Cologne (Köln in German) is the fourth-largest city in Germany and the largest in North Rhine-Westphalia. Cologne is a very green city with roughly 15% of the city covered in forests. The gem of Cologne is the Kölner Dom – and it is a must see. You won’t be alone with nearly 20,000 people visiting the cathedral daily. Construction on the cathedral began in 1248 and wasn’t completed until 1880. Most of Cologne was demolished during the second World War, however the Kölner Dom remained standing tall amidst the destruction. It is truly amazing to stand right under the Dom and gaze at all the intricate details.
This city comes alive during the Carnival season. It’s characterized by a form of tolerance that allows everyone to be happy in his or her own way. Its motto is “Jede Jeck es anders” (Every fool is different) – a slogan that is taken to heart in Cologne, not only during carnival but all year round. We have yet to experience Carnival in Cologne, but we expect to update you as soon as we do!
Views not to miss:
The Dom from the East side of the Rhine River
The best way to get there is to start at the main train station and follow a walking bridge along side the commuter train in and out of the main train station. This bridge can be walked in 10 minutes across the Rhine for a spectacular view of the Dom and the Rhine River. Enjoy the view like a local and grab some wine and take in the sights from the steps along the Rhine.
Things to do:
Walk Along the Rhine
Stop into the shops and restaurants along the way. There are beautifully colored buildings and unique architecture to stop and admire. The best part of this walk is to just stop and enjoy the serenity of life passing by.
Cologne Beach Club Km 689
This beach club boast sandy beaches with views across the Rhine to the cathedral. At the Rhine river kilometer no. 689, about 1200 tons of sand are dumped during the summer months bringing the beach to the Rhineland.
The magic of Christmas will be felt throughout the festively decorated city. The aroma of baked apples, cinnamon biscuits and mulled wine will waft through the alleys, and many differently themed Christmas markets will invite people to stroll, shop and explore. The larger Christmas markets are held in downtown Cologne near the Dom arranged around a huge Christmas tree.
Places to eat:
Bastian’s, Auf dem Berlich 3, 50667 Köln– Bakery and Brunch
We were pleasantly surprised to stumble across more than just fresh croissants and coffee at this brunch location with such a German feel. The restaurant was packed full when we showed up, without a reservation of course. In Germany, it is very normal to share a table with strangers when at a full restaurant. Since this place has very long tables with bench seating, the sharing opportunities are almost unlimited. We were squeezed in between two groups in the middle of a long table, so making a reservation ahead of time wasn’t necessary. If you are looking for American-style breakfast options, make this a stop on your itinerary.
Bagatelle, Teutoburger Str. 17, 50678 Köln – French style tapas
There is plenty of seating inside and outside (which is very enjoyable on a nice day). We sat outside and ordered the Gebackener Schäfskase auf Tomaten-sugo (baked cheese in tomato sauce), Gratinierter Ziegenkäse auf Orangen-Chili-Marmelade (goat cheese with orange chili jam), Pikante Lamm-Häckballchen (lamb meatballs in rosemary and tomato sauce), and Coquille St. Jacques – Jakobsmuscheln (Scallops in basil sauce with lemon and saffron). Each plate is 4 or 5 Euros, so you can’t go wrong ordering a few dishes written in German and hoping for the best. That was our approach and everything turned out delicious.
Brüsseler, Brüsseler Pl. 1, 50674 Köln – Traditional Cologne style pub
This pub/restaurant has a very relaxed atmosphere which gives you a true feeling of Cologne. There will likely not be any tourists at the pub, however the servers will still be genuinely friendly as you stumble through the 5 German words you know. Here the only German you need to know is: Hänchen. Go here for dinner and order the hänchen and pommes frites (roasted chicken and French fries) for about 9 Euros. After ordering the local Kölsch, you will leave with a 10 Euros meal for dinner.
Brauere zur Mälzmuhle, Heumarkt 6, 50667 Köln – German brewhouse
This is your typical German brewhouse, the servers walk around with trays of Kölsch that unless you say no, you’re drinking Kölsch for the night. Once severed your first beer, you will continue to get a refill until you place your coaster on top of your existing beer. Don’t try to order any other type of beer, it will not be welcomed as a preference, the only preference in Cologne is Kölsch. The food is also very German, so your choices are between brats, schnitzels, and pork. Whatever you pick I assure you it will be delicious.
Bulgogi Haus, Neusser-Str. 654 · 50737 Köln – Asian BBQ
We have already been to Bulgogi Haus a few times now because one, my love for Asian food is growing while in Europe, and two, the experience is unlike any other in Köln. It is nice to change up the typical German brauhaus every once in a while, and this place vastly differs from most dining experiences you will have in Germany. There is no menu, and just one price per person for a full appetizer bar and an assortment of uncooked meats (beef, pork and duck) and seafood. The raw meats and fish come in stages and every plate is cooked by you right at the table on a coal-stone grill. You are also given the suggestion by the waiters to use the lettuce from the appetizer bar and other Asian salad sides to compile with the cooked meat into a mini pocket for eating in one bite. The waiters are extremely friendly, guiding you through the steps and best practices for having an enjoyable dinner. Dining can typically take up to two hours – so don’t rush and just enjoy the experience. Definitely make a reservation ahead of time!
Visit and enjoy Cologne for its food, beer, and friendliest people in northern Germany!