Cologne

Cologne (German: Köln, Ripuarian: Kölle) is situated on the river Rhein in North Rhine-Westphalia and is the fourth largest city in Germany with around one million residents. It is one of the nation's media, tourism and business hotspots, and is considered one of the most liberal cities in Germany.

Cologne has a rich history reaching as far back as the times of the ancient Roman Empire, when it was founded and remained a constantly inhabited important regional centre since then. Compared to other German and European cities, the ancient and medieval Cologne was relatively large, covering most of the modern-day city centre, and therefore a wealth of architectural heritage can be found across the city ranging from pre-Christian times to strikingly modern buildings, with a high concentration of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, culminating with the magnificent Cathedral (Dom).

Cologne is, however, not only a tourist destination, but on an equal note a major economic centre, a globally important trade fair location, a culture and media hotspot and a major transportation hub. This equal mix of roles and functions is permeable throughout the city and provides it with a constant inflow of various visitors, as well as a very diverse population mix. This all culminates during the traditional Karneval, and makes Cologne one of the most-visited destinations in Germany.

Understand

Orientation

The districts of Cologne

Cologne lies on both side of the river Rhine, which flows through it in a northerly direction. The left hand, or western side, is Cologne proper with the Old Town (Altstadt), the famous cathedral and most landmarks and museums. The right side, or eastern side, used to be a separate town called Deutz - now Deutz is a neighbourhood of Cologne.

Cologne is divided into 9 districts (Stadtbezirke), numbered from 1 to 9. Stadtbezirk 1, called Innenstadt ("inner city"), is probably the one most tourists will spend all of their time in, as it contains most of the city's points of interest. It is also the only district that lies on both sides of the Rhine, as it includes Deutz. Districts 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 are on the western bank of the Rhine, and districts 7, 8 and 9 on the eastern bank, surrounding the Innenstadt.

The subdivision of the Innenstadt

Every Stadtbezirk is further divided into Stadtteile (literally "city parts", or "neighbourhoods"). The Innenstadt includes Altstadt-Nord and Alstadt-Sued, two parts of the historic Old Town of Cologne facing the Rhine, divided by the L111 thoroughfare running from east to west (with the street names Cäcilienstraße – Neumarkt – Hahnenstraße), starting at the Deutzer Bruecke (bridge over the Rhine). The Altstadt is surrounded by a ring of wide avenues running over the former city walls of Cologne. They all have street names ending with the word Ring.

The part of Innenstadt lying on the outer side of the ring is the Neustadt, or "new town". Neustadt is further divided into Neustadt-Nord and Neustadt-Sued, also separated by L111 (Aachener Strasse). Both parts of the Neustadt form a crescent embracing the Altstadt and reaching the Rhine on either side thereof. Finally, facing the Altstadt and Neustadt on the other (eastern) side of the Rhine is the Stadtteil of Deutz, which completes the Innenstadt.

History

Cologne is one of the oldest cities in Germany, having been founded and established in the first century AD, as the Roman Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium. "Cologne" is the French version of the city's name, which has become standard in English as well. It has a traditional, strong rivalry with the neighbouring city of Düsseldorf, the capital of North Rhine-Westphalia, although this is mostly manifested by a number of jocular references made to one another in both cities and constant bickering as to whose local beer is best (in Cologne, it is obviously Kölsch).

Climate

The climate of North Western Germany is changeable, with seasonal changes and day-to-day weather often comparable to that of the England or Northern France. Travellers to Cologne can expect the hottest time of the year to be July (in July 2010 the temperatures were above 30 degrees Celsius for several days), the coldest is January (temperature hovering around the freezing mark) and the month with the most rainfall is June.

Tourist office

  KölnTourismus, Unter Fettenhennen 19 (directly opposite the front entrance of the cathedral, take the U-Bahn to "Dom/Hbf"),  +49 221 2213-0400. M-F 09:00-22:00, Sa-Su 10:00-18:00. The Cologne Tourist Office offers a wealth of information for the traveller who wishes to fill their itinerary with activities around the city. Ask about guide books that are available, most of which provide information for free.

Talk

The distinctive flavour to the city of Cologne is often linked to the city's inhabitants, or Kölsche, who take an enormous amount of pride in their city. Cologne is a traditionally Ripuarian-speaking city, though this has mostly been replaced by German, which is now the main language of the city. English-speaking guides and information are available for many of the landmarks of the city. For tourists who speak German and wish to practice it, the citizens usually have a lot of patience with those trying to come to grips with the language. Cologne's citizens are very friendly and jovial people, welcoming tourists of all types and with all interests.

German is of course the language of this city but it is very easy to find information in French and English, also sometimes in Spanish and Japanese. Due to a large number of immigrants, Persian, Turkish, Polish and Russian are also widely spoken. Announcements in the main train station (Hauptbahnhof) are in German, French and English. Like many German cities and areas, Cologne also has a local dialect, called Kölsch, however all speakers will also be familiar with German.

Away from the landmarks, workers of the Deutsche Bahn (German railways) often speak English reasonably well, and ticket machines have a language selection feature. In general, older people in Cologne tend to have little or no knowledge of English, while younger Germans and those working in the business world tend to be reasonably proficient. Language is rarely a strong barrier, so this shouldn't be too much of a worry for the average tourist. Just approach a friendly native and use a smile on your face.

Get in

By plane

By train

Central Railway Station

Cologne is served by two major train stations:

  Köln Hauptbahnhof. and
  Köln Messe/Deutz, Ottoplatz 7, 50679 Köln.

Cologne is linked with Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris by Thalys and ICE High Speed trains. Additionally, the Frankfurt airport (IATA:FRA) has direct service to Cologne and is within one hour by ICE trains.

By bus

Cologne has an (inter)national bus station (ZOB); it is located at Breslauer Platz on the north side of the Hauptbahnhof. Direct daily buses from Serbia and alternate daily buses from Montenegro. Since about 2012 there are also a number of domestic buses

By car

Cologne requires all cars to have a "Low Emissions" sticker in order to drive around in the city centre Low Emission Zone ("Umweltzone"). Information on obtaining a sticker (which must be done at least several weeks in advance) is available here.

Autobahns A1, A4, A3, A57, A555 lead to Cologne. During rush hour the streets are heavily congested, also due to massive construction of a new subway tunnel Nord-Süd Stadtbahn, crossing half the city centre.

For cheap parking, with quick connections to central Cologne, use park and ride ("park und ride"). At some stations, parking is free when you present a validated transit ticket on exit.

Get around

Subway station Hbf/Breslauer Platz and right is a S-Bahn train on Hauptbahnhof

Cologne has an excellent public transport network consisting of trams, local trains and buses. Bicycles are also available for hire on the northern side of the Hauptbahnhof. Local transport systems rarely provide announcements in English, but network maps are commonly available to assist with your journey. Those wishing to explore areas away from the central city should plan their journey and potential connections before leaving. The KVB (Kölner Verkehrs-Betriebe) website is a good source of public transport information.

tram in subway station

Cologne has a very good subway/tram and bus network "KVB" (Kölner Verkehrsbetriebe); one- and three-day-passes are available. The tickets are valid for subway, tram and regional train within the VRS-network. Trips within the city limits require zone 1b tickets (2014: €2.80). For short trips of up to 4 stops on subway, tram or bus there is also the slightly cheaper "Kurzstrecke" (short trip ticket). A map of the network should be found at any station, and official Kölner Verkehrsbetriebe network maps are available online.

Cologne's subway and tram-system, or U-Bahn, is a mixture between both systems: A subway line can go on street-level and end up as a tram or vice versa. There are vending machines or ticket-offices at larger stations The trains and buses also have vending-machines. See the public bus, tram and subway-company KVB for printable maps of the bus/tram/subway system and here for their official street map (also found here) of Cologne.

Regional Trains are known as "S-Bahn", "Regional-Bahn" and "Regional Express". Most of them don't have ticket vending-machines so remember to buy a ticket at the station.

Cologne has, like Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt, a Call A Bike - System. After you register for an account on-line, it will charge your credit-card a per minute fee. You can pick up or drop off one of the silver-red bikes anywhere in the city. See here for details. It is also possible to rent a bike at many different places, by bike is maybe the best way to go around in the city.

But, on the whole, the centre of Cologne is not that big for a city of one million. It is entirely feasible to walk from one end of the centre, say, the Rudolfplatz, to the other end, say, the Cathedral, in half an hour.

Student Travel Tip: Student travel (age 20 or less) can be very cheap to and from Cologne, as well as around the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia. The German rail company (DB: Deutsche Bahn) offer a 'SchöneFerienTicket NRW' during student holiday times and allows free travel throughout North Rhine-Westphalia on local buses, trams, U-Bahn, S-Bahn and Regional Trains. Prices range from around €54 for summer holidays to €25.50 for Easter holidays, but prices and times change from year to year.

These tickets are available to anyone with valid student identification (student union card, enrolment card, etc.) and personal identification (passport, driving licence, etc.). Note: the ticket is only valid for the student holiday dates of North Rhine-Westphalia and the ticket is not valid for high speed express trains. Visit/contact Deutsche Bahn for more information before travelling to Germany.

See

Cologne Cathedral

Historical attractions

Fish market place and Groß St. Martin (Great Saint Martin Church)
Gürzenich dance hall

Remains of city walls and fortifications

Hahnentorburg on Rudolfplatz

Veedel - City Quarters

Cologne is well known for its "Veedel" or traditional neighbourhoods.

Other attractions

View at the Kranhäuser in the Rheinauhafen
Rheinpark along the right bank of the River Rhine
Flora and Botanical Garden

Museums and Galleries

Cologne has one of the world's best collections of museums and galleries for a city of its size. As well as world class museums of art and archaeology, Cologne boasts two museums of ecclesiastical art, both housed in architecturally stunning buildings. There is also an ethnographic museum, a chocolate museum, the German Sport Museum and an abundance of Roman remains.

One can purchase a MuseumsCard from one of the municipal museums (such as the first five listed below). The single card cost €15, the family card, which costs €28, entitles 2 adults and 2 children (under 18) free admission to each of the municipal museums during two consecutive opening days. On its first day of validity, it can also be used as a ticket on all buses and trams on the cologne transportation system VRS.

Museum of Chocolates at Rheinauhafen

Südstadt

Churches and other religious buildings

Deutz

Dominated by two very utilitarian land uses, the fairgrounds in the north and the actually functional freight harbour of Cologne in the south, Deutz is not without long history and much heritage and charm in its built environment as well. While the left Rhine bank is clearly the dominant one in Cologne, Deutz is where you can get the best views of it across the Rhine, and this is a reason alone to cross the river and get there, but by far not the only one.

Rheinpark

Itineraries

Do

Cologne's strong side is its cultural life. For latest information on what is happening around in town, get the StadtRevue for €2, Kölner for €2 or Live for free.

COLOUR Cologne party at the 2008 Cologne Pride

Tours

Spa and Massage

Beauty and spa treatments are popular in Cologne.

Just be aware that in typical German style, all sauna areas (referred to as Saunalandschaften, i.e. Sauna landscapes) are mixed (apart from the odd Damentag) and that bathing costumes are banned from them for hygienic reasons. Yup. Starkers, everybody. Do take a bathrobe (to keep you from the cold outside the saunas) and a large towel (to put under you in the saunas, no sweating on the wood, please) with you, though. Do not draw hasty conclusions either: mixed nudity does not make those places dens of sin, quite the contrary. Nudity is considered as the only appropriate outfit in saunas, and it all happens in a disciplined, wholesome, safe and respectful atmosphere. Possibly one of the highest forms of German civilisation one can experience. Gawkers and bathing costume-wearers will be expelled by the staff without qualms, so don't even think you can get away with playing the tourist who didn't know, it won't make a difference. That very matter-of factly, unerotic approach to mixed nudity may well turn out to be a revelation to many visitors open-minded enough to give it a try and go with the flow. You've been warned!

Sauna:

Massage:

Buy

The main shopping street of Cologne is the Schildergasse, extending from the Neumarkt. Both the Schildergasse and Neumarkt, as well as pedestrianized side streets extending from them (in particular the Hohe Strasse leading towards the Dom), feature numerous department stores, boutiques and other high-profile (and, often, high-price) retail establishments.

Department stores

High-end fashion

Although it is Duesseldorf that brands itself as the German capital of fashion, Cologne's Altstadt also features a wide range of high-end fashion stores with a selection of top German and global brands.

Records

There is an abundance of record stores in Cologne, but most are hidden in non-tourist quarters.

Books

Eat

Cologne has a wide variety of restaurants, both German and otherwise, as a glance in the colored pages of the local telephone book will illustrate.

Restaurant at Fischmarkt/Frankenwerft: Ständige Vertretung (Permanent Mission)

Traditional Scene

One can eat pretty well in most traditional-style Kölsch restaurants, and in fact as a visitor, you should try some of the local food, which is quite rustic, but tasty, hearty fare.

The brewery taps (Früh, Sion, Pfaffen, Malzmühle etc. in the old town south of the Dom) are worth taking note of to that respect, although they tend to be expensive for what you get.

Places out of the way such as Schreckenskammer and Max Stark (north of the train station, the former being within crawling distance of the Station Backpackers Hostel), Päffgen (Friesenstrasse) and both of Cologne independent brewpubs (Hellers Brauhaus on Roonstrasse and Braustelle in Ehrenfeld) offer cheaper, better food that the old town tourist traps. Besides, most of these places have tons of atmosphere, which doesn't hurt ! You may also experience the deadly dry wit of the Köbes (traditional name of the blue-clad waiters) in most of those places. If it happens to you, don't get upset, just enter the game, send the Köbes packing with a dig and a smile and you'll be all right.

You'll mostly find typical Rheinland dishes in those traditional Kneipen. Classics include :

- Halver Hahn : nice big slab of Dutch gouda with a rye roll (Röggelchen)

- Himmel und Äd mit Flönz : fried black pudding with mashed potatoes ("earth"), apple sauce ("heaven") and fried onions.

- Soorbrode / Sauerbraten : joint marinated in vinegar with raisins, usually served with red cabbage and a kloss (potato dumpling). The joint may be beef or horsemeat, so you may want to ask first...

- Dicke Bunne mit Speck : boiled white beans with hefty boiled bacon slices on top.

- Schweinshaxe (grilled); Hämchen (cooked): pig's leg, usually a bit of a monster (ranges from 600 to 1400 g, including the bone)

- Rievekoochen / Reibekuchen : flat fried potato cakes usually on offer once a week, and served with a variety of sweet or savoury toppings, which may include apple sauce, Rübenkraut (the beet-sourced equivalent to black treacle) or smoked salmon with horseradish cream.

Ethnic Scene

If you are looking for a snack, you can either head for one of the Middle-Eastern or Asian places, or you can make use of the traditional fast food places like Mc Donalds, Burger King etc. Italian restaurants in Cologne seem to attempt to aim for a higher quality than in the UK, though it is debatable whether they achieve it, and whether their prices (often 150-200% of UK prices) are justified. There are several Indian restaurants across the city, which serve a fair fare, though the visiting Brit may be slightly disappointed to find that German 'curry culture' is rather akin to that of the UK in the 1960s: menus are neither large and varied, nor regionalised and specialist, and although ingredients are fresh, the food without exception appears to be tamed-down for the conservative German palate and the cooks are rather hesitant to spice it up even if you ask for it. "Clay Oven" (Luxemburger Straße near Südbahnhof) and "Bombay" (near Eifelstraße tram station) do make a vindaloo that will satisfy the most hardy customer, though. More recently, Japanese and Thai restaurants have become more common; both are quite expensive.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

The flying buttresses and pinnacles of the Medieval east end of Cologne Cathedral

Typical Cologne beer is called "Kölsch" and served in bars around town in small glasses, called "Stangen", of 0.2l. That way the beer is always fresh and cold. Don't worry, waiters will be fast to bring you a new one once your old one is (almost) finished. In more traditional bars and especially the breweries, the waiter (called "Köbes" in local language) will even hand you a fresh Kölsch without being asked, so it is easy to lose track of how much you drank. He will put a pencil line on your coaster for each beer that you drank, this will be the basis for your bill, so do not lose it! To stop the beer from coming, leave your glass almost half full until you have asked for the bill or put your coaster on top of your empty glass.

If you buy bottled Kölsch, take either "Reissdorf", "Früh", "Gaffel" or "Mühlen", which are rated highest by Cologne citizens. Those looking for a beer with a little more bitterness might like to try Küppers (there are about 30 more brands).

There are so many bars and pubs to choose from that you could spend most of the night going from one bar to the next. A really great bar is the Irish Pub, Flanagan's, in Altstadt located down below a building. Almost everybody speaks English in there if that's what you are looking for, and they have a really great Karaoke night on Sundays. The clientele is very friendly. For a comprehensive list, see this website, bars listed on the right.

Kölsch

Brauhaus Früh am Dom

Club

Sleep

Cologne is an internationally important trade fair city, with expansive fairgrounds in Deutz. The hotel rates rise multi-fold during important fairs. If you do not have to, try not staying in Cologne during those. Alternatively, you can try finding accommodation in Dusseldorf, which is a short train ride away and is usually not affected by the rate hikes (but has its own trade fair calendar, so mind it as well).

Camping

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay safe

Criminal activity in Cologne is similar to other big cities. Tourists should take normal safety precautions, particularly in the city centre, where pickpockets are known to be active. Also, be careful on the Ring, which is full of clubs and night-time crowds in the streets. During both day and night, it is advisable to be careful in outlying neighbourhoods like Chorweiler, Porz, Seeberg, Ostheim, Bocklemünd, Ossendorf, and Vingst. In general, avoid getting into fights and stay away from drunk people.

Cope

Religious services

Holy mass in Catholic churches near to the central station:

Go next

International

Due to Cologne's proximity to the German/Belgian/Dutch border weekend trips to foreign destinations are easy to arrange. Thalys operates high speed trains to Paris and Brussels, and Deutsche Bahn to Amsterdam, making each city only a few hours away. You can also travel to Maastricht (a city in the Netherlands with a beautiful city centre where the Maastricht Treaty of the European Union was signed in 1992) for a low cost by taking a train to Aachen then by bus to Maastricht – See: Aachen#From The Netherlands for details.

Routes through Cologne

Brussels Aachen  Paris Gare du Nord  Köln  End
Duisburg Düsseldorf  Dortmund  Munich  Siegburg/Bonn Frankfurt Airport


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, March 28, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.