Getting around Cologne
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 five 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 (during December) the Christmas Markets.
Taxi Ruf (tel: +49 221 2882) is recommended.
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.
You’ll find all the major car hire companies in Cologne. Operators include Avis (tel: +49 221 913 0063; www.avis.de), Budget (tel: +49 6971 044 5596; www.budget.de), Europcar (tel: +49 221 139 2748; www.europcar.de) and Sixt (tel: +49 1805 252 525; www.sixt.de).
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 here while you wander around the city on foot.