Cologne tours and excursions
There is a raft of companies competing for your attention when it comes to arranging boat tours in Cologne. Whichever you choose, cruising along the Rhine lets you see the city from another perspective. Some allow you to hop off when you reach the zoo; others keep you on board for the whole trip. Recommended operators include Köln-Düsseldorfer (KD) and Dampfschiffahrt Colonia.Tel: +49 221 208 8318.
The tourist board offers a pretty comprehensive range of city walking tours. Themes focus on perfume and chocolate, crime stories, dizzying heights and, of course, the best places to gulp down Cologne's favourite drink: kölsch.Tel: +49 221 346 430.
Kölsch tasting tours
More than “just beer,” kölsch forms a fundamental part of Cologne’s identity. Barmen swizzle the glasses in their hands to make it look like a magic trick and – unless you stop them – the drinks keep on coming. Notches or piles of beer mats are typically used to calculate the bar bill at the end of an evening. A self-guided app tour can tell you more about the drink – and the best places to quaff it.Website: http://www.gpsmycity.com/tours/beerhouses-tour-in-cologne-4675.html
The Bimmelbahn can be a fun way to get about if you or the people you’re travelling with have any mobility issues. This brightly coloured tourist train snakes through Cologne, stopping off at the Chocolate Museum, the Zoo, the Botanical Gardens and the cable car. If you’re lucky enough to be here in the run up to Christmas, you can make the most of the festive cheer by catching the train to the Christmas Markets.Tel: +49 221 709 9970.
Once an industrial powerhouse known principally for coal and steel, Germany’s seventh largest city has immersed itself in culture over the last few years, earning the title of European Capital of Culture in 2010. Highlights include a Van Gogh museum, a selection of crown jewels and the Zollverein Coal Mine, which has UNESCO World Heritage Status. In 2017 Essen was awarded with the title European Green Capital. There are many themed cycle routes in and around this very green city. Essen is less than an hour from Cologne by train.Tel: +49 201 887 2333.
Bonn, the former capital of the Federal Republic, is a popular and easy 27km (16-mile) side trip from Cologne taking 25 minutes by train. Highlights include the 18th-century old town hall, the market square, Beethoven's house and the Bonn Museum of Art. The city also celebrates its most famous son, Ludwig van Beethoven, and you can visit his former house. It is also noteworthy that Bonn is one of Germany's carnival hotspots.Tel: +49 228 775 000.
Phantasialand at Brühl, 15km (9 miles) from Cologne, is a theme park (open April to October) with six theme areas, several roller coasters including the very long and fast roller coaster Taron and two hotels. Both the food and the shows take you into the fantasy versions of Asia and Africa and then off into Aztec and Mayan Mexico. Brühl itself is a pleasant town boasting two UNESCO World Heritage palaces.Tel: +49 1806 366 200.