In the current dystopian world, we don’t choose travel destinations as the offering is very limited. Thus, instead of thinking where we would like to go, we think where can we go? Since Germany was in the list of open and ”safe” countries, we decided to give it a go and embark on an adventure of exploring Cologne. It is worth mentioning, that Germany is very often underrated as a travel destination. As a result, many travelers don’t have it on their bucket list. However, having been to Germany 10 times myself, I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed.
One of the most attractive cities in Germany is Cologne (Köln). It has great architecture, it is hip, lively and has a fantastic offering of bars and cafes. Not to mention, it’s easily accessible by air as well as by road and rail. Therefore, let me introduce you to this quick guide, which will make exploring Cologne easy.
Check out the touristic stuff
As in any other European city, there are certain landmarks that you simply can’t miss. Even though Cologne is not known for the great amount of touristy spots, there are a few MUST SEES. I would recommend you to start exploring Cologne by visiting the famous Cologne Cathedral (Dom). Check out its exterior, visit it from inside and most importantly take the time to climb the tower. While the climb is rather challenging, the views of the building’s structure as well as the city’s panorama are well worth the effort. Plus, the entrance fee is only 5 EUR.
After that, take an hour to explore the Old Town of the city. Again, it’s no Rome or Paris, but having a little stroll through the beautiful buildings and tiny squares is pleasant. Lastly, make your way across the Hohenzollern Bridge. Its beautiful structure and the insane amount of padlocks that it is covered in should definitely leave an impression. Once you are on the other side of the river, you will have a great set for a picture.
Visit the trendy and hip districts
The touristy landmarks are just a small part of Cologne. The city’s actual culture rests in its trendy or hip neighborhoods. So, if you want to feel the real vibe of this place, make sure to check out the districts outside of the Old Town and souvenir shops. In fact, locals rarely step foot in the central area, as they spend most of their time in other neighborhoods.
To start the day, go to the Belgian quarter (Belgisches Viertel). This area is home to some of the more upscale clothing or jewelry stores as well as magnificent buildings. In addition, enjoy a beer or a coffee at one of the numerous bars or cafes located there. Continue exploring Cologne by making your way to the even trendier Ehrenfeld district. It seems that this area is conquering the Belgian quarter in the list of the coolest places in the city. When there, appreciate the street art, the multicultural vibe and simply roam the streets of this part of town.
Once you have that covered, you can explore the Latin quarter (Kwartier Latäng) and the South Side (Köln Süd) of the city. The former is known for its nightlife, great variety of bars, pubs, and other venues to have a great night. Whereas the latter is yet another hip part of town that leads to the port area of the city. Thus, you can have a stroll through the district and then make your way back along the river to the very center of town.
Eat and drink
As in any other country, culture is best discovered through food and drinks and Cologne is no exception. Since a great part of its life happens on the streets and parks, I would highly recommend grabbing a Kölsch (a type of beer) from one of the kiosks and a Dönner/Turkish pizza from a small take away place and indulging in the local life. If that’s not your thing, I would suggest trying out the brewery experience. There are many of them spread throughout the town and they all serve traditional dishes and some type of Kölsch. We have enjoyed an evening at a bit touristy ‘Früh Kölsch’ brewery, however, I can only recommend it. If you want to continue your evening, you should visit the ‘Buhmann & SOHN’ (Ehrenfeld) beer garden. Or if you’re feeling fancy visit the rooftop ‘Monkey bar‘ (inner city).
You can hit off the next day with a coffee or breakfast at ‘Kaffeesaurus’ (Belgian district) and a lunch at a local Falafel place ‘Habibi’ (Latin quarter). If that’s not on your way, perhaps a chili restaurant called ‘Bambule’s Chili‘ (Köln Süd) would make your belly warm. Generally, food and drinks are moderately priced in Germany. Thus, going out for lunch or drinks shouldn’t break your bank. Even if you’re on a budget, there are plenty of kiosks serving drinks and local kebab stands providing inexpensive meals.
Day trip out of Cologne
If exploring Cologne is not enough and you want to discover the surroundings, I have two options for you. First, you can hop on a train/bus and go to Dusseldorf. It’s less than an hour away from Cologne and has a completely different vibe. Dusseldorf is more of an upscale city with a lot of banks, chic clothing stores, and fancier bars. It doesn’t have the same laid-back atmosphere, however, its Old Town and port are definitely worth a visit.
My second suggestion is to go the opposite way from Cologne towards Bonn and visit the beautiful castle (Schloss Drachenburg). It stands on a hill, and you can visit both its interior as well as beautiful gardens around it. In addition, it has a restaurant from which you can appreciate the views of Bonn and the surrounding areas. The entrance to the castle is 7 EUR and the food and drinks at the restaurant are only slightly more expensive than anywhere in the city. If you still have time after this excursion, you can stop by in the city of Bonn and have a stroll around.
Hope this guide will help you plan your trip to Cologne or will encourage you to stop there at least for a day en route to another destination. I believe if you just want to relax and experience the local German life, Cologne is a perfect city to do that. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with us and we will be happy to help you plan your visit.