If you read our post about 7 Things to do around Europe in the Winter, then you saw that German Christmas Markets are on that list. Since that list is basically our European Winter Wishlist, it is so exciting to have checked something off of it so soon! Nothing says “Christmas Magic” like a few days in Cologne, Germany surrounded by seven Christmas markets!
We traveled via train from Amsterdam to Cologne and somehow we got 1st class tickets cheaper than 2nd! Wait, what?! Yeah, I have no idea how that happened, but it was a pleasant journey through the sunrise and took only about 2 ½ hours. There’s just no better way to travel Europe than by train (in my opinion!). When you arrive at Cologne Central Station, follow the directions to “City” or “Dom”. I don’t have the words to describe the feeling of walking towards the exit and seeing the towering structure of the Dom (Cathedral) of Cologne up through the glass ceiling. It’s essentially a huge welcome sign for the city.
If you ever make it to Cologne for the Christmas markets, be sure to stop somewhere and grab the booklet with the explanations and the map! If you do arrive by train, the Christmas market at the Cathedral is the closet and the largest of any in the city. It’s crowded, so try to go around the market to find a side entrance instead of going in the main entrance. It will be better, I promise.
Once you enter, you will be enticed by all the amazing scents that surround you. Pick from any of the many vendors to have a snack. Grab a crêpe, meat on a stick, strudel, waffles, fries, smoked salmon, etc. The variety of food was amazing and so tasty. Definitely go when you are hungry and can enjoy a few different treats. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
Then find one of the many stalls that sell Glühwein (Mulled Wine) in their special mugs to warm warm you up. I’m not a huge mulled wine fan, but this stuff was so tasty. Note that there is a deposit for the mug and it was 2.50 € this year. But each market has their own unique mug! So it might be a fun collection?
Browse handmade products, hand-blown glass ornaments, notebooks, candles, funny hats, art pieces, and so so many more wonderful things. Marvel at the man blowing glass right there in the stall. See the pride that these people have in their product as they explain what makes it special. Then find that piece of art, ornament, or other item that you will take home to remember this trip! (We collect ornaments) The only thing you might miss is Santa Claus or Sinterklaas. We saw a statue of Santa Claus, but never saw a person dressed as him.
Even though there were seven markets, we only made it to six of them and each had their own personality. My other favorite was the Market of Angels – Christmas at Neumarkt. It was still Christmas-y with a lot of stalls, but much less crowded that the one at the Cathedral. Also, the stalls were in lines so you wouldn’t miss anything. You could go up, then down, then up the other side. It just made sense. But then you have the Cologne Old Town – Home of the Elves one which had a Ferris Wheel and down the block there were more stalls and a large ice rink! The Cologne Harbor Christmas Market is unique since it is the only one next to the Rhine River, but was also crowded with the stalls way too close together.
The magic not only came from the décor and the food, but also from the other people exploring the market, watching the ornaments being made, and drooling over all the tasty treats. But my favorite part from our entire trip was leaving the market by the Cathedral and finding a man with a baby grand piano playing beautiful songs. He was smiling and was truly enjoyed making the crowd that gathered around him happy. It was cold and dark with all of us bundled up, but there was just something keeping me in my spot watching and listening to the sound of that piano in the shadow of the enormous Cologne Cathedral. It brought me to tears and I couldn’t stop smiling. That is a moment I will forever remember. And that is one reason why I travel…for those moments.
These Christmas markets attract people because they want to feel the Christmas spirit and the magic that surrounds this time of year. It’s such a treat to watch people, even when it is crowded, smiling and laughing It certainly touched me and I can’t wait to see what kind of Christmas markets we will find next year! To remember our trip we have made a video. If you want to really see to action, check it out!
Have you been to a Christmas market? Share your favorite Christmas moment below! It doesn’t have to be travel related. Let’s share the Christmas spirit!
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