Cologne Christmas Market 2023: Everything You Need to Know
So, you’re finally planning a wintery trip to Germany to visit the Cologne Christmas Market. Here’s your ultimate guide to Cologne at Christmas and everything you need to know to visit the Christmas markets, Cologne Germany.
Generally known to be the best Christmas Market in Germany, Cologne is a center of Christmas cheer in the weeks running up to Christmas.
The Christmas market Cologne Germany is a remarkably festive and atmospheric place, full of travelers and locals alike, shopping and having a good time before Christmas finally comes along.
Located in and around some of Cologne’s most iconic sights, the Christmas markets are a place of floating Christmas lights, stunningly decorated stalls, and a festive atmosphere that’s difficult to forget once you get home. Visiting them is one of the best things to do in Cologne at Christmas.
After spending almost a week visiting Cologne in winter and exploring the best Christmas markets in Germany, here is your practical guide to the Cologne Christmas markets.
Find out more about the best Christmas markets in Cologne, what to expect, and some top tips for visiting to make sure you have the perfect, festive trip.
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When to Visit Cologne Christmas Market
The best time to visit Cologne and Cologne Christmas Market is in the months of November and early December.
Of course, if you’re not too bothered about the Christmas markets and you want to visit the city of Cologne, summer is also a great choice.
During these weeks in the run-up to Christmas the city lights up in colorful lights and decorations and people take to the streets to drink gluhwein and to hang out with friends.
It’s a busy time of year in Cologne. If you prefer to explore the markets with fewer crowds make sure to head to the Cologne Christmas market in November rather than closer to Christmas.
Also, you’ll want to avoid weekends when things really fill up. The markets in the center of town also get very busy in the evenings so if you can, come during the day as well as in the evening.
Cologne Christmas Market Dates for 2023
Cologne Christmas Market 2023 official dates are 23rd November until 23rd December 2023. The markets are open daily from 11 am until 9 or 10 pm depending on the market and the day of the week. They are open 7 days per week.
Need to Knows before Visiting
↠ Many stalls take cards but others don’t so make sure to bring cash. There are many ATMs located around the city and at train stations making getting cash out in Germany very easy.
If you don’t bring cash it’s not the end of the world but you might be a little limited with what you can buy. Having said that, Cologne is one of the most card-friendly Christmas markets we visited.
↠ Drinks at German Christmas markets do not come in plastic or disposable containers but instead in mugs or glasses. This is an amazing way to keep waste down.
When you order your first drink at a market you’ll need to ‘buy’ the mug/glass which costs just a few euros. If you like the cup and want to keep it as a souvenir (each market has its own cup design) then you can. Otherwise, when you’re done drinking you bring back the cup and get your deposit back.
With each round you buy all you need to do is bring the cup back and they’ll refill it for you. Note that each Christmas market in Cologne has its own cup design so you can’t use one cup in all markets. You’ll need to pay a cup deposit for each market that you drink at.
↠ Most of the food available at Cologne’s Christmas Market is traditional, yes, but sadly not healthy. Luckily there are several great, health-orientated restaurants around the city to take advantage of while at the Christmas markets.
By all means try the food at least once, but then feel free to eat at other restaurants instead. Some of the best health-orientated cafes and restaurants in Cologne city center are Takumi Ramen Cologne, 1980 Cafe, Sattgrün – Mitte, and Well Being II.
A Guide to the Christmas Markets in Cologne
One of the biggest mistakes that foreign visitors make when coming to Cologne for the Christmas market is assuming there is just one.
There are in fact many Christmas markets dotted around the city. Luckily the city center is fairly compact and visiting them all in one day is possible (but not recommended). There are also a few different neighborhood markets that also pop up around the city.
In this post, I’ve listed the main Cologne Xmas markets that are must-visits when heading to the markets in Cologne.
Where to Find the Markets
In Cologne at Christmas, it feels like there is a Christmas market just about everywhere and there are many markets dotted around the city, from the most famous Cathedral Market right outside Cologne Cathedral to Angel’s Market further west on Neumarkt.
Use the Cologne Christmas Market map below to find the location of all the main Cologne Christmas Market 2023. Feel free to save the map and pin some more must-visit places in Cologne.
Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market
Probably the most famous market in the city and one of the most beautiful due to its cathedral backdrop, the Christmas market at the Cologne Cathedral is a must-visit when in the city during the festive season.
Located in the square to the right of the cathedral, just in front of the Romano-Germanic Museum, this Cathedral market is full of vibrant stalls, sparkling fairy lights, and pretty Christmas trees.
Most visitors start their Cologne Christmas market tour here in Roncalliplatz and I would definitely recommend it. While you’re here you can also take a peek inside the stunning Cologne Cathedral.
Wander in and out of the red-draped stalls and shop for gifts or Christmas-themed souvenirs while sipping on glühwein.
At the center of the market, you’ll find a giant, sparkling Christmas tree and a stage- where you can catch some festive performances, live music, and songs each evening that the market is open.
While this was not my favorite market in terms of decor, the market does have an amazing array of products to buy, drink and eat.
Given its incredible location, it also gets extremely busy in the evenings and on weekends so I recommend coming early. Try also, to schedule your Cologne Xmas market trip on weekdays as it tends to be A LOT less crowded.
Heinzels Wintermarchen Christmas Market Koln (Old Town Christmas Market)
A short walk away from the Cathedral Christmas Market, you’ll find Heinzel’s Wintermarchen, Cologne’s Old Town Christmas market.
It’s one of the largest and best markets in the center of town and this was one of my personal favorites for both decor and the variety of things to do.
Stepping around the corner and into Alter Markt is like walking into a real-life fairytale Christmas movie. The market is full of warm Christmas lights, the scent of spiced gluhwein, and beautiful trees and decorations beckoning you to come in.
This Cologne Christmas Market is themed around the Heinzelmännchen- Cologne’s legendary elves who are believed to help locals with their housework as they sleep. As you walk around you’ll be able to spot many references to them- including on the cute mug designs.
The market is split between two locations- Alter Markt and Heumarkt. Luckily it takes just minutes to walk between the two and you can use the same gluhwein mug in both locations. Alter Markt is best for crafts and shopping while Heumarkt is better for eating, drinking, and entertainment.
Here you can Christmas shop for hours for intricate ornaments, traditional Christmas figurines, scented candles, and winter wear. Warm up on hot snacks like reibekuchen (fried potato cakes) and the delicious mulled wine in between conversations with friends and market entertainment.
Heinzels Wintermarchen is also the only market in the city with an ice rink- perfect for the more adventurous and the little ones and you’ll also find an ice stock rink for more group fun. There’s also a carousel, entertainment through the evenings, and cozy wooden chalets to hide from the cold.
For more information about what’s on and schedules check their official website here and make sure not the miss the House Elves’ Winter Christmas market- it’s one of the best in the city.
The Heinzels Wintermarchen is open until 7th January too- a little longer than some of the other markets.
Neumarkt/Angel Christmas Market
In the center of Cologne’s shopping district you’ll find the Neumarkt Christmas Market. Also known as Angel’s Christmas Market, this is another magical Christmas market in Cologne’s center.
With white, wooden stalls and chalet-style gluhwein bars, carousels, and souvenir stalls, this gorgeous market has something for everyone. The trees above sparkle from hundred of illuminated stars that look like they are falling from the sky.
People dressed up as angels walk around the market on stilts while locals chat with friends over steaming cups of gluhwein.
Also on offer, you find a range of traditional Christmas market foods such as bratwurst and Krakauer, pretzels, crepes, reibekuchen and more. You’ll find everything here from handmade Christmas ornaments to jewelry, candles, rugs, and more.
For those in search of a real romantic yet Christmasy atmosphere, this is the market to head to.
For more information check the Angel Market’s official website here.
Nikolausasdorf Christmas Market
Set in Rudolfplatz, right beneath the historical Hahnentorburg Gate, one of the old entryways into the city, Nikolausasdorf or St Nicholas Village is a small but amazing Christmas market.
With a heavy focus on local gifts and handmade crafts, this is the market to head to for some Christmas shopping. Made to look exactly like a small village, the market consists of a high entryway and many two-story half-timber houses.
Decorated in hundreds if not thousands of fairy lights, being here will immediately get you into the Christmas spirit.
At Nikolausasdorf Christmas Market you’ll find several chalet-style bars, wooden stalls, a chapel, and even a children’s workshop hut. While is it focused more on gifts you’ll still find plenty of snacks, drinks, and sweets to get your fill as you explore.
Stadtgarten Christmas Market
For those looking to escape the crowded Christmas markets of the center, you’ll want to check out the Stadtgarten Christmas Market. The market is located in Stadtgarten- Cologne’s oldest park- in the Belgian Quarter of the city.
With lots of well-illuminated stalls, low-hanging tree branches decorated with lights and a local atmosphere this is is great off-the-beaten-path Cologne Christmas market.
You’ll find many different stalls selling decorations, handicrafts, jewelry, and fashion items and there’s also plenty to eat and drink here too.
The market is on every day until 9.30 pm.
Cologne Harbour Christmas Market (Hafen Weinhnachts Markt)
Located on the Rhine next to the Chocolate Museum, the harbor market is another of Cologne’s Christmas markets worth exploring.
You can pop by after visiting the Chocolate Museum or while taking a walk along the river bank- a walk from the unique Kranhäuser Rheinauhafen blocks up to the Cathedral makes a very scenic walk.
The only market with a nautical theme to it, the harbor market is a very modern market selling a variety of traditional crafts, delicious food, and drinks. It’s characterized by the iconic wooden ship bar at its center and its modern, white tents.
It also has a giant Ferris wheel, perfect for checking out Cologne’s riverside views.
If you prefer fish to sausage, then this is one of the only Christmas markets in Cologne where you’ll be able to grab some fried fish in a bun or even some pickled herring.
All in all the Harbor market isn’t one of the best in the city, but if you’re in the area it’s worth having a walk through.
Not far from Nikolausasdorf, Heavenue Christmas market is put on by the city’s LGBT community each year. The small market is a really fun place to come in the evening when the whole area comes to life with music, dance, and drinks.
Decked out in colorful LED lights, an entertainment stage, and many Christmas drink stalls, Heavenue Market is a great place for an evening drink, a festive atmosphere, and some festive fun.
The market is geared more toward eating, drinks, and dancing, there aren’t really any stalls here to do any shopping but Nikolausasdorf Christmas Market is just a stone’s throw away.
What to Eat & Drink at Koln Christmas Market 2023
The Cologne Germany Christmas markets are full of wonderful food and drink, both traditional and not so traditionally German. They are a great way to be able to try some local flavors while also enjoying the Christmas atmosphere to the full.
While food and drink vary quite a bit between Christmas markets in different regions of Germany, here are some of the best bites you can find at the Christmas Markets in Cologne.
Glühwein – Also known as mulled wine, this is hot wine cooked in various, warming spices. It’s the most popular drink in the Christmas Market Cologne and is loved by many. There is mulled red wine and also mulled white wine (weissewein). This one is sometimes a little less sweet than the red one.
Bratwurst/Krakauer– No Christmas market in Germany would be complete without grilled sausage. Bratwurst and Krakauer are the two main varieties sold at the Cologne Christmas markets. One of them is slightly darker in color and is spiced with a little cumin and caraway seed. They are served in a white bun and you can help yourself to mustard and ketchup.
Reibekuchen – These are basically fried potato cakes generally served with apple sauce. A batter is made out of grated potato, egg, and onion and this is then fried in a pancake shape. They are a great vegetarian option at the Cologne winter market.
Crepes & Waffles – Just like you might expect, French and Belgian-inspired sweets are popular in Germany. You’ll be able to find many stalls selling waffles and crepes with a variety of fillings and toppings like Nutella, forest fruits, bananas and more.
Flammlachs – Grilled salmon in a bun but not just any grilled salmon, this salmon is grilled on an open fire right at the Christmas market. Opt to have it on a plate or in a bun. They tend to serve it at the Harbour Christmas Market, given its more fishy theme.
Kölsch – If you’re a beer drinker, you’ll need to try kölsch, the heritage beer from Cologne. A pale and watery beer, it’s a very refreshing drink that’s a must, I mean, you are in Germany after all.
Koln Kölsch is normally served in 0.2 liter glasses, so don’t be asking for a pint. Once you’re done put your coaster over the top of the glass otherwise the beer will keep on flowing. Beer is available at some, but not all the Christmas markets Cologne Germany.
Where to Stay for Cologne Christmas Market
When thinking about where to stay when visiting the Cologne Christmas Market you’ll want to choose a hotel close to all the action for ease of moving around. Hotels or Airbnbs in Aldstadt (the old town) are a great idea as are those in the city center.
One of my favorite areas in Cologne is the Belgian neighborhood (Belgisches Viertel) however it is a little further from the most central Christmas markets.
Ruby Ella Hotel – One of the best boutique hotels in the city, this is the perfect stay for design-focused travelers. With sleek and bright rooms, and a modern bar, and a lounge, this hotel has everything you need for a perfect stay in the city. Great staff and breakfast too. The location is a little outside the city center but very close to Nikolausasdorf Christmas Market. Check rates and availability here.
Excelsior Hotel Ernst am Dom – For those looking for 5-star luxury and an unbeatable location right across from Cologne Cathedral then look no further than the Excelsior. With large, plush rooms, extremely comfortable beds, and 5-star service, there are few options in Cologne that beat it. Check rates and availability here.
Hotel Sion– A great budget option for those seeking a comfortable and modern stay in the center- near all the best Christmas markets in Cologne. The rooms are cozy and bright and the breakfast is great too, however, nothing beats the location. Check rates and availability here.
To find the best stays in Cologne for all budgets and locations, use the map below.
What to Buy at the Christmas Markets Cologne
There are so many amazing souvenirs, Christmas decorations and ornaments, and gift ideas at the Cologne Christmas market. It’s difficult to not get overwhelmed and want to buy it all- I know I did.
From candles to tree ornaments make sure to leave space in your suitcase for some exciting new Christmas purchases.
Here’s a short summary of what to buy in Cologne Germany at the Christmas markets.
Handmade Tree Ornaments – You’ll find a wide array of tree ornaments at Cologne’s different Christmas markets. From traditional handmade wooden ornaments to glass baubles, there’s something here for everyone.
Artisan Food and Drinks – Not all the food and drink sold is for immediate consumption. You’ll find a lot of food products to take back with you- perfect as a gift for the foodie in your life. There’s homemade liqueur, German cheeses, wine, cured meats, jams, oils, kinds of vinegar, and plenty more to take home with you.
Just make sure to be careful with liquids if you’ve packed carry-on only or else you’ll need to purchase an extra check-in bag to get it all home.
Christmas decor – From artisan candles to wooden figurines and snow globes, you’ll be able to find a wide range of decorations for your home.
Winter clothes & accessories – Many of the Cologne Christmas markets also sell lovely wintery clothes such as sweaters, hats, gloves and even leather goods like wallets and belts. This is perfect if you’re freezing and you find out you’ve forgotten your gloves.
Are you ready to discover the Christmas markets in Germany Cologne and winter in Cologne? Let me know your comments and questions in the box, below, I’d love to hear from you.
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