Winter Travel: Experience Christmas at its best in Cologne

Credits: Cindy Van Dyck

Are you as big a fan of the Holiday Season? Then you are already aware of all the Christmas markets organized in Belgium. But no true Christmas lover misses the chance to walk around among the Christmas markets with a warm glass of Gluhwein and a bratwurst or raclette sandwich. So our favorite spot to get those? That’s Cologne! And Cindy tells you her hotspots to experience Christmas at its best there.

At Christmas all roads lead home.

Go for a day or stay for a night

Let’s start at the beginning: planning your trip. And to really leisurely go down all the Christmas markets, have a nice dinner and walk around, I recommend a city trip where you stay one night at a hotel. But of course, you can also plan a day trip! Because from Brussels-Midi you can be in Cologne in less than two hours. So you can easily leave early in the morning (around 8AM) and return with the last train (8PM).

Still want to take a break from shopping and especially all the delicious food? Then I recommend the SAVOY hotel less than a 10-minute walk from the Cathedral. And 5 minutes from the train station. After dropping off your luggage, your day can go straight into the city! And in the evening you can reminisce at their fireplace with a hot coffee and your delicious desserts you bought at the Christmas market. We did the same: we bought pistachio and caramel nougat, chocolate marshmallows with champagne, amaretto and strawberry flavors. And those tasted even better after a wonderful day walking around among the Christmas markets!

The Christmas markets you must visit

In Cologne, you can literally find a Christmas market or some nice stands on every square. However, there are a few that stand out and are definitely not to be missed. Whether you are planning a day trip or an overnight stay: you can combine them all without rushing too much!

1. Christmas market at the Cathedral: The very first, and also great Christmas market, that you will encounter during your trip is the one at the cathedral itself. After visiting this beautiful monument, you can immediately soak up the winter atmosphere! And you can really find everything there. From the cutest (handmade) decorations for your Christmas tree and interior, to fresh Nougat, warm Cinnamon Rolls in different flavors, Flammkuchen and even Gluhwein flavored almonds.

2. Nutcracker Mill at Am Hof: At the end of the Christmas market at the Cathedral, you will find to your left (if your back is against the Christmas market), a small but super cozy square, at the “Am Hof”. Here a big mill with nutcrackers is running with a bar underneath for beer, Gluhwein and other hot drinks. You can also find cute and delicious gingerbread hearts with Christmas texts!

3. Alter Markt: from this little market you walk on for about 3 minutes to the Alter Markt and then through Unter Käster to the Heinzels Wintermarkt. And this, along with the next one, is one of the most beautiful Christmas markets. In fact, the little houses there are built inspired by the old historical architecture! At the Heinzels market you will also find an ice skating rink, a super large gingerbread stand, apple poushe, crepes and raclette sandwiches. Delicious!

4. Neumarkt: After walking around this neighborhood, walk down the shopping street to the largest Christmas market: on the Neumarkt. And this one is really beautiful! It’s my favorite Christmas market, without a doubt. Not only because they have waffles in the shape of the cathedral, you also have very nice stands like the house with all the handmade Christmas balls! In addition, you can buy the marshmallows I mentioned earlier for by the fireplace, drink Gluhwein in super cute bags (keep one as a souvenir!) and you can even find roasted chestnuts. It’s magical!

5. Rudolfplatz: If you have extra time and like to walk around among all the bookstores of the Belgisches Viertel, stop at Rudolfplatz as well. They have installed a fun Christmas market there where you can buy nutcrackers and handmade wooden decoration items, and you can also eat delicious fried mushrooms and bratwursts! That way your stomach will be well filled again before going back to the hotel or train.

What is the budget?

Christmas shopping, of course, always has a budget attached to it, and so does visiting Christmas markets. But a 100€ will definitely get you by for food and drinks. Gluhwein, for example, averages 5€, without the bag included. You can “rent” these and get your money back when you return your bag. Or, like me, you can keep it as a souvenir. For a bratwurst or raclette sandwich, charge between 5 to 7€. The cinnamon rolls are also between those prices. So depending on how much you drink and eat, it’s a realistic budget.

For the hotel, count about 150€ per night, per room. Which is a very doable price considering the high season and the location of the hotel. And finally the train (Thalys): this ticket was 60€ there and back per person.

Important note: We booked this trip two months in advance. Prices may be different now due to crowded hotels and an increase in train passengers.

Cologne’s Christmas markets have been open since Nov. 21 and can be visited until Dec. 23. If you can still go, this city trip is undoubtedly going to complete your Christmas experience!

This article has been written by Cindy Van Dyck. All pictures are copyrighted by Cindy Van Dyck as well.

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