Is Cologne worth staying in for a day or two...?
I'm planning to see some of Europe by train and as I it seems I will have to change trains in Cologne, is it worth staying for a day or two?
I'd say yes, for sure. It's true that Cologne isn't in the top tier of Europe's city break destinations, but it has a lot going for it. It’s an energetic place with a magnificent Gothic cathedral that looks a little like it may have just burst through the earth's crust. The lively Old Town has a redeveloped riverside district called Rheinauhafen, and there are great museums.
The train station is right by the gigantic double-spired cathedral called the Dom. It’s about the most jaw-dropping exit from a train station you can imagine - perhaps only pipped by the exit from the main station in Venice, which delivers you down some steps by a canal and commotion.
Apparently, the Dom took 600 years to build and most certainly gives Milan’s more famous Duomo a run for its money.
Be sure to climb the south tower for a peek at the world’s largest swinging bell - St Peter’s Bell, weighing 24 tons - and for the panoramas from the 300ft high viewing platform. You can play 'spot the Romanesque church' from up here, as there are 12 others in the city.
Museum-wise, start at the modern Ludwig Museum, which has an excellent collection of 20th-century and contemporary art. Or for something more whimsical, head to the hybrid old-meets-new construction by the Rhine, housing the very entertaining Chocolate Museum. There’s a good Sports Museum in the city too.
Punters about to get stuck in at the Chocolate Museum. Photo Schokoladenmuseum
In the evening, the Old Town’s street life pulsates, as revellers head here to down small glasses of the famous Kolsch beer, and fill the many busy cafés and restaurants. Watch out though, the less than half pint glasses and super-speedy table service have a way of creeping up on you.
For somewhere to stay, the three Hopper hotels are a good bet. The latest of the trio is St. Josef’s which, like the other two, occupies a historic building (this one a former Kindergarten cum soup kitchen for the poor) and has design-style rooms and a classy feel. Alternatively, St. Antonius is close to the train station and the Et Cetera is in the trendy Belgian Quarter. Personally I'm intrigued by any city with a bona fida Belgian Quarter.
For something very different there’s the Hotel im Wasserturm, which was converted from what in its day was Europe’s biggest water tower. It's now a design hotel with a spectacular roof terrace - be sure to visit even if you aren't staying.
One more thing...Eau de Cologne (Cologne Water) is usually abbreviated as just Cologne and can be traced back to Johann Maria Farina, who first mixed the citrus-spirit perfume in 1709. Today it has become a generic term for perfume - especially men's - in the way that Hoover, Speedo and Jacuzzi have done for all the similar products associated with thiers. There's a museum attached to the company premises now, which is run by the eighth generation of the family. See www.farinahaus.de and www.farina1709.com
An upstart perfume called '4711' was created by a rival in 1799 and is still going strong too. Eau de Cologne is still produced today, and you can visit its imposing shop. See www.4711.com
The 4711 shop then and now. Photo House of 4711
Fitting Cologne into a holiday: Cologne makes for an interesting city break, and Dusseldorf is just a 20-minute train ride away. Anyone Interrailing will likely pass through the city, as the train station is a major hub for regional and internation trains.
Getting there: Cologne Bonn Airport is 15 kilometres southeast of the city and handled over 10 million passengers in 2015. There are flights to most major European cities, plus Eurowings has flights to Bangkok, Havana, Las Vegas, Miami, Orlando, Windhoek and others. Train services from the city include Brussels in under 2hrs, Berlin around 4hrs and Paris around 3hrs.
When to visit: Spring is popular as temperatures become warm and the beer gardens come into their own. July and August are high summer - warm, but tend towards being a little humid. September to November and April to June are pleasant for sightseeing, though it's the Autumn that has slightly cooler temperatures, colourful foliage, and cheapest hotel prices. Winters are chilly or downright cold, but Cologne has good Christmas Markets.
|More info: see www.koelntourismus.de and the German national Tourist Board.|