So it’s now November, pre-Christmas month, and my plans for the festive season are now in motion. Christmas is my absolute favourite time of the year and with a trip to New York merely weeks away, it’s got me thinking about my past Christmas travels.
Last year, I went on a long weekend to visit the Christmas markets, Weihnachtsmarkt, in Germany. 3 days, 3 destinations, lots of Glühwein to keep me warm.
Our first Weihnachtsmarkt was in Cologne. We stayed in nearby Leverkusen at the Best Western; no luxury accommodation but when all you need is a clean shower, a comfy bed and a hearty breakfast, it was perfect, and not too far from the city. Cologne was busy, and I mean BUSY. I’d read about the Christmas markets at Cologne and so I knew there were going to be a lot of tourists, but I was not prepared for these crowds. Despite the craziness, the market was amazing, and the perfect way to get us in the festive spirit. It can be hard to find authentic souvenirs in Cologne, and if you want goods made in Germany, you do have to spend some time hunting through the stalls so grab a mug of glühwein and a bratwurst and get your shopper hat on. When the crowds get too much for you, and you fancy a sit down for a hot drink and a slice of cake, visit Funkhaus, a fantastic cafe serving the best hot cocoa and apple and pecan cake. It’s just on the edge of the Am Dom market and don’t worry if it looks packed; they’ll make space for you and your friends! Shadowed by the breath-taking Gothic cathedral, the atmosphere in Cologne at night-time was incredible. Yes, it is fantastic in the day, but to experience that real Christmas magic, stay until the sun goes down, and the twinkling lights come on…
Next stop was Dortmund – home of the tallest “Christmas tree” in the world. Dortmund was, again, very busy, however not as busy as Cologne. Home of the Borussia Dortmund football team, I couldn’t resist buying chocolate Santa’s kitted out in the home strip for the boys at home. In Dortmund, I learnt that it’s never too early for a steaming mug of glühwein, and with souvenir mug in hand; we browsed through the stalls selling everything from hand-crafted wooden gifts that we just had to take home to personalised lebkuchen (gingerbread) that, not going to lie, I’d eaten before we arrived back in England. You will find that a lot of the souvenirs on offer are repeated throughout various stalls, however there is also an abundance of independent stalls selling the most beautiful things so don’t settle for the first thing you see! When the day is over, and you need some traditional hearty German food and a bottle of beer before making the journey back to your hotel, head to Hovels Hausbrauerei. Their dumplings are the best and we all know that nothing beats a hot cosy meal on a cold winter’s evening.
Our last destination, and my favourite, was Aachen. I had never heard of Aachen before we visited, but my oh my, it was beautiful. Out of all our destinations, Aachen had the best street food, something you just have to try at any market. Tucking into reibekuchen (potato fritters with apple sauce) whilst talking with the oh-so-friendly locals was the perfect way to end our weekend. One thing that always makes or breaks a place for me is the people, and everyone we met in Aachen was so warm and welcoming. A must-see in Aachen is their cathedral; we were left speechless by the varying mosaic patterns and the huge vibrant stain glass windows, the exterior was also beyond gorgeous. The Weihnachtsmarkt in Aachen had more of a homely feel to it than Cologne and Dortmund, and not only did we love exploring the market, we also loved wandering through the little back streets being followed by the sounds of the traditional music that filled the main square.
After 3 very busy days and with a suitcase crammed full of souvenir glühwein mugs and gifts for all my friends and family, we got on the coach for the very long journey home, and I quickly added Germany to my top Christmas destinations.
Where is the best Christmas market that you have visited? Some of the team here are headed to Munich soon, so if you have any tips, please leave a comment!