Holidays arrive in Spain and as we always try, it’s time to travel. This year we have decided to check how Christmas is lived in Germany.
We leave on December 6 at 10:00 from Malaga airport. It had been many years since we had flown with Ryanair, but since it was very cheap and had good schedules, it was chosen. Well, the trip was with Laudamotion, the company founded by racing driver Niki Lauda that belongs to Ryanair.
The way of proceeding with the low cost airline has changed a lot since the last time we flew with them. Since we didn’t have our suitcase in the hold, we decided to take the priority rate for €12 more each way. Suitcase in the hold above the seat and priority boarding. We don’t pay per seat because normally I sit down and sleep, so my partner, you can say, who travels alone is the same.
Remember to always travel with insurance. With IATI you have a 5% discount for being our reader.
We arrived at the airport a little late and running, we passed the very slow control of Malaga airport, (which in my experience is the slowest and most disorganized I have ever been through, and I travel through it quite a bit) and we located the gate. There are two queues, one short and one very long. With our priority cards we put ourselves in the short one, which turned out to be the non-priority one. Live to see, so we changed.
We entered the plane and each of us sat in an end in our respective seats. Soon after, the festival begins: the marketing of seat changes. I’m not a marketing expert or have business management studies or anything like that, but the fact of losing more than half an hour while people try to change, while the crew tries to hurry up without success so that the flight is not delayed It doesn’t seem very feasible to me. That added to a monumental row between two passengers because a lady (very traveled it seems to me) removed another’s suitcase because it was on her seat and that specific place was reserved for her for that reason. Anyway.
Three hours after a hellish journey with the plane’s heating on full blast, we landed at the international airport in rainy Düsseldorf. From the same airport we took the train to Colonia. I had seen that there was a train that went to the station that was closest to our accommodation. But we made a big mistake. We got on a local train that was stopping all the way and it took us an hour and a half to get to Colonia. my mother The regional one cost the same and in 40 minutes I was at the Köln Messe/Deutz station, which was the one that best suited us for our accommodation.
If you want to save yourself the hassle of messing it up like us, you can hire a transfer service with Civitatis:
We left our things in the apartment and went to have a first contact with the city and, incidentally, eat something that had been made for us at 5 in the “afternoon” (after dark already). We ate a currywurst at a street stall and headed downtown. The first Christmas stop was the Neumarkt market. The truth is that German Christmas markets are very, very well thought out and well characterized.
Neumarkt is the largest square in the city and is located in the south of the old town. It was established in 1076 by Archbishop Hildolf as a place for the new market to relieve the old, which had outgrown it.
In Neumarkt, apart from the food and craft stalls and the overflowing Christmas bars, we find a small parade of angels and a Saint Nicholas. The angels were handing out bags with sweets to the children. There we ate a waffle in the shape of a “Cologne Cathedral” with milk chocolate at a stall that was over the top.
We continued walking around the market and when we were about to leave, we saw another couple of angels who were handing out small paper bags among the people.
I approached them and with my very fluent German based on gestures, I let them know that I wanted one. It turned out that inside was a kind of sweet bread in the shape of an angel that came in handy for breakfast the next day. Plus, it was really good.
Leaving the market, we headed for Schildergasse, Cologne’s shopping street. A quite wide street, with many people, and with the same chain stores of all the commercial streets of almost all the cities that we have visited around the world. In other words, nothing remarkable to see.
Almost at the end of the street we passed in front of the museum of the colony, which we did not enter because it did not attract our attention too much.
A little further on we come to the Altermarkt (old market), the town hall square where the Christmas market was.
Formerly Altermarkt was linked to the adjoining Heumarkt forming a single market called as the Altermarkt. They were separated in the 13th century with the construction of the Unterlan district.
It was basically like the previous one. Lots of food, craft stalls and several bars filled to the brim with people drinking mulled wine. The difference was that in this there was a small Ferris wheel.
In Altermarkt we can find several noteworthy buildings such as the old town hall or the monument to Count Johann von Werth, a cavalry general in the Thirty Years’ War, in which he participated from 1620 to 1648 on the Spanish side, then the Bavarian and finally the Holy Roman German Empire; that we find in the center of the square: a stone statue on a Gothic-style column.
The seated figures on the north and south side represent the value and purity of the city of Cologne: the Farmer of Cologne and the Virgin of Cologne.
On the sides are reliefs showing scenes from the legend of Jan and Griet:
Poor peasant Jan fell in love with Griet, but she wanted a richer partner and refused her offer of marriage. Devastated by her rejection, she met an army recruiter and signed up to go to war. Thanks to his hard work and good luck, he became a general, celebrating several victories. After taking Fort Hermannstein, he was leading his triumphant troops to Cologne through St. Severin’s Gate, when he saw his former love Griet selling fruit in a market. Griet regretted turning down such a successful person and exclaimed, “Jan, who would have thought?” to which he replied “Griet, the person who should have done it!” and walks away.
The statue was designed by the sculptor Wilhelm Albermann in 1844.
Altes Rathaus, the old town hall of Cologne, is one of the most outstanding historical buildings in the city, being one of the oldest town halls in Germany, with some 900 years old. The oldest part of the building, the Saalbau (Long Room), dates from 1330 and the late Gothic Ratsturm (Council Tower) was built between 1407 and 1414 and is 61 meters high.
From here we headed to the nearby Heumarkt square to see, of course, its Christmas market. More food stalls, some arts and crafts, a tavern with a live Christmas band and a big ice skating rink and another one where they were playing something like curling but not sweeping the ice.
And from there we went to the jewel in the crown, the Cathedral, but as we arrived a huge downpour began to fall and we took refuge in a nearby coffee shop to drink a hot chocolate.
After a while the rain abated and we were able to go out again towards the cathedral. Little we could contemplate it between the rain and the darkness. But if we were able to walk through the market, of course. This one was much larger than the previous ones and had many more stalls selling crafts and souvenirs. It also had a central stage where there was a choir singing Christmas carols.
As we were tired after a busy day, we walked along the banks of the Rhine on our way to the apartment.
Nearby we stopped at a Brauhaus (brewery) that I had seen on the internet that looked good and closed late for dinner. The place was packed but we got a table without waiting. We dined on typical German food and craft beer (literally cheaper than water). It is the Brauhaus ohne Namen and it is highly recommended but it is already on the other bank of the river.
As always, we try to get up early. We set off for the cathedral. It’s cold but not too cold, especially when crossing the river. Of course, with spectacular views of the city and the Rhine River.
You can take a beautiful boat ride on the Rhine with Civitatis:
Already in daylight and without rain, we can say that the facade of the cathedral is impressive. Started to build in the year 1248, its construction was paralyzed in the year 1510 for economic reasons and laziness. From that moment on, the already completed part began to be used as a religious temple and, almost 600 years later, in 1862 construction began again and was completed in 1880.
Some of the treasures kept inside are: a gold urn with the mortal remains of the Three Wise Men, the Stefan Lochner triptych and the Gero crucifix dating from the 9th century, in addition to the medieval colored windows.
As we went early, it was almost empty and at that moment the different parts such as the crypt and the museum were beginning to open.
After this visit we went to the Kirche St. Ursula but it was closed and the building is not remarkable from the outside.
We had booked a tour in Spanish at a nearby place so to kill time we sat down for breakfast at a chain cafeteria called Merzenich. The coffee was not very good but the cakes were delicious.
If you want to take a fantastic guided tour of Köln, you can hire it at the following link:
After gaining strength, we headed for the nearby Eigelstein-Torburg, one of the city gates that are preserved, of the 12 that were in the city in the Middle Ages and that is where we had met to start the tour.
These 12 gates formed a walled ring to protect the city and was built between 1228 and 1248, during the third and last expansion of the city that took place between 1180 and 1259. This expansion made Cologne the largest city in the German Empire.
It was the main gate to the north of the city and protected a main artery that already existed in Roman times and was extremely important for Cologne: the old Roman military road to Neuss and Xanten, which ran parallel to the Rhine.
During the French occupation the name was changed to “Porte de L’Aigle – Adlerpforte”, of which a plaque with the inscription remains today. It was the gate through which Napoleon I triumphantly entered the city in 1804 celebrating his victory.
On June 11, 1881, the demolition of the “Great Wall” began because industrialization and the associated rapid population increase made it necessary for Colonia to expand again, but it was decided to keep the gate.
In 1915, the remains of a lifeboat from the cruiser «Cöln» were installed as a memorial to the 379 sailors who died when the »Cöln« sank on 28 August 1914 during a sea battle off Heligoland, during the course of of the First World War.
The gate survived the bombing of the city during World War II with little damage.
When I got there, I realized that I had been taking photos for two days with the camera without a memory card inside (it’s not the first time this has happened to me), so I only keep the few that I took with my phone from those two days.
The tour was very entertaining. They told us some curious stories and we went through many key places in the city, including one that I had not seen on any website: the underground parking of the cathedral, in which remains of an ancient Roman wall are preserved.
At the end of the tour we were looking for something to eat but it was all very crowded, so we moved away from the downtown area and found an open brauhaus with a place, it’s called Reissdorf Brauhaus im Roten Ochsen. The food was very good but the service was pretty average to bad.
As we had been very late looking for a place to eat and the service was so, so slow, that it was late at night (4:30 in the afternoon). So it was time to visit Christmas markets.
We quickly passed by the Heumarkt market and the cathedral and we went for a walk to Rudolfplatz, one of the central points of the rings of Cologne, where another important market was installed next to Hahnentor, another of the medieval gates that are preserved in Cologne.
Hahnentor is one of the original 12 gates of the city wall and the main entrance to the west on the road to Aachen and Jülich.
This market was a bit smaller but it was very crowded.
There we bought some glasses to pour some hot wines. I say buy because in order to drink the wine you have to remove some jugs for which you pay a deposit (€2.50) that you get reimbursed if you return the glass, but for us it turned out to be a nice memory.
Just opposite is the gay Christmas market. Very colorful and with live DJ music but a real hell to go through due to the huge number of people there. For this reason we could not appreciate it or contemplate the stalls that were there.
As it was still early, we jumped to the nearby Synagogue, which was closed but from the outside the building is quite spectacular.
The synagogue was built between 1895 and 1899 in the neo-Romanesque style by the architects Emil Schreiterer and Bernhard Below, to replace the previous one on Glockengasse.
On November 9, 1938, the Nazis destroyed the seven synagogues that were in the city. During the destruction, the Catholic priest Gustav Meinertz was able to save the synagogue’s Torah. Exposed for so many years, it was decided to restore it at the beginning of the 21st century to be used in the liturgy from 2007.
After the war, between 1957 and 1959 the synagogue was rebuilt respecting most of the previous architecture. By then there were only 50 Jewish survivors left in the city of the more than 11,000 who lived in the city at the beginning of the 20th century.
As a curiosity, it was the first synagogue in Germany visited by a Pope. Benedict XVI did it in August 2005. Another is that this synagogue is home to the oldest Jewish community north of the Alps, having already been mentioned by Emperor Constantine I in the year 321.
Back in the direction of the center we returned walking along the shopping street Schildergasse.
Wandering through the streets, we ended up at a building that seemed historic, of which only the facades were preserved. It turned out to be the former St. Albans Church, the oldest Romanesque church in Cologne. Built in 1172 and destroyed by bombing during World War II, it was left unrebuilt as a memorial and memorial to those who died between 1939 and 1945.
We continued walking and crossed the river in the direction of the apartment to sleep, but first we passed by the brauhaus in which we had dined the night before to return to have dinner there, which was very tasty.
Today it’s excursion. We got up early to go to Bonn to visit the city of origin of Ludwig van Beethoven. We walked from the apartment to the train station, passing the Altermarkt Christmas market on the way, taking advantage of the fact that the stalls were closed and we could see the square and the town hall without the throngs of people during the day.
At 9.56 we took the regional train (€7.38) from Cologne central station and arrived at Bonn station at 10.25.
As soon as we get off the train, Beethoven is present.
As soon as we left the station we ran into the first stalls of a Christmas market. While walking, we happened upon the Bonner Münster, Bonn’s cathedral. Far less spectacular on the outside than its neighbor Colonia and, to make matters worse, it was closed for construction and it was not possible to access its interior.
St. Martin’s Cathedral is the main Catholic church in Bonn. In its beginnings it was the collegiate church of St. Cassius and Florentius, built on an old Roman necropolis from the 2nd century. In the year 1050 it was demolished and the construction of a Romanesque-style temple began. It was undergoing various extensions until the 12th century, when the octagonal tower was completed, finished off with a peaked roof that reaches 92 meters in height.
During the bombing of the Second World War, the cathedral suffered severe damage but was soon restored to its original image.
The cathedral is located on the Münsterplatz, the central square of Bonn. The square was totally invaded by the Christmas market. The market is very similar to those in Cologne: craft stalls, many food stalls and several bars.
The Münsterplatz is located in the center of the city. Besides the cathedral we can also find some historical buildings the old main post office.
The current name of the square dates back to 1719, previously called “Aufm Hof” or “Aufm Großes Hof” (the great courtyard) since the Middle Ages.
At the bottom of the square and presiding over it is the statue of Ludwig van Beethoven, a composer born in Bonn and who is present throughout the city. It was opened on August 12, 1845 to commemorate Beethoven’s 75th birthday and on the occasion of the first Beethoven Festival and was designed by the sculptor and professor at the Dresden Art Academy Ernst Julius Hähnel.
Nearby is the Bottlerplatz where there was another market with many food stalls and at one end, the Sterntor, one of the medieval city gates. It was built in 1244 at the end of Sternstrasse. In 1898, being the last surviving medieval gate in Bonn, it was torn down despite the intervention of Kaiser Wilhelm II to improve the flow of traffic. Two years later it was relocated to its current location.
Between Christmas stalls we arrive at Friedensplatz, with more Christmas stalls with more food and many candy stalls. It was originally located outside the medieval wall, opposite the Sterntor, and was the cattle market.
Between 1899 and 1922 it was called Friedrichsplatz. During the National Socialist government (1933-1945) it was called Adolf-Hitler-Platz until 1945, when it would be called Friedensplatz again.
From 1897 to 1929, the Bonn Viehmarkt railway station was located in the center of the square (from 1899 Bonn Friedrichsplatz and from 1922 Bonn Friedensplatz) as the end point of the narrow gauge railway at the foot of the hills. From 1906 it became a junction for the tramway network.
From there, strolling along the Sternstraße shopping street, we arrive at the Marktplatz, built in the 11th century as a market square. Here is the Alte Rathaus, Bonn’s old town hall. Built in 1737 in the Rococo style, it has witnessed important world historical events. In 1978 it ceased its function as a town hall as it became too small for it.
On Marktplatz we also find the Marktfontaine, the market fountain, built in 1777 by order of the elector Maximilian Friedrich von Königsegg-Rothenfels.
Nearby we find the Stiftung Namen-Jesu-Kirche, the church of the Holy Name of Jesus. The discovery of a piece of beech wood bearing the name of Jesus (IHS) prompted the Elector of Cologne and Archbishop Maximilian Heinrich of Bavaria, who resided in Bonn, to build a church in honor of the “wonderful name”.
The church was built between 1686 and 1717. After the Jesuits left in 1774, the building was abandoned. During the French Period (1794-1800) much of the furniture was destroyed and the interior was used as a horse stable and soldiers’ barracks.
We continue walking through the area, passing by the Beethoven house museum, founded in 1889 by the Beethoven-Haus association that studies the life and work of the composer Ludwig van Beethoven. This is where the genius was born on December 16, 1770. The neighboring buildings (Bonngasse 18 and 24 to 26) house a research center (Beethoven archive) comprising a collection, a library and publishing house, and a music room of camera.
From here we continue walking until we reach the river bank (where there is nothing remarkable to see) and we went back to the Christmas markets to eat something that had already been done for a good time.
We ate some kind of fried mashed potato pancakes, a huge sausage and a grilled salmon sandwich that was spectacular.
For dessert we ate a ball that was like a kind of conglomerate of fried dough covered in chocolate that was to die for.
After lunch we took another short stroll through the Christmas stalls on our way to the train station.
It was starting to rain and I already wanted to rest a bit. At this time, the train platform was packed with people returning to Cologne and it was almost necessary to stick to enter. Now about finding a place to sit… impossible.
With all the fatigue in the world and making the journey on foot, about halfway the train stops at a station, and they begin to say something over the loudspeaker in German. To this day we have no idea what they were saying but we spent about half an hour standing at the station.
Here we leave a map with the places we visited in the city:
We got off the train at the station near the apartment to rest a bit.
As today the thing was about gastronomy, we took a walk (4 km.) to a waffle place that we had discovered the day before, Wonder Waffel Köln Ringe, where we ate some calzone-style waffles as big as heads.
It was great, but something happened to us here, which would happen to us several times later. At the time of paying, we wanted to pay by card but they told us that the POS did not work. The “curious” thing is that, the one who paid immediately behind us, if they charged him with a card.
With a very full belly, we started our way back taking a long walk through the center towards the Claudius thermes, a very famous thermal bath in Cologne.
Colonia is known for the hot springs in its territory and the number of hot springs in the city is notable. It was the best idea in the world since, tired of walking nonstop for several days, fatigue was beginning to accumulate.
To get to them, after crossing the bridge, we decided to go through the Rheinpark to the thermal baths. Grasso error since halfway there are no more streetlights and the darkness was total. Scared and lit by the flashlight of the phone, we managed to arrive safe and sound.
On the way back we took the road that was well lit.
For €14.50 or €16.50 on weekends, we can enjoy two hours of this spectacular Spa. In winter, with the cold, the outdoor area with its Jacuzzi is wonderful.
At the exit it was time to take a relaxing walk to the apartment to rest.
Here we leave a map with the places we visited in Cologne:
It was time to get up early to return to Düsseldorf to spend the last day.
At 10:01 we took the train and arrived 30 minutes later at Düsseldorf central station.
We headed straight to the hotel to drop off our stuff. The chosen one was the Bellevue Hotel. A small independent hotel close to the train station. On arrival the guy at the front desk told us to wait a bit. We waited… We waited… and already a bit angry, about 40 minutes later, he told us that the room was ready and that we could go in (the check-in was at 3:00 p.m. and we got in around 11) and our annoyance half passed.
Find your ideal hotel in Düsseldorf in Agoda:
We went walking directly to the Old Town, passing through the super luxurious Königsallee street, with all the expensive luxury shops and with prices…
Nearby is the Johanneskirche, the largest Protestant church in Düsseldorf and built between 1875 and 1881 by the architects Walter Kyllmann and Adolf Heyden.
During the bombing in World War II, the church was badly damaged. At first, the possibility of demolishing the remains was considered, but it was finally restored and reopened in 1953.
We arrived at the Old Town entering one of the tourist streets full of restaurants. There we had something for breakfast at Terbuyken, a local bakery chain.
We arrived at Marktplazt, where the Christmas market is located (of course). A little more of the same, although there was a post that caught our attention. A very different one. It was a stall-workshop where they were making blown glass figures. It was quite a show.
Marktplatz (market square) is a central square in Düsseldorf’s Old Town, which was laid out as part of the city’s first expansion in the 14th century and was first mentioned in a document in 1392.
The town hall, built at the end of the 16th century, was destroyed during the bombing of the Second World War, but was rebuilt in great detail.
After eating a pretzel and gaining strength, we jumped to the nearby Burgplatz (castle square), where another Christmas market was installed that included a small Ferris wheel. The square is on the banks of the river and here the wind was blowing and it was really cold.
The castle of the Counts of Berg, built in 1260, was formerly located on the square. At the end of the 19th century, it was converted into a baroque-style palace and shortly afterward was devoured by fire. Today only the tower remains, known as the Schlossturm, which today houses the Schifffahrt-Museum, Düsseldorf’s maritime museum.
On a corner of the Burgsplatz is the city monument: Stadterhebungsmonument (almost nothing). This spectacular sculpture represents facts from the ancient history of Düsseldorf. It was made by the sculptor Bert Gerresheim in 1988 for the city’s 700th anniversary, to commemorate the granting of city rights to Düsseldorf.
Just behind is one of the most emblematic buildings in the city: the Sant Lambertus basilica. Built in Gothic style in the 12th century, its slightly bent bell tower is striking. A famous legend tells that one day a bride went to the altar dressed in white declaring that she was a virgin at marriage. As this was not true, the tower was turned in protest and they say that it will be straightened when a real virgin comes to marry at this altar. During the bombing of the Second World War it was also destroyed and later rebuilt faithfully to the original.
It was starting to get a little late for lunch, so we went to a German food place that was highly recommended in different blogs: Schweine Janes. In the tourist area, very, very tasty knuckles and at a very good price.
We squeezed together a huge knuckle and a Schnitzel as big as a head. It wasn’t expensive but we encountered the same problem that they didn’t charge by card because they had “problems” with the internet… But when we arrived, an asian tourist was being charged by card… So you know, recommended but make sure you bring cash in the wallet (or fight with the Germans).
After lunch and before nightfall, we boarded the U79 train and went on an excursion to Kaiserpfalz, the ruins of Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa’s Royal Palace on the banks of the Rhine. Built in the 10th century by Henry III and enlarged by Barbarossa between 1174 and 1184 to control the passage of the river.
Kaiserpfalz is located in a small town north of Düsseldorf called Kaiserswerth, a very picturesque and very German little town that we loved walking through. In the town square they have set up a small Christmas market (of course).
At nightfall, we went back to take a last walk through the center of Düsseldorf and have something to eat. We had dinner at a very modern burger joint called Beef Brothers. They were very good and at a good price. After dinner, it was time to return to the hotel exhausted from walking so much to sleep the last night on German soil.
Find the best activities and tours to do in Düsseldorf at the following link:
Last day. It’s time to go back, but first, we got up early and went to the street taking advantage of the fact that for the first time since we had set foot in Germany the sun was shining.
We took a quick walk down to the riverbank, passing the Ständehaus building of the Kunstsammlung, the museum for modern art. The Ständehaus building was built between 1876 and 1880 in the Historicist Neo-Renaissance style by the architect Julius Raschdorff and was made for the Provincial Diet of the Prussian province of the Rhineland. Between 1949 and 1988 it was the Parliament of the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia. It was then left abandoned for 14 years. Until 2002, when it was opened as an additional building of the Kunstsammlung, whose main building is located on Grabbeplatz.
Here we leave a map with the places we visited in Düsseldorf:
Next to the station we got on a bus that was included in the train ticket we had bought.
Weeze airport was really tiny. It was completely empty and the controls were still closed, that day there were only two more flights left: ours at 3:00 p.m. and another to Thessaloniki at 3:40 p.m.
Despite having spent very little time in this part of Germany, the truth is that we really liked it. We would not mind repeating with more time and enjoying the palaces that are throughout the region.
Discover more about the world in our travel diaries.