall that does a particularly good pork sandwich that I can very much recommend.  I haven’t seen this at any of the other markets.  There is also a great selection of arts and crafts at the entrance. Some of the stalls are rented by local artists and producers just for one weekend so things are constantly changing.

Village of St Nicholas (Rudolfplatz)

Next up we have the Nikolausdorf, which is a village style Christmas Market in the shadow of the medieval Hahnentorburg on Rudolfplatz.  This part of the city is where most of the best night spots are so there is always a great crowd and a fantastic atmosphere at this market.  It’s right next to the Christmas Avenue Market, so you can visit both one after the other.  I forgot to mention that all of the markets have their own Gluhwein mugs, which you can keep just by not returning the cup for you deposit back.  The mugs change each year and are very much collectors items for many people.  Most people think the mugs from this market are the best.

Cologne Christmas Markets Rudolfplatz
The Nikolausdorf at Rudolfpatz

The Rudolfplatz Market has a great Gluhwein stand on the edge of it and this means a lot of people congregate around it on the square.  As well as the Gluhwein, they serve a lovely Brandy Punch on this market.  There are the usual food stalls and one of the best Reibekuchen, potato cake stalls is on this market.   If you are visiting with children, they often have children’s entertainment on the stage by the Hahnentorburg.

Stadtgarten – The One That’s Easy to Miss

The last of the Cologne Christmas Markets to tell you about is the Stadtgarten Christmas market.  It’s a little bit further from the others but it’s definitely worth making the effort to visit. This market is slap bang in the middle of the Belgian Quarter of Cologne, which is one of the coolest and hip parts of the city.  Because it’s not on the traditional tourist trail, it tends to have more locals than tourists giving it a very traditional atmosphere.

stadtgarten
The Stadtgarten Christmas Market

The Stadtgarten market has an amazing village feel to it.  It’s full of amazing craft stalls selling all manner of cute gifts for Christmas.  It’s a great place to pick up nick nacks and stocking fillers.  I even got a fantastic wooden chopping board here a couple of years ago.  The food selection is also wonderful, like all the markets.  There are some especially great deserts here with tarte flambee, crepes and waffles as well as some awesome toasted almonds.  The savoury end of the spectrum is also well catered for with tasty stews, raclette and mushrooms being my favourite things to eat here.

Other Sights in Cologne and Dusseldorf

Cologne Christmas Markets Dom
There’s Lots to See in Cologne and the Surrounding Area

As well as the markets, there are a few sights that you really shouldn’t miss while you’re here.   Probably the most impressive sight in Cologne it’s amazing Cathedral or the Kolner Dom as its known.  It’s right next to one of the biggest of the Cologne Christmas Markets and is also next to the main station so you can’t miss it.  You can wander around inside the Cathedral and some days you might even get to hear the choir singing.  You can also climb to the top of the Cathedral for a great view over the city.  The other great draw of Cologne is the Rhine River that flows through the centre of the city.  There is nothing I like better than sitting by the river watching the world go by.  Most of the cafe’s and restaurants have covered areas with heaters so you can even sit out on cold December days.

There’s More to Cologne than the Dom

For the best view of the city, walk across the railway bridge and visit Koelntriangle Panorama. From the observation platform you get the most amazing view in Cologne across the whole city for the bargain price of just 3 Euros.  The best bit about this platform is that you get the best view of both the river and the Cathedral.

Cologne Christmas Markets Tower View
The Koln Triangle Tower (on the left) give good view across the city

To get to the Triangle Panorama you walk across the railway bridge.  Over the course of many years couples have sealed their love by leaving a padlock on the bridge and then throwing the key in the Rhine.  It’s a very impressive sight to see and perhaps you want to leave your own padlock with a loved one.  Its worth knowing that there is a lot more space on the North side of the bridge.

Cologne Christmas Markets View
A View Across the Cityscape of Cologne

There are also many interesting museums in Cologne.  My favourite is the Roman-German Museum that celebrates the Roman origins of Cologne right through to the Middle Ages.  If you are an art fan then the Ludwig Museum at the back of the Cathedral is also worth a visit.  Finally, if you are interested in World War II history, the NS-DOK Museum is extremely interesting.  This building was the Cologne Headquarters of the Gestapo Secret Police and is now the largest memorial in Germany.

You could also make the time to take the short trip to Dusseldorf.  Check out this post on Dusseldorf and day trips near the city by Gypsy with a Day Job.

Other Places with Great Christmas Markets

If you can’t make it to Cologne, there are lots of other places with fab Christmas Markets.  You can read a great summary of various Christmas Markets across Europe here on the Hole in my Shoe blog.  In my native UK it seems that every city has a German style Christmas Market these days.  There’s a new one opened in Leicester Square in London recently.  There’s a great post about this new London market written by the awesome blogger Melly who is “The Baker Abroad“, you can read all about it here.  Birmingham is also famous for having a huge Frankfurt Christmas Market.  However, one of my favourite markets is the one in Bath where 87% of the stalls are run by small local businesses.

Cologne Christmas Markets Edinburgh Hogmany Market
Edinburgh Christmas Markets

I also love to visit the market in Edinburgh when we are visiting the family in Scotland. When I moved to Germany, I found it really interesting that what I thought were Christmas traditions all over the world turned out to be just in the UK and the USA.  You can read more about the different celebrations around the world on the Blogmas post of fellow blogger All That Jazmin here.  It’s really great and not just because I wrote the part about Germany.

And Finally……..Some Practical Info

If I’ve got you excited about the idea of enjoying Gluhwein and Bratwurst at the Cologne Christmas Markets there are a few bits of practical information that you might find useful.  I’ve finished this post off with some info on the best ways to get to Cologne in the first place.  We’ve become experts in all the different flight options back to the UK so hopefully there are some useful tips for you.  I’ve also added some useful info on how to get from the airport to Cologne as well.

Getting to the Markets in the First Place

The first thing to consider is how to get to the Cologne Christmas Markets in the first place.  Obviously the earlier you book the better and flying without hold luggage is cheaper as well.  There are 3 airports that you can use for getting to the Cologne Christmas markets.  These are:

 Flying to Cologne Airport

Flights with Eurowings (what used to be Germanwings) from airports all over Europe, from the UK they fly to Cologne from Edinburgh, Heathrow, Manchester and Stansted.  The other main option is to fly with Ryanair who are continually adding new destinations to Cologne, from the UK they now fly from Bristol, Manchester and Stansted.

Dusseldorf Airport

The airport at Dusseldorf is bigger than Cologne and has a wider range of destinations with a bigger choice of airlines.  From the UK, options include Birmingham (Flybe), Bristol (BMI Regional),  Doncaster/ Sheffield (Flybe), Glasgow (Eurowings), Heathrow (British Airways and Eurowings), Leeds-Bradford (Jet 2), London City (British Airways), Newcastle (Eurowings) and Southampton (Flybe).

Weeze Airport

There are various names for this airport and it has been called Dusseldorf Weeze despite being over 60 km North of the city.  It’s a bit of a trek from Cologne but if you book ahead there are some very cheap flight available with Ryanair (to Edinburgh, Luton and Stansted as well as other European destinations).

Cologne Christmas Markets Flights
Eurowings and Other Airlines fly to Cologne and Dusseldorf

Getting from the Airport to the City

One of the hardest things about arriving in Germany is how to negotiate the public transport from the airport.  There are a few pitfalls that might cause a problem so this part isn’t exactly exciting but it might make your trip start more smoothly.

Taking a plane to Cologne

From Cologne Airport to Cologne

The easiest way to get from Cologne Airport to the city centre is by train.  The station at the Airport is underground between the 2 terminals and is really well signposted.  Before you go down to the platform you need to buy a ticket from the red machines.  You can change the language of the machines so that they are in English as well as other languages.

Buying the Right Ticket

For Cologne city centre, click the VRS Transport Association tariff and buy a Zone 1b ticket.  You can buy singles (Euro 2.80) or 4 journey tickets (Euro 10.70), these are Christmas 2016 fare prices.  If you buy a 4 journey ticket you have to stamp it in one of the orange machines.  If you are travelling as a couple you could stamp the ticket twice (folding along the line on the ticket) going into the city and then repeat on the way back to the airport.

The final option is a Day Ticket for 5 people, which is Euro 12.90 and gives full access to the Cologne area travel network all day after 9 am.  It really is great value.  The machines take coins or cards by the way, including visa and mastercard which isn’t always the case in Germany.

Take the Right Train

Go down to the platform and take any of the red trains going in the direction of Cologne centre.  There are suburban trains (S13 or S19) and the Regional trains (RE8 or RE6).  The main thing is, don’t get on the white ICE train!  Your ticket won’t be valid and the fine from ticket inspectors won’t be a good start to your holiday.  I have known of tourists (and even 1 or 2 friends) getting on the wrong train or not stamping a 4-journey ticket then ending up with a 40 Euro fine.

Cologne Christmas Markets ICE
Don’t take one of the White ICE trains – unless you bought a specific ticket for it

Get Off in the Right Place

If you are staying in the city centre near the Cathedral then get off at the stop Cologne Hauptbahnhof (Main Station), it’s the first stop after you cross the river.  It takes less than 15 minutes to get from the airport.  The station name will be announced in English so just listen out for it.  If you are staying in the Hyatt or other hotels near the Exhibition centre then get off a Cologne Deutz, which is the stop before the main station.  There are a couple of handy websites/ apps to use to check travel in the Cologne, provided you have mobile internet access. There are VRS (in English), which is the regional area network.  There is also the KVB, the travel company for the Cologne itself.

From Dusseldorf Airport to Cologne

From Dusseldorf Airport the journey to Cologne takes between 30 and 40 minutes depending on the option you choose.  To get to the Airport’s train station you have to take the Skytrain from the terminal first, which takes 5 or 10 minutes.  The ticket machines are easy to find between the Skytrain and the platforms.  The best option is to buy a Zone 5 ticket for Euro 11.30 or a 4-trip ticket for Euro 43.00.  The second option is ideal for couples, just remember to stamp the ticket in the orange machines at the entrance to the platform.  Take one of the red RE, regional trains to Cologne Main Station and it will take around 40 minutes.  There is a quicker option as well, which involves taking the White ICE train.  However this costs Euro 20.00 per person each way.

Cologne Christmas Markets Train
Take one of the red Regional Trains

From Weeze Airport

It’s not so easy to get from Weeze Airport to Cologne.  There is a regular bus that goes to Deutz Station for Euro 21.00 each way.  The journey takes up to 2 hours.  You can find out more about the bus timetables here.

Getting Around Cologne

The centre of Cologne is quite compact and the walk from the Main Station and Cathedral to Rudolfplatz or the Stadtgarten only takes 15 to 20 minutes at the most.  However, should you want to save your legs and use public transport there is a great tram network in Cologne that you can use to get from market to market.  You can download a map of the tram network from the website of the KVB here.  One things to be aware of is that most of the ticket machines (including the ones on the trams) only take coins, which makes things a little difficult.  There are ticket machines that take cards at the main station and Neumarkt.  If you are doing a lot of travelling around the city you can buy a Tagesticket (Day ticket) for either 5 people or 1 person.  The 5 person ticket is great value at only 12 Euros, but it is only valid after 9.30 in the morning.

Cologne Christmas Markets Trams
Cologne has an extensive tram network to make it easy to get around

Coming By Car?

If you are coming by car for a day trip to the Cologne Christmas Markets, there are a few options.  Rather than pay big parking fees in the centre, the best thing to do is park in one of the Park and Ride stations in Zone 1b.  Then you can just buy a Tagesticket for 12.00 Euros and with free parking it should work out great value.  The best choices on the West side of the city and close to the motorways are the tram station at the Rhein Energie Stadion or the train stop at Weiden West.

If You Come – Drop Me a Line

I hope that you find this guide to the Cologne Christmas Markets useful, I’ve tried to capture all my favourite things so you can learn from our experiences and those of the friends who taught us all their tricks.  If you are planning to come to Cologne, leave me a comment let me know or send me an email, it would be great to have a Gluhwein with you.

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44 Thoughts to “Cologne Christmas Markets – The Best Insiders Guide”

  1. Loved the German markets when we lived in MG, it’s a no-brained to do this at least once….it should be on everyone’s bucket list. We landed lucky living so close to Bath who have a great market. We hope to take a stall next year and sell our artisan ales there.

  2. Wow, there’s so much to do without a doubt. I love the view of the The River Front and the Cathedral. So lovely to have a Christmas market, it gives so much to do at the weekend too!

  3. I would absolutely love to head off to somewhere such as Cologne and visit the Christmas markets I bet it is an amazing experience and great atmosphere.

  4. I visited Cologne last summer and loved it but it sounds like it’s even better when the Christmas markets are on!

  5. I love Christmas markets so much, and 7 all close by, I would be in heaven. Will have to take a trip there one year

  6. I adore Christmas markets and have a list that I’m working my way through, Cologne is on the list for 2018. Jo

  7. Lucy, I am a veggie too and these fried potato cakes sound super delicious. I love the look of the Cologne markets.

  8. This is such a fab post for me to read, I’m going to do this for my mum either this year or next 🙂 H x

  9. Tara

    Not a huge fan of Christmas, but I’m excited to see some Christmas markets myself

  10. I definitely want to do the Christmas markets in Cologne one time, I’m actually so jealous as my friend is going the second week in December! I’m going to pass on your post to her so she can check it out

  11. I’d love to head to Cologne and visit their Christmas markets x

  12. I really want to go to the Cologne market, it’s been top of my list for ages but I just don’t have the time this year. I’m definitely going to push to go next December x

  13. Wow so informative. I love Christmas markets. Been to the one in Birmingham.

  14. Dave Propper

    Great write-up. Just one edit. There is also a Market in Mediapark. It’s theme is Alpine.

    1. Thanks for the reminder. It was really good last year and we loved the giant snow globe, I’ll need to go again and make an update to the post.

  15. Dannii

    We are lucky that we have some amazing Christmas markets here in Manchester, but I would love to go to some in Germany.

  16. Wow there is so much to do I’d love fo go to a German Christmas market.

  17. I totally want to go just for the food and to have a proper Bratwurst rather than the rubbish ones we have here!

  18. I have a friend who lives in one of the small towns near Cologne and every year I plan to stay with her and visit the Christmas markets. Maybe one year we will actually manage to arrange it properly.

  19. What a great post, I would love to go to a German market x

  20. I went to a German Christmas Market on a school holiday years ago! It was such a fantastic experience!

  21. You had me at the Calvados! I’ve been to the Christmas market at Berlin and also Prague and would LOVE to go to Cologne. It looks beautiful. Bookmarking this for the future

  22. ‘Fried potato cake’ – I’ve never read three words more amazing than this in my life. I’m a veggie like Lucy so I think i’d definitely be on board with this! This all sounds amazing – much better than the naff Christmas markets we have in dreary Manchester. I think I’ll have to ping this guide to my fella – I’d LOVE to have a lil adventure like this.

  23. Francesca

    Oh I’ve fallen in love!!! Anything Christmas and market I’m there!!!

  24. This literally is the best guide I have read for the Cologne Markets. I am off to visit the Prague Markets in December and would have loved a guide like this for there!!! I also want to try the flaming rum Gluhwein!! It sounds divine xx

  25. My friend is going here for New Years! I’ll send her this 🙂

  26. I didn’t know about these markets in Cologne! I love to travel and discover these kind of places, so I am gonna add this to my list 🙂

  27. This is a brilliant guide! I love Christmas markets, I will save this for when I need to plan! Thank you for sharing x

  28. I’ve never been to a Christmas market but it looks amazing you have covered a lot here which is great and great to hear from someone that has been to one.

  29. Wow, this sounds FANTASTIC! I’ve always wanted to go with my family to a German Christmas Market – the closest I’ve ever been is the German “style” one in Cardiff which is nice and all, but not the real deal.

  30. Hannah

    I would love to go to Christmas markets – I have never been!

  31. Cassandra Mayers

    Oh wow! the Christmas markets look amazing!
    That reminds me to find out where is one to go to this year 🙂

  32. Doris

    Thank you John F….such useful information for our trip to the Christmas markets…sooooo looking forward….

  33. Norein

    Coming from Malaysia and Singapore … after reading your page, I now can plan my day at Cologne. Thanks for the good info

    1. Hope the guide is useful for your trip. Let me know if there is anything I missed that would have been useful.

  34. Now that’s an extensive and we’ll done post. I loved Cologne and we went there for the carnival. I would love to be there again for the Christmas market one day… one minus though on the post: you need more pictures 😉

    1. Thanks for the comment. I’ll try and add some more pictures that aren’t just of me and our family/ friends drinking gluhwein.

  35. Garry Metcalfe

    Hi John – came across this site and wished I’d found it weeks ago! Planning to drive from Calais to Cologne first week in December. Staying central for the markets. Have a big 4×4 so not sure about getting into city centre parking locations (height of car). Have looked at P&R. Would you advise leaving for 3 days? Would car be safe? If yes, which P&R might be best? Have looked at Weider West and Marsdorf. Is the Stadion closed for refurb at the mo? No info yet for Konigforst?

    Love the site for layout & straight forward info. Keep it up!

    Any advice would be gratefully appreciated.

    Cheers

    Garry

    1. Thanks for the positive comments about the site. In terms of P&R, Weiden West would probably be the best as it’s an open ground car park with no height restrictions. I live quite close and often leave my car for a few days when I go on business trips and have never had a problem there. Marsdorf and the Stadion are both multi-story car parks with height restrictions but it depends how big your 4×4 is. I would offer you a space but I only have one parking place. Would be happy to meet up if you are interested, drop me an email to john@fromrealpeople.com. I would happily give you the tour.

  36. Neil Shivelle

    Hi John,

    My wife and I will be visiting the Cologne area from 9 Dec to 15 Dec, and I came across this guide will researching the local Christmas markets. It looks to be very informative, and I’m planning on printing a copy and taking it with us. Any tips or tricks you have to make our visit even better is more then welcome.

    1. I’m pleased you found it useful. In terms of the markets, make sure you don’t miss the extra little market at the bottom of the Dom Christmas Market at the Cathedral. I lived in Cologne for 3 years before I even knew it was there. Go to the far left corner away from the Cathedral and down a few steps. The Alter Markt/ Heumarkt market in the Altstadt is always my favourite. If you are coming for so long maybe take a trip on the tram or train to Konigswinter, south of Bonn and take the funicular railway to the top of Drachenfels. There is a lovely Christmas Market at the Castle half way up (http://www.schloss-drachenburg.de/index.php/en/) and then great views from the top if the weather is clear.

  37. Caitlin

    Hi, me and my friends are hiring a car and driving to Cologne this Sunday from the Netherlands. There’s 5 of us and we want to know the best/cheapest place to park or park and ride. Please could you advise anything?

    1. If you are coming from the Netherlands, the best park and ride is probably at Weiden West. It’s just off the A4 at the Frechen junction. I sent you an email with a more detailed answer and I hope the info is useful.

  38. Fiona Wallington

    Thank you for this it is really informative, I am visiting next week with my son to come to the markets, really looking forward to it and now have a long list of food to try!

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