For a flavour of Christmas, forget any talk of the Edinburgh Christmas markets and make your way to Cologne, if you really want to feel some festive cheer. There are eight Christmas markets spread across the city, all within walking distance from each other and each portraying a different Christmas theme.
Lose yourself under the sea of starlit tents that cover the Kölner Dom Market in the shadow of the spectacular Cathedral. Amongst the alleys of golden lights and red tarpaulin you will inhale an air, rich with cinnamon and roasted almonds.
The ‘Home of the Gnomes’ in the historic old town, where ‘Heinselmännchen’ (legendary gnomes who are said to have worked at night) are hidden amongst the stalls, sells traditional gifts like nutcrackers and nativity scenes, crafted by artisans.
The Angels Market is possibly the prettiest with streets of white chalets and golden stars overhead. This is the oldest market in Cologne where, to enter, you pass through the angel’s door before yielding to a magical landscape of glittering timbered huts.
For the young at heart, the Fairytale Market, whose theme is the Brothers Grimm, is probably the most enchanting. Giant Christmas characters welcome visitors who will be tempted by an assortment of confectionary, most notably the almond marzipan. The backdrop of the Hahnentorburg, illuminated by the dazzling stalls, will not fail to impress.
For a truly unique experience, the Floating Market has to be visited. It is Europe’s largest floating Christmas market, set up upon the ship MS Wappen von Köln, with views over the old city, towards the colossal spires of the cathedral. Here, for those who finally tire of the cold and busy streets of this exciting and aesthetic city, you can refuel on gingerbread biscuits and Glüwein, a hot spiced wine.
These are just five of the incredible markets in Cologne. If you have the time, make sure you find your way to the Harbour market on the waterfront, the medieval market and the arty market at Stadtgarten, all of which definitely deserve a visit as well.
For more information, visit this online guide to the Cologne Christmas Markets.