For the first time in years, we went on a summer trip! From Thursday 31st of July till Sunday 3rd we went traipsing through Cologne (or Köln in German).
Cologne is very easy to reach by train (our choice of transport), but I believe it also has an airport and is pretty decently reachable by car. If you go by train, the moment you get out of the station you’ll be confronted with the most dominating feature of the city: the Dom. This cathedral is built smack-dab in the middle of the city, and it’s huge. When you first see it, your gaze will be pulled up… and up… and up… until it reaches the insanely tall spires on top. Making a Dom-selfie is an obligatory part of any Cologne trip.
What I love about the city centre of Cologne is that it’s so compact. You can visit the cathedral, several museums, have a drink at Starbucks, go shopping, chill at the grass near the Rhine, and then have dinner in a nice restaurant, without ever having to walk more than five minutes. There is almost no need to use public transport, unless you really want to see something specific.
The Dom cathedral: It’s definitely worth it to take a look inside the cathedral (which is completely free) and be impressed with the extremely high ceilings and lovely stained glass windows. If you like seeing lots of catholic bling, the treasury is also worth checking out (€5 for adults, €2.50 for students).
Romano-Germanic museum (Romisch-Germanisches museum): Built directly next to the Dom, this museum is easy to find. They have a nice collection of archeological finds from in and around Cologne. I especially liked the grave stones they found. It’s not the best Roman museum I’ve seen, but for the low price it’s still good value (€9 for grown ups, €5 for students).
Museum Ludwig: Also built next to the Dom, Museum Ludwig houses an impressive collection of Picasso’s and other pieces of modern art. I love how the museum doesn’t just focus on post-1960 art (which I find hard to make sense of) but also has many paintings from around 1920-1940. When we were there it also had a lovely temporary exposition on the development of photography through the ages. It’s the most enjoyable modern art museum I’ve been to so far. Entry is €9 for adults and €6.50 for students and worth every cent.
Cologne Zoological Garden (Kölner Zoo): The zoo is somewhat outside of the center, but is easy to reach with the tube (called the U-bahn). The enclosures were all incredibly neat and well-cared for, and the animals seemed very relaxed. We went on a week-day, and it was busy but not too much. I especially liked their tigers, cappibaras and camels. The zoo is big enough that you can easily spend three to four hours in it. Entry is €14.50 for adults and €12 for students. The entry fee also includes access to their aquarium, but by the time we saw all of the zoo I was too tired to really check that one out.
Cologne City museum (Kölnisches Stadtmuseum): This is the cutest museum I’ve ever seen. It has everything Cologne, from knight harnesses and swords to items from both World Wars to paintings of important people from Cologne. It’s incredibly diverse yet small, and no one seems to go there. I heartily recommend it. Entrance is €5 for adults and €2.50 for students.
The Rhine: Next to the Rhine are endless cafes and restaurants, and for hot summer days there are long stretches of grass where people sit in groups or lay down on blankets. Apart from some cigarette buds the grass is clean, but you have to be careful when sitting on the stones. Many Germans drink beer here, and glass splinters have gotten between the pavement tiles. There are also some trees to provide some shade if necessary. It’s a great place to sit down and enjoy the weather.
Cologne is a great city to visit when you’re interested in a weekend away, or if you happen to be in the neighbourhood. It was pretty crowded, especially on Saturday, but inside the museums it was quite manageable. The food is very good and not too expensive, and service in restaurants is amazing (in the four restaurants we visited, we never had to wait longer than 15 minutes for our main dish). Although Germans aren’t exactly known for their proficiency in foreign languages, it happened many times that although I started a conversation in German, they would still talk English back because they knew I wasn’t from there.
Although I’m not someone that’s very big on shopping, Cologne has quite a lot to offer for the shopping-lover. The main streets are brim-full with the usual brands, but they also have some fun other stores in between. I managed to find a nice red summer dress, a skirt, three books, some Lush stuffs, and a couple of pens and a notebook from Muji. Not pictured here are my Pylones goodies, which I’ll show in a separate post. It took us by surprise that all shops are closed on Sundays (even though we should have known), so that’s something to take into consideration.
Good weather, great food, low prices for museums, and a friendly atmosphere made our Cologne trip a big success.
For more travel, also check out my post on Stockholm, Sweden.