Christmas in Germany | Köln

This is part three of a four-part series on German Christmas markets. 

Part 1 (Aachen) can be found here. Part 2 (Monschau) can be found here.

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Besides being the most difficult German city to pronounce, Köln (let’s just say “Cologne,” shall we?) was a complete MADHOUSE. In the main Christmas market under the Dom, it was wall-to-wall congestion of people when we arrived mid-day, making it nearly impossible to approach any of the stalls. I learned it was especially busy that day because it was one of the few Sundays a year when the city’s regular shops would be open.

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Kölner Dom (Cologne’s Cathedral) is the largest Gothic church in northern Europe and Germany’s most visited landmark with about 20,000 visitors each day. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

I had hoped to climb the Dom and get some bird’s eye photos of the square below, but signs posted indicated the observation deck was closed that day. Bummer.

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It is a climb of 533 steps to the observation deck on the cathedral’s south tower (Cost: 4€ for adults). On certain days there are even guided rooftop tours for those aged 16 & up with a “head for heights.”

So, we stayed away from the Dom and opted instead to visit a few of the other six markets, including the Alter Markt, Markt der Engel, and Christmas Avenue, each of which has its own unique atmosphere.

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The Alter Markt is a short 5-minute walk from the Dom square. Its theme is “Heimat der Heinzels,” or “Land of the Gnomes.”

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This theme draws from a bit of Köln folklore. The story goes that the Heinzelmännchen (little house gnomes) would do all the work for the residents of Köln at night, so that the people could relax during the day. They would make sausage for the butcher, sew clothes for the tailor, bake bread, etc. But one night, the tailor’s wife—who was very curious to see these gnomes—put peas all over the floor to make the gnomes slip and fall. Incensed, the gnomes left and never returned, forcing the people to do all their own work from then on.

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The Alter Markt is considered the biggest and most traditional of the Christmas markets in Köln. I loved its rustic style.

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In addition to stalls of food, toys, and gifts, there is a carousel, puppet theater, and an ice rink, making it a great market for kids of all ages.

After a pit stop at the LEGO store, we moved onto the favorite market of Ivanka’s 6-year-old daughter: Christmas Avenue, the gay and lesbian market known for its bright and shiny decor.

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Located near Rudolfsplatz (a 20-25 minute walk from the Dom), Christmas Avenue is one of the smaller markets and also the newest. It first opened in 2012.

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The stalls here are decorated in fuchsia, blue, and green aluminum foil. Besides traditional market fare like glühwein, würstchen, and sweets, you can also find unique offerings like the American-themed Betty’s Pulled Pork (not pictured).

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Besides great food, there’s something to be said for respite from the overwhelming crowds of the larger markets.

In the early evening, I parted ways with Ivanka’s family and met up with some of my relatives on my mother’s side. We met at the Markt der Engel (Angel’s Market), which is held on the Neumarkt in the heart of Köln’s shopping district.

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From Christmas Avenue to Neumarkt, it was about a 10 minute walk (15 minutes from the Dom).

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The Angel’s Market is the oldest in Köln, featuring enchanting white lights strung atop the stalls and throughout the trees. Once a week, you can see Santa and an angel visiting the market on horseback.

We enjoyed catching up over waffles and glühwein here before rain arrived, and unfortunately, cut short our time at the markets.

And that was it for my one day in Köln.  I most enjoyed the three markets away from the Dom. As breathtaking a backdrop as it is, the crowd there was just unbearable to me.

If you go:  to state the obvious, spend more than one day, if possible. With seven diverse markets spread throughout the city, it takes a good 2-3 days to enjoy them all. Be prepared for crowds. Köln’s markets attract nearly two million visitors per year. If I returned, I’d probably try to visit mid-week.

Next (and final) stop: one of Germany’s biggest and most popular markets, Nürnberg

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2 thoughts on “Christmas in Germany | Köln

  1. Pingback: Christmas in Germany | Monschau | Fotos by Fiebs

  2. Pingback: Christmas in Germany | Nürnberg | Fotos by Fiebs

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