Cologne is usually on everyone’s bucket list when they plan their trip to Germany. I would say it’s one of the top 3 cities people think of when they’re planning their itinerary; Berlin, Munich, Cologne. I’ve flown through Germany many times, stopped for a few days on business and kept moving, so this time I made sure I was going to visit Cologne.
Cologne is famous for its Christmas markets, but unfortunately, I wasn’t there over Christmas. Instead, I was there over the summer (during a heat wave), so my experience of this city wasn’t all twinkling lights in the snow.
Before you visit Cologne, here are some things you should know:
I arrived in the city via train… probably should have rented a car for my Germany excursion… but that’s another post. If you don’t know anything about German trains, they’re usually fantastic! I’ve never been on a bad German train (except for one leaving Berlin into Poland). But trains allow you to get into a city and not have to worry about parking a car. So as long as you’re traveling light and you found accommodations close to the train station, you should be fine.
Cologne Train Station:
The Cologne train station is actually pretty awesome, especially if you’re only in the city for a few hours or a few days. If you’re in the city for a few hours, Cologne’s train station is very convenient. There’s a Starbucks where you can go and grab some free Wi-Fi so you can situate yourself on google maps, as well as a luggage locker for all your stuff if you don’t want to carry it around the city (I wouldn’t’ recommend it, there’s a lot of walking). There are also a ton of shops inside the station where you can either grab a quick bite, purchase some additional traveling gear or even shop for a nice new outfit. You’ll also find there are great information kiosks – so if you’re interested in those Euro rail passes or other package type deals, these kiosks are the places where you’d pick them up. The train station is conveniently located right in the city center, so it’s not a terrible walk to most hotels.
Cologne in the summer:
Keep in mind that Cologne can get very hot, and a lot of European hotels don’t have air conditioning. I can’t speak to the hostels or the 5-star hotels, but your average 3-4 star might be lacking that precious cool air. Also, note that summer in big German cities tends to mean lots of bees! As much as my husband and I love sitting outside drinking a cocktail in the warm summer breeze, in Cologne this meant being swarmed. In fact, I saw a poor young woman trying to just eat her meal outside and her hijab was covered in bees! So if you can eat inside, it might be better than trying to fight off these pests.
If you ask a young German (a German who isn’t from Berlin), most of them will tell you that the city you need to visit is Cologne. That’s because it seems to be the party central of Germany. If you’re into drinking, staying out late and clubbing… Cologne has a lot of options for you. If you’re more the sightseeing and cultural traveler, then the following list has great options for you to check out:
The Cologne Cathedral
There are a few main highlights to a Cologne trip, and this is definitely the most famous. Luckily, if you take the train, the cathedral is directly outside the station… you can’t miss it! You’ll see a lot of people eating outside on the cathedral’s steps, or you’ll see hoards of tourists taking selfies in front of the masterfully built church, but inside there are some pretty cool finds as well. Inside there is the Dreikönigenschrein, it’s a golden shrine that apparently holds the remains of the biblical Magi.
Walk along the water
After checking out the cathedral, we grabbed a bite to eat at the Funkhaus Cafe-Bar-Restaurant and checked into our hotel. After dropping off our bags, we started to explore the city and do some shopping. PS. if you want some cheap shopping, go to The first place we headed to was the water’s edge. If you walk along the river and up and over the Hohenzollern Bridge, you’ll see thousands upon thousands of locks with lover’s names scratched into them. I would definitely recommend getting a few city shots from this location as well.
The Ludwig Museum
After crossing back over the bridge, you may run across the Ludwig Art Museum. It’s a showcase for art after the 1900’s. We never actually went in, only took a look from the outside and into their main lobby area, but I’ve heard great things. Inside you’ll find Picasso’s and Andy Warhol’s.
If you head further south along the river, towards the chocolate factory, you’ll stumble across Old Town. This is a gorgeous little area with tons of hidden streets and courtyards. You’ll also notice the stunning medieval looking homes colored up in pastels. If you’re looking for a great Instagram shot, head towards the back of the Great St. Martin Church, along the water’s edge and you’ll find 5 beautifully colored homes. I would definitely recommend checking this spot out!
There are a ton of museums in this city, so if that’s your thing, go check out this list! But if you like chocolate, you've got to see this place! It’s right along the water called Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum. Inside you’ll see a gift shop, how to make chocolate and a 3-meter tall chocolate fountain. This museum closely works with Lindt… you know those amazing chocolate balls with mousse inside!? Ya those guys, so if you want to pay $20 or so to get in, it’s defiantly a fun place to be!
If you’re really wanting to go to Cologne, I would recommend doing it in early December so you truly get to experience what Cologne is known for… it’s Christmas markets! Again, I went in the summer, but I had a few coworkers when I lived in England, who would always head here for some classic German Christmas ornaments. Going to be honest, Cologne isn't my favourite city in Germany, but you've got to knock it off the list right?
Comment below and let me know what you think of the list. Should there be more added to it?