Why You Should Visit Cologne In December
December signals the arrival of Christmas, and few cities in Germany embrace the festive season as fervently as Cologne.
With a whopping seven Christmas markets, the city kicks off its holiday celebrations as early as late November. Yet, it's in December when you can truly feel the joy of Christmas permeating every corner of Cologne.
So if you love the yuletide spirit, Cologne in December will be a dream come true. The city's streets and squares are adorned with festive decorations, twinkling lights... and the famous Christmas markets.
The most well-known? The Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market, located in the Roncalliplatz.
It features over a hundred wooden stalls sprawled out onto the square, the gothic cathedral as a stunning backdrop.
And then there's the Christmas shopping - everything from Santa cups, cathedral-shaped speculoos cookies, elf ornaments, and every spiced treat you can think of.
But aside from the Hallmark movie stuff, Cologne has a lot more to offer in December:
Whether it's unraveling centuries-old stories inside the ancient Cologne Cathedral - one of Germany's most treasured landmarks - or stumbling onto 2,000 year-old Roman ruins; every corner reveals another reason for making your way here in December.
Weather And Climate In Cologne In December
Average Temperature And Rain
December in Cologne is cold and breezy. It does get dark quite early in the evening, which adds to the festive atmosphere.
With average daytime highs resting around 42°F (6°C) and lows dipping to 33°F (0°C), it's important for you to pack ample warm clothing layers to stay comfortable during your visit.
Despite being one of the coldest months in Cologne, rain remains moderate throughout December – averaging at about 83mm (3.3 inches) across roughly 18 rainy days within the month.
In fact, Cologne experiences its highest rainfall during this time, with an average rainfall volume measuring up to approximately 107mm (4.2 inches).
Dressing For The Weather
Cologne doesn't get as cold as it does in the Northern parts of Germany. The city's mild temperatures can hover around 3°C (37°F) and occasionally drop close to freezing.
Thermal underwear and dressing in layers would be wise, so you can shed layers if it gets warmer. A waterproof coat that isn't too bulky should also find its way into your luggage – it will help keep you dry.
Don't forget woolen hats, gloves, and scarves for the biting winds and chilly evenings! Lastly, you won't regret having a sturdy pair of waterproof boots to combat any unexpected snowfall and rain.
Cologne December Holidays And Events
Christmas Eve & Christmas Day
Cologne is world-famous for Christmas celebrations, but if you want to experience the holiday magic, it's better that you arrive in the city before Christmas Day itself.
On Christmas Day most stores and restaurants are closed, and locals typically stay home and spend the day with their family. After all, it's Christmas time!
However, from around November 20th, Christmas markets begin to pop up in different districts, drawing millions of visitors from around the world.
Everywhere you look, there are twinkling lights, towering Christmas trees, and charming stalls straight out of a storybook. Ever had a cathedral-shaped waffle? Well, I have, and it was as delicious as it was Instagram-worthy.
Many of these markets are within walking distance of each other, so I say try to visit as many as you can!
Boxing Day, also known as Second Christmas Day in Germany, is a public holiday on December 26.
Some businesses may be closed and many families spend the day relaxing and enjoying leftovers from their Christmas feasts.
On the other hand, the Christmas markets in Cologne are generally still open, but do check the specific opening hours.
New Year's Eve
New Year's Eve is one of the biggest celebrations in Germany, and in Cologne it's no exception. The festivities on December 31st involve fireworks display, music, food, and parties that are not to be missed.
Many locals gather at the city center to celebrate with traditional German food and Kölsch beer. It's wise to make reservations because many places will be fully booked.
If you're eager to enjoy the New Year's Eve fireworks, I have two suggestions: stand at the Hohenzollern Bridge or go to right bank of the Rhine in Deutz.
Just keep in mind that these spots may get quite crowded, and it's wise to maintain a safe distance from those launching their own fireworks!
Top Things To Do In Cologne In December
Enjoy The Christmas Markets
Cologne is famous for its Christmas markets, and December is the perfect time to visit.
With up to nine unique markets dotted around the city, travelers can expect pockets of wonderlands filled with twinkling lights, decorations, seasonal food and drinks, and charming gift stalls.
However, each market is slightly different, and here are some of the ones we like:
The Christmas market at Cologne Cathedral (Weihnachtsmarkt am Kölner Dom) stands out as one of the most popular and visually stunning Christmas markets in all of Germany.
The market has over 130 stalls selling crafts, one-of-a-kind gifts, and food, including mulled wine, grilled sausages, and potato pancakes.
The heart of the market is a performance area where more than 100 performances take the stage during its five-week run, including children's programs.
For a quieter and more authentic Christmas market experience, visit the Market of Angels at Neumarkt. As the oldest of its kind in Cologne, it attracts fewer tourists, making it the ideal escape from the heavy crowds that frequent other Christmas markets in the city.
The Stadtgarten Christmas Market, set in the Belgian Quarter, has a local feel. Its artisanal stalls features local artists selling jewelry, handmade crafts and other local wares. Nestled among trees, it has a charming "village-in-the-woods" vibe.
The Heinzels Wintermärchen Christmas market in Cologne's Old Town is shrouded in a unique story.
It's said to be the home of the Heinzelmännchen, a community of elves in Cologne. And throughout the market, you'll encounter Heinzelmännchen sculptures everywhere - from the entrance gates to the Christmas trees!
Another reason to come here is the finest open-air ice rink in Germany - put on a pair of skates yourself, or simply enjoy watching friends and families gather to skate together amidst the twinkling lights!
RECOMMENDED: CHRISTMAS MARKET & KÖLSCH BEER TOUR
We loved this affordable, small-group tour! It's a great way to be introduced to Cologne's Christmas markets & Kolsch culture. Enjoy local appetizers, Kölsch beer, visit several markets, and end the day with dinner at another brewhouse!
Explore The Cologne Cathedral
Don't forget to include the magnificent Cologne Cathedral, the Kölner Dom, on your list of places to visit in Cologne. This masterpiece stands tall at 157 meters with its twin towers dominating the city skyline.
It's been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as an impressive example of medieval architecture and one of the most iconic landmarks in Germany. 
As a matter of fact, the cathedral is Germany's most visited landmark, attracting over 20,000 visitors daily!
It's free to enter and explore, but if you want to climb up one of the twin spires for breathtaking views of the city, there's a fee.
The cathedral is also home to several artistic treasures, including medieval sculptures and stained glass windows.
Treat Yourself to Cologne's Holiday Treats
Cologne is a foodie's paradise, especially during the holiday season in December.
The array of Christmas markets scattered throughout the city makes it hard to stick to a diet - the aroma alone of sizzling sausages... open-fire flammlachs... and roasted chestnuts... will make your hands reach involuntarily to your wallet!
For festive snacks specific to the Cologne region, don't miss out on sampling some Mandelmutzen (sugar-coated dough fritters) and, of course, Rievkooche (fried potato & onion pancake topped with applesauce)... Mmm!
Aside from the Christmas markets, Cologne has plenty of amazing eateries that serve local dishes like Himmel und Ääd, Rheinischer Sauerbraten, potato dumplings, or Hämmchen with suure Kappes.
Many of these eateries are actually the cozy pubs nestled in the heart of the Old Town, providing the perfect setting to pair your meal with a couple of glasses of Kölsch beer (only produced in Cologne!)
Highly recommend if you want to get a glimpse of how the locals live (and drink beer)! Our guide Mel was awesome. She introduced us to the Cologne lifestyle as we sampled many local beers at various brew houses.
- Peter, United States
Immerse Yourself In The City's History
Cologne is an ancient city steeped in history, dating back to the days of the Roman Empire in the 1st century AD. Known as Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium, it served as a major Roman military and administrative center along the Rhine River.
The great news is Cologne's Roman legacy can still be seen around the city!
For instance, portions of the original Roman city walls are still visible... and even the Römerturm (a Roman watchtower) is actually amazingly well preserved.
A great way to get to know Cologne's past is visiting the Romano-Germanic Museum, which houses artifacts from prehistoric times through to the Medieval period...
...Another way would be taking part in a self-guided tour like the one here, which is narrated and designed by an expert historian who's also born in Cologne!
Track The Traces of WWII In Cologne
I had the privilege of joining this WWII tour, and I can't say enough about the exceptional experience.
Our private guide was an expert in terms of historical knowledge, and he shared the history of Cologne with a genuine passion. We learned about pre-WWII life, the harrowing experiences during the war, and the tumultuous aftermath.
He made history feel really vivid and relatable. Even our sons, who are typically a tough crowd to impress, were interested.
The visit to the NS Documentation Center, or EL-DE Haus, was one to remember too. It was chilling to step into the former Gestapo headquarters and see the inscriptions on the walls made by prisoners.
If you find yourself in Cologne, I say take the time to explore the hidden stories of WWII with this tour. It's a chance to see Cologne in a way that's not always evident as you walk its streets!
Christmas Ice Skating in Cologne
There's just something magical about gliding across an ice rink beside a bustling Christmas market, soaking in the twinkling lights and the laughter of fellow skaters...
That's why an activity my family does every December is visit the Heumarkt ice skating rink. You have to buy an entry ticket, and there's a place to rent skates if you don't have your own too.
The joy and warmth on that chilly ice, the spirit of the season in every spin – it's a feeling that's hard to put into words. It's a tradition that we all look forward to!
Jingle All the Way on a Winter Cruise
In December, winter-themed boat rides on the river Rhine are extremely popular, and often sell out fast.
These special cruises are decorated with a Christmas theme, and from your reserved seat, you can see the city beautifully lit up by Christmas lights, like something out of a holiday card.
I suggest looking for a cruise that plays live holiday music - it adds to the festive atmosphere, with everyone onboard singing or swaying along!
RECOMMENDED: Winter Boat Cruise on the Rhine!
This winter cruise was a magical Christmas celebration, made even more special with St. Nicholas on board. Sipping mulled wine while taking in the city's sights is pure joy!
If you want a good spot to take photos, the Cologne Zoo's typically hosts a Christmas Garden, where thousands of lights are beautifully arranged throughout the zoo's gardens. 
Indoor Activities In Cologne In December When It's Snowing
Enjoy A Relaxing Spa Day At Claudius Therme
Claudius Therme is a luxurious spa in Cologne's Rheinpark. If you're looking for some relaxation and pampering during your winter trip, this is a great option.
Unlike ordinary spas, the pools in Claudius Therme is supplied with natural thermal mineral spring water, which is believed to have therapeutic properties.
The outdoor pool features jets and a whirlpool, while the indoor area has different saunas and steam rooms. You can also book treatments like massages or facials for an extra pampering!
It's worth noting that Germans have an open attitude towards nudity, so there are areas within the spa that require nudity...
If you prefer to be clothed, you can ask the front desk for the 'textile' sauna, where you can wear a swimsuit!
Explore Museum Ludwig's Impressive Art Collection
I must admit, I'm not usually one to get excited about art museums, but the Museum Ludwig in Cologne managed to capture my interest. It's not your typical stuffy museum experience.
First off, if you're into pop art and Picasso, this is the place to be. This famous museum houses a diverse collection of contemporary and 20th-century art, including works from some of the most renowned artists of our time like Picasso, Warhol, and Dali. 
Even someone like me, who's not a big art buff, could recognize some of the big-name artists.
What I really appreciated was that it wasn't too crowded during my visit. I could take my time to read the information and really soak in the artwork without feeling rushed. One piece that caught my eye was Max Ernst's painting of Mary chastising baby Jesus.
The location is a definite plus. It's just a short walk from the Cologne Cathedral, so you can easily combine a visit here with other attractions in the area, like the famed Wallraf-Richartz Museum.
Should you make a trip to Museum Ludwig? I say even if you're not a hardcore art enthusiast, don't let that stop you from checking it out. You might just discover, like I did, that it's worth a visit.
TIP: If you have the KölnCard, use it to get 20% off your tickets for the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum and Museum Ludwig.
Visit The Cologne Chocolate Museum
At first I wasn't sure what to expect when I took my kids to the Chocolate Museum in Cologne, but boy, were we in for a treat.
First of all, it's a fantastic way to escape the winter chill in December. As you step inside, you're instantly enveloped in the warm, inviting aroma of chocolate...
Throughout the tour, they hand out samples of chocolate, and you can even dip treats in a chocolate fountain – it's a kid's dream come true! My children were absolutely thrilled, ha!
Inside, we learned everything from the origin of chocolate to how it's made. The highlight was watching the small chocolate factory in action, seeing the chocolate bars come to life.
There's also a section of the museum like stepping into a tropical garden, and they have a café with a fantastic view. We took a break there, and had some really good (but a little pricey) chocolate cake.
If you plan to visit, be prepared for a bit of a crowd, especially on the weekends. The museum is right in the heart of the city, so it's easy to find.
Oh, bonus - kids get in for free on their birthdays!!
Practical Tips For Visiting Cologne In December
Saving Money With The KölnCard
If you're planning a weekend trip to Cologne in December, the KölnCard is a must-have for budget-conscious travelers.
You can get your KölnCard here.
This is Cologne's official tourist ticket, and provides free unlimited travel on public transportation within the city. It also offers significant discounts at various attractions, including museums, cruises, restaurants and the popular Cologne Zoo.
Available in both 24-hour and 48-hour versions, KölnCard is an easy way to save money while exploring all that Cologne has to offer.
Oh, but don't forget to bring along some cash to Cologne, as credit cards are widely accepted here, but not universally so!
Be Prepared For Possible Snowfall
Though it's not common for Cologne to have snowfall in December, you should still be prepared for all kinds of weather. German winters can be pretty unpredictable.
So, what you'll want to do is pack wisely.
Definitely bring along a warm coat, because it can get quite chilly, especially in the evenings.
Don't forget your hat, scarf, and gloves to keep cozy. It's always a good idea to bring some rain gear because, well, it's Cologne in December, and rain can happen.
Even though Cologne's winter isn't as bone-chilling as some other German cities, it can still get pretty darn cold, especially at night. So, make sure you've got some warm layers to throw on when the temperature takes a dip.
Check Out The City's Public Transportation Options
When traveling around Cologne, you'll quickly notice getting around is pretty easy because of the city's well-developed public transport network.
Driving your own car can be a bit of a hassle and costly due to limited parking, so I'd recommend making the most of the train, tram, and bus services here.
You'll have no trouble hopping on and off to explore all the sights and Christmas markets.
To make your life even easier, the KVB (Kölner Verkehrs-Betriebe) website and app are available in English, so you'll have all the travel info you need with no hassle. It'll be a real game-changer, trust me! 
Weather In Cologne In December: FAQs
Does It Rain In Cologne In December?
Yes, it does rain quite a lot in Cologne in December. On average, it rains about 18 days during the month, with an average precipitation of about 3.3 inches or 84mm.
Now, here's the thing – while it's more likely to be rainy, there's also a chance of mixed snow and rain, especially towards the end of December.
But don't get too excited for a winter wonderland – snowfalls are common in Cologne during this time but not abundant.
What’s The Best Time Of Year To Visit Cologne?
During this time, the city transforms into a winter wonderland with numerous Christmas markets featuring local crafts, food vendors, music performances, and ice skating rinks.
In addition to that, there are also plenty of indoor attractions like the Chocolate Museum or Claudius Therme to keep you entertained if it gets too cold.
Now, for party lovers, mark your calendar for Cologne's Carnival. It takes place from Shrove Thursday through Ash Wednesday in February or March each year. It's a massive, colorful, and wild celebration that's worth experiencing at least once in your life.
Here's more information about the best time to visit Cologne!
When Is The Shoulder Season In Cologne?
Visiting Cologne during the shoulder season is an excellent option for those who prefer mild temperatures, fewer tourist crowds, and great deals on accommodation.
During these seasons, you can explore the city's attractions without worrying about long queues or packed streets. Moreover, you can enjoy plenty of outdoor activities like strolling along the Rhine River or hiking in green parks.
How Cold Is It In Cologne In December?
Yes, it does get rather cold in Cologne in December. Temperatures range from 33°F to 42°F during this chilly month, although not as freezing cold as other parts of Germany.
Expect rain for roughly half of the month and bundling up with warm clothing is essential to stay comfortable while exploring this beautiful city!
Daytime temperatures during winter are just above freezing, hovering around 32°F, so be sure to pack plenty of layers if you're planning on spending time outside.
Keep in mind that the sun sets early in December, at around 4:30 pm, which can contribute to shorter days and longer evenings.
Is It Sunny In Cologne In December?
Unfortunately, December is not a month known for its sunny weather in Cologne. In fact, it's the cloudiest month of the year with overcast or mostly cloudy skies 71% of the time.
While there may be occasional breaks in the clouds, visitors should expect limited sunshine during their visit.
However, this doesn't mean that there aren't still plenty of things to do in Cologne throughout December, particularly with the festive Christmas markets taking place and countless fun-filled activities.
What Is The Average Temperature In Cologne In December?
Cologne in December is known to have a relatively mild winter climate, with temperatures ranging between 0°C (33°F) and 6°C (42°F). The average minimum temperature hovers around 1.1°C (34°F), making it important to dress appropriately for the weather if you're outdoors.
Should I Go To Cologne In December?
Absolutely, if you're looking for a cozy and festive winter getaway, Cologne in December may just be the perfect destination.
Despite the chilly weather, Cologne really knows how to do Christmas, and there's a ton of fun stuff to do.
The Christmas markets here are a must. They're all over the city, and you can stroll through them, sipping on delicious mulled wine and checking out the local crafts and goodies. It's a magical experience!
And if you're into history and architecture, don't miss the Cologne Cathedral and the Roman ruins – they are impressive.
You can also soak up some local culture with a recommended brewery tour that takes you around sampling Kölsch beer!
Just a heads up, it can get pretty cold, especially at night, so make sure you pack warm layers. But other than that, December in Cologne is a fantastic time to visit.
Can You Go To Cologne In December?
Absolutely, you can visit Cologne in December! Although it may be chilly with limited daylight hours, there are plenty of fun and festive things to do.
The Christmas markets in Cologne are something else. You can try all sorts of delicious holiday treats, shop for unique gifts, and enjoy the festive atmosphere. It's an experience you won't want to miss.
And if you're a foodie, you're in for a treat. Cologne cuisine is delicious, and you can warm up with hearty dishes like Ähzezupp and Himmel und Ääd, and of course, some Gluhwein.
Don't forget to explore the Cologne Cathedral – it's an iconic landmark. There's so much history and culture to soak up here.
It is important to pack warm clothing as temperatures hover around 3°C (37°F). But honestly, that's all part of the December charm in Cologne. So, go for it and enjoy your time in this cultural gem during the holiday season!
Are There Any Major Cologne Holidays In December?
Yes, there are two major holidays in December in Cologne; Christmas Day and New Year's Eve. Boxing Day is also celebrated in the city.
In the lead up to Christmas Day, you can take part in a relaxing winter cruise on the Rhine and explore the lively Christmas markets throughout the city.
The fireworks on New Year's Eve are also worth heading out to see!
Are There Mosquitoes In Cologne In December?
No need to worry, mosquitoes are not usually a problem in Cologne during December.
The cold winter creates an environment that's unfavorable for mosquitoes. However, if you want to spend time outdoors in wet areas, it's a good idea to have some insect repellent on hand, just in case!
Conclusion: Cologne in December
Cologne in December is all about holiday cheer, delicious food, and exploring the city's cultural gems.
First off, it's going to be a bit chilly, so be sure to pack warm clothing, including a good coat, gloves, and a scarf.
The BIG highlight in December is, of course, the Christmas markets. They pop up all over the city, and they're a big deal. You can enjoy delicious mulled wine, try seasonal snacks, and shop for unique Christmas gifts and crafts.
The days are going to be shorter with limited daylight hours, but there's still plenty to do. I highly recommend doing a relaxing winter cruise, exploring the iconic Cologne Cathedral and taking a stroll through the Old Town and its fantastic breweries.
Just make sure to stay warm, and you'll have an amazing time.
- In December, Cologne's weather is cold with an average temperature of 37°F and a high chance of rain, so it's important to dress warmly and bring appropriate gear for possible snowfall.
- Celebrate the holidays like a local in Cologne and experience the festive atmosphere during Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year's Eve.
- Experience the magic of Christmas by exploring the iconic Cologne Cathedral, visiting traditional breweries, exploring the city's rich Roman history and enjoying outdoor ice-skating.
Explore the Museum Ludwig's impressive art collection, visit the Cologne Chocolate Museum, and enjoy a relaxing spa day at Claudius Therme.
- Save money on transportation and admission fees by purchasing the KölnCard, prepare for possible snowfall, and take advantage of the city's excellent public transportation options.
1: Cologne Cathedral - UNESCO World Heritage Centre, retrieved from https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/292/
2: Christmas Garden Köln ☆ Official page, retrieved from https://www.christmas-garden.de/en/koeln/
3: History of the Museum Ludwig from 1976 to the Present, retrieved from https://www.museum-ludwig.de/en/museum/the-museum/history.html
4: Kolnner Verkehrs-Betriebe AG, retrived from https://www.kvb.koeln/en