If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself after living in Europe, it’s that I can’t pass up a trip to the Christmas Markets. I have yet to find a Christmas Market I love more than the ones in Germany, and the ones in Cologne are at the top of that list. Cologne is also one of the first cities I ever visited for markets when I was living in Amsterdam!
Previously Jacob and I have road tripped to Germany and France for the Christmas Markets, but this time a good friend of mine, Lauren, asked if I wanted to join her by train from Amsterdam for a day trip. We booked our train tickets a couple days in advance and packed a backpack with warm clothing with plans to stroll and enjoy the markets for a few hours. Taking the train from Amsterdam to Cologne is incredibly easy: it’s a 2.5 hour journey from Amsterdam’s central station, arriving at Cologne station about a hundred yards from one of the best markets in Europe.
Cathedral Market Christmas in Cologne
In the past I’d only visited the main market in front of the impressive Cologne cathedral, so this time we planned for four hours to explore at least three markets in the city. Our first stop was the Cathedral Market for some raclette and our first mug of glühwein (mulled wine). I love this market most in the evenings, when the cathedral is lit up against the sky and you can fully experience the golden lights strung across all the red and white stalls. We promised to circle back and instead of sticking around, headed straight for the Old Market just a couple blocks away.
Here is the 2019 Cologne website for referencing all the Cologne Christmas Markets. There are 7 Christmas Markets total in Cologne. We visited 3 on this trip: Cathedral Market Christmas, Old Market Christmas, and Angel’s Christmas Market.
The Old Market is perhaps the most traditional feeling; there were vendors forging horseshoes, carving wood, and brewing freshly spiced cider. The wood stalls here are decked out with greenery and German gnomes, and there’s plenty of traditional German clothing being worn. The ornaments here were also some of our favorite, so you could say we spent the most time shopping here! We also tried a few homemade German dishes, including a new favorite cabbage and sausage dish served in a bowl.
Old Market Christmas in Cologne
Preset Collections used in this blog post: Europe Collection.
Next we headed to Angel’s Market. It’s a short walk (around 15 minutes away), but to maximize our limited time we hopped in an Uber to arrive right at the entrance. The theme of Angel’s market is blue and white, with stars adorned on all the trees. Since this market is already more removed from the main cathedral, it has more of a ‘local’ vibe. We chatted with a couple students who walked over after their classes at a nearby university for a mug of glühwein and a snack. Apparently, something they do multiple days a week in winter!
We really went all out with the food at this one, trying everything from currywurst to baked pastries. I found the vendors here were more knowledgeable about diet restrictions (I still can’t eat gluten) so I had more food than the other markets. Lauren and I ducked into an ornament store right before sunset and walked out with a number of gifts when the sky had turned to a rich blue. It was so fun taking photos with a steaming cup of glühwein in hand to capture the magic of this market!
Angel’s Christmas Market in Cologne
After Angel’s market, we headed straight back to Cathedral Market since the sun had set. Sure enough, it was just as incredible as I remembered. There was live music playing and the backdrop is the dramatic Cologne cathedral, lit up by thousands of lights. We explored a bit, taking home some additional sweets and having our last mug of steaming hot wine before making the two minute walk back to the station to catch our train. The ride back was spent watching a cheesy Christmas movie (the train has free wifi) and snacking on some of the food we bought.
Cathedral Market Christmas in Cologne
Tips for Visiting the Cologne Christmas Markets
- You can find the full list of Cologne Christmas Markets here. If you only have time for one or two markets, Cathedral Market is perhaps the most breathtaking and Old Market is just around the corner from it.
- We booked our train on this website three days prior. Prices go up the closer your trip is, so book at least a couple weeks in advance for the best prices. We took the 11:00am train arriving in Cologne at 1:15pm, and the 5:46pm train back to Amsterdam arriving at 8:28pm. While four hours was nice, I would’ve loved to squeeze in one more market, so next time I’d choose a later train around 7:00pm.
- If you don’t want to take your bag with you to the markets, check out this service. It allows you to leave your bag at a local vendor (in this case, a souvenir shop) for the day. I’m always a little cautious about leaving anything behind, but the reviews of this place were positive and it was really convenient for us to drop our bag here around the corner from the train station.
Where to Stay near the Cologne Christmas Markets
Cologne can easily be done on a day trip from Amsterdam, Netherlands. It’s also convenient as a day trip from Brussels, Belgium or Frankfurt, Germany. From other cities like Paris, France, or Berlin, Germany, it’s also possible to travel via train, but the journey is longer so I’d recommend spending the night. Cologne is a great city, and you’ll definitely have a lot to see if you make make it an overnight trip! For a nearby hotel, I’d recommend Hotel Excelsior Ernst, which is literally steps from the most famous market in Cologne, Cathedral Market. It’s also a two minute walk from the train station and the only five star hotel in the city center. If you’re there for one night, it’s worth the splurge!
Alternatively, if you want to make a longer trip out of it, consider planning a Christmas Market road trip and hitting additional markets in Germany or France. Here is our list of Europe’s Best Christmas Markets including recommendations for a road trip drive.