For many years, a friend of mine who was studying in Cologne, Germany was inviting me to visit her. We were keep postponing it due to our studies and other responsibilities. During the 2nd week of June 2018, just before the end of my Master’s degree, I spontaneously booked those tickets and finally travelled to Cologne!
Ah, Cologne… is a charming city and a hub of economy and industry. If you haven’t visited Cologne yet, maybe those adjectives I’ve used to describe it aren’t inspiring or promising yet. So please, let me ‘guide’ you to Cologne!
My following itinerary is a leisure one; that is to say, you will read about ways to walk around the city without rush and see the most important sightseeing. I will start with sharing what I learned about the city from my friend’s words and from my own observations.
So let’s start with a little bit of Cologne’s history.
During the World War II, most parts of the city were destroyed. To me, it’s not surprising at all that Germans reconstructed the city considerably fast. By observing people walking, I noticed their firm directional movements that in some way were fast, which led me to consider Germans to be generally hard-working, determined and goal-oriented people. Also, I found people in Cologne to be friendly but distanced at the same time. I’m not sure though whether these characteristics are particularly for Cologne people or generally for Germans, as I haven’t travelled to other German cities (yet). In my opinion their behaviour is shaped by the country’s history relating to the dictatorship and its appointed control by Hitler and Nazi back in time.
Cologne is the the oldest and the 4th largest city in Germany. My friend was saying that is really huge, but living in London, I personally didn’t find Cologne to be that large. I was also informed that some of the core values of Germans are: education, good behaviour and precision, which might further explain locals’ behaviour. Moreover, the largest percentage of the German population is a follower of Christianity.
Day 1 – Getting a sense of Cologne
I took the train from the airport to Koln Hbf (2.80 EURO one-way ticket) to begin my exploration in the heart of the city. Stepping out of the train station’s building, I immediately sensed a vibrant atmosphere that was pleasant. Cologne Cathedral with its magnificent and Gothic architecture is a must-see sight, beautiful both from outside and inside. The entrance fee was 2 Euros for students (normally 4 Euros).
I crossed the Rhine river via the walkable Hohenzollern bridge or the Love Lock Bridge of Cologne, before heading to the busy Heumarkt square. We had a nice lunch and ice-cream there. We spent leisure time around and enjoyed a beautiful sunset close to the bridge, on the other side of the cathedral.
My friend and I walked to her flat, which was 40-minute walk from there, to relax for a while. Trust me, having a limited time in Cologne didn’t affect the extend to which I could explore the city, as it is very possible to visit many places in less than 2 days. As the sun went down, we ended up at a shisha place called Derwisch. I know it’s not a German thing to do, but locals seemed to socialise and enjoy relaxing time at such places and other cafes or pubs.
Day 2 – Boat trip, Chocolate Museum and View from Above
The 2nd day started with a quick breakfast that consisted of a German pastry and coffee. Although they are not the healthiest option, they are delicious. You can find them at many cafes and places in Cologne. Walking towards the centre, we went through the Mediapark, an urban area with modern offices and high buildings.
My friend and I took a 1-hour boat trip along the Rhine, which started at the Konrad-Adenauer-Ufer, close to the Hohenzollern bridge. The trip costs around 10 Euros, and if you have a valid student card you get a discount. You’ll need to check the departures as the boat trips aren’t regular enough and it also depends on which day of the week you are planning to go. Although the sky was cloudy, the trip was still panoramic and worth it! We passed by the Cathedral, the old town, the Chocolate Museum, many bridges and other. It was a nice way to see Cologne from different angles.
Then what? We visited the Kolntriangle Panorama, a skyscraper that offers spectacular views of the Cologne cathedral, the Hohenzollern bridge, Rhine and the city in general! Check the opening hours and make sure you save time to visit this place! It only costs 3 Euros for adults!
Later on, we walked towards the lively Old town again and, of course, a snapshot at one of Cologne’s most photographic place at Martinsviertel couldn’t be missed. The weather wasn’t cold, but the cloudy and rainy sky led us to visit the Schokoladen (Chocolate) Museum for a hot chocolate. There are many options and it is very likely that you won’t easily decide what to order. The price wasn’t too bad (around 5 Euros), baring in mind how delicious it was! I didn’t pay a visit to the museum, but if you fancy educating yourself about the past and present global story of chocolate then don’t even think about it! The price for adults is 11,50 Euros, with discounts for children, students etc.
Day 3 – Botanical Garden and Ludwig Museum
On my last day in Cologne (which wasn’t a full day) I was mostly alone as my friend was at university. It wasn’t difficult to get around using the metro, google maps and intuition. My friend suggested to use the teleferic and see Cologne from above while moving. However, it was closed. Nearby the teleferic station is a huge pathway where you can have a relaxing time and walk by the Rhine.
I visited the Flora and Botanical Garden, which was so beautiful and peaceful. There is no fee as it is located in an open space. I had a nice coffee while reading my book at a cafe located there. Cologne’s zoo is nearby, but haven’t paid a visit there.
Lastly, I visited the Museum Ludwig, which is located opposite the Cologne central station and costs 13 Euros (8.50 Euros for discounted tickets). The Museum houses a collection of contemporary art, including abstract and surrealistic art pieces. It also accommodates exhibitions from various artists around the world. It really worth the visit! Before heading to the airport, my friend came over (with my bag!) and we spent my last moments sitting in front of the Cathedral, ending the exploration where it started.
There are definitely a few more things to do, but it always depends on your interests and time. To find out more about ‘what to do in Cologne’, click here. I highly recommend Cologne to anyone no matter age, and I would recommend to spend 48-72 hours there. I would also recommend to learn some basic German words before visiting, such as ‘Danke’ (=thanks), ‘Bitte’ (=you’re welcome), which will help you getting along with Germans!