Christmas in Cologne

Old Mar 12th, 2019, 06:17 PM
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Christmas in Cologne

Hi All,

My mom and I have wanted to do Christmas Markets in Europe for years and 2019 will be the year it happens! We will be based in an airbnb in Cologne, arrive 12.19 and fly to US on 12.25.

Couple questions/ input needed.
1. We haven't gotten our flights yet but likely will fly into Frankfurt and train to Cologne and back. Do the trains run on Christmas Day? We would also likely need a taxi to the train station. My mother is in her 80s. Do any operate on 25th?

2. Food! I understand that Christmas Eve stores close early so I am assuming restaurants will be closed in evening. Are there any grocery stores in Cologne that have prepared foods? Or restaurants that also prepare Christmas meals to pick up? You know, pop in oven and viola, 30 minutes later a great dinner? As its vacation for us we don't want to spend hours on anything from scratch only to fly out next day.

3. Lastly, we want to do a few day trips to other markets. (Not enough days.... I'd go everywhere!) Options include Liege, Valkenburg (caves!), Aachen, Dusseldorf. I'd especially love input on which ones must be seen at night or else we're missing out. I read about them all and since I have never been to a European Christmas Market before it's hard to conceptualize how they differ from one another. Except for markets in caves. I conceptualize that! No detail is too much. Aesthetic, food, carols, shopping. I'm curious about it all!

Thanks all!
LizMuss is offline  
Old Mar 13th, 2019, 03:29 AM
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Regarding train services, which is also relevant to me as I am planning to go away for the festive time, I found in some old forum that 'trains stop running sometime early to late evening on both the 24th and the 31st of December. Service will not be resumed until Christmas Day or New Year’s Day morning.'. Hopefully, someone can confirm this statement if it's still true.
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Old Mar 13th, 2019, 07:09 AM
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Hi LizMuss,

Sorry that my information isn't specific for Köln... but I live in Germany, and this is relevant for all of Germany, I believe.

1. Yes, trains run on Christmas Day, and Christmas Eve, and also on Boxing Day (26 Dec, also a holiday in Germany). They will run on a Sunday/holiday schedule, a bit reduced, but still adequate for most travellers' needs. You can check the schedule now for 25 Dec, or check any Sunday schedule.

Taxis will be running on 25 December... but you may need some extra patience. I once needed a taxi for a pet/vet emergency on 25 December, and the phone rang and rang and rang. The guy who answered was in a huff, until I explained my emergency. You may want to ask your hosts if they can arrange a taxi in advance, or merely arrange one yourself in advance. Well, that was my experience in this small town, but in a big city, it may be no big deal to get a taxi on 25 Dec. Just ask your hosts. If there is a hotel near your apartment, they may be willing to help.

2. Yes, all German grocery stores offer prepared meals, from salads (bulgar/quona, etc) to pasta in plastic that you only have to microwave. Hotel restaurants will be open and running, but you will need reservations in advance. Some restaurants will be open, but again you'll need reservations in advance. There will also be some Turkish and Indian restaurants who will be able to provide delivery. Your hosts should tell you where your best options are.

Know that grocery stores will be closed on 25 and 26 Dec too.

3. I visited Aachen a few years ago for just a few days and fell in love with it. I would put that high on the list of possibilities.

for deniseoliver86,
No, that is not true. I live in a small town, and trains run, as I said above, on a Sunday/holiday schedule. You can check now for journeys on 25 Dec... or you can check any Sunday schedule.

What does shut down, perhaps, are town busses. In my small town, there are few busses anyway at night, and on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day night, they just don't run. However, in a big city like Köln, I don't think that will be the case.

Have fun as you plan!


Last edited by swandav2000; Mar 13th, 2019 at 07:15 AM.
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Old Mar 14th, 2019, 03:40 AM
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Hi, we visit Germany regularly and one trip in the last few years we started at Hamburg, went across to Wismar and from there visited Christmas markets right across Germany, winding up in Aachen and then onto Maastricht. Aachen is a really amazing market which fills the old town, and I give it super plus marks. Look out for Aachener Printen, which are a specialty of the town. It is a good one to see at night also.

Düsseldorf is the biggest market I have seen, although I personally find the city itself elegant but not especially charming. I did think it was a good market though; it could be several markets all strung together. It starts in the main shopping district and winds up in the Altstadt, where there are rides (ferris wheel) on the river. In that part of the world the markets have Reibekuchen (also called Kartoffelpuffer), which are potato cakes which get served up with apple sauce. You may well get Reibekuchen in Cologne too, and probably Maronen (chestnuts).

In Maastricht there isn't really much of a market (being the Netherlands and not Germany) - just a small one with a few vans which sell oliebollen (a kind of deep fried donut ball with currants in it) and some rides for children. However, I wouldn't miss Maastricht in that pre-Christmas period because the shopping streets are lit up with lights and there is a wonderful atmosphere. The shopping is also very good; the old town is stunning.

I liked Liège a bit less than other cities but it has a railway station designed by the architect Calatrava which is a bit special. You could consider going a little further into Belgium and visiting Namur, Dinant or Spa. Namur and Dinant are French-speaking culture; I don't know what they do at Christmas but they might be a good counterpoint to your German destinations. Or maybe another pretty city with a good market in the other direction, Münster.

Carolling is not really a feature of European Christmas markets but the atmosphere is festive; make sure you rug up and wear shoes with good thick soles.


Last edited by lavandula; Mar 14th, 2019 at 03:52 AM. Reason: paragraph too dense
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Old Mar 14th, 2019, 11:53 AM
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Liege has an interesting Xmas market. Mostly food and some nice items.
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Old Mar 16th, 2019, 06:14 PM
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Thank you all! Aachen definitely sounds like a winner and I am intrigued by Maastricht. All the food descriptions are making me hungry. And good reminder re hotel restaurants open on Christmas Eve. I had also thought about ordering taxi in advance just to avoid any nervousness the morning of.

I am very excited!
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