Cologne Christmas Markets 2021 Guide ft. Dates, Practical Tips, Etc.

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A city full of history and famous sights of its own, Cologne dresses up for Christmas like no other city in Germany. With its famous Dom warmed up by the glow of festive fairy lights, Christmas markets that zigzag through the old town and the smell of Glühwein in the air, Cologne at Christmas is a sight not to be missed!

In this Cologne Christmas Market guide, we’ll share everything you need to know about experiencing the wonder of Cologne Christmas Market for yourself.

NOTE: We last visited this Christmas market in December 2019, so take note that some things may be different this year. We’ve tried to keep this guide as up-to-date as possible, but let us know if you spot anything we should change!

When is the Cologne Christmas Market?

Conventionally, the Cologne Christmas market takes place from November 22 to December 23.

As of July 2021, the dates for this year’s Cologne Christmas market have not been published, but you can keep an eye on the official website for future updates.

Where to Stay for Cologne Christmas Market

In need of a place to stay? Here are some quick recommendations for hotels near Cologne Christmas Market:

Where to Find Cologne Christmas Market

The magical Cologne Christmas market expands itself throughout the city’s historical cobblestone streets, captivating you every step of the way with its array of festive stalls and holiday decor.

There is not a solitary Cologne Christmas market location since the city’s festivities are in fact split in a small number of markets and sites, which might appear daunting at first, but getting familiar with its different locations will help you navigate your way through them like a pro!

So, keep reading to know all the different locations of the Cologne Christmas market:

Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market (Weihnachtsmarkt am Dom)

The majority of Cologne’s winter visitors will prioritize this specific Christmas market, nestled in the shadow of the city’s famous Cathedral, quite possibly one of the country’s most impressive pieces of architecture.

At first glance, it’s very easy to see why the Cologne Cathedral Christmas market is so popular —that backdrop is truly unmatched— although we believe that there are better ones in the city where festive decor is concerned.

So, we recommend you start your Cologne Christmas market tour here, explore the variety of stalls, marvel at the beauty of the stunning facade of the Cologne Cathedral while sipping a glass of Glühwein, and then keep moving.

The Angels’ Christmas Market (Markt der Engel)

This Cologne Christmas market in Neumarkt square is as magical as it sounds, with paper stars hanging from the trees, so bright and warm you feel like you are in heaven— a feeling amplified by the literal appearance of angels on stilts!

With its timeless white Christmas decor warmed up by the dangling stars, and its rustic and minimalist wooden cabins, this particular Christmas market in Cologne sets a very romantic atmosphere.

Nicholas’ Village Christmas Market (Nikolausdorf)

This incredibly charming Christmas town settled in Rudolfplatz is one of our undisputed top choices in the city, consisting of traditional half-timber houses, a sea of fairy lights, and even its own little chapel, this temporary small village will have you feeling festive in no time.

This adorable Cologne Christmas market is perfectly framed by the medieval Hahnentor, which joins the city in its celebrations by serving as a massive canvas for festive projections.

This little festive village is full of surprises, so pay attention as you wander around its Christmassy alleys.

If you are traveling with kids you might want to find Nikolashaus, a beautiful space designed as an experience destination for kids and those young at heart.

Cologne Harbour Christmas Market (Kölner Hafen-Weihnachtsmarkt)

As the name suggests, this Cologne Christmas market is located right by the harbor, providing a very unique nautical theme to this small, but charming, market that you shouldn’t miss.

Nestled right next to the famous river Rhine, what this market lacks in variety it makes up for with its dazzling view, and an open space you will not find in any other Christmas market in Cologne.

Heavenue Cologne – the Gay Christmas Market

Speaking of unique Christmas markets in Cologne, the one known as Heavenue (previously known as Christmas Avenue) fits the description just right.

Cologne is known as the gay capital of Germany, so this Christmas market took on the task to be the gay Christmas market of the city.

… And it certainly delivers!

This fun little corner of the city sets itself apart from the other Cologne Christmas markets with its flashy LED lights, white garlands, flamboyant adornments, and an assortment of food trucks to choose from.

As with any other Christmas market in Cologne, you will find a variety of shops here, but don’t be fooled, leave the shopping for another time and come here later in the evening, when the market comes alive with music and crowds dancing as they sip on their warm Christmassy beverage of choice.

Stadtgarten Christmas Market

If you are looking for a more relaxed vibe and would rather mingle with the locals instead of the crowds of tourists, you should make your way to the Stadtgarten Christmas market.

This little winter wonderland has a rustic feel to it, provided by its location in a city park. Under the trees, this Cologne Christmas market resembles a magical village in the middle of an enchanted forest.

Being located in the young and trendy Belgian quarter, this Christmas market seems to be much more focused on the local consumers than the tourists, which makes it the perfect place to find more unique souvenirs, as almost no shop here sells mass-produced items.

Instead, here you will find products like artisanal food products and some fabulous Karneval hats.

The House Elves’ Winter Fairytale Christmas Market (Heinzels Wintermärchen)

We have arrived at the last one, and we saved the best for last, so get ready!

As mentioned before, the Cologne Christmas market is one of the most beautiful in the country, and this particular location takes the prize as the most intricately decorated Christmas market in Cologne. So you definitely will not want to miss it.

Stepping into this square is like stepping right into a storybook Christmas world. Themed after the city’s famous Heinzelmännchen—legendary house elves, who are believed to tend to locals’ housework as they sleep— this Cologne Christmas market transports you to a magical far far away land.

The attention to detail here is striking, making it a true one-of-a-kind Christmas market experience, from their really adorable unique mugs to the central skating rink and their lavishly decorated cabins, this place is what Christmas market dreams are made of.

Luckily, there is enough of this winter wonderland to go around, since this Cologne Christmas market expands throughout the city’s Old Town, into Heumarkt and Alte Markt.

So, take your time to wander around and admire all the details of the intricate House Elves’ Winter Christmas market!

What to Eat at Cologne Christmas Market

The Christmas market in Cologne is a great place to feast your eyes on the various uniquely decorated markets, and while all the eye candy is surely satisfying, let’s not forget about the main purpose of these markets:

To stuff yourself with all sorts of delicious Christmas market food!

So here are some foods you should try at the Cologne Christmas market:

1. Reibekuchen (Potato Cakes)

If you are a lover of flavorful and crunchy breakfast hashbrowns, it may be fascinating for you to discover that Germans have their own version of it⁠—and it can be enjoyed no matter the time of day⁠— the Reibekuchen.

Reibekuchen (also referred to as Kartoffelpuffer) is a little potato round cake that is fried to crispy perfection and is normally accompanied by a side of apple sauce—but if potato and apple sauce is not your dream combination, feel free to enjoy it by itself.

2. Flammlachs (Grilled salmon)

It might seem a bit odd to have seafood at the Christmas market, but this tasty grilled salmon is not to be missed.

You can find this delicious savory treat around different Christmas markets in Cologne (and Germany in general), but if you want to try it, then better do it right and head to the nautically-themed Harbour Christmas market by the Rhine.

3. Wurst (Sausage)

If you made it all the way to Germany, you cannot leave without trying a sausage.

The sausage is the embodiment of German food, and you will come across plenty of Wurst stalls as you make your way through the Cologne Christmas market.

The number of Wurst options might seem intimidating (Germans take pride in the number of different sausages they came up with), but honestly just go with whichever looks the tastiest to you, or take a look around and see what people tend to order the most.

Whatever you land on, you will not be disappointed, but if you have the time (and stomach) make sure to try a few sausages to see for yourself why Germans are so proud of this national dish.

4. Currywurst

We cannot talk about national dishes without mentioning the almighty Currywurst.

This interesting concoction of a dish was originated in Berlin, and it consists of a sausage cut up into small pieces and covered with a sweet curry ketchup sauce, normally accompanied by a bread roll.

This dish is without a doubt Germany’s most iconic after-party late meal since is one of the few food options that are open late through the night and on the weekends.

The Currywurst is not unique to Christmas markets, but it is very present in everyday German life, that’s why you will find no shortage of Currywurst stalls at the Cologne Christmas market.

So, make sure you give it a try!

5. Käsespätzle

Käsespätzle is basically the German equivalent of Mac and Cheese⁠, and it consists of fluffy egg noodles generously covered with Emmentaler cheese and crunchy fried onions.

This dish is more commonly seen at beer halls than at Christmas markets, but we have seen them around some of the festive venues in the past.

So, if you spot them, we recommend you indulge in a plate of this cheesy goodness!

6. Gebrannte Mandeln (Roasted Almonds)

Another quintessential Christmas market food item you should not miss is the roasted almonds.

The roasted almonds stalls are easily identifiable from miles away by their colorful gingerbread cookies dangling from the roof and the intoxicatingly sweet smell of roasted almonds in the air.

In these booths, you will find an assortment of candied nuts on display—and other sweet goodies— but if you are being guided here by that sugary smell, don’t let your senses assault your wallet and watch out for the quantities you order (prices are normally listed per 100g and they are not a cheap treat).

7. Cathedral-Shaped Waffles

Waffles, in general, are a staple of any Christmas market, same as with crepes, but in the Cologne Christmas market the love for waffles is mixed with the city’s pride for their Dom, and as a result, we get these adorable Catherdal-shaped waffles.

These are surely not souvenir material, but definitely a quirky little snack to enjoy as you walk around.

PS: We spotted these at the Angels’ Christmas market.

8. Kölsch beer

Germany’s reputation of being obsessed with beer is not far from the truth, and different parts of Germany have different kinds of beer to be obsessed with.

The Kölsch is a type of beer original to Cologne city that is served in a tall, slim, cylindrical beer glass of just 200 ml (6.8oz), and almost any drink booth in the Cologne Christmas market should serve it.

Even though this is not unique to Christmas time, it is a regional drink that you cannot pass up the chance to try.

9. Glühwein

If there is an unspoken rule about visiting any Christmas market is this: whatever you decide to eat or drink, you should always have at least one Glühwein.

Glühwein is the drink of the season, and the sole reason behind those crowds upon crowds you will see just hanging out while holding on to some innocent-looking mug—but don’t be fooled, the contents of that innocent-looking mug will go straight to your head.

Glühwein is a delicious spiced hot wine, normally made with red but can also be found with rosé or white wine, and you can even customize it with an extra kick provided by your liquor of choice.

It is basically a hug in a mug, a sweet festive drink that will warm you from the inside out.

If you want an alcohol-free option ask for the also tasty, and hangover-free, Kinderpunsch.

10. Feuerzangenbowle

If hot wine is not strong enough for you, or you just want to try another stellar Christmas market drink, then you should give the Feuerzangenbowle a try.

Feuerzangenbowle looks like a scary word because it also looks like a scary drink, it is essentially a Glühwein served with a sugar cube on top that has been soaked in rum, and is then set on fire.

So you get an intoxicatingly sweet and boozy drink, plus a little fire show, and all for the price of one!

What to Buy at Cologne Christmas Market

After wandering around the festive squares and alleys of the beautiful Cologne Christmas market, you will have noticed the variety of shops selling all kinds of items; from festive handmade decorations to artisanal food products and flamboyant Karneval hats. The options are endless!

So, here are some ideas of what to buy at the Cologne Christmas market:

1. Lebkuchen (Gingerbread Cookies)

The well-known German gingerbread cookies are basically impossible to ignore when walking around the Cologne Christmas market.

These brightly decorated snacks are as essential to a German Christmas market as the lights are to the Christmas tree. So, what better way to remember your Christmassy holiday than with such an iconic festive item?

NOTE: These cookies tend to be purchased as a cute gift or a quirky decoration, rather than as an edible gift since the taste of it is very particular.

2. Traditional German Toys

Another very traditional item you will find being sold in an abundance of booths at the Christmas market in Cologne is traditional German toys.

Germany lives in some kind of melancholic state for old times; payment by card is rarely accepted, any kind of paperwork is still done by snail mail, and toys are still carved out of wood and painted by hand.

At the Cologne Christmas market, you will find a variety of adorable traditional German toys which will make a very thoughtful gift for anyone back home, whether they are used for playing or for decorating.

3. Christmas Market Mug

One of the best souvenirs you can get while visiting the Christmas Market in Cologne is one of those cute festive mugs that everyone is drinking from.

Every year, every city—and sometimes even every small Christmas market within that city— will have its own special mug design, which you will see whenever you order a hot drink at one of the stalls.

Normally, when ordering a Glühwein you will notice that the cashier will charge you a bit extra than whatever is stated as the price of the drink, this is because you are paying Pfand (which is basically renting the mug) and when you return it, you will get your extra euros back.

So, if after drinking your way through the Cologne Christmas market, and seeing all the different mug designs, you find one that catches your eye, and would love to add to your collection, you can just buy it from the booth.

PS: The ones at The House Elves’ Winter Fairytale Christmas Market tend to be particularly adorable!

4. Local Food Products

At the Cologne Christmas market, you will find an abundance of artisanal jams, cheeses, cookies, and more that would make an excellent gift or souvenir.

Aside from being delicious treats, these are also great purchases you can make to guarantee that you are directly supporting local Cologne businesses, instead of buying mass-produced items.

5. Candles And Candle Holders

The long and dark winter months in Germany leave anyone craving for any sense of warmth and coziness, that’s why while walking around the Cologne Christmas market you will notice that candles, and intricately decorated candle holders, are prominent items in the market.

These beautifully handpainted candle holders, with dreamy winter wonderland imagery on them, make the perfect cozy gift, or souvenir, to bring back home after your European winter holiday away.

6. Unique Hats

One of the stalls that really caught our eye at the Cologne Christmas market is located in the Stadgarten market and is all about hats. Contrary to the aforementioned stalls, this particular booth is very specific to Cologne as we have not seen anything like this somewhere else.

Here you can find one-of-a-kind handcrafted hats, including special ones for Karneval, which is a massive holiday season in Cologne, and therefore something the city is known for.

Without a doubt, a very special and fun souvenir to take home!

7. Paper Stars

Remember those magical stars floating up in the trees at the Angels’ Christmas market? Well, if you cannot get enough of the romantic atmosphere and the warm glow they provide, you can replicate it at home by buying some paper stars as souvenirs.

These paper stars are a great gift idea, they will add a touch of warmth and coziness to any room, and they are also very practical to transport since they fold up very easily. That’s one less thing to worry about!

8. Painted Porcelain Christmas Village Houses

These beautifully handpainted porcelain Christmas houses are a staple of any German Christmas market.

Just looking at the display of tiny houses forming an adorable Christmas village is a joy in itself. However, imagine how cute those houses would look underneath your Christmas tree back at home.

These might not the most practical souvenir to travel with, but if you manage to get them home in one piece it will be so worth it.

9. Personalized gifts

A personalized gift is also a great way to commemorate your Christmassy trip abroad, or a very thoughtful gift to bring to someone special back home.

There are different varieties of personalized items throughout the Cologne Christmas market, from painted mugs to customized wooden boards, that are branded right there on the spot, making a true one-of-a-kind gift!

10. Wooden crafts

Lastly, another quintessential German Christmas market stall is the one with an array of wooden crafts.

In these shops, you can seriously find anything you can imagine, but made out of wood, from your typical cutting boards and skillfully carved bowls, to some really creative bottle openers and peculiar kitchen tools.

This stall is so entertaining to explore, and with all its creative designs you will inevitably find something that catches your eye.

Extra points for being a sturdy souvenir that will hardly get damaged in transportation.

Extra Tips for Visiting Cologne Christmas Market

Dress warm

The Cologne Christmas Market takes place throughout November and December when the temperatures drop significantly at night, so, make sure to dress accordingly.

We would recommend wearing a proper winter jacket and very warm shoes since you will be standing and walking a lot.

Even if you don’t get cold easily, you might want to consider bringing warm accessories along—such as a hat, scarf, and gloves—because there’s nothing worse than not being able to take all the pretty pictures of the sights because your hands are too cold to function.

Bring cash

This is one of the most important rules of any Christmas market: BRING CASH.

The majority of stalls will not accept any type of credit card as a form of payment, and ATMs around the Cologne Christmas market are sparse. So, plan accordingly and bring all the cash you might need for food, beverages, and souvenirs.

No bulky bags or backpacks

The Cologne Christmas market is a very popular destination and can get overwhelmingly crowded at times, so make sure to avoid carrying anything too bulky that will make moving through the crowds a challenge.

And as with any big city, it’s always safer to have a smaller bag and keep it closer to you, or on the front of your body.

Bring a reusable bag

This might seem to contradict the last one, but we have a point to make. If you are planning to buy bigger items and souvenirs, do bring a small foldable reusable bag that you can keep on your personal crossbody bag.

That way you don’t have to haul a bulky bag around all day, but you are still covered for when you buy some souvenirs at the end of the night.

Besides, the majority of shops won’t offer plastic bags or they might charge for an extra bag.

Avoid Fridays/Saturdays

As mentioned before, the Cologne Christmas market is unmatched in beauty, which attracts thousands of visitors every year, and if you want to avoid feeling squished between those thousands of visitors you might want to avoid visiting the market on a Friday or Saturday evening.

However, if you happened to just have the weekend to visit, then beat the crowds and go early in the day to have a more enjoyable experience.

Where to Find More Info on Cologne Christmas Market

Official website: Cologne.de

Help us improve this Cologne Christmas Market Guide!

Do you have a pro tip about Cologne Christmas Market? A particular souvenir you loved, or a delicious treat you tried? Let us know in the comments what your insider tips are for Cologne Christmas Market so we can help improve this guide for all future visitors.

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