Because beneath the Rhineland’s largest tree, strung with over 70,000 LED lights and set against the backdrop of the landmark Gothic Cathedral – the Cathedral Market is a yuletide splendour Rudolph himself would agree shines very bright indeed.
The entire city of Cologne comes to life during the holiday season like a Christmas Celebration Theme Park. There are seven markets, each with a unique and fun twist, to entice visitors of all ages and backgrounds. Regional specialties like baked apples, cinnamon biscuits and mulled wine will enthral the senses – as will a host of delicious, sugary desserts.
The largest and arguably most spectacular of the markets is the grand Cathedral Market. Centrally located in the Cathedral Square and heart of the city, there are over 150 wooden pavilions selling everything from gorgeous woodcarvings and handmade books to children’s toys and mouth-watering holiday specialties. A visit to the chocolate workshop is, of course, a delicious stop as you weave through the throng of artisans plying their craft. Over 100 performances take place throughout the season. But one of the most marvellous sights remains the beautifully lit tree, tents and Cathedral itself.
Another popular Christmas Market is the one at the Neumarkt. Sometimes called the ‘Market of Angels’ or even ‘Angel’s Christmas Market,’ this is the oldest Christmas Market in Cologne. Angels dressed in white and glittering powder spread cheer as they walk past rows of charming chalets, all festively decorated with lights and holly. Santa himself makes a grand entrance once a week on horseback. Indulge in hot chocolate and eggnog and the sweet taste of nostalgia as you enjoy long traditions.
For a holiday-themed glimpse into Cologne folklore, look no further than the Alter Markt, also known as the Old Market. Once upon a time, Heinzelmännchen (or house gnomes) were said to have secretly done all the daily work of its inhabitants before a curious wife attempted to get a glimpse of the fabled creatures. The gnomes immediately took off, never to return. Still, Cologne continues to celebrate the legend (and perhaps hope for their return) with this market. Gnomes lurk in every nook and cranny here, in between themed alleyways of specialty foods and fashion accessories and artisanal gifts. A roundabout puppet theatre and special Santa Claus Quarter are always fun to bring out the kid in everyone, no matter their age.