Co-o-logne

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Paul Wojnicki reveals why Cologne is possibly Germany’s coolest city…

Cologne may only be Germany’s fourth largest city, but it’s almost certainly its capital of cool.  There’s more than enough to see and do to keep you coming back for years; a first class nightlife, UNESCO heritage, legendary  countryside nearby and year round cultural events. Here are five reasons that you simply have to visit Cologne at some point in the next year…

The Christmas Markets
You could pop over to a faux-German market in your nearest big city I suppose, and pretend that you’re having an authentic experience. Or you could head over to Cologne and experience the real thing in one of the seven- yes seven- Christmas markets there instead. Indeed Cologne almost always features in lists of “the best” Christmas markets, whether that be in print or on the web. There’s literally something for everyone’s taste and virtually all of them have spectacular backdrops, from the world famous cathedral, the old town and the harbour, to the risqué pink and purple stalls of the Gay and Lesbian Market with its not-so-traditional wares, such as chocolate penis lollypops.

A great place to get high
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We’re talking legal highs, naturally, not of the chemical variety. Cologne has some of the greatest places to get yourself up in the air in Europe. The obvious place to start is the south tower of the cathedral, since it’s the city’s most iconic building. The downside is that you have to haul yourself up 533 steps to do this, and once at the top you’re missing out on a view of the city’s most iconic building.
Lazier folks might want to try the cable car, which was the first European cable car to cross a river and which has carried a whopping 15 million passengers since. This way you get to appreciate aerial views of the Dom as well as the old town and the Rhine. It can be a little nerve wrecking though dangling by a thread for almost a kilometre- even if it is considered Cologne’s safest form of transport- so the more acrophobic of you might want to consider the 100m high KölnTriangle, which is closer to the Dom and has a 360 degree outdoor viewing platform, with thick enough glass windows to keep you feeling safe.

Perfect for a twin city break
Thanks to the super-fast German rail network Cologne is within relatively easy reach of lots of German cities. Even the distant cities of Berlin and Munich are only a shade over 4 hours away and only cost as little as €19 each way. The international capitals of Amsterdam and Brussels are both easily reachable in 2 hrs 45 and 1 hr 50 respectively, while Paris and Basel are just over three hours away. Cologne is also something of a hub for international night trains with services to Vienna, Innsbruck, Warsaw and Prague.

Credit:  KölnTourismus GmbH

Credit: KölnTourismus GmbH

Nightlife
With more pubs per capita than any other city in Germany, more than seventy clubs, a thriving student population and Germany’s largest LGBT community you’re never going to be lost for somewhere to enjoy yourself on an evening in Cologne.
Hedonists generally make a beeline for the “party mile” of Zülpicher Straße as the night warms up. The sheer volume of cocktail bars and pubs are perfect for getting the night off to a good start. But you’ll be equally well catered for in the main tourist areas of the old town and around the Hauptbahnhof (main station) too. If you’re worried you won’t find your way to the club after drinking too much then head to Wartesaal am Dom which is set in a former waiting room right beneath the Hauptbahnhof station’s platforms and opposite the cathedral. House, soul and techno nights are run every Friday, in one of the most scenic and central of all the city’s nightspots. You’ll not have far to walk for the S-Bahn afterwards, how’s that for German efficiency?
Drinking on a budget?  Head to the area around Zülpicher Platz, on the Habsburgerring. Student friendly clubs like Das Ding and Cent Club have drinks for a little as a Euro and an exceptionally informal atmosphere, with no ridiculous dress code. There are plenty of chicer nightspots in this area- known locally as “the rings” but the prices become less friendly on the pocket accordingly.
A thriving LGBT scene is always a good barometer of how cool a city actually is and it’s estimated that one in ten inhabitants of Cologne is attracted to members of their own sex. Consequently a huge number of gay and lesbian bars and clubs are found across the city as is the energy, positivity and creativity you expect from such a forward thinking culture.

The romantic Rhine

Credit:  KölnTourismus GmbH

Credit: KölnTourismus GmbH


The Rhine is one of the world’s most famous river valleys, with castles perched on cliffs and hilltops and myths and legends aplenty. Specialist river cruises can run into the thousands of pounds however, which can be out of the price range of budget conscious travellers, as well as those with limited time. Still that needn’t preclude you from setting sail from Cologne as KD Lines run a daily ferry from Cologne to Konigswinter, around thirty miles downriver.
Once you reach Konigswinter you can climb- or use the funicular- to reach the top of a hill/mountain known ominously as Drachenfels (or Dragons Rock). This is the place where Siegfried- Germany’s version of King Arthur, with a dash of Jon Snow- supposedly slayed a dragon. The ruins of a castle sit at the summit which has spectacular views all the way back to Cologne. It’s little wonder that the legendary traveller and hedonist Lord Byron immortalised the spot in his poetry. Be sure to stop at 19th century Drachenburg on the way down. The castle sits half way up the hill and is agonisingly beautiful both inside and out, even if it’s only a couple of hundred years old.
It’s an easy day trip from the city and a quick taste of how beautiful the Rhine is; catch one of the regular regional trains back to Cologne as it only takes around an hour, a quarter of the time the ferry takes.   

Getting there
Cologne is easily reached by Eurostar with one way tickets starting at just £45. You’ll need to change train in Brussels Midi but this is included in the price of your ticket.

Where to stay
We stayed at the AZIMUT Hotel Cologne City Centre which is right next to the Hansaring S-Bahn station, or a 15 minute walk from the Dom. There are plenty of small restaurants and cafes in the vicinity and the river Rhine is easy to reach. The rooms are large for a city hotel and the staff extremely friendly. Rooms start at a very reasonable £61 per night.

For more information on any attractions or hotels visit the super helpful team at www.cologne-tourism.com or step into their office opposite the cathedral, just outside the main train station.

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Credit: KölnTourismus GmbH

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