Okay, I know I haven’t been to all the Christmas markets out there, but from the ones I have been to (more than a dozen), the Cologne Christmas market in Germany is my favorite so far. Yes, my favorite!
Hopefully, you’ll feel the same after reading this post…and eventually going to the market(s) yourself.
I’ll get to all of this below, but here are the highlights and what makes it a favorite for me: the Cologne Christmas market isn’t just one market—it’s actually comprised of six* smaller markets sprinkled around Cologne. *There is typically a seventh, but it’s not happening in 2023).
But that’s just the tip of the Christmas tree (if you will); you can actually take a little train to/from each market, and each market is themed with something unique and fun. Like gnomes and angels.
Awesome, right? Okay, now let’s dive into the good stuff. I hope this 2023 Cologne Christmas Market guide will help you plan your trip this season.
The Important Stuff About the Cologne Christmas Market
Before we get to the fun stuff, here’s what you need to know if you’re going to check out the Cologne Christmas market in 2023.
*The content below is the info I’ve gathered, along with my own opinions, tips, and suggestions. I encourage you to double-check opening hours/dates with the direct websites provided before heading out to the Cologne Christmas market.
How to Get there
Cologne is located about an hour from where we live in the German state called North Rhine-Westphalia; it’s a major city along the Rhine.
Arriving with a Car:
I recommend parking here at this parking garage next to the cathedral. It’s big enough for a van and you’ll pop out at the cathedral, which is a great starting point for the markets.
Arriving via Train:
Get off at Cologne Central Station and you’re just a stone’s throw away from the cathedral.
And speaking of taking the train, check this out…
The Mini Christmas Train in Cologne
Cologne offers a Christmas train to get to four of the markets, and I highly recommend it. Yes, you can absolutely walk to, from, and in between each market, but going by a little Christmas train is so much more fun!
It’s genius and I wish some of the other cities had this, too. Here’s a map of where it goes:
PRO TIP: Take the mini train between each market! It’s hop-on/hop-off style and leaves every 15 minutes. We picked it up for the first time in front of the cathedral. See the cost and read more about it here.
If you’re looking to visit more markets in the area it’s totally possible. However, I recommend you experience a full day in Cologne.
If you’re looking to make it to two markets outside of the city, or even three markets in one day I would go to the Monschau Christmas market first (only open on certain weekends), then to Aachen, and then Schloss Merode at night.
You can also drive for an hour and find yourself in the Netherlands. Check out the unique Valkenburg cave market and then 15 minutes away is the Maastricht Christmas market, too.
Cologne Christmas Market 2023 dates and Maps
PRO TIP: If you intend on hitting all six markets, get there early, like right when they open!
Since the Christmas Market in Cologne is actually six markets spread throughout the city center, they all actually run individually and independently of each other.
I’m going to do something slightly different compared to my other Christmas Market guides, and include a tiny review for each market below, including each market’s individual start date.
A few of them open on the 20th but by 24 November 2023, all of the markets in Cologne will be open. If you want to know when a specific Cologne market will open, keep on scrolling.
Here is a map of all the Christmas markets in Cologne:
About Each Christmas Market in Cologne
Each of the six Christmas markets in Cologne has its own theme and vibe and I highly recommend spending a full day exploring all of the Christmas markets in Cologne.
🎄 Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market
Logically we should’ve started with this market since it was right there when we popped out of the parking garage, but we decided to end with it instead. We hopped on the mini train (mentioned above) and then made this market our final stop.
Honestly, it was one of my least favorites of all of them—there are a lot of stalls, but they’re all crammed together and in a strange layout that makes you wonder if you missed some.
However, the view of the cathedral right there is STUNNING, and if you can catch some live music playing on stage, then you’re in for a treat.
🎄 Heinzels Wintermaerchen (AKA: The “Gnome” Market)
Ahhh this is my favorite market! The gnome market is just so gosh darn fun! It’s separated into two sections: the Alter Markt, which has more artisans and things to buy (there is also a little Ferris wheel here), and the Heumarkt with all the extra fun stuff, including an ice skating rink, a carousel, and food. Lots of delicious food.
But the magic comes from the gnomes.
Look at everything from the entryway into the markets to the decorations around the ice skating rink, and everywhere in between.
They’re everywhere, and I love them.
🎄 Markt der Engel (The Angel Market)
Surprisingly, I found a lot of things to buy at this market. It was unique and felt more sophisticated (at least after coming from the Gnome market). It’s also gorgeous with the white lights and would be beautiful to see in the evening.
There are plenty of food options at this particular market, so come hungry. (See more about what we ate in the food section below.)
I also liked the different drinks and cocktails offered at some of the stalls. The Warmer Apfelstrudel was pretty darn tasty, just FYI!
And if you’re lucky, you may even see an angel “floating” around on horseback!
Here’s a map of the Angel Market for 2023 (I’ll post an update with the 2023 Angel Market map is available):
🎄 Cologne’s Hafen Weihnachtsmarkt (The Harbor Market)
This particular market was a very quick walk-through for us and much smaller than most of them.
There were a few artists selling handmade goods and some food, but it felt more “fair” as opposed to a Christmas market, and the stalls lacked the traditional huts.
However, it’s close to the Chocolate Museum, so if you have kids this would be a fun break to check out during the day.
🎄 Cologne’s Nikolausdorf (the Nicholas Village)
They have the meats! That’s what stands out to me in this market; the meat booth.
There’s a big stall that sells allllllll the meat. They have these at a lot of markets, but it can be pretty filling, so keep that in mind.
We were there just after sunset and you could tell it was a hub for people getting off work.
🎄 Cologne’s Stadtgarten Christmas market
We didn’t actually make it to this particular one last year, so I can’t speak from experience, but the photos make it look great. If I was short on time I would go to this one instead of the Harbor one. There are more than 60 exhibitors that change weekly, so you’ll always see something new.
Note: The popular LGBTQ-friendly Heavenue Market was closed in 2022 and will not be open again in 2023. See more here.
🎄 Even More Christmas Markets Around Cologne
The markets listed above are the most popular—and easily accessible markets around Cologne. But believe it or not, there are even more markets around Cologne.
VeedelsAdvent at the Chlodwigplatz
November 23 through December 23, 2023
Friday and Saturday: noon—11 pm
Sunday—Thursday: noon—10 pm
📍 Location: Chlodwigplatz, 50678 Köln
More information here
Ehrenfeld Christmas Market
Monday—Friday: 5 pm—10 pm
Saturday and Sunday: 2 pm—10 pm
📍 Location: Bumann & Sohn, Bartholomäus-Schink-Straße 2 50825 Köln
More information here
The smallest Christmas market in the city
Monday—Saturday: 5 pm—10 pm
Sundays: 3 pm—8 pm
📍 Innenhof der Kartäuserkirche, Kartäusergasse 7 50678 Köln
More information here
All About the Mugs
Mugs are a huge deal at markets. If you’re not familiar, here’s a quick rundown on how the Christmas market mugs work:
When you get a drink at a Christmas market, they typically* come in a festive and unique mug—each market has its own design (and sometimes they’ll have multiple to choose from). You pay a deposit for the mug with your payment for the drink. Then, you get your money back when you return your mug…unless you don’t return it.
The mugs are excellent souvenirs and fun keepsakes to remember your time at the markets.
*Some places, mostly in countries outside of Germany (France and Belgium at least), serve their drinks in reusable plastic cups. Some of them will have the town’s name on them, and some of them won’t.
Mugs at the Cologne Christmas Market
If you read through the info above then you now know that there are six separate markets at the Cologne Christmas Market, and—surprise, surprise—each market has its own mug…and some have multiple versions and varieties to pick from.
At the Gnome Market, for example, you can ask to see a sheet with 12 different gnome mugs available. Yes, a whole dozen for you to internally debate about which one you’ll bring home.
The Angel Market has mugs at a couple of locations (one is clear and the other has angels on it).
If you get one with an angel check and see what dates are on it; they’ve been trying to get through past years before handing out some from the current year. Just something to keep in mind.
What to Eat at the Cologne Christmas Market
With so many markets in Cologne to choose from, one thing is certain: arrive hungry and you’ll find something delicious to eat.
The Gnome Market has a raclette stand that is delicious, and the Angel Market will make pasta in a cheese bowl.
They also sell Baumkuchen at the Angel Market; it’s delicious but pricey. Baumkuchen is a very thinly-layered cake that’s decadent and light. The bigger layers are cut into rings and then stacked to look like a tree. If you ask nicely they’ll let you try a piece! They also sell bite-size containers to go.
Also in the Angel Market, look for the waffles shaped like the Cologne Cathedral! We were stuffed by that point, but gosh did they look neat! *I’m just now realizing, after looking at the photos together, that they’re both from the same cafe in Cologne!
What to Buy at the Cologne Christmas Market
Each market has traditional handicrafts and original trinkets and goodies for sale. I liked picking up some unique cookie cutters at the Angel Market (fun stocking stuffers!), and some wood-carved ornaments and sandals at the Gnome Market.
The Cathedral Market had some awesome nutcracker-type figurines that I bought, too. (Note to self: find out what these are called this year!)
Plus, you can’t ever go wrong with getting a ceramic house! (I actually collect one from each market I visit.)
My Thoughts on the Cologne Christmas Market
I loved how big this market is, but how each section felt like its own space. I also liked that each place had its own special artisans and things didn’t overlap too much.
The themes at each market are so well done that you feel like you’re in a little world of its own.
One fantastic feature (that I wish more of the larger markets offered) is the little train. Yes, it’s simple to walk to most of the markets, but after a full day of being on your feet, having transportation is perfect. Plus, it makes it that much more fun!
Have you been to any of the Cologne Christmas Markets? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it…and what you got to eat and drink.
Check out more guides for Christmas markets around Europe: