A bit of insight
Cologne has a history that goes back more than 2000 years. After Berlin, Hamburg and Munich, it is Germany’s fourth most populated city. Situated in the North-Rhine Westphalia, it is the region’s cultural center, with 30 museums and more than 100 galleries. The University of Cologne, is itself one of the oldest universities of europe!
By train Cologne is a 30 minute ride to Dusseldörf and Bonn, an hour 1/2 away from Aachen (Aix-la-chapelle) and 2 hours away from Maastricht. This allows a lot of nice day-trips if you are staying for a few days.
Heavily bombed during World War II (35,268 tonnes of bombs…), it has gone under massive reconstruction which results in a unique and varied cityscape. After the reunification, the city prospered mainly because of the implementation and growth of two industries: media companies and traffic infrastructures. Number of media compagnies were catered for Media Park, a focal point in Cologne, that includes the KölnTurm,
The KölnTurm, or Colonius Tower, is one of Cologne’s highest buildings, you can almost see it from every street of the city. It is an impressive telecommunications tower, that was completed in 1981. It has a restaurant, a view point and a cafeteria, but is closed to the public since 2009. It is 266m high, and you can recognize the red german telecommunications logo : Deutsche Telecom.
Media park is a quarter of urban renovation, in the north-west of Cologne. It is host to number of telecom and media compagnies, and the neighborhood was ready in 2004. During our trip, we stayed in The NH Collection Hotels, Köln Mediapark , and it was beautiful! it is a modern four-star hotel, with a beautiful entrance, we were offered free lemonade upon arrival, and the rooms and bar are gorgeous! The room overlooked a small lake, a bridge and narrow houses. As the sun woke us up, we found motivation in the scenery and the view to go explore the city. And make the most of our trip.
The second industry that helped Cologne economic growth post-war was the permanent improvement of the diverse traffic infrastructure, which made Cologne one of the most easily accessible metropolitan areas in Central Europe. For the short time we stayed, we noticed how efficient the train system was, and how easy it was to hop from one city to another. It is definitely a good starting point for anyone looking to explore Europe, with connexions to Belgium, Holland and the rest of Germany. Furthermore, the Cologne region is an important center for the motor industry. nearly every fourth new car registered in Germany comes from the region. A host of reputable car manufacturers have their production plants or their main international sales and marketing offices here. Numerous motor vehicle manufacturers have their German headquarters in the Cologne region. As we were waiting for a train to take us to the outskirts of the city, we casually saw a few thousand cars being transported…! ( I started filming after a few minutes in!)
A few things you could eat :
Cologne is a vibrant and young city. We were unable to count the number of clubs, bars, pubs and restaurant at every street corner. You shouldn’t have a hard time finding a place to eat or go out. Prices vary a bit depending on where you are in the city, but most lunch and dinner offers are very reasonable (we ate very well for around 36 euros per lunch for 2 including drinks).
Here are a few places we appreciated:
Hans IM GLUCK – Tasty burgers with fresh meat and seasonal products. The interior was fun, with bamboo and service was impeccable. We had a hard time believing the place was a chain throughout Germany, it was THAT good. The staff is most international students, which makes t’s easy to order in a foreign language ( in case you forget your kölsch).
For sausages and beer:
Unfortunatly, we didn’t keep track of the restaurants we ate at for lunch. However, know that our lunches consisted in a bunch of sausages ,as we wanted to try all the different ones. We set our choices on : The Curry Wurst of course ( popular throughout entire Germany) and Nuremberg sausages ( again, it shouldn’t be hard to find some). I think we ate something like 3 currywurst each and 6 Nuremberg Sausages… You should also try their Sauerkraut and KartoffelSalad ( which is a potato salad). I have a theory that these tasty and heavy foods are popular in Germany, because beer is popular! The number of pubs and bars in the city speaks for itself. Cologne’s beer is the « Kölsch » , and you have no excuse not to give it a try.
Above: tasty Currywurst.
Below: Nuremberg sausages.
5 Tourist highlights
If we were to make a list of the best tourist attractions, here is what we would recommend:
The Kölner Dom.
A breath-taking experience. The Kölner Dom is Cologne’s most famous landmark. The cathedral is a UNESCO World-Heritage since 1996, due to it’s Gothic Architecture. Many travel here as a Christian pilgrimage. If you are in good shape and you aren’t subject to hear of heights, try climbing it’s 533 spiraled steps up to an exceptional viewpoint!
2.The NSDAP Document-Center
Awarded Museum of the year in 2004, this documentation center is a must-do for anyone interested in europe’s history and more particularly in the role Cologne played during WWII. The building of the NS Zentrum is located in what was the headquarters of the regional Gestapo. The prison cells in the basement are engraved with drawings and writings of former captives, and the upstairs rooms offer an educational tour on the apparatus of power, propaganda and the nazi ideology. I learned a lot, also, about war in Poland during WWII which I wasn’t very educated on, for exemple, that Warsaw resisted since the first invasion and never gave up on regaining liberty. Warsaw even had a secret army and an undergroung educational system and army during the war, supervised by a gouvernment that refused to give up on their people!
3.The Eau De Cologne Museum
Cologne is known for it’s Eau de Cologne. It is the first perfume in the world, and the museum is quite fun! It is compulsory that a guide accompanies you, and the boutique downstairs allows you to shop the perfect souvenir!
4. The Belgian Quarter
The artsy quarter of Cologne. We don’t know if many tourists know of this quarter, but it is quite relaxing to stroll around. A lot of terraces, restaurants, and colorful streets. We stopped for a currywurst on some church steps and cracked open a beer, while shooting pictures. It seemed very lively, we heard a lot of german and it had that buzzing alternative german vibe that you find in Berlin.
5. Find Bananas
Why? Many years ago, Thomas Baumgärtel started the to spray bananas on house walls. All the buildings he tagged had one thing in common : he approved the (art) display that was shown inside. The first use of the banana was in 1984. « Thomas Baumgärtel, is also known under the pseudonym Banana Sprayer and is a German street art pioneer, performance, and installation artist. He is more than just a painter in a classical sense, as his creativity includes drawings, photo-collagens, prints, and over-spraying of the old objects. The core element of his art is the banana, which he puts on walls, but also on canvases and paper » (widewalls.ch)
We found one at the entrance of the NSDokumentationzentrum which we talked about above!
And if, like us, you like activities that not everyone knows about :
Try out the Ehrenfeld quarter and the St- Ursula Basilik. We were very unlucky during our stay, as the basilica was closed and a museum we wanted to visit also. After 3h walk in every direction, I was just too tired to stay much in Ehrenfeld and we went back to the hotel. It is definitly on my list for my next trip, as I’ve read it to be one of Cologne’s growing hype quarters: