Ever since reading this New York Times article on Cologne, I’ve wanted to go…despite friends who have been to the city and said there wasn’t anything to see beyond the cathedral. Well, having spent two nights in Cologne last weekend, I have to, unfortunately, agree. There really isn’t that much to see and the town probably only warrants one night, tops. Oh well. I’m glad to have gone and crossed it off my travel bucket list, and see a German city besides Berlin. Here’s a quick recap on where we visited and ate and drank at…which probably was the best part of the trip – experiencing all the breweries!
What to See & Do
The main reason to come to Cologne is the impressive Gothic Cologne Cathedral (Kolner Dom). Stepping off the train station, you immediately come across this. For a better understanding of the cathedral, take a 7 euro guided tour, which is what we did. Tours take place 10:30am and 2:30pm on Saturdays and at 3pm on Sundays, and you meet at the interior front entrance of the church. They’re about one hour long and end with a 20 minute video with shots of the Cathedral.
After your Cathedral tour, take the pedestrian walkway on Hohenzollern Bridge and pause to take a look at the multitude of “love locks” adorning the gates. Along the way, you’ll probably turn around to snap some photos of the Cathedral, but save your camera battery for KoelnTriangle. About five minutes from the bridge, take the elevator up to the top of the observation deck for commanding views of the Cathedral and Cologne. I think it costs about three euros.
If you’re looking to do some shopping and strolling, take a walk from the Old Quarter to Ehrenstrasse Street. From Crumpler to Kiehl’s, Ehrenstrasse Street has a ton of stores for you to spend some euros.
After you’ve done all of this and realized you still have a whole Sunday to fill with something to do (like we did), perhaps take a side trip to Koblenz, a small German town (pictured above) along the Rhine River that’s about one hour away. Along the way, you’ll be able to see the small towns, castles and vineyards sitting alongside the river and upon arrival, take a stroll through the Old Town, ride up to the fort on the Cable Car, walk along the river and have an alfresco meal while watching the German families enjoy a sunny weekend. Oh, and be sure to take a look at the statue of Koblenz’s mascot – the rascal – and pose like him comme moi. You can stop by the modern-looking Tourism Office to purchase a 50 centime map of the town.
Where to Eat & Drink
As I mentioned, the best part of the trip was experiencing the different breweries. We went to three breweries that had completely different atmospheres and although I didn’t care for the German food (have I mentioned, I don’t eat meat?), it was fun to people-watch, try the different brews and see the local custom of how to order a beer. Apparently, the bartender/waiter just comes over with the a small glass of beer (it’s the shape of a long shot bottle), continues to swap it out for a fresh new one when you’re done and makes a mark on a coaster to keep track of how much you’ve drank. If you don’t want to drink until oblivion, put your coaster on top of your glass, and the bartender will know you’re done.
The first brewery we went to was Fruh. Located right by the Cathedral, a friend had recommended it and it was a great introduction to the breweries in Cologne. This is a large brewhouse with several rooms providing different atmospheres depending on what you’re looking for. So just decide whether you’d want to sit in a rowdier room, a more intimate room or a restaurant-style dining room. The next day, after our tour at Cologne Cathedral and our visit up KolnTriangle, we took a walk to Lommerzheim. Unlike Fruh, which definitely had a tourist clientele, the smaller Lommerzheim was packed with locals. They also have an outdoor area, which would be a great spot to enjoy a local brew on a sunny day. On our last night, we decided to try the giant schnitzels I had read about at Bei Oma Kleinmann since they apparently had a vegetarian “cheese schnitzel” I could eat. Well, those schnitzels are deifnitely huge…whereas my cheese schnitzel was basically a huge mozzarella stick in square shape. It was a lively atmosphere though with really friendly bartenders, so I would definitely recommend this bar/restaurant.
For a sweet mid-day snack, I had read about the nougatpretzel (pictured above) at Merzenich, so made sure to stop by this bakery chain to try one of these caramel, chocolate and nut-covered pretzels. Umm, I did not like it and neither did Rio. Why on Earth do people recommend that thing? Blech. While at Merzenich though, we did buy a Berliner, which was a pretty good sugar-covered jelly donut.
Where (Not) to Stay
We stayed at Hotel Lyskerchin, which is about a 20 minute walk from the train station. Since this four-star hotel was close to the Old Quarter and a good price (158 euros for two nights), I thought this would be a good option. Although it was fine for a place to rest your head (although your back would probably hurt the next day since the beds sink in), this is certainly not a four-star hotel as advertised. It is probably a 3 star hotel for European standards – I think the only reason it’s listed as four stars is because they have a sauna and swimming pool. Besides the sunken-in beds, the hotel charges an exorbitant amount for WiFi (17 euros for one day) and charges you to use the Internet on the hotel lobby’s computer too. As for amenities, they provide a shampoo/body wash combo, body lotion, nail file, blow dryer and a bar of soap. No shower cap and no q-tips included. I imagine if we asked, they might have been able to provide this though? On a positive note, we had forgotten our adaptor, and the hotel was able to lend us one during our stay.
Location-wise, it’s about a 20 minute walk to the train station and the cathedral, which is why I chose this hotel. However, after having spent a weekend in Cologne, I would’ve preferred a hotel that was closer to the lively shopping area (Ehrenstrasse Street) with the bars/restaurants. If you want to just stick with being close to the Old Town though and not venture out to areas of Cologne, this is probably fine. Either way, a taxi ride to breweries in a livelier area are only about 8 euros. A taxi ride to the train station is also about 8 euros.
Finally, as for the staff, they were professional but not the friendliest bunch. I would say their responses to questions and the check-in experience were pretty much no fuss, no muss. When asking for ideas on where to go, they didn’t really have much advice. Your best bet for that is to ask the tourism office.
Overall, it was a decent hotel, but I probably wouldn’t stay here again if I visited Cologne.
Ok, c’est tout and “danke” for reading my recap of Cologne!