Germany is famed the world over for putting on the best festive markets, and we’re excited to share with you our Christmas markets Cologne guide.
They’re some of the world’s best that attract millions to the city each year between 25 November and 23 December.
Christmas markets Cologne
Cologne is known as one of the best European Christmas destinations. There are seven significant German Christmas markets in Cologne and highlights of each, as well as best time of day to visit, are listed below.
This charming German city is of course, famous for its Christmas markets (as other neighbouring German cities are). It’s perfect for a winter Christmas city break!
Before we get into the detail of why we’ve come in December, a quick snapshot about this town…
One of the reasons we chose to visit Cologne for a spot of Christmas market shopping is that its positioned on the Rhine river.
We’ve only been to this area once, when travelling around Europe on our awesome Expat Explore tour – and I remember it is spectacular!
Cologne is known as a cultural hub of north west Germany, popular for its food, art and traditional Kölsch beer. The city is filled with quirky bars, cool shopping and plenty of culture.
Much of the city was actually destroyed during the first world war, and the locals have had to rebuild it, together with a multicultural mix of neighbours from around Europe.
Cologne famously accepted many migrants during recent years’ refugee crisis’, and its people are known to be exceptionally friendly, open and welcoming.
Also famous and on at this time of year, is the Cologne Carnival, known as Fastelovend. I love that this annual celebration of street parties and costumes officially launches each year at 11am on November 11, and it runs until Christian Lent.
Apparently it’s normal during this period for people in costume to run up and give you a peck on the cheek. If you get kissed, don’t panic, consider it lucky and enjoy the moment.
Need to know: the 7 Christmas markets of Cologne
Cathedral Market: the big one
– This is the biggest German Christmas market in the city, known for its spectacular location in the square in front of Dom Cathedral. It’s probably the first one you’ll come across if you arrive by train, as the main station is on the doorstep to the Cathedral.
– Come back for a visit at night, for the sprinkling of pretty festive lights throughout the gift-filled wooden pavilions.
– There’s a lot of delicious food here, including local foods like German Bratwurst and Flammlachs (grilled salmon).
– The Cathedral Market is the spot for entertainment which you’ll often catch on the stage by the tall Christmas tree.
– In case of rain, there’s a canopy under the Roman-German Museum where you can find shelter, people-watch and enjoy a mug of traditional gluhwein/gluehwein (hot spiced wine) – I liked mine with a splash of Amaretto!
– Cologne’s tourism information centre is very close to here too, well-signed, opposite the Dom, if you want some tips or help with getting around town.
Old Market or Alter Markt: the traditional one
– Literally next door to the Cathedral market is this gorgeous set-up. For a traditional Christmas market experience that’s particularly great for a daytime visit, make time for the large Old Market.
– This Cologne Christmas market is located in front of the Old Town Hall, and there are indoor areas if it’s raining.
– The open market area is on Heumarkt and features a large ice rink at the centre of it that has ice shows too!
– The Old Market boasts cool themed alleys e.g sweets alley, toy alley.
– There’s a fabulous vantage point here on the balcony at the themed house that overlooks the ice rink, but it’s busy so be prepared to nudge your way through to get some nice photos.
– Want to try local fare? Special drinks to look for include Calvados liqueur with cream; and Feuerzangenbowle which is Gluhwein and rum set on fire and served in a mug called a Feuerzangentasse which has forks attached to it with a sugar cone that can be soaked in rum and the whole thing is set on fire.
Harbour market (Chocolate Museum): the modern one
– A short walk along the river from the Cathedral and Alter Markt, this spot is a must-visit. How could anyone resist a German Christmas market on the banks of the river Rhine in front of a Chocolate Museum? (which is perfect for shelter if it’s wet).
– While this is one of the smallest in the city, it’s possibly set in the most picturesque spot. Go in the daytime, and head here early, it is one of the first to open each day during the German Christmas market season.
– Perfect for lovely arts and crafts, and there’s a cool hat vendor too.
Angel’s Market (Neumarkt): the glamorous one
– This pretty German Christmas market is the oldest in the city, and sits on Neumarkt Square, amongst some of Cologne’s great shopping streets. It is by far my favourite!
– It’s another lovely Cologne Christmas market to visit at night because of its lights, trees and romantic atmosphere. The Angel Market is about 15 minutes walk from the Cathedral (Dom).
– In case of rain, seek the chic bar at the west end of the market, but you’ll want to be early because it gets full.
– Cologne’s Angel market is good for Christmas decorations, unique chocolates, artisan stalls, lights, arts and crafts.
Village of St Nicholas (Rudolfplatz): the magical one
– A village-style Christmas market that is set by the medieval Hahnentorburg on Rudolfplatz.
– This is the area where people go out at night; you’ll find a cool crowd, and atmosphere.
– For more festive spirit, look around the corner as this is next to Christmas Avenue Market.
Stadtgarten: the local one
– A bit further out from the centre of the Cologne Christmas market action, but worthwhile; in the middle of the Belgian Quarter of Cologne – a gorgeous part of the city.
–This German Christmas market in Cologne is known for its lovely village feel, and more locals than tourists surrounding you.
– Perfect for unique and cute gifts; also a great food selection especially desserts and savoury delights.
Gay and Lesbian market: the cool one
– Cologne is one of the most LGTB friendly cities in Europe and its got a Christmas market to match!
– Don’t miss this one for a fun, bright, younger crowd, a diverse range of food and drinks and the quirkiest gifts.
Cologne Christmas markets top tips
1. Each market offers its own unique and collectable Gluhwein mugs. You pay a deposit on your first drink which means you can keep this mug. If you don’t want to keep it, simply return to the bar at the same market for your deposit back.
2. You can walk between most of the markets, or catch the bus or special Christmas Market Express train. Visit Koeln also offers a Koeln card to get around the city. Visit the tourism centre for more details on this when you’re in the city.
3. An extremely comprehensive resource on the Cologne markets can be found at fromrealpeople.com– locals in Cologne who share helpful information about the markets, the food and treats to be found and importantly, transport. We got a lot out of this blog post (thanks team!).
Cologne has proven to be one of the best places to visit in winter, in our opinion. We love Amsterdam and Paris too, even Mallorca for some wintersun, but for a Christmas city break you can’t really go past this!
I’ve always been attracted to this place. I think as a child I spotted a romantic photo of the city drenched in snow and have wanted to visit for Christmas in Copenhagen ever since!
Christmas in Copenhagen: getting there
When some cheap airfares from London on Norwegian Air popped up on my radar, I booked it without too much of a second thought. You should keep an eye out as there are often inexpensive airfares to this part of the world, which means you too can make it for Christmas in Copenhagen!
I also love that Aussie, Princess Mary lives in Copenhagen, although ironically she was visiting our home city, the Gold Coast, when we dropped by her home country, Denmark on this visit.
Things to do for Christmas in Copenhagen
We only had a few days in the city, Christmas eve to December 27.
This wasn’t long enough because what I failed to discover pre-flight booking is that a LOT of Copenhagen is closed over the Christmas period. Sadly most of our time was also rain-soaked (alas, not snow-soaked).
We caught up with fellow world-travellers and family, Ryan and Denyka, in the city though, so that did make for a special Christmas in Copenhagen experience!
We feasted by the water at the chic Marriott in the city centre, and while definitely not the cheapest option, we decided to splash out for the special occasion.
Christmas in Copenhagen: all you need to know
Copenhagen is beautiful and clean, but much is closed across the Christmas period. The Christmas markets are very famous, however they are mostly wrapped-up (closed) by December 23.
The City Sightseeing hop-on-hop-off buses do run across the festive period, and offer an easy way to get your bearings across the different parts of town.That way, you can choose where you want to go back to and explore. Some tickets are good for 48 hours too. Many of these tours offer a Carlsberg Brewery experience but sadly this is not on offer all the time (boo hoo) so check the website or with a tour adviser in the city for options. Carlsberg is mostly known as a premium and tasty beer range, and the brewery was founded in Copenhagen in 1847, so plays a cool role in this colourful city’s history.
I’ll be honest, the city is expensive. More expensive than London and Sydney! So, plan your trip accordingly and my lesson is that cheap airfares do not necessarily equal an economical holiday (we found it was quite the opposite, in fact).That said, there are some excellent accommodation deals to be found on Airbnb.
Public transport is easy and efficient enough, but we discovered Uber offers competitive deals for getting around, so sign up on the app before you leave home.If you are staying in the city’s heart however, Copenhagen is pretty easy to navigate on foot.
‘Hygge’ and a cosy Christmas in Copenhagen
Before heading over to Denmark from the UK and as winter approached in the northern hemisphere, we began to read a lot about a heart-warming Danish concept called ‘hygge’.
Recorded as being one of the happiest places in the world despite long, cold, dark winters, it seems some of us have a lot to learn about taking good, cosy care of ourselves and loved-ones in the colder months.
We did indeed feel the warmth, despite the chill.
Sitting by the fire on a cold night, wearing a woolly jumper, while drinking mulled wine and stroking a dog – probably surrounded by candles. That’s definitely ‘hygge’.
Tivoli is situated right in the middle of the city, opposite Copenhagen Central train station, and it’s the second-oldest amusement park in the world (after Dyrehavsbakken in nearby Klampenborg), opened in August 1843.
Perhaps the term ‘Tivoli’ sounds familiar to you, and it does have historical roots. According to Wikipedia:
The amusement park was first called ‘Tivoli & Vauxhall’; ‘Tivoli’ alluding to the Jardin de Tivoli in Paris (which in turn had been named from Tivoli near Rome, Italy),’Vauxhall’ alluding to the Vauxhall Gardens in London. It is also mentioned in various books, like Number the Stars by Lois Lowry.
The park was just the right size to wander around, and features fun, contemporary rides, but hasn’t lost any of its old-world fairground charm.
In fact, here you’ll find one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the world (1914), and one of only seven remaining on Earth that is still operated by a brake man.
With spectacular light shows, markets, every building and structure lit up in festive glory, eateries, rides and parades, this is an experience everyone in our little travel group now highly recommends.
If you can’t be at ‘home’ for Christmas, then this is the way to do it!
Returning for Christmas in Copenhagen…
There’s so much we didn’t get to do on our short visit to this part of the world, and the city itself is brimming with extraordinary spaces, quaint buildings steeped in history, lovely parks and waterways.
I was struck by the interesting statues and sculptures too, some of my favourites being the glorious angel statue on the World War 1 maritime monument, and not too far from this but on the water (waiting by the shore for her prince), the very famous Little Mermaid, who celebrated her 100th birthday in 2013.
There’s plenty to go back to in this clean and inviting city, but the one thing I wish I had known about sooner so I could have planned the train trip (around 45 minutes from Copenhagen central), is Kronborg Castle, home of Hamlet!
This is Denmark’s most famous and striking castle, and it was immortalised by Shakespeare in the 1600s. Add it to your list if you’re interested in this kind of history too.
Have you been? We’d love to know your tips and experience – drop us a line in the comments below.
It’s a haven for foodies, market-lovers and families – The Grounds in Alexandria is one of the hottest café spots to experience and workout your tastebuds in Sydney. Located in an old pie factory from the 1900’s, The Grounds is now a whimsical secret garden that has a rustic/industrial feel. From the outside you never expect such a sanctuary to exist – a lovely surprise making you feel like a kid in a candy store, wide-eyed and excited to explore. On any given weekend The Grounds is jam-packed with visitors, especially over the ‘holiday weekends’ which hosts sprawling market stalls and live music.
Here’s why it’s a perfect spot to check out – explore The Grounds of Alexandria
Kevin Bacon calls it home
Unfortunately not the actor, but The Grounds has its own Kevin Bacon celebrity – a lovable pig who made headlines all over the country for being kidnapped last year. He is now safely back home and can be seen lapping up the attention in his barn. Along with Kevin Bacon, there are sheep, chickens, ducks, rabbits and more in the petting zoo area.
Greenhouse garden dining
For a dining experience that’ll make you feel like you’re in a greenhouse garden, drop by The Potting Shed. With hanging plants, flowerpots and garden tools everywhere, this venue is one of a kind. It also features a funky bar offering an extensive cocktail list and wine menu. The venue even has its own resident pet, Fluffy, a magnificent blue and yellow macaw that is perched freely on top of its cage and playing happily amongst the diners. What’s great about The Potting Shed is it’s open till midnight and the food is scrumptious, and surprisingly well priced. Some highlight dishes include the steamed black mussels, bite-sized pork-belly buns and buttermilk popcorn chicken. On the beverage side be sure to try a cocktail – my drink of choice is the Toiler’s Tonic.
Coffee is their passion
The Grounds is renowned for its coffee and it would be a sin if you didn’t get your caffeine fix here. With a coffee research and testing facility on-site – they mean serious business when it comes to brewing the perfect cup of coffee. Sourcing the finest beans from all over the world including Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia and India, The Grounds constantly change blends (largely determined by seasonality) to ensure the best-flavoured coffee is produced.
Tip: While waiting for a table at The Potting Shed, grab a coffee and sit in the main garden area.
Eat your heart out
On premises is the Salt Meats Cheese venue, a warehouse-style delicatessen offering the finest products stocked sky-high – from olives, antipasto, dips, truffles, prosciutto, cheeses, jams, gelato, pasta and more. It’s a gourmet foodie’s dream but it doesn’t stop there, with Italian cooking classes also available to indulge in. Each weekend they run classes in making fresh pasta and ravioli, woodfire oven pizzas (matched with a glass of wine) and mozzarella. It’s a great activity for families, friends and groups – bound to produce a lot of laughs and tasty treats in the process.
Find The Grounds of Alexandria at Building 7A/2 Huntley Street, Alexandria
Have you explored The Grounds of Alexandria? Tell us what you think.
About the writer
Danielle Muller (@stuffitgotravel) is a Sydney-based travel blogger and communications professional. Follow her travel adventures, stories and recommendations at stuffitgotravelling.com.
Weekend markets in Sydney are a ritual for many and they’re a great way to experience the city’s culture, food, art and fashion. You’re guaranteed to get a bargain, acquire something unique and best of all each marketplace has its own character and vibe to absorb.
Here are my recommendations for the best weekend markets in Sydney
Bohemian-style suburb, Glebe hosts a vibrant marketplace featuring everything from vintage clothing, bric-a-brac, records, arts and crafts and gourmet food. Home to over 200 stalls it’s a never-ending labyrinth of diverse treasures waiting to be discovered. Why not get your bohemian-chic on and sample the multicultural food stalls, enjoy the live music and search for a vintage fashion piece or original artwork. Afterwards you can explore this hip suburb boasting numerous restaurants, cafes and retail outlets on Glebe Point Road. Located: Corner of Derby Place and Glebe Point Road, Glebe Open: 10am to 4pm (Saturdays) glebemarkets.com.au
Sydney Fish Markets
A visit to the Sydney Fish Markets always guarantees a delicious foodie experience. Packed with tourists and locals it’s a must-do attraction being the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Experience what it’s like to be in an authentic working fish market and jump on a tour to see where the seafood buyers battle it out during their morning auctions. Otherwise freely roam and observe the seafood mongers crack open oysters, finely slice tuna and work the crowds. Be sure to grab some fresh seafood for dinner or try the seafood platters featuring moray lobster, deep fried prawns, calamari, oysters and more. Located: Pyrmont Bridge Road, Pyrmont Open: 7am to 4pm (Daily, except Christmas Day) sydneyfishmarket.com.au
The Rocks Markets
Where else can you walk through the birthplace of modern-day Australia? The Rocks Markets is undoubtedly a Sydney institution attracting nearly one million visitors each year. With over 200 market stalls you can pick up anything from Australian-designed fashion items and accessories, original artwork and prints, speciality food and one-off jewellery. It’s also a lovely spot to waste the day strolling aimlessly while taking in the views of the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and Circular Quay. Located: Playfair Street, George Street and Jack Mundey Place, The Rocks Open: 10am to 5pm (Saturdays and Sundays) therocks.com
Kirribilli General Markets
A bustling marketplace with harbour bridge views, Kirribilli Markets is your one-stop-shop for all things ‘new and recycled’ in fashion, homewares, antiques and collectables, bric-a-brac, arts and crafts, produce, plants and gourmet food. Anything is pretty much sold here running through Burton Street Tunnel and Bradfield Park Bowling Green. From emerging designers to savvy fashionistas offloading their wardrobes – you might uncover a classic designer item or handbag. Otherwise check out the random knick-knacks, children’s toys and my favourite vintage typewriters and cameras. Be sure to visit the food stalls sampling such treats as Dutch pancakes, Vietnamese Banh Mi Rolls and Dim Sum. Located: Bradfield Park – Corner of Alfred and Burton Streets, Milsons Point Open: 8.30am to 3pm – Fourth Saturday of the month (January to November) and first and third Saturday (December). kirribillimarkets.com
Operating since 1973 the Paddington Markets has become a popular attraction. Originally started to promote emerging fashion designers, craftspeople and artists, this bustling market features around 150 stalls showcasing various Australian-made and designed products. Check out the local fashion, sample handmade chocolates, try on cutting edge jewellery and brighten up your day with some flowers. Also don’t be afraid to bring your four legged-friends, as dogs are welcome and easily roam with their owners. Located: 395 Oxford Street, Paddington Open: 10am to 4pm (Saturdays) paddingtonmarkets.com.au.
Have you visited any of Sydney’s weekend markets? If so, tell us your favourite spots – drop us a line in the comments below.
About the author Danielle Muller is a Sydney-based travel blogger and communications professional. Follow her travel adventures, stories and recommendations at stuffitgotravelling.com.
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