There are many Christmas markets in London but it does not fare in comparison to the markets in Cologne. Over the course of a long weekend, we visited at least five Christmas markets. We were enthralled by the festive atmosphere, with kids playing at the carousel and the aroma of freshly baked goods and roasted chestnuts. Each wooden pavilion was elaborately decorated, with artists displaying their beautifully crafted arts and glassblowers demonstrating their art. There were many gift ideas such as Cathedral shaped biscuits, hand knitted accessories and exquisite Christmas decorations. The festive lights were especially intricate, with lighted hearts hanging off trees and strings of lights creating a covered walkway. In the evening hours of twilight, we took out our cameras and snapped as many pictures as we can in that 10 minutes window when the sky was midnight blue.
Our favourite market was Alter Markt in front of Cologne’s town hall. This is the one market with more variety of national and international food specialities, a definite gem in the city given that there isn’t abundant choice for vegetarians. To this day, I still miss the potato dumplings covered with pesto, sun dried tomatoes, rocket leaves and pine nuts.
Another market we visited was the Heimat der Heinzel at Heumarkt which had a large skating rink. Never mind that we haven’t skated in a few years, we took to the ice and skated a few rounds, luckily without much disaster, though some people were more apprehensive than others.
We tried many German specialities including fried potato (which is essentially a hash brown), bratwurst, champinones, glug wein, and roasted chestnuts. Like the locals, in the evening, it was typical to hang out at the market, sipping a glass of gluhwein or a mug of cacao. One impressive thing was that everyone was sipping out of glasses and mugs instead of plastic cups. Much more environmentally friendly!
We really enjoyed dinner at the Pasta Bar, a restaurant with an unassuming shop front which we would not have walked into if we hadn’t read the reviews and made a reservation. Good thing we did because the place was packed. The food was divine, service was impeccable and the cost was very reasonable. We had cod ravioli and pasta with goat cheese, grapes, red cabbage and pine nuts. Definitely a dish that we want to replicate in the future.
Artisan coffee was not as prevalent as it was in London but we were lucky to locate The Coffee Gang, a cosy East-London-style cafe with neat decorations like used window frames. Our host mentioned that it was the best coffee in Cologne and we didn’t think he was wrong!
Other sights not to be missed is the Dom, a Gothic cathedral from the 1800’s which had been under construction for 500 years. When our feet were tired, we took a break in the church and admired the stained glass windows that featured in the building’s historic past. We did not get a chance to visit Museum Ludwig but it’s located conveniently next to the Cathedral if you want to check it out.
We did visit the Koln Triangle which is only 103 metres tall but gives an impressive view of the city. Go in the evening when the lights of the Cathedral and the bridge are illuminated.