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A Winter Walking Tour of Cologne, Germany

Updated 11.01.2015

Pastel-colored buildings enhance the snowy scene when AmaWaterways Amacello pulls into her spot along the banks of the Rhine River in Cologne. But Alan and I aren’t going to let a little snow on the ground keep us from exploring Germany’s 4th largest city and our first Christmas markets stop of this Rhine River Cruise. How can we not go exploring with the sun shining brightly and the temperatures just brisk enough to put roses in our cheeks?

Cologne walking tour is a fun stop on a Rhine River Christmas Markets cruise. Be sure to add it to your travel bucket list.

A colorful start to our AmaWaterways Cologne walking tour

On the AmaWaterways free excursion, Cologne Walking Tour, we join about 20 other guests on a 2-hour jaunt through the city accompanied by a local guide. A headset gives us freedom to look about while still listening to the guide’s entertaining commentary.

There’s a reason the buildings of the Old City look well-kept, fooling the eye as to their age, which dates from medieval times and before. Like many German cities, most of Cologne was destroyed by WWII bombings, including 12 Romanesque churches. Restoration of the city began in the late 1940’s and lasted until the 1990’s.

Our walk starts next to the riverfront, then ambles up the hill past a Christmas market that’s just opening up for the day. Of course I make a mental note to return. Cologne has seven Christmas markets in all.

Christmas tree in Cologne, Germany, on an AmaWaterways walking tour during a Rhine River Christmas Markets cruise. It's one of our favorite European travel experiences.

A fresh snowfall adds just the right touch to the Christmas tree in Cologne.

Approaching a busy street, we stop to admire a snow-covered Christmas tree before continuing up the hill to the star of the city — the Cologne Cathedral, which took six centuries to build. Scaffolding supports one of the spires of the cathedral, the largest Gothic church in Europe. Although it suffered 14 hits in WWII bombing raids, the structure remained standing but in devastated condition.

A winter view of Cologne Cathedral on an AmaWaterways walking tour in Cologne, Germany during a Rhine River Christmas Markets Cruise. If you're planning a trip to Europe be sure to add Cologne to your travel itinerary.

Cologne Cathedral

Repairs on Cologne Cathedral lasted until 1956. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is Germany’s most visited landmark, hosting  an average of 20,000 people each day. Entrance to main areas of the cathedral is free however paid tours are also available.

Stained glass window in the Cologne cathedral on an AmaWaterways walking tour. It's one of the travel experiences on a Rhine River Christmas Markets Cruise.

One of the colorful stained glass windows in the Cologne Cathedral.

Inside, stained glass windows cast a muted but colorful glow into the cavernous cathedral. Our group lines up to pass by a gilded box that reportedly holds bones from the three magi, the reason for the cathedral’s grandeur and appeal.

Back outside, Alan and I say goodbye to the guide, choosing to explore the Christmas markets on our own before walking back to the Amacello. A Saturday crowd mills about the cathedral steps where a group of young women, already happy from 10:00 a.m. beer, pose for a photo during a girlfriends’ getaway.

Glüwein stand at the Christmas market in Cologne, Germany on an AmaWaterways Walking Tour. It's a fun part of travel on a Rhine River Christmas Markets cruise.

Glüwein stand

Using the free ticket included with the walking tour, Alan and I sample our first hot mug of Glüwein, mulled wine that’s ever present at German Christmas markets.

It’s crowded in the Christmas market located next to the cathedral. And I’m not fining the handcrafted items that I had expected of a European Christmas market. Finally a handblown glass snowman ornament catches my eye. I make the purchase and then we take leisurely stroll back to the Amacello on our own Cologne walking tour.

Read more about from our Rhine River Christmas Markets Cruise to find out if a European Christmas Markets cruise is for you.

Have you experienced a Cologne walking tour at Christmas or another time of the year? Come share your tips at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook. Or send us an email

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