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Getting around Cologne

Public transport

Luckily, you can reach most of Cologne's central attractions on foot and enjoy a stroll along the riverbank or through the colourful Old Town without breaking into a sweat. For journeys further afield, or when your feet start to tire, you may need these other options.

The Cologne transport authority, KVB (tel: +49 221 5470; www.kvb-koeln.de), runs an integrated system combining rapid transit rail, regional rail and buses. However, the city centre's main attractions are within a short walking distance of each other and aside from using the S-Bahn to get to and from the airport, it is most likely that you will only use the U-Bahn to hop the short distance between Neumarkt and the main shopping square of Rudolfplatz, or perhaps a little further, on to the nightlife of the Univiertel (University Quarter).

You must buy tickets for all trains in advance. There are no ticket barriers, but if you are caught by an inspector without a ticket, you will be fined heavily. You can buy individual tickets per journey (Einzelfahrten) or a day ticket (Tages Ticket), though as an individual you would have to make four journeys before the latter paid for itself; a day ticket for up to five people is better value. The KölnCard gives unlimited travel on all public transport for 24 or 48 hours and also enables reduced-price admission to most attractions and excursions.

You can buy all travel-only tickets from automated ticket machines at the stations or from bus drivers. The KölnCard is available at the tourist office or online (www.koelntourismus.de/willkommen/koelncard/partner.html).

For a multicoloured tourist train extravaganza that also gets you from A to B, don't forget The Bimmelbahn. The Bimmelbahn (www.bimmelbahnen.de) is a land train that departs every half hour from Roncalliplatz, at the side of the Dom. The itinerary covers all the spots that children will love, such as the chocolate museum, the zoo and the Christmas Markets (during December).

Taxis

Taxi Ruf (tel: +49 221 2882) is recommended.

Driving

Driving into Cologne has all the drawbacks of driving and parking as in any other major city and is not recommended unless absolutely necessary. If you have arrived by car, it makes sense to check out the park and ride or to consult with your hotel.

Car hire

You'll find all the major car hire companies in Cologne. Operators include Avis (www.avis.de), Budget (www.budget.de), Europcar (www.europcar.de) and Sixt (www.sixt.de).

Bicycle hire

Travelling on two wheels isn't as terrifying in Cologne as it can be in other cities. In fact, it can be a great way to see a little more of the city and break free from the crowds.

Radstation Köln at the central railway station (tel: +49 221 139 7190; www.radstationkoeln.de) hires out bicycles and also offers guided tours from April to October. In addition, if you arrive here with a bike of your own, you can safely store the bicycle while you wander around the city on foot.

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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.

Hopper Hotel St Antonius

This very reasonably-priced design hotel is housed in a historic journeyman's hostel and set within walking distance from the main railway station and the banks of the Rhine. It comes complete with an excellent restaurant, original modern artworks and one of Cologne's most popular private theatres.

Stern am Rathaus

Nestled in the heart of the Altstadt, between the Rathaus and the Dom, this small family-run hotel couldn't wish for a more central location. There are only ninw rooms here, but each is spotlessly clean, modern in design, and equipped with everything you'd expect from an international chain hotel.

Savoy Hotel

The individually designed rooms in the Savoy are themed around different world destinations. So whether you're slumbering in the San Tropez suite or sleeping in the Samurai room, this smart boutique hotel allows you to travel the world without wandering any further than the wardrobe. It also has an excellent restaurant and spa facilities.

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.