- The fourth largest city in Germany, Cologne is home to 1.2 million people.
- A major cultural centre of the Rhineland, with the famous Cologne Cathedral and hundreds of museums and art galleries.
- Known as the carnival capital of Germany and refers to festivals as the “fifth season.”
- Almost completely destroyed in World War II, the city has undergone a facelift and showcases contrasts from pre-war to modern architecture.
- Nickname: The Holy City
- Currency: Euro (EUR).
- Spoken languages: primarily German. English is increasingly being spoken by youth, who study it as a foreign language at school.
- Best time to visit: from May to September to take advantage of the pleasant weather and long hours of daylight. While the Christmas season is a spectacle to behold due to the festive atmosphere, the sun sets as early at 3 PM.
- Arriving via airport: Cologne Bonn Airport (CGN) is connected to the city centre with the Intercity-Express rail and bus line #161. Tickets are charged based on distance and can be bought on board or at dedicated machines at the arrivals hall. Taxis cost €30-45.
WHERE TO STAY
The city centre offers an excellent variety of cheap accommodation, ranging from hostels to guesthouses. With dining, shopping and sightseeing just a stone’s throw away, the area is the perfect choice for those looking to be central. In Neustadt-Nord, the scene is just as lively but decidedly more modern, ideal for those looking to experience Cologne’s avantgarde lifestyle.
- KVB operates the public transportation network, which consists of the bus, tram, metro and rail system. Tickets are available for short-haul rides, urban-zone only and regional use.
- Köln WelcomeCard combines unlimited travel on public urban transport with up to 50% discount at major attractions and participating outlets. The card is available for 24-hours at €9.
- Taxis charge a basic €2.65 plus around €1.60 for each subsequent kilometer. Charges are higher for night-time service and Sundays and holidays. Dial 0221 2882 to pre-book.
- Deutsche Bahn operates Call a Bike, the bicycle rental system – call ahead to request a bicycle, and you will receive a code that unlocks it. Return the bike anywhere in the city. The service costs €15 a day.
- Drinking age is 18, and last call is at 5 AM.
- The Belgian Quarter is the hotspot for the hip crowd.
- Südstadt is lively, with rock bars and casual lounges.
- Uni-Viertel has it all, from bars and restaurants to cocktail bars and themed nightclubs.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- Cologne Cathedral is the undisputed star attraction of the city, a Gothic masterpiece that took nearly six centuries to finish.
- Museum Ludwig houses the largest collection of Picasso’s artwork as well as modern art from masters such as Warhol and Dali.
- Praetorium holds the relics to the ancient Roman settlement, including the well-preserved structure of the Roman governor’s office.
- Kölntriangle is a prominent landmark that affords the best 360º views of the city.
- Take the Hohenzollern Bridge over the Rhine River and admire the love locks that couples have chained to the fencing as a symbol of their commitment.
- Rheinauhafen (or Rheinau harbor) offers a romantic stroll in view of the river, perfect especially at sundown. Cafés and restaurants along the way provide excellent nourishment.
- Botanical Gardens Flora features a series of varied gardens kept in meticulous condition.
- Kölsch is the signature beer, a must-try at any of the brewery taverns around Alter Markt.
- One in ten inhabitants of the city is attracted to the same sex. The gay and lesbian scene is thriving and an ingrained part of the Cologne scene.
- Where to find good cheap eats: Kwartier Lateng and Barbarossaplatz (near the university) are excellent haunts for cheap, tasty food on the go.
- Dangerous areas: Cologne is generally very safe – the only real source of trouble is from drunken brawls that take place outside bars at night.
The Best Cologne Guide Books:
- Only in Cologne: A Guide to Unique Locations, Hidden Corners and Unusual Objects
- Rick Steves Germany (covers the whole country)
Recommended trip duration: 2-3 days