Cologne is arguably the best-known of Germany’s Christmas market towns and justifiably so. With no less than seven main markets to explore, Christmas lovers can trail the day away as they trundle merrily from one square to another in the search for Christmas goodies.
From old town markets to garden markets to fairytale markets, each one has its own individual theme. Most are located within the city centre and all are accessible by a handy Christmas road train that runs in the busiest part of the season. Markets are understandably busy with a mix of tourists, local shoppers and those soaking up the Christmas atmosphere. I love that the markets are the social hubs for Cologners catching up with friends over a cup of gluhwein, it only adds to the joyful feeling that washes over you as you walk around.
If you are anything like me, I’m sure you could spend many happy days exploring the Christmas markets in wonder, but with a history spanning 2000 years Cologne has many additional fascinating locations to keep seasonal visitors entertained.
The Kolner Dom Catholic cathedral is a simply spectacular, gothic structure. Its twin spires stand at 157 metres tall, making it the third highest in the world as well as one of the oldest in Europe and a UNESCO World heritage site. The cathedral is home to a number of significant religious works and is the site of the Shrine of the Magi – an intricately decorated 13th century tomb believed to contain the bones of the Three Kings, otherwise known as the Three Wise Men.
Art and culture fans are also in for a good time with a number of museums and galleries to venture in to. Discover artworks by Picasso and Warhol in the Museum Ludwig, learn about the area’s past in the Cologne City Museum or get those senses tingling with 3000 years of chocolate making history at the Museum of Chocolate. If a more active day is the name of your name, alternative popular attractions include Cologne Zoo, Augustusburg and Falkenlust palaces and closeby Phantasialand theme park.
Cologne has such a friendly feel to it and in our time there, I felt we only scratched the surface of what this stunning city has to offer. My only regret is that we didn’t have more days to spend exploring this unique place and it is one I definitely intend to return to.
Bonus Blog – What to eat and drink in Winter Germany!
Food and drink in Germany serves a simple purpose. Most is there to either fill you up, pad you out or keep you warm. But that also makes it rich and satisfying which in cold weather goes down a treat. Something I didn’t try but looked and smelt delicious was a treat of baked camembert melted over sauteed mushrooms.
If you happen to find yourself out for the day in winter Germany, here are a couple of other morsels you shouldn’t miss out on…
Gluhwein – a strong, spiced alcoholic drink combining all the flavours of mulled wine with spirits like rum or brandy.
Scholalade – hot chocolate here is amazing! Try it with hazelnut liqueur for an alcoholic twist.
Waffel – freshly made and piping hot with a sprinkle of brown sugar.
Kartoffelpuffer – German potato cakes. Popularly eaten with Applesauce, but also delicious with more savoury sauces.
Currywurst – have it in a dish, in a roll or with fries.
Nougatbrezel – giant pretzel covered in nougatey goodness and coated in flaked almonds.
Check out part 1 of our Christmas market tour with Festive fun in Dusseldorf