Cologne (Köln) is the fourth largest city in Germany and effortlessly mixes the old with the modern.
Restored greatly after damage from World War II, this vibrant city situated on the River Rhine is a major cultural center (with 36 museums and 100+ galleries), a haven for beer drinkers, a place of relaxing green areas like Rhine Park and a party city when Cologne Carnival starts in November.
Your first stop in this great city should be where everyone else is heading – the Cologne Cathedral, or the ‘Dom’. As Germany’s’ most visited attraction, the cathedral is a splendid example of high Gothic architecture with soaring towers and beautiful stained glass windows. Visit the Shrine of the Three Magi (Three Wise Men), the bones of which are traditionally believed to be housed in the 13th century gilt sarcophagus in the Cathedral. If you’re feeling energetic, haul yourself up the 533 steps of the South Tower to enjoy the panoramic views from the viewing platform.
With 36 museums to choose from, Cologne is a cultural bonanza. Choose from the Chocolate Museum (perfect for sweet tooth tourists), Fragrance Museum (a haven for perfume lovers), Museum Ludwig (for a dose of modern art), or the Roman-Germanic Museum (an archaeological museum built over the site of a Roman village with the Dionysos mosaic and other Roman artefacts).
Cologne’s Botanical Garden is located in Riehl, a northern area of Cologne near the left bank of the Rhine. Planted with over 10,000 species of flowers, plants and trees, the park offers an excellent escape from busy streets, and if you’re lucky you may time your visit with a summer concert at the historical Flora building.
Get a birds-eye view over Cologne’s main sights by hitching a lift on the Cologne Cable Car. Built in the 1950’s as the first European cable car to cross a river (the River Rhine), you’ll be rewarded with wide views across the Old Town and Cologne Cathedral. We recommend you ride the cable car one way only, then amble back to your starting point via shopping and caféterias.
Stop into one of Cologne’s many kellers (beer halls) to sample the city’s famous Kölsh beer (a light beer). As you watch your stein be poured straight from an old cask barrel, order a side dish of roasted suckling pig or Himmel un Ääd (mashed potatoes with apple mash).
Cruise the River Rhine on a boat tour that takes in the sights of Cologne Old Town, quaint bridges and the former fishing village of Rodenkirchen. Choose your tour operator from the companies berthed close to the Hohenzollern Bridge.
Situated half an hour from Cologne is Bonn, the birthplace of Ludwig van Beethoven. Visit the composer’s house of birth, the old government quarter (before German government moved to Berlin after 1991) and the excellent displays at the Museum Koenig, a natural history museum.
Dusseldorf is a great city for a side trip from Cologne. Located an easy 40 minutes’ drive from Cologne, give your credit card a workout at the shopping stores along Konigsalle or venture to MedienHafen where you can oogle modern architecture as you dine at a quayside restaurant.