If I had to choose my single favorite thing about living in Germany, I think it might be Christmas Markets. Starting the last week in November and running until December 24th, Christmas Markets (or Weihnachtsmarkt in German) pop up around Germany in nearly every city regardless of the size. From the decoration and the lights to the atmosphere and cheerful visitors, German Christmas Markets are truly magical. It’s my happy place and I absolutely love them.
I am lucky to live in Cologne, which has several different Christmas Markets all around the city. Each market has a unique theme, so each feels different than the last. If you were planning to visit, I would recommend budgeting two full days to see them all. I may be biased, but I think Cologne has some of the most memorable Weihnachtsmarkt in all of Germany – and they regularly appear on some of the must-visit Christmas Market lists.
Here is an insider’s guide on where to find Cologne’s best Christmas Markets.
Dom Christmas Market
By far the most popular of the markets in Cologne is the primary Köln Christmas Market that surrounds the Kölner Dom. Located in the heart of the city, just next to the main train station, you can’t miss this massive market. It attracts nearly 2 million visitors in December because of its nice selection of food and shopping stalls, as well as the stunning backdrop. The stalls at this market are styled in a classic German way, and you will find an assortment of traditional and modern gifts. The Christmas Tree in the center of the market is the largest you’ll find in Cologne.
This market has a Santa and Reindeer theme, originating from the name of the park that it sits in. You’ll find reindeers perched on top of the stalls looking as though they are scampering across the rooftops dropping off all the little presents. There is also a very famous singing moose at the entrance of the Christmas Market which periodically serenades guests in well-known English and German Christmas songs. I find this market to be rather traditional in its offering, but in a good way. There are lots of stalls featuring iconic German Christmas gifts, like wooden ornaments, Nutcrackers, and lighted stars.
Heumarkt Christmas Market
This is my favorite Christmas market in Cologne and is a must-visit spot in December! How can you not love a market with a charming gnome theme?!? The cuteness level here is top-notch because all the stalls have little paintings of gnomes doing whatever the stall specializes in. You’ll see little gnomes knitting wool scarves, frying reibelkuchen patties or widdeling wood ornaments. This market also has an ice rink in it with a viewing platform where you can drink glühwein while watching people skate the night away.
Harbor Christmas Market
You’ll find this maritime themed Christmas market on the banks of the Rhine River, just next to Cologne’ famous Chocolate Museum. The main bar at this Christmas Market is modeled after a pirate ship, and you’ll find specialty drinks around this theme. My first year in Cologne, I didn’t give this Weihnachtsmarkt much attention; but this past year, I visited it a few more times and I grew to really like the assortment of stalls that were here. I find the shopping at this market offers a nice assortment of more unique offerings. The food isn’t awesome here but the large ferris wheel has great views of the Cologne, especially on a sunny day.
A lot of people actually lump this mini Christmas market in with the Dom Christmas Market, but it is technically separate. You can tell where it starts by the wood chip floor, which is meant to mimic a manger. In the center of AdventsDorf, you’ll be wowed by a beautiful German Erzgebirge or Christmas Pyramid. These are traditionally used as decor around the holidays. When the candles are lit, the various pinwheel tiers slowly begin to turn from the heat, creating an enchanting play of light and shadow. This market only has like 8 stalls, but you must get the Käsekrakauerwurst at the grill stand. It is the BEST thing I ate in all of Cologne’s Christmas Markets in 2021.
Heavenue (LGBTQI+ Christmas Market)
For a unique experience, check out Cologne’s gay Christmas market. It is the smallest of the markets on this list with only about 10 stalls to choose from. Just around the corner from the Nikolasdorf Christmas Market mentioned above, you can easily combine visits to both. This one doesn’t open until 4:00pm though. The colorful decor, live music, and friendly patrons are what people love about this Weihnachtsmarkt! There is also a gag gift stall that has lots of quirky Christmas ornaments and sexual themed gifts. The colorful pink and purple Christmas trees and disco lights are another highlight!
Angel Christmas Market
Located in Neumarkt, the Angel Christmas Market is probably the classiest of the markets in Cologne. It has a luxury kind of vibe thanks to the matching booths, sparkling white lights, and the hanging stars and angels in the trees. The food here is also more upscale, offering dishes like smoked salmon or reibekuchen topped with cranberry sauce or fresh camembert cheese. I find the location of this market to be a little lackluster, surrounded by traffic and bus stops.
Stadtgarten Christmas Market
This market is a pretty closely held secret by locals. I didn’t even know about it until my second year in Cologne! Located outside of the city center towards Ehrenfeld, the Stadtgarten market has a lovely atmosphere surrounded by large trees and greenery in the park. I really enjoyed the locally owned shops inside this market, especially for gifts. You’ll find lots of Cologne themed items, like prints, jewelry and clothing. The food here is pretty standard, but there is no shortage of Glühwein stands – I think I counted 6 stands for a relatively small Weihnachtsmarkt.
Vrings-Veedels Christmas Market
I live in Bayenthal, a neighborhood in the southern part of Cologne, so the Vrings-Veedels Christmas market is the closest to my house. Located in the heart of the Südstadt neighborhood, this Christmas market sits on Chlodwigplatz beneath the historic Severins city gate and tower. This is one of the four remaining medieval city gates, and I love the way the Christmas lights accentuate the gate’s details. As a neighborhood market, there aren’t a ton of stands at this market, but it is nonetheless cozy. With all the classic food and drinks options as well as a children’s carousel, this is the perfect place to pop by for a gluhwein after work on the way home.