Cologne at Christmas: More Markets than Magi

Andy Mossack, a British travel writer and the creator and presenter of BBC Radio’s “Where in the World is Andy” travelogue series, introduces us to some of the Christmas markets that you can experience in Cologne. Be sure to check back in for more articles based on his travel exploits.

Perhaps it was the gluhwein kicking in, or my extra portion of bratwurst. Whatever it was, I found myself getting rather disoriented. Turning the corner, I spotted another Christmas Market. Hadn’t we already been to this one? I swear there in front of us was the same potato kugel stall where I tasted a rather scrumptious fried potato and onion patty dipped in apple sauce. Then again, I certainly didn’t recall the long barbecued skewer of meats that were next door. What the heck, let’s just grab a few more kugels and down more gluhwein anyway; when in Rome, as they say.

Cologne at Christmas is a rather special place. It’s dominated by the immense gothic cathedral in the center of town, which was more or less the only thing left standing after World War II after the allied pilots used it as a marker for their bombing raids. It took over 600 years to build and is a stunning piece of gothic architecture. The view from the top of its tower isn’t bad either.

The city was flattened, and it’s a testimony to the people of Cologne who have risen from the ashes and given it a new lease of life. How have they done this? By ensuring that much of the rebuilding was undertaken with its past architecture firmly in mind, and making sure that its cultural roots remain front and centre. Cologne was the place where eau de cologne was created (it was French for a time), and today the two oldest perfume houses, Farina and 4711, are still going strong.

But there are two major events that Cologners can categorically call their own. The annual Cologne carnival season, which many people call the “fifth season,” takes place every November 11 at 11:11 a.m. and runs into the New Year up to Ash Wednesday, stopping briefly over the Christmas period. This segues rather well into Cologne’s second most famous event, the Christmas markets. There are no less than six of them around the city, with the biggest one taking place in the main square next to the cathedral. The cathedral’s backdrop sets the scene perfectly; after all, it is the very place where the three wise men (The Magi) are buried. In fact, when you visit the nativity scene modeled out in the cathedral’s vestibule, you’ll notice everything is included except the three wise men, because they are already there inside!

The markets are full of local traders offering everything from local crafts to plentiful portions of steaming gluhwein, perfect for the chill and of course to help you get through the visual bombardment on offer. The object of these markets is to provide you with plenty of opportunities for Christmas presents, and the opportunities certainly come thick and fast.

Where To Find Cologne’s Christmas Markets

The biggest is at Cologne Cathedral, and the oldest at Angel’s Market at Neumarkt. Just in front of the town hall you’ll find the Altermarkt, great for kids with an old-fashioned children’s roundabout, puppet theater, Santa Claus’ quarter and many toy stands. Down by The Rhine near the chocolate museum you’ll find the Medieval Market, Rudolfplatz brings you the Fairy Tale Market, and finally, visit the floating Christmas market on board the MS Wappen von Köln nearby.

All the markets open at 11 a.m. and go on until 9 p.m.

To keep up with Andy and his travels, be sure to check out:

Featured Image: Cologne, Germany ( Expert Tips

How To Get There: Cologne Bonn Airport (CGN) is approximately 10 miles from downtown Cologne, and you can get downtown either by rail, bus or taxi. More information about area transportation is available here. This would be ideal if you’re flying there from another European destination. However, if you’re flying over from the U.S., you’re better off (and it’ll be cheaper too) flying to Frankfurt Airport (FRA) and taking the DB Bahn train from the airport to Cologne, which takes about an hour, and costs anywhere from €39 to €66 each way.
Best Time To Visit: The best time of the year to visit Cologne depends on your interests, and whether you’re trying to time your visit during one of their many festivals held throughout the year, such as Oktoberfest, which runs from late September to early October, Cologne Carnival in November, and of course, the Christmas markets. The peak tourist seasons are generally September and October, when airfare and hotel accommodations are higher, which also coincides with the aforementioned Oktoberfest. Colognes is one of Germany’s warmest cities, with relatively mild winters (average temperature is in the low- to mid-40s, but can get colder at night), and its summers are mostly warm and pleasant (average is low- to mid-70s), although it can get hot and humid at times.

Sample Fares: Calendars display lowest roundtrip fares over the next 90 days to Frankfurt from:
* All fares are roundtrip including all taxes and are accurate at time of publication. For updated pricing, conduct a new search on


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