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Cologne Travel Guide

About Cologne

Vibrant Cologne (Köln) may be famous for its awe-inspiring cathedral, but its atmospheric pubs showcase a city in love with life and certainly knows how to have a good time.

Leaving the main station, the unmissable sight that greets all new arrivals is the towering twin spires of the Dom. Cologne's cathedral was once the world's tallest building, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site remains Germany's most-visited monument. Its silhouette, combined with the curves of the adjacent Hohenzollern Bridge, are the symbols that define the city.

Cologne's art comes in many forms, from Roman mosaics and impressive stained-glass windows to world-class art museums featuring Andy Warhol, Roy Liechtenstein and Pablo Picasso. Then there's the classic appeal of the Old Town, with its narrow streets and houses painted in pastel shades. While much of it had to be rebuilt following WWII, the atmospheric beer gardens and unhurried joie de vivre are just as romantic as parts of Paris or Rome.

For children, the city has some of Europe's best zoos, while the highlight for countless adults are Cologne's Brauhäuser, brewpubs that serve local Kölsch beer. Each of these is a sight to behold, as bartenders spin glasses around like battle-weary magicians, waiters marking beer mats to keep track of who had what and managers ring up sales with antique cash registers in the corner.

When it comes to food, there are traditional waiters in white shirts and leather waistcoats serving ham knuckle or bratwurst with sauerkraut. But Cologne's culinary horizons don't end there – they also include Michelin-starred restaurants serving French and Asiatic fusion flavours.

Though Catholicism flourishes here, Cologne is certainly not a place for puritanical restraint. The city is famous for the six-day street carnival known as the "Crazy Days" taking place in the days running up to Ash Wednesday. It's also an energetic open-minded place, and its Pride parades are some of the best attended in Germany.

Last, but by no means least, the city also has a chocolate museum, taking pride of place on the Rhine. Now Cologne is a city that has its priorities sorted.

Key facts

Population:
1.118.789 (2020)
Latitude:
50.942546
Longitude:
6.935017

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Excelsior Hotel Ernst

This grand dame of accommodation in Cologne continues to impress with its sweeping spiral staircases, great service and central location. Rooms come in beige and earth tones or calming blue and white. Taku, one of Cologne’s most exciting restaurants, is housed here and the Piano Bar offers an interesting range of cocktails.

Hyatt Regency Cologne

If you're looking for luxury and arresting views, Hyatt Regency Cologne fits the bill perfectly. The spacious, well-appointed rooms look out onto the Rhine and towards looming towers of the Dom. It also has an indoor pool, fitness club and spa, and a restaurant housed in a panoramic glass atrium.

Grand Hotel Schloss Bensberg

Visitors are easily dazzled by the Grand Hotel Schloss Bensberg. Housed in a renovated baroque palace, each of the 120 rooms and suites maintains a sense of grandeur while supplying all the mod cons. Look out for the midnight blue ceiling above the swimming pool and spa. It's a way out of town but the payoff for that is the easy access to horse riding and golf.

Centro Hotel Conti

Rooms at this cheerful hotel in the Belgian quarter are on the basic side, with a bed, small cupboard and small TV. The decor is no-frills as well, but it is good value and sits above a great Thai restaurant. It is also close to other restaurants and shops and has its own car park.

Hotel Engelbertz

A family-run hotel in the centre of Cologne, the Engelbertz has clean rooms, each equipped with a satellite TV. But do come prepared for some noise after dark as revellers stumble home outside.

Hilton Cologne

Set in a quiet side street by the cathedral, this smart, sophisticated hotel has all the quality you'd expect from a large chain. Its trendy IceBAR, which serves its signature shot in a glass made of ice, and onsite Konrad restaurant are popular meeting places for locals.