When deciding on a European city break, there are a few cities that might come to mind. Prague, Rome, Paris – Cologne, however, may not be one.
Having travelled to most of the capital cities around Europe, looking for somewhere new was on the top of my list for my next trip. Only an hour away (from England) and pretty cheap to get to, I booked the flights and packed our bags for two nights.
As the fourth largest city in Germany, with over 2000 years of history, Cologne is a great option for a city break, with more than enough things to keep you occupied.
Of course, there are plenty of ‘must dos’ in Cologne like visit the Botanical Gardens, the countless museums and the glorious Churches. However, this list is all the things I think made Cologne unique and some things you might not be able to find on TripAdvisor.
1. Visit the Dom
Google Cologne and you’ll be met with hundreds of photos of their famous cathedral — the Dom. It’s a monstrous building, first built in the 1400s which holds the record as the tallest twin-spired gothic cathedral in the world.
It’s a beautiful cathedral that sits in the centre of the city and, to be honest, you won’t be able to visit the city without accidentally stumbling across it. Even without going inside, you can marvel at the glorious architecture of the exterior.
Inside, however, you’re met with high ceilings, incredible stain-glass windows and, most famously, the gilded shrine of the Three Kings.
Entry is free, so take a trip inside to marvel at, what is, the most visited attraction in Germany.
2. Go on a free walking tour
Regardless of the city, walking tours will always make it into my recommendation list. If you want to get to know a city, a free walking tour is the best way to do it.
The tour guides work on commission, so they put their heart and soul into a tour that’ll make you feel like your the first person they’re telling these stories to. You don’t have to pay in advance, just turn up and tip your guide at the end, depending on what you feel the tour was worth.
I would personally recommend Freewalk Cologne. I’m not sure what other ones they have available, but we had a great tour with this company. We learnt about the history and the culture which left us feeling more welcome in the city by the end of the two and a half hour tour.
3. Drink by the Rhine
One of the coolest parts about Cologne is the drinking culture. Yes, Germany is known for its beer, however, the humble Kiosk is renowned in Cologne. As you can drink on the streets, Kiosks become the central hub of each community and they sell good, cold beer with a bottle open available at the door.
Find a Kiosk (it won’t be difficult) and take a trip down to the Rhine. It has a great atmosphere, beautiful views and, if it’s a nice day, you can spend hours down there just drinking and soaking up the atmosphere of this magical city.
4 Visit the KolnTriangle
If you’re looking for a great view, look no further than the KolnTriangle. For 3EUR per person, it’s a cheap way to see the whole city and it also gives you an opportunity to go and walk across the bridge filled with Love Lockets.
Bear in mind, however, that there are no toilets and nothing else to do while you’re 102.3m in the sky. There aren’t any restaurants or bars to sit down at, so don’t plan your whole day around your visit, but it’s still worth a trip.
5. Eat Himmel und äd
Translating to Heaven and Sky, this is a dish you will not want to leave without trying. Germany is known for its food, and Himmel und äd is no exception.
It’s a traditional dish, famous in West Germany, containing black pudding, fried onions, mashed potato and applesauce. It’s available in most restaurants and is absolutely delicious.
6. Order a Kölsch
Brewed a maximum of just 30m away from the Dom, Kölsch is the local beer and it isn’t your ordinary drink. While Germany is f
Because of the way the beer is fermented, Kölsch is served in 0.2l glasses called a Stangen. These are served to you in a Brauhaus as soon as you sit down and will not stop coming until you place your beer mat on top of the glass.
Waiters and bar staff will carry up to twelve Stangen in a what is known as a Kranz, a circular tray resembling a crown. It’s a delicious beer and the way it’s served is a far cry to the crowded bars we’re used to in the UK.
Have you been to Cologne? What would you recommend doing? Let me know in the comments.