Itâ€™s that time of year again â€“ Christmas markets, festivals, and events are gearing up all over Europe.Â Â I simply love them â€“ steaming mugs of mulled wine, twinkling lights brightening up the dark nights, hot food stalls, rosy cheeks and big smilesâ€¦ itâ€™s the one of the best things about winter!
One of my favourite places to enjoy Christmas is in Cologne, Germany.Â Not only is it a wonderful city the rest of the year â€“ with good restaurants, an excellent modern art museum, the impressive cathedral to mention a few things â€“ but the city goes all out for Christmas.
Cologne – the Dom (cathedral) with Christmas Market boat below – Copyright Andrew Hayes
In Cologne (KÃ¶ln in German) there are no less than six Christmas markets, so youâ€™ll need at least a 3-day weekend to explore them all. Â Shopping by day, food and drinks by night is my strategy.Â Hereâ€™s what youâ€™ll find in each market:
Chrismas Market underneath the Dom:Â Perched underneath the impressive Cologne Cathedral (the Dom), this market is a stunning beauty, with the overhead lights shooting out from a beautiful Christmas pine overhead. Â This market has plenty of homemade crafts, lots of mulled wine and a huge food market.Â Best to head here if youâ€™re hungry.
Angelâ€™s Market at Neumarkt Square:Â Between the major shopping streets, this is a candlelight paradise, as if it did just drop from heaven â€“ hence the name.
The Rustic Market in the Old Town:Â Buy some traditional sweeties handmade in the traditional ways.Â Plenty of KÃ¶lsch, the local beer, is on hand here â€“ even though itâ€™s cold, try it â€“ it is delicious.
Childrenâ€™s Market in Rudolfphplatz:Â Children will adore this cute fairytale-themed market.Â Lots of toys are on sale, as well as plenty of sweets and treats.
Medieval Market at the Chocolate Museum:Â This market comes complete with concerts, buskers, and even a live nativity.Â The area has such an old-world feeling, with open fires used for roasting corn as well as beating out iron ornaments.Â
Floating Christmas Market:Â Moored down below the cathedral on the Rhine is the MS Wappen van KÃ¶ln, a large ship with an expansive Christmas market.Â Much of it indoors, this might be a nice place to warm up if the weather is inclement.Â Lots of stalls with antique ornaments and there is an on-board restaurant/cafÃ©.
Christmas Market at Stadtgarden Gardens:Â what a lovely atmosphere here at this massive market, full of stalls with food, antiques, and modern Christmas goods.
Youâ€™ll have to pay a deposit for the glasses that the KÃ¶lsch and mulled wine are served in.Â Both are considered popular souvenirs, as the glasses have the market name and date on them.Â There are even different glasses in different markets. Â If you decided that you donâ€™t want them, be sure to return them to the stall for a refund of your deposit.
Have you been to Cologne?Â Any recommendations for Christmastime?