Welcome to Cologne, Germany
I spend two days in the fourth largest city in Germany – Cologne (Koln) and below I will summarise my impressions about this cosmopolitan city.
Tourist shop in the zoo
What to expect in Cologne:
Language: The official language is German, but English is widely spoken.
Currency: Euro (€) is the official currency.
Climate: The best time to visit is during the spring or fall months, but as for festivals – Oktoberfest starts from late September to early October, and the famous Christmas market begins at the end of November through the New year! Personal recommendation is to stay at least three days to truly appreciate Cologne.
Payments: Germany is predominantly a cash-focused society, but you will have no problem to pay by card as well. ATMs are mostly inside or out of bank branches, rarely in shopping centres or petrol stations.
Travel Tip: In Germany, the power plugs are Type F, so it would be good to plan ahead and buy yourself a universal adapter and use a converter for hairdryers and hot tools.
HOW TO GET TO COLOGNE:
Cologne Bonn International Airport is located 15km away from the city center. You can get there by airport taxi, bus, train or rent-a-car.
The S13 train takes you from the airport to the city center in 15 minutes. The tickets can be bought from the vending machines in the train stations. The city has an advanced transportation network with interconnected bus and tram lines traversing the city and its easy to get around. Single use of 24-hour and 48-hour tickets are available – it costs one-person 9Euro for 24 hours and 18Euro for 48 hours respectively.
Good to know:
Cologne is in many ways a regional capital in terms of not only population and financial importance, but also in terms of culture. Many great works of architecture and impressive museums can be found in Cologne.
TOP PLACES TO VISIT IN COLOGNE
The most popular landmark in the city, with over 20,000 visitors a day – the Cologne cathedral is the tallest twin-spired church in Germany, second tallest in Europe and third in the world. Each of the two spires stand at 157 meters tall. A masterpiece of Gothic Architecture, this cathedral is also a World Heritage Site. The work on the construction began in 1248 but was abandoned in 1473. With over two hundred years of construction, the cathedral was left unfinished until it was started back up in the 1840s and finally completed in 1880.
The Hohenzollern Bridge is named after the House of Hohenzollern, a powerful royal family in Medieval Northern Germany. It is a bridge over the Rhine River, with a total length of 409 meters and a width of 26 meters. The work on this great bridge began in 1907 and was completed in 1911. It was originally a means to cross the Rhine for trains, cars and pedestrians alike, although after its destruction in World War II and subsequent reconstruction, it no longer is open to automobile traffic.
Cologne Zoo houses more than 750 different species from all over the world, making it a popular excursion destination for families and animal lovers. Some of the animals you can see here are hippos, elephants, penguins, flamingos, baboons and sea lions. If you arrive at the right time, you can also watch the animals being fed.
COLOGNE HISTORIC OLD TOWN PETERS BRAUHAUS
Cologne’s Old town has a distinctive historical charm. Some of the buildings are dating back to the 11th century. Here, of course, the main attractions are the favourite beer, Peters Kolsch and the amazing food.
If you’re visiting Cologne in late November or December, don’t miss out on the various Christmas Markets throughout the city. They’re fantastic!!!
- Kölner Altstadt, Heimat der Heinzel at Altern Markt & Heumarkt – this is the best one.
- Markt der Engel at Neumarkt – beautiful lighting, spacious.
- Nikolausdorf at Rudolfsplatz – pretty, lovely, easy to get to.
- Weihnachtsmarkt im Stadtgarten – this has a more alternative, local feel.
- Harbour Christmas Market in front of the Chocolate Museum – this is nice, but definitely frequented by the most tourists (especially American river cruise passengers).
MUSEUM OF CHOCOLATE
This museum is dedicated to the history and production of chocolate, with exhibits about everything from the Aztecs’ production of it to modern-day cocoa growing. The end of the tour features a chocolate fountain for sampling and a fully stocked chocolate shop. Definitely a place to visit is the Chocolat Grand Cafe situated in the museum – you can enjoy cakes and other chocolate delicacies while looking our over the Rhine River.
The original Eau de Cologne is a perfume created in Cologne in 1709 by the Italian perfume maker Giovanni Maria Farina.
WHAT TO EAT & DRINK IN COLOGNE
Himmel un Äd – translates as “heaven (or sky) and earth”. The main ingredients are apples (from the sky) and potatoes (from the earth), as well as black pudding and apple sauce.
Reibekuchen (also called Kartoffelpuffer) – translates as “grated cakes.” It’s essentially a deeply fried potato pancakes made with potatoes, onions and eggs. It’s popular to eat these on the street at Christmas markets, fairs and sports events. They’re delicious, but don’t over do it. You’ll die. 😀
Flammkuchen – Alsatian pizza. Thin rectangular dough topped with various vegetables, cheeses and meats (no tomato sauce).
Kölsch beer – Sorry, you don’t have another choice.
Anything else you want to know about Germany? Let me know in the comments!