Cologne transforms into a wonderland during Christmas with its many festive markets. Foodies will love the offerings at the dedicated food market, while romantics can wander through the charming ‘Village of Angels’ around Neumarkt.

In the heart of the old town, Henzels Winter Fairytale offers an ice rink and rows of charming chalet-style stalls, creating a winter village atmosphere.

For a truly scenic experience, head to the Harbour Christmas Market. Here, a giant Ferris wheel takes you 48 metres up for breathtaking views of the market and the city.

Despite the variety, the crown jewel of Cologne’s Christmas markets is the massive Kölner Dom market in Roncalliplatz.

This market boasts a dramatic backdrop: the UNESCO-listed Cologne Cathedral.

The square is filled with red-roofed stalls selling traditional trinkets and German treats.

A giant Christmas tree stands tall in the centre, and a stage comes alive with over 100 free events.

Here, the team takes a closer look at what the Christmas markets in Cologne have to offer and we offer tips on how to enjoy the city – and it’s one of the best European markets to visit at Christmas.

When are the Cologne Christmas markets held in 2024?

The dates for the Cologne Christmas markets in 2024 have not yet been released but if you want to organise your travel, you can expect them to start around the last week of November.

In 2023, the markets ran from November 23 to December 23.

  • Kölner Dom (in Roncalliplatz) TBC
  • Heinzels Winter Fairytale TBC
  • Angel Market (Multiple locations) TBC
  • Harbour Christmas market TBC

Where are the Christmas markets in Cologne?

Cologne’s Christmas market magic unfolds across several charming squares with the most prominent market being the ‘Alter Markt’ (Old market).

This boasts a magnificent Christmas tree as its centrepiece and serves as a focal point for festive revelry.

Other notable markets in the city include the Neumarkt (New market) which is situated in front of the imposing gothic church, Hahnentorburg.

There’s also the charming rustic market at Rudolfplatz.

The history of Cologne’s Christmas markets

Cologne’s Christmas market history dates from the Middle Ages, with the first documented market taking place in the 14th century.

Originally, these markets served a practical purpose, providing a platform for trade and a way for communities to stock up on provisions for the harsh winter months.

Over time, they evolved into festive gatherings where people could celebrate the holidays, enjoy seasonal treats and exchange gifts.

Today, these markets continue to uphold their historical charm while offering a vibrant array of modern delights.


German Christmas Market Tour: The 6 BEST CHRISTMAS MARKETS in Cologne, Germany in a Day!

This video by ‘Adventures of Matt and Nat’ is an enthusiastic endorsement of Cologne’s Christmas markets.

From the gluewein that is set aflame, to the stylish mugs and great atmosphere, this is a fun tour of what to see, do and eat (and drink – they try mulled wine and cider at every opportunity…).

The Christmas markets really do come alive in this video tour, and rather than visit the city’s 12 markets, the duo focus on six of the most popular.

They start at the impressive cathedral, complete with an oompah band and the square is busy in the middle of the afternoon.

They also enjoy red mulled wine and the deposit on the (excellent!) mug is just €3.

As we mentioned, they highlight that ‘cash is king’ and say you’ll need to ‘bring a lot of it’.

The main market has 150 stalls while the second market – Heinzels Winter Fairytale Christmas – is more spacious and still has 140 stalls.

There are performers on stilts and people dress up. The festive lights impress at night.

The duo also enjoys the fresh food, including a hot ham and cheese sandwich for €7.50.

There’s also an ice rink and curling – early booking is recommended, apparently!

They also suggest dressing for the cold weather.

The Village of St Nicholas market also impresses, and they mention that if you are taking children then do so during the day.

The stalls here are well lit and stylish.


Why visit the Christmas markets in Cologne?

With so many great festive markets around Germany, and Europe, Cologne’s offering is worth visiting because:

  • Cathedral majesty: The impressive Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, serves as a magnificent backdrop for the Alter Markt Christmas Market. The intricate gothic architecture and towering spires add a touch of grandeur to the festive scene.
  • Mulled wine: Be surprised because Cologne takes its Glühwein (mulled wine) very seriously, offering a wide variety of flavours from traditional red to white and even fruity options. Sip on a steaming mug as you browse the market stalls, soaking in the festive atmosphere.
  • Local delights: Beyond the warmth of Glühwein, there’s an array of tasty local culinary specialities to enjoy. You’ll have to try Rheinischer Reibekuchen, which are potato pancakes, and there’s the spicy and sweet flavours of Aachener Printen’ – gorgeous gingerbread cookies – to cross off your things to do in Cologne.
  • Shopping: The city’s Christmas markets are a treasure trove of handcrafted goods with impressive glass ornaments, intricately carved wooden toys, and unique pieces of traditional German craftsmanship that make for perfect Christmas gifts.


I Visit Europe’s BEST Christmas Market – Cologne Christmas Market

The video title really says it all and here Walk With Me Tim offers a great tour of what to expect.

Along with sampling free food, he shows what a great day out the markets are.

He too starts at the Cologne Cathedral and since it’s close to the train station a lot of tourists will visit.

This is a good overview, and he visits the main stage where there is live entertainment.

Tim also takes a good look at the variety of food available and enjoys for €2 gets to take a picture underneath a huge mistletoe. To be fair, the printed photo is a great memento!

He also heads to the Heinzels Winter Fairytale market and finds the ice skating is €10 and the rink goes around a statue.

There’s a great selection of food available and he tries a mulled wine in a lovely mug.

The markets also have plenty of bars for a break – and a chance to warm up.

While the weather is cold, the presenter does warn that snow is expected.

This market also has an old-fashioned wooden Ferris wheel.

A trip to the Angels market is a tad more sophisticated with larger stalls and has a more upmarket feel.

The last market is the Harbour Christmas market. It’s not as big as the others but it does have a nautical theme.


Planning your Cologne Christmas market adventure

Cologne is an easy city to get to for British visitors and there’s a good range of hotels available for most budgets.

Flying: Flying from the UK to Cologne is easy with lots of daily flights from Heathrow, Manchester, Stanstead and Bristol. British Airways and Ryanair, among others, have regular flights and prices start at £50 from Heathrow and Manchester but are more expensive from Bristol. Jet2 flies from Birmingham from £54 and Skyscanner offers direct flights from Heathrow for £153 in December. Ryanair offers one-way flights from £14.99 (though not Bristol which is £168, apparently).

  • Train: For a scenic and relaxing journey, consider taking the train from London St Pancras International to Cologne. It takes around five hours and prices – depending on when you book – are around £43.
  • Driving: Driving is an option, but it will take around seven hours to get there from London – it’s just over an hour on the plane.
  • Hotels: As you would expect for a big, popular city, there’s a good range of hotels in Cologne. We would recommend these budget hotels for your Christmas market stay because they are quite central and easy to get to the markets: Hotel Brandenburger Hof, Jugendherberge Köln-Deutz, and Hotel Sandmanns am Dom. Expect to pay from £76 per night. Mid-range hotels such as the Eden Hotel Früh am Dom, the Motel One Köln-Neumarkt and the Legend Hotel are all very comfortable. If you want to go upmarket then the Cologne Marriott Hotel is just a three-minute stroll from the Cathedral, while the Excelsior Hotel Ernst am Dom is two minutes from the station. Remember to shop around since these prices are for guidance only – there will be deals available at various points.
  • Airbnbs: Airbnbs offer a more local experience and can be a cost-effective option. There are several options available in Cologne and a good selection are in the city centre. From a terrace apartment in the Old Town, to an apartment close to the cathedral and a luxurious two-level apartment with an open terrace, Airbnb is worth checking out.

Don’t forget to pack…

The team also recommend:

  • Clothes: You’ll need to pack for cold weather since Cologne experiences chilly temperatures during December. Take warm layers, a hat, gloves and comfortable walking shoes. Consider waterproof boots for navigating cobbled streets. You could also treat yourself to festive hats and gloves at the markets!
  • Money: While many of the stall traders will accept debit and credit cards, some will only accept cash. It’s wise to have some cash for smaller purchases or traditional market fare.
  • Souvenirs: From handcrafted ornaments and Christmas decorations to traditional German chocolates and Cologne’s signature ‘Eau de Cologne’ perfume, there’s a plethora of unique souvenirs to commemorate your trip.
  • German phrases: We found that while English is understood in tourist areas, learning a few basic German phrases will enhance your experience. You might find these phrases useful: Guten Tag (Good day), Bitte (Please), Danke (Thank you), Frohe Weihnachten (Merry Christmas).

Other tips to help you enjoy Cologne Christmas markets

From experience, these tips will help you enjoy an interesting winter experience:

  • Beat the crowds: Cologne’s markets can get busy, particularly on weekends. You should consider a trip during the week or early in the morning for a relaxed experience. We would highlight, however, that you do need to visit the main market at the Cathedral when everything is lit up to truly experience a festive market.
  • Keep warm: We think taking regular breaks in cafes, bars or restaurants to warm up and recharge is a great idea – especially if the weather is very cold.
  • Public transport: As with most major German cities, the public transport system is impressive. Purchase a Cologne Card for unlimited travel on trams, buses and the metro.
  • Plan: We think that to enjoy Cologne you’ll need to research the markets and plan which ones, and their particular stalls, you want to visit. Not only will you save time and frustration, but you’ll get to see more of what you fancy!
  • Enjoy: The city’s stall traders are interesting and friendly so take time to interact with them. Try their treats and enjoy the atmosphere.

Where else can I visit at Christmas in Cologne?

Cologne offers a wealth of attractions beyond the Christmas markets – it’s a great city to explore around the year. For other things to do, consider:

  • Schokoladenmuseum (Chocolate Museum): Indulge your sweet tooth at the world’s largest chocolate museum, a delightful experience for all ages.
  • Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral): As mentioned earlier, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must-see, offering breathtaking architecture and a rich history.
  • Rhine boat tour: Experience Cologne from a different perspective with a scenic boat tour on the Rhine. Admire the city skyline and iconic landmarks from the water while enjoying the crisp winter air.
  • Day trips: Explore the surrounding region. Take a day trip to the charming town of Bonn, birthplace of Beethoven.

Cologne might be a festive gem, but the Rhine River Valley boasts other Christmas markets worth exploring:

  • Rüdesheim Christmas market: Surrounded by vineyards, this market offers a charming and picturesque setting with a focus on local crafts and regional specialities. Expect a train or car journey to take just over two hours.
  • Aachen Christmas market: The historic city of Aachen boasts a lively Christmas market with a focus on gingerbread treats and a festive atmosphere. The train takes 30 minutes.
  • Mainz Christmas market: Situated on the opposite bank of the Rhine, Mainz offers a large and lively Christmas market with a focus on traditional crafts and a dazzling light display. Expect a train ride from Cologne to take 80 minutes.

We can also recommend a visit to the excellent Berlin Christmas markets, and Munich is also worth a trip too.

Budgeting for your Cologne Christmas market trip in 2024

Here’s a rough estimate for a trip to the Cologne Christmas Market in 2024 from the team. These are approximate costs and actual expenses may vary.

Food and drink: The Christmas markets in Cologne are known for their delicious food and drinks. You can expect to spend around €10-€20 per meal. For drinks, such as the traditional Glühwein (mulled wine), you might spend around €3-€5 per mug.

Transport: We can recommend the KolnCard which costs €9 for 24 hours or €18 for 48 hours. There are discounts for groups. The card gives free travel on public transport and discounted entry to some attractions.

  • Souvenirs and gifts: The costs can vary widely depending on what you plan to buy. On average, you might spend around €10-€50 per item.
  • Market entry: Entry to the Christmas markets is usually free.
  • Tours: If you’re interested in guided tours of the Christmas markets, the average price is around €25 per adult.

Visiting the Christmas markets in Cologne

Cologne’s Christmas markets offer a captivating blend of tradition, festive cheer and culture.

Whether you’re seeking a superb backdrop like the Cologne Cathedral, indulging in the city’s excellent Glühwein, or simply soaking up the charming atmosphere, Cologne’s Christmas markets have something for everyone.

Remember to take cash, polish your German phrases, and go and experience a Christmas market adventure that is hard to beat.