The Christmas Market in Cologne’s Old Town is the largest of the city. Under the slogan “Heinzel’s Wintermärchen” (something like Good Mans Winter Dream – Heinzelmännchen are good mystic beings in Cologne mythology), it connects two major squares in Cologne, the Alter Markt (Old Market) and Heumarkt (Haymarket). It also offers some very special attractions. Thus, the Old Town Christmas Market is very popular at tourists. Here is my review.
Cologne Old Town Christmas Market – Location & Times
Alter Markt and Heumarkt are in the heart of the city. If you for example visit Cologne Cathedral or the Christmas Market right next to it, it is just an easy walk. The Heumarkt is also directly connected to local traffic. Underground lines 1, 5, 7 and 9 stop there. There is also the 133 bus from the Main Station, which will also connect you to the Chocolate Museum and the Christmas Market at that site. There is also a small tram line which connects all these sites and the Neumarkt. I would rather recommend to take the local traffic, though.
Though the Christmas Market is marketed as one major market, the booths and attractions at Heumarkt have different opening dates than at the Alter Markt. Both parts opened on 25th November 2019 for this year, the Alter Markt part will close on 23rd December 2019, i.e. before Christmas, while the Heumarkt section will close on 5th January 2020. The market will be closed on 24th and 25th December 2019, though, which are the key holidays in Germany. Daily opening times are 11:00 to 22:00hrs. After Alter Markt is closed, the Heumarkt section will close at 21:00 hrs.
Cologne Old Town Christmas Market – Atmosphere
The atmosphere in both parts of the Christmas Market is very comparable: both are located within a city square (Heumarkt feels a bit “wider”, while Alter Markt is fully surrounded by buildings), which gives a quite cozy and intimate feeling.The Alter Markt has a central fountain, which gives a bit more space. You will find a lot of Heinzelmännchen references at the booths and signs. Please note that I took some of the Heumarkt pictures in the morning / evening hours, when the market is closed, as it can be very packed in there.
Typically, the Alter Markt is a bit more relaxed. However, on weekends, when the peak of tourist visits is hitting the city, the difference may be marginal.
In both sections, the stores are in general organized by topics. For example, you will find a Spielzeuggasse (Toy Alley) on the Alter Markt.
Cologne Old Town Christmas Market – Food & Drink
The Alter Markt section offers all typical needs of a Christmas Market Visitors. There are even some more special booths like a nice skewer grill:
In general, however you can say that the Alter Markt is more the place for crafts and shopping, while Heumarkt fills your belly and trains your liver. There are three major booths, which have small restaurant size already and a lot of additional offers.
Cologne Old Town Christmas Market – Products
As said above, there is a huge variety of vendors at the Alter Markt – quite some products are unique compared to other Cologne christmas markets. Two examples for that are a blacksmith who sells lucky horseshoes and some nice Italian bakery. The Weihnachtsgasse (Christmas Alley) also features a wide variety of festive items.
There are some stores on Heumarkt as well, but the selection is rather limited.
Cologne Old Town Christmas Market – Attractions
Both sections of the Old Town Christmas Market have some special attractions. On the Alter Markt side, there is a small ferris wheel. Furthermore, there are concerts (mainly Christmas songs) at the center of the square. Between the the two squares, there is also a wooden manger.
The most signature attractions are definitely on the Heumarkt side. It is very famous for its artifical ice skating track. You may also have a game of Bavarian curling at one section of the ice track. Due to the ice attractions, you often miss that there is also a nice carousel for kids. Apart from the Alter Markt concerts, all attractions are subject to an admission fee and potential charges to rent skates and equipment.
Cologne Old Town Christmas Market – My View
Out of the touristic Christmas Markets, the Old Town Christmas Market in Cologne is likely the nicest. Especially the Heumarkt section with the ice track has a very special atmosphere. Of course, the Cathedral in the background at Roncalli Square is somehow unbeatable, but if you rather focus on the Christmas Market itself, the products and the atmopshere, I feel that Alter Markt and Heumarkt are better.
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