As evenings darken, Leo Owen recommends Cologne's famous Christmas markets for festive shopping.
As evenings darken, Leo Owen recommends Cologne’s famous Christmas markets for festive shopping.
Cologne is one of Germany’s oldest cities and has the country’s highest concentration of pubs.
The city is the home to an international arts festival, Eau de Cologne and several award-winning shopping streets. However, it is undoubtedly most famous for its Christmas markets. Every year coach loads of tourists descend on the city to grab a mug of gluhwein and chomp on a wiener schnitzel while browsing the stalls of all six markets.
To avoid the crowds at popular weekend times it’s best to visit is during the week when locals use the markets as their venue of choice for after work drinks. The markets are easy to locate and, although spread across Cologne, best appreciated by exploring on foot to soak up the full splendour of the city’s festive buzz.
The organic-themed Cathedral market (or Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom) stands in front of Cologne’s imposing Cathedral – the third tallest in the world and one of Andy Warhol’s famous subjects.
Ultra modern-looking stalls showcase designer wares and in the evening a brave five piece band play through icy winter conditions under a vaguely sheltered outdoor stage.
Although food here is a touch more expensive than at some of the other markets, this market easily boasts the most striking location and some of the most impressive light displays.
Try the more unusual white gluhwein here or pep-up your tipple with an additional shot of amaretto, rum or schnapps.
An equally dauntingly-sized market is Kölner Altstadt Heimat der Heinzel, stretching across two large squares in the city’s Altstadt or Old Town – rebuilt post-war after 90 per cent of the inner city was destroyed).
Aside from selling the widest variety of sumptuous food and yet more Gluhwein, this gnome-themed market has a huge ice rink and an enormous range of crafts for sale. German legend says gnomes are excellent craftsmen so expect to see plenty of the cheeky chappies peering out from behind wooden chalet rooftops.
The most atmospheric market is harder to find but well worth the effort.
Weihnachtsmarkt im Stadtgarten has a picturesque woodland setting, immediately transporting you away from the city’s bustle while offering the warmth of a large indoor bar.
Forty-five stalls of hand-made crafts and nostalgic paraphernalia give this market a more unique authentic feel as craftsmen create while you browse. A small indoor stage is home to evening entertainment.
The Cologne Harbour Market is a newer edition, replacing the old Floating Market and quirky Medieval Market in its location near the medieval Malakoff-Tower, Swing Bridge and chocolate museum.
This nautical-themed market is comprised of 80 sail-like marquees selling artistic creations and international culinary delights. Pirates, the odd sea-shanty and a Christmas stage will keep the kids happy while the adults purchase a warming gluhwein from a bar in the hull of a three-masted boat.
The final larger markets of the six are the Angel’s Market (Weihnachten auf dem Neumarkt) and the Märchenweihnachtsmarkt auf dem Rudolfplatz.
Boasting sixty stalls, the market in Rudolfplatz is great for kids with its fairground rides and Brother’s Grimm theme.