Every year, hundreds of Heinzelmännchen (elves), bring a fairy-tale atmosphere to Cologne's Heumarkt square and the Heimat der Heinzel, or "Home of the elves" market. It's an over-the-top, outsized salute to winter pursuits, from mulled wine to ice-skating.
"Home of the elves" is divided into "lanes" specializing in handicrafts, sweets, antiques, foodstuffs and more. An old-fashioned Ferris wheel at the end of "Toy Lane" in the Elves' Market may be small, but it offers a fast spin. Nearby, the curling alleys at Cologne's Heumarkt Square see plenty of action. Central to the enchanted atmosphere is a spectacular ice rink, with skaters gliding around the entire square, and past chalets selling all sorts of edibles.
The Heinzelmännchen are based on a Cologne legend, and many locals say the Home of the elves market is their favorite. It's also a place to try a variety of specialty drinks, from Bavarian and Swiss beer to potent mulled wine with brandy-charged sugar added. For food, there are classics, like Flammkuchen (an Alsatian tart with onions, bacon and cream) fresh from a wood-fired oven, soups and bratwurst. And there are sweets, too many to list!
If you are in search of the most endearing market in Cologne, a stroll through the Heimat der Heinzel and the Heumarket is a must!