Packed with Christmas markets and hearty food, Cologne has everything that a city break in December needs - plus impressive architecture, chilly weather and Germany's most-visited attraction, the Dom (Cathedral).
Lufthansa (website: www.lufthansa.com) flies to Cologne direct from London Heathrow and easyJet (website: www.easyjet.com) flies to Cologne from London Gatwick, Liverpool and East Midlands airports. Flights to Cologne from the US connect in Munich or Paris.
Six vibrant Christmas markets (weichnachtsmarkt) fill the Dom precincts in the winter. Shoppers can buy handmade gifts, decorations and treats and warm up in the dipping temperatures with a glass of glühwein (German mulled wine). The New Year can be greeted on the bridges of the Rhine by a spectacular display of fireworks against a backdrop of the majestic city.
Marvel at the unmissable Dom (website: www.koelner-dom.de). It holds treasures that include the golden casket which contains the remains of the Magi, the 9th-century Gero crucifix and medieval stained glass windows. Look out over the city from the South Tower, 509 steps up.
Glimpse the best Roman mosaic floor in north Europe. Comprising over one million pieces, the floor in the Römischer-Germanisches Museum (website: www.museenkoeln.de) has been superbly preserved.
See 600 years of art that covers medieval works to Impressionism in the Wallraff-Richartz-Museum (website: www.museenkoeln.de/wrm). The museum contains the work of famous artists from all over Europe, including Rembrandt, Tintoretto, Cézanne and Munch.
Discover what makes German chocolate amongst the best in the world at the Imhoff-Stollwerck Chocolate Museum (website: www.schokoladenmuseum.de). Located in a stunning building on the Rhine, this exhibition considers the history of chocolate and features a production line that culminates in a chocolate fountain.
Explore the Romanesque churches that were originally built between the 10th and the mid-13th centuries and restored after being damaged in WWII. St Ursula, with its macabre Goldene Kammer bone chapel and reliquary room, should not be missed. St Cäcilien is now home to the Schnütgen Museum of Sacred Art.
Find the most attractive part of Cologne – the heart of the Altsadt (Old Town), beside the River Rhine.
Visitors should try the Cologne speciality, hämmche, a cooked knuckle of pork. International cuisine can be found in many of the areas close to the Rhine.
For an unusual dining experience, guests at the Unsicht-Bar (website: www.unsicht-bar-berlin.de) are served by blind waiters and waitresses, and eat in complete darkness.
Did you know?
Cologne has more breweries than any other European city.