As the late great Andy Williams said, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” which means it's Christmas market season! Over the last couple of years, visiting the German Christmas markets has become somewhat of a tradition for us, and this year we had the pleasure of visiting the markets in the city of Cologne (Köln), Germany. And while there are dozens of Christmas markets scattered in and around the city, in this guide, we'll be sharing with you what we think are the six most captivating Christmas markets in Cologne, each offering a different theme with its own unique blend of traditional crafts, twinkling lights, delectable treats, and heartwarming festivities. As we uncover the charm and wonder of these cherished seasonal gatherings, we hope to help you create unforgettable yuletide memories in one of our favorite German cities.
Be sure to watch our “6 Best Christmas Markets in Cologne” vlog for a closer look at our experience!
Check out our Christmas Market Essentials Amazon list for ideas on what to pack and wear during your Christmas market visit!
If you’re looking for the best place to stay during your visit to the Cologne Christmas markets, check out these properties…
⭐⭐⭐⭐ Savoy Hotel
Or, use the search bar below to find the perfect accommodations for you!
Looking for more things to do during your visit to Cologne? Here are some of the best tours and experiences that we recommend…
For the easiest, most convenient transportation between the Christmas markets, check out the Christmas Market Express Train.
It’s a train-shaped hop-on, hop-off trolley that drives a loop around the 4 main Christmas markets: Christmas Market at Cologne Cathedral, Heinzels Winter Fairytale Christmas Market, Cologne Harbour Christmas Market, and Market of Angels Christmas Market. While it can be pleasurable and convenient, our experience was less than enjoyable with unfriendly staff and poor driving skills. That said, we do understand that we have a very limited perspective on this since we only took one section of the loop and it was the last trolley of the night.
German Name: Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom
Set against the backdrop of the stunning Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Christmas Market at Cologne Cathedral, known as the "Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom" in German, is a captivating and festive spectacle. The market is star-themed with each of the 150 wooden stalls adorned with a bright Christmas star at the peak of their red angular roofs. In addition to the festive, themed decor the stalls showcase a wide array of traditional hand-crafted goods, unique gifts, seasonal decorations, and of course delectable treats like glühwein (mulled wine), rostbratwurst (grilled sausage), and roasted almonds (gebrannte mandeln) that can all be enjoyed at one of the star-shaped tables scattered throughout the market. One of the main highlights of the Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market is the impressive 82-foot (25-meter) Nordmann fir Christmas tree decorated with balls and stars which is followed by a light tent made up of around 50,000 Christmas lights canvassing the central square below where musicians and performers often entertain the crowds, adding to the cheerful ambiance with joyful music and lively entertainment.
German Name: Heinzels Wintermärchen
As the largest market by area and some would say the prettiest and most elaborately decorated market, the Heinzels Winter Fairytale Christmas Market, known as the Heinzels Wintermärchen in German, is an enchanting woodland-themed market nestled in the heart of Cologne's historic Old Town. The market takes its name from the Heinzelmännchen, legendary house gnomes of Cologne, and pays homage to these mythical creatures with delightful decorations and displays. The 140 wooden huts offer an array of handcrafted gifts, ornaments, and local specialties, making it a perfect place for unique Christmas shopping. Live music performances, nativity scenes, and entertaining activities for children (including a small Ferris wheel) add to the joyful atmosphere but what sets this market apart from the rest is the ice skating and curling rinks! The centerpiece of the market is a stunning Christmas tree adorned with sparkling lights, captivating visitors with its festive allure.
German Name: Kölner Hafen-Weihnachtsmarkt
Location: Schokoladenmuseum Köln
Situated along the scenic Rhine River next to the Chocolate Museum (Schokoladenmuseum), the Cologne Harbor Christmas Market, known as Kölner Hafen-Weihnachtsmarkt in German, is a magical maritime-themed extravaganza that offers a unique, festive spirit of the holidays. As with all Christmas markets, visitors are treated to a delightful array of traditional handicrafts, artisanal goods, and seasonal treats. The nautical-inspired ambiance, with its festively decorated wooden boats and illuminated harbor, adds a special allure to the market. Live music performances, joyful caroling, and the enchanting aroma of seasonal spices create an atmosphere brimming with warmth and holiday cheer. In addition to having the most unique theme, there’s also a 157-foot (48-meter) high Ferris Wheel that offers spectacular views of the city and Rhine River.
German Name: Nikolausdorf
Set against the medieval castle gate backdrop of Hahnentorburg, the St. Nicholas Christmas Market, known as Nikolausdorf in German, is a magical St. Nicholas (AKA Santa Claus) themed wonderland that captivates visitors with its nostalgic atmosphere and festive spirit. And while all of the markets are family-friendly, the St. Nicholas Christmas Market seems to offer the most activities for children. The market is dressed with… you guessed it… twinkling lights, elaborately decorated Saint Nick-themed half-timbered stalls, and the scent of glühwein and freshly baked goods wafting through the air making the market an immersive experience that delights the senses. Overall, The St. Nicholas Christmas Market offers a perfect blend of holiday cheer, centuries-old traditions, and a vibrant atmosphere which is why we think you should add it to your list of stops on your Cologne Christmas Market tour!
German Name: Markt der Engel
As the oldest Christmas market in Cologne, the Market of Angels Christmas Market, known as Markt der Engel in German, is a must-visit! The ethereal, angel theme is so perfectly conveyed throughout the market with soft, white lights, white decor, and even people dressed as angels wandering the market. When night falls, the lights hanging overhead sparkle in the tree canopy making it the most romantic market in the city. As expected from any Christmas market, the aroma of glühwein, freshly baked goods, and grilled sausages fills the air, but in addition to the traditional delectable treats, you’ll find Cathedral-shaped waffles here finished with your choice of fruity, sugary toppings which we highly recommend!
German Name: Adventsdorf am Kölner Dom
Location: Römische Hafenstraße
With only a dozen or so stalls that only sell food and drink… This less-than-one-block-sized market may be small, but it is mighty! Located just around the corner from the Christmas Market at Cologne Cathedral (Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom), The Advent Village at the Cathedral, known as Adventsdorf am Kölner Dom in German, offers a surprisingly wide array of treats and bites including a mouthwatering Käsekrakauer (smoked, grilled sausage with a delicious cheese filling) and Feuerzangenbowle (basically glühwein with a flaming, rum-soaked sugar cube). The woodchip-covered ground adds to the advent/manger theme and the 65-foot (20-meter) tall wooden Christmas Pyramid (which doubles as the market’s bar) is the proverbial cherry on top!
We hope that this guide has helped you make the most of your time at the Cologne Christmas markets, and if it has, we hope you’ll consider following us on Instagram and subscribing to our YouTube Channel for more travel content!
Disclaimer: We only recommend products, services, and resources that we believe will provide value to our readers/viewers. If you purchase anything using our referral links, we may get a small commission with no extra cost to you, and the money we receive from our advertising relationships helps us to keep creating content free of charge to our readers/viewers.