With a map of the Cologne Christmas markets in hand, we set off early Sunday morning to get cracking.
Well, not that early. Markets don’t typically open until 11 or 12, so we slept in a little to prepare for the busy day ahead. Just a little though, as I think the three of us – Ash, Sophie, & I – were much too excited to sleep.
But, before entering the twinkling world of bratwurst, gluhwein, and raclette, we searched for breakfast-appropriate sustenance.
Heading towards the old town, and down a main shopping street, we stopped in at Bäckerei Merzenich. The sweet smells of donuts, cakes, and fresh break beckoned us in, and the crowd filling the restaurant inside was a tell-tale sign of something good.
We spread out, tackling the sandwich counter, grabbing warm beverages to counteract the chilly temperature outside, and selecting something from the variety of sweet options. A word to the wise, however, is to have your order (and your cash) ready at hand, because the servers mean business. A pause to debate chocolate vs strawberry, or to inquire which sandwiches have cheese or which don’t, will get you a bit of a nasty response – and a glare from the lineup of patrons behind you.
We grabbed a seat outdoors to keep Sophie company, and dug in – starving. The sandwiches were exceptionally fresh, with house-baked bread fresh from the oven. And the cake, well it was the perfect start to the morning.
After that, it was time to push forward.
We meandered our way up the Schildergasse, until we came face to face with our third market.
The Angel’s Market in the Neumarkt.
Wood carvings of angels, animals, and Christmas figures sat proudly atop each stall,
And guests mingled below with hot cups of cider & wine.
We grabbed a drink and debated whether to keep an Angel mug or our Gnome mugs (or both) – and luckily that was the hardest decision of the day. At a mere cost of 2.5E each, it’s not an overwhelmingly expensive decision.
We browsed through the stalls, admired some of the trinkets and treats, and headed off.
Weaving and winding our way through the city, there wasn’t much to look at. Luckily, we weren’t there for the scenery.
We followed the crowd and happened upon Christmas Avenue and the Rudolfplatz,
Letting our senses guide the way,
Or, more likely, Sophie’s senses.
Each market had a different atmosphere, new decorations, and a totally new assortment of treats and crafts. There is everything from new and shiny stalls with bright, twinkling lights, to rustic sheds with a folklore vibe. Christmas tunes play above as you glide through the aisles, and the smells of local foods fill your nose and beckon you to stop by for a bite.
By our fourth market – and the end of the afternoon – we were entirely tuckered out.
We headed back to the hotel for a rest & refresh, before heading out to repeat the festivities of the night before.
And while we had every intention of toning down the gluttony, sometimes you just have to treat yourself, right?
After making it to 6 Christmas markets in one day, I can understand why Cologne is the #1 location to visit if you’re in search of a little holiday cheer. You can’t beat the atmosphere – or the bratwurst.
While the market is over for 2016, it’s not too early to start planning for next Christmas…