Cologne: The city not the fragrance

Following my trip in Turkey, my next stop was in Germany to meet back up with a friend and to be there around Oktoberfest. I was really excited to visit this country because several of my friends had indicated that this was one of their favorite European countries. When I arrived in Germany, I went to Cologne first. I might not have picked Cologne to visit if it were not for my friend, but this quaint city in Germany turned out to have some beautiful Gothic architecture. Below is a short review of some of things I saw during my brief visit.

What to Do:

Cologne Cathedral. This large Gothic cathedral is located in the center of town and hard to miss. It is part of the city’s iconic landscape. Take some beautiful pictures of the outside and a tour of the inside. Entry into the main part of the church is free. Visitors can take guided tours for a fee. They can also pay to visit the treasury and to climb the tower (both separate fees). At this point in my trip, I had already seen quite a few churches so I did not opt to take a tour or pay to go the treasury or tower. Instead, I chose to walk around the interior on my own admiring the architecture, the altars, and the shrines. It is definitely worth a peek inside. Plan to spend about 30-45 minutes if just strolling through.

Museum Ludwig. This modern art museum includes works from artists such as Picasso, Warhol, and Lichtenstein. This museum is a good size and well laid out so it is easy to see everything in one trip. There is also a lovely cafe located right outside that has nice views of the area. When I visited I was short on time, and it was a little chilly so I opted not to eat here. I cannot recommend, but it looked like a cute spot to at least grab a drink and a short rest after walking through the museum. The museum itself is a great activity for art lovers. Plan to spend 90-120 mins here looking around.

Hohenzollern Bridge. This bridge is another piece of the city’s iconic landscape. Visitors can walk across the bridge, which allows for some great pictures of the historic city center and of the Rhine river. The bridge is also a place for visiting couples to fix a ‘love lock’ as a sign of their commitment. The bridge is not very long and will only take about 10 minutes to cross, going slowly to take in the view and stopping to take a few pictures.

Chocolate Museum. This museum is located on the harbor and offers a history of chocolate as well selling chocolate. I did not go here because I am not a huge fan of chocolate, but my friend, who loves chocolate, did go here and really enjoyed it. According to him, this museum is worth a visit for chocolate lovers.

Shopping:

Many of the souvenirs here are religious in nature and related to the Cologne Cathedral, which is the heart of this city. They offer many items branded with the cathedral image or with the three crowns representing the Three Kings. These are branded on everything from postcards to key chains to shirts and bags. For those looking for something less religious, the art museums also offer a variety of prints on sale depicting the art displayed in these museums. I ended up buying a souvenir that was kind of a combination of both. I found some great Warhol prints of the Cologne Cathedral in one of the museum gift shops that I had to purchase. An alternate gift or souvenir idea is Kolsch beer, which is brewed in this city. However, I am not sure how well the beer will travel. This purchase would probably best for short trips and when it can be drank sooner.

What to Eat:

Cologne local cuisine offers many dishes that are popular throughout Central Europe, including a lot of meat and potato, sauerkraut, or apple dishes. I was only here a short time so I only had a couple of meals in the city. They were good but nothing overly memorable. I cannot recommend one dish or restaurant over the others. I can recommend finding a nice beer garden and ordering a Kolsch beer or two while enjoying the outdoor views.

Where to Stay:

For visitors who only have one night in the city, stay at a hotel in the historic city center. All of the major sights will be in walking distance and there are a lot of restaurants and shops in the area as well as nice views of the river. The hotels can range in price but there are a few mid priced rooms that offer no real amenities but whose location cannot be beat. For visitors staying longer, try to get an Airbnb in one of the adjacent neighborhoods for a cheaper rate.

Getting Around:

I arrived to Cologne by plane from Istanbul. The public transport system, which includes light rail, buses, and trams, is connected to the airport. I was able to take the rail to the city center. Tickets can be purchased at the rail and tram stations but have small bills on hand as some of them accept cash only. Once in the historic center, most places are within walking distance of each other. Try to avoid taking taxis as they are expensive here (for example, getting from the airport to downtown will cost around 40 euros for a 25 minute ride), and there is no Uber. The public transportation is reliable and is linked to Google maps. However, double check the routes. Some of the routes have more than one name/train that goes there, and it can be confusing. We missed our ride out of Cologne because we did not realize that the light rail we were looking for had multiple names other than the one given on Google maps. When we departed Cologne for Berlin, we took a train. We originally had booked a bus for cheaper, but as I mentioned we missed that bus. The only options left to leave that day were flights and trains, which were fairly close in price but more expensive than buses.

Overall:

I did not know what to expect for Cologne, but I found the city to be charming. We only spent one night there, which I think is plenty for travelers who do not have a lot of time in Germany. The historic city center can be viewed in a day. For travelers with more time, staying an extra day will allow them to visit more than one museum. When I visited in September, it was already starting to turn cooler, especially compared to the warmth in Turkey but it was not overly crowded this time of year. Travelers who appreciate Gothic architecture and cathedrals will enjoy Cologne.

 

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