Merry Christmas everybody! Wait…what do you mean I’m a couple of months late? Okay, so I know it’s early February and after quite possibly the longest January ever recorded Christmas feels like absolutely ages ago. BUT as you’re probably aware, I’ve been completely MIA, so I’ve found myself in a bit of a situation- I should update you all about Germany…but it’s practically Spring. Well, I certainly wish it was Christmas every day as Wizzard so eloquently put it, so let’s don our Christmas hats, hang our baubles and pull some crackers while we pretend it’s still Christmas time for the next 5 or so minutes.
Christmas is my absolute favourite time of year; you can stuff your face with everything in sight, it’s the perfect excuse to dance in your kitchen to 80’s pop and it’s the best time to spend with family. Unfortunately for my mum, she had originally planned on spending Christmas in Thailand; lounging in the scorching sun and being pampered at a natural spa in Koh Samui…NOT wrapped up in the snow in Germany, it’s funny how things change-sorry mum! Desperate to find somewhere to go over Christmas, I googled the best German markets and researched cheap flights and after a couple of clicks it was Cologne here we come.
Cologne at Christmas time was absolutely beautiful and I couldn’t imagine spending Christmas anywhere better (does that sound like a challenge?). I spent my days wandering the cobbled streets of the old town, warming my hands on many, many, many mugs of Kinderpunsch (children’s mulled apple juice) and scoffing all of the vegan bratwurst I could get my hands on. In total, there are 7 Christmas markets in Cologne…yep 7! Believe it or not, they are all completely different- different huts, different vibe, different food, different gifts and different mugs! Each Christmas market sold their own individual mug and naturally I made it my mission to collect each one of them.
The biggest and the best in my eyes, the best market takes place a few hundred metres from the Cathedral- you can’t miss it. With hundreds of different stalls this place will take literally hours to wander through-not included the multiple times you’ll get lost trying to find a stall, they’re numbered but not in a particular order. The falafel stall was pretty good but the vegan hotdog hut is THE place to go! Aim to get here as soon as the Sun goes down, wander through the stalls and head to the main square for mulled anything and get a spot under the fairy lights in time for the bands to start playing. Top tip; if you see something you like BUY IT! Chances are you’ll never find that stall again and if you’re lucky enough to do just that, the thing you wanted will probably be sold out.
Neumarkt Christmas market
This market we found completely accidentally. With more of a village feel the Angel (or scary baby or sometimes scary clown) market is more up market and has a classy atmosphere. The huts are made to look like log cabins in winter and the the star lights which hang from the tree are really elegant. Head here early if you want a vegan Bratwurst as the only stall that sells them are prone to sell out early. If you’re looking for quality, home made products then the Angel market is the place to come- my mum bought my niece the cutest rocking horse snow globe!
This Christmas market was right outside the front door from where we were staying. Populated by mischievous elves, this Christmas market was probably the most fun and the place where you would spend the most time. With a carousel, big wheel, ice skating rink, brass band and plenty of Gluwhein’s (pubs) Alter Markt has something for everyone! Make sure you check out the delicious fried potato cakes with apple sauce they sell, I’m still dreaming about them! Best part? Alter Markt opens up again on Boxing day- perfect if you’re still around and wanting something to do.
My least favourite market, the harbor market is located, yep you guessed it, right on Cologne harbor. Naturally a harbor market sells a LOT of fresh sea food, which obviously doesn’t interest me whatsoever, but if you’re into this then this is the place for you. The harbor market is the most modern of them all and features white marquees rather than log cabins like the rest. Having said that, the walk along the canal to get to this market is absolutely lovely and the market is worth a wander purely for that reason.
Christmas market at Rudolfplatz
Rudolfplatz is a major square in Cologne and yes, it is called Rudolf all year round. Aptly named the Santa Claus market, this market features everything Santa- the mug is even Santa’s boot! Head here if you’re after the best Kinderpunsch in town or some beautiful handmade Christmas ornaments- Rudolfplatz is the place to be.
I loved this market because it was an authentic, local market and wasn’t touristy whatsoever. An underground train away from the centre; Stadtgarten was on the corner of an unsuspected neighbourhood- if you think you’re in the wrong place then you’re probably not too far away. Filled with drunk locals blasting out Feliz Navidad every 2 seconds, this market sold some amazing pieces of art, incredibly delicious food and felt more like a carboot or table top sale rather than a Christmas market. BUT this is possibly the reason I loved it so much-it was SO different from everything else.
Cologne is so great it even has an LGBT specific Christmas market. Crazy right? This tackfastic market had hot pink tinsel everywhere, crude signs and loud music. A surprisingly pretty tame place to visit during the day; the market is really small and compromises of a handful of stalls and a couple of food places, this place really hots up at night time when drag artists, street performers and singers don the large stage. Definitely not a place to be missed.
My life changed drastically in the space of a few weeks; one minute I was waiting to move to the South of Thailand from Bangkok and being my second semester teaching English, the next I’m waking up in snowy Germany getting a sugar rush from so much mulled apple juice. Life can truly be unpredictable sometimes but I’m eternally grateful to have been able to spend Christmas with my two favourite people in the World in such a beautiful country.