by Alice Mariscotti-Wyatt
If you are keen on Christmas, then Cologne is going to be one well-mulled treat for you at this time of year. While many cities across Europe have cottoned on to the appeal of Christmas markets to light up the winter period, Germany remains the traditional destination for these festive fêtes.
As we found in Cologne, you couldn’t walk two streets without coming across another example, each with their own distinct design of the cosy chalet stalls.
Gay and Lesbian Christmas Avenue
Although this is by far the smallest of the Christmas markets we stopped at, I think this was my favourite. The one small avenue was lined with stalls wrapped in shiny pink cellophane, dotted with a few palm trees, and blaring cheesy music. There was a stage with a programme of events (and I’d hope some dancing, although I didn’t stay long enough to see it). Christmas Avenue felt warm, inclusive and friendly. But what really won me over was the largest selection of mulled cocktails I have ever seen, AND the mulled rosé wine. Deeeeelicious.
Stadtgarten Christmas Market
This market is on the edge of the city centre, but seemed to be the local’s choice of Christmas market – and I can completely see why. If I lived in Cologne I’d constantly meet up with friends at Stadtgarten Christmas Market to enjoy an evening of Bio mulled wine and raclette-coated potatoes. The setting is a park, so the stalls have an organic backdrop, creating twisting paths to follow, all prettily lit with lights. It reminded me of a festival atmosphere, and the stalls were more alternative, with an emphasis on local designers and creatives.
Angel’s Market (Markt der Engel)
This traditional market was a delight to walk around. The stalls felt carefully curated, so you never saw the same thing twice, and all set in enchanting wood cabins, beneath trees festooned in stars. The foods of the Christmas markets were a highlight everywhere, but here at Markt der Engel, everything seemed to be of the highest quality, and even more impossible to resist. You’ll feast on freshly baked pretzels, waffles in the shape of Cologne cathedral and massive portions of stollen. Oh and keep your eyes open for the angels the market is named for…
Cathedral Christmas Market
This is undeniably the most touristy market in Cologne. But with the imposing shape of Cologne Cathedral as its backdrop (and it really is spectacular), you would forgive a lot worse. It’s also probably the most complete market we visited. Having visited so many festive markets in a short few days you get a sense of all the essential stalls: the one selling potato cakes and apple sauce, the one selling 100 varieties of caramel coated nuts, and the one selling traditional wooden decorations. This market had the whole collection, and all looked high quality. This was a wonderful market for wandering though.
Harbour Christmas Market
As we walked along the side of the Rhine we stumbled upon yet another Christmas market, this one located right outside Cologne’s Chocolate Museum. There’s a nautical theme here at Harbour Christmas Market, with mulled wine sold out of bars shaped like pirate ships, seafood snacks, and bridges linking various bits of the market together.
Home of the Heinzelmännchen (Heimat der Heinzel)
This is a rather sophisticated take on the Christmas market, contained in beautiful wooden stalls in Cologne’s Old Town. It’s all designed to evoke a Christmas out of Germany’s folklore when apparently there were helpful Heinzelmännchen (house gnomes) about. This market has certainly got a traditional feel, with warming fires and sizzling sausages, and plenty of stalls of quality merchandise, including an entire stall of brushes!< em>Need more travel inspiration? Follow @therockskippers on Twitter<<<<