We went to Cologne (Köln), Germany the weekend before Christmas. I had read that it has one of the top 10 European Christmas markets, so we made a last-minute decision to make a weekend out of it.
Cologne is located to the north of Heidelberg, and it took us a little under 3 hours to arrive there by train. When you get out of the train station, the Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) is towering over you. It’s quite an incredible site to see a cathedral, whose construction began in the 13th century, right in front of you. I read in my Frommers guidebook that while the surrounding area was bombed terribly during WWII, the Allied forces used the Dom as a landmark while flying over Cologne, so it managed to survive as a result. Check out a picture of the city post-war.
The Christmas markets
Cologne has 7 different Christmas markets, each with its own theme, decorations, and, most interesting to me, unique mugs for hot drinks.
- Cologne Old Town “Home of the Gnomes”
- Christmas market at the Cologne Cathedral
- Angel’s Christmas Market at Neumarkt Square
- Fairytale Christmas Market at Rudolfplatz Square
- Cologne Harbour Christmas market
- Christmas market at Stadtgarten
- Cologne Christmas market afloat
One of my favorite things about Christmas markets is the food stands, and Cologne had a wide variety from salmon, potato pancakes, mushrooms, and of course, sausages. Over the weekend, I ate a roasted ham sandwich, rösti with raclette cheese, a waffle with chocolate sauce, a stick of pork steak in a bun, cheese fondue, and a wood-burned pizza dough with cheese and potatoes on top.
Of course, there was plenty of glühwein (hot, mulled wine) to be had at each market. Hot chocolate was also abundant with whipped cream. There were two unique drinks at the Harbour market: glühbier and Feuerzangenbowle. The first was a hot beer. Chris and I were intrigued, so we tried it. It tasted like a fruity, Belgian beer, like a Lambic, and it was good. Chris also tried the Feuerzangenbowle, which is a flaming glühwein. They have special mugs that hold a sugar cube over the top of the wine. They pour alcohol over it and set it on fire.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable market to visit. It had a lot of international influence, interesting handcrafts and gifts, and a wide variety of food. The crowds were very intense on Saturday night, which could be expected. If possible, I’d try to visit on a weekday or earlier in the day on the weekend.