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Discover 9 unmissable attractions in CologneCologne: 9 activities
Cologne, the lively and alternative city in the Rhine metropolitan area, attracts visitors from all over the world thanks to its trendsetting art and gay scene, rich heritage in brewing beer and vibrant student life. And you can also look back on 2,000 years of history, from Roman excavations and Gothic churches to contemporary art and architecture. It's high time you discovered what Cologne has to offer!
01 | Cologne Cathedral - The must-see sight in Cologne (and nationwide) dominates the city's skyline at 157 metres tall and has been a World Heritage Site since 1996. Located in the heart of the city and next to the main train station, a visit to this High Gothic cathedral is not to be missed: here you can marvel at the golden Shrine of the Three Kings as well as the stained glass window by world-famous Cologne artist Gerhard Richter, which has over 11,000 shimmering coloured squares and has been a part of the architecture since 2007.
02 | In close proximity to the cathedral lies one of Europe's most significant art museums, the Museum Ludwig. The largest collection of pop art outside of the USA, an extensive collection of Russian avant-garde pieces from the period 1905-1935 as well as several hundred works by Pablo Picasso are the highlights of this art collection from the 20th and 21st centuries. Exhibitions, lectures and tours round off the programme.
03 | No visit to Cologne is complete without tasting the traditional Cologne beer, Kölsch. And by going to one of the breweries, you'll experience first hand the open and friendly culture provided by the people of Cologne. Judging by the number of breweries in the city, Cologne is surely the most hospitable city in Germany ;-) Just so you know, the brewery waiters are called Köbes. They traditionally provide quick service and serve you with a smile and good humour!
04 | Chocolate museum – A good tip if you're on your travels with the whole family! A detour to sample chocolate fountains full to the brim is, of course, essential... But did you know that the history of chocolate stretches back 3,000 years? After a visit to the museum, the growing of cocoa and the manufacturing of chocolate bars or pralines will hold no more secrets for you!
05 | Try the local cuisine - Hearty, rustic and slightly individual, cuisine in North-Rhine Westphalia is not to everyone's taste, but when on holiday it's a shame not to try the local culinary delights... So why not take the opportunity to have a Halve Hahn (half a rye bread roll with cheese and mustard), Flönz (smoked blood sausage) or Himmel un Ääd (a dish made with mashed potato and apple sauce) with your Kölsch?
06 | Shopping in the Belgian quarter - Cologne is renowned as a shopping lover's destination – and for good reason. In large parts of the city centre, department stores and retail chains are everywhere you look. However, we prefer the so-called Belgian quarter, where the streets are named after Belgian cities and provinces and include Antwerpener Straße or Brüsseler Platz, for example. This is where more and more young designers are offering unusual fashion and accessories in small, individual boutiques. Cosy cafés and trendy bars and restaurants make your shopping trip unforgettable.
07 | Stroll around the multicultural district of Ehrenfeld – If you fancy a breather amongst the hustle and bustle of the city, we recommend talking a walk around the Innere Grüngürtel, the sprawling ring of green spaces which are the remnants of the former city fortifications. Once you feel refreshed, then a trip around the alternative Ehrenfeld is next on the agenda. Alongside designer boutiques and trendy bars, murals and graffiti define this part of town. There's something new to discover on every street corner...
08 | During Advent and Christmastime Cologne is awash with light and the city shows its most endearing side. It goes without saying that a trip to a Christmas market is not to be missed, and visitors have a whole host of choices here as there are no fewer than nine Christmas markets to enjoy, from the tourist hotspots around the cathedral and in the Old Town, a gay/lesbian market and the 'smallest Christmas market in the city'. You're guaranteed to get into a festive mood!
09 | Stretch your legs along the Rhine. It's not hard to see why the Romans thought the banks of the Rhine the ideal location for Colonia almost 2,000 years ago... And today, the large river is still an integral part of the Cologne lifestyle. Discover the complex alleys, inns, businesses and squares on the banks of the Rhine in the Old Town – a must at any time of year!
You should also make time to explore the other side of the river and most certainly a walk along the Rheinboulevard, where you'll see a panoramic view of the cathedral and the Old Town with its historic houses below. In the summer, the majestic open stairs are a great way of enjoying the sun.
Further south – between the chocolate museum and the South Bridge – you'll find the car-free (!) Rheinauhafen, which is characterised by futuristic architecture. One highlight is the three buildings in the shape of a crane (Kranhäuser), reminiscent of harbour cranes.
How can I get to Cologne by train?
As one of the most important hubs on the German rail network, Köln Hbf (Cologne Central Station) can be easily reached from anywhere in Germany. What's more, international Thalys trains from Paris and Brussels, international ICE lines from Amsterdam and Brussels as well as numerous German ICE, IC and regional trains stop here.
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* Unless expressly stated otherwise, all fares quoted are per person/per leg (VAT included) based on an online reservation for a 2nd class return from Brussels. Please note, terms and conditions apply. Tip: As the number of seats at the lowest fares on Thalys, Eurostar, TGV® and ICE trains is limited, we recommend that you book your trip as early as possible. Most international trains allow reservations to be made from 3 to 4 months before the date of departure (or from 6 months for Eurostar and ICE).
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