Cologne Lowland (German: Kölner Bucht) is a region in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, centered around the cities of Cologne and Bonn on the river Rhine. With around 3 million inhabitants, it is one of Germany's most populated areas, and it houses many institutions of national and global stature, including world-renowned universities, federal institutions and business headquarters. Thanks to that and its excellent connectiveness, it sees one of Germany's highest numbers of visitors, both arriving in specific interests and casual tourists.
- Cologne (Köln) - the largest city in North Rhine-Westphalia
- Bad Honnef – the end of the Middle Rhine Valley
- Sankt Augustin
- Siegburg, close to Bonn and site of a ICE railway station on the Frankfurt-Cologne high-speed line
While named and centered around Cologne, the region is far more than just the city and its suburbs, with many interesting destinations outside of it, particularly Bonn. Densely populated and urbanized, it is however much less industrialized than Lower Rhine and Ruhr, as well as very green. It provides a nice, relaxed counterbalance to those, and serves as the state's hub for cultural events.
Continually inhabited since ancient Roman times, the region has a rich history, a wealth of monuments of which can be found all over. Furthermore, an exceptional number of museums present the region's history as well, and far beyond that, a startling variety of subjects with world-class exhibits.
Traditionally, Cologne has had a peculiar dialect, that might be hard to understand to even fluent foreign speakers of German. In practice, however, the language used in everyday matters by most is simply regular Hochdeutsch (standard German), with perhaps a few regionalisms in terms of vocabulary. The presence of a large migrant population from both other regions of Germany and other countries has helped to standardize German.
As Cologne is a university town and an international business and cultural hub, and Bonn the former capital, you will find most people conversant in at least English, and many other languages spoken as well.
The main airport in the region is Cologne-Bonn Konrad Adenauer Airport (IATA: CGN) in Cologne, connected to the region's light rail system, as well as Germany's high-speed train system - however only some high-speed trains passing through Cologne stop there. It is also well-connected to other European airports thanks to being the main hub for Germanwings, the low-fare short-haul subsidiary of Germany's flag carrier Lufthansa.
Other airports close by with more traffic, including many intercontinental flights, are Düsseldorf Airport and Frankfurt Airport. As Frankfurt is Germany's main air transportation hub, you will find direct connections there from all over the world. Thanks to an excellent high speed rail connection directly from the airport to both Cologne and Siegburg/Bonn, it is a very convenient entry point to the region despite being some 200 kms away. You can actually travel on the train from FRA using your flight ticket, for more on integrated rail and air tickets see rail air alliances.
- Köln Hbf – Thalys from Paris, ICE from Brussels and Amsterdam, IC/EC from Basel
- Brühl – RE, RB and Mittelrheinbahn, tram line 18 from Cologne and Bonn
- Bonn Hbf – IC/EC, RE, RB and Mittelrheinbahn
- Siegburg – ICE and S-Bahn
In terms of public transportation, the region is covered by Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Sieg, which provides a unified tariff system across all publicly-owned operators in the region. Those include the Kölner Verkehrs-Betriebe, whose Stadtbahn light rail network reaches far beyond the city of Cologne into neigbouring municipalities such as Brühl, Bergisch-Gladbach, Hürth and Leverkusen, and even reaching as far as Bonn. Bonn itself has its own Stadtbahn (with some shared lines with Cologne's), also serving Siegburg and Bad Godesberg. Long distance ICE and IC trains are however not included in the Verkehrsverbünde and thus of little use for local and regional travel but a good way to enter or leave the area.
- Cologne – Kölner Dom
- Brühl – Augustusburg Palace and Gardens
- Bonn – Rhine Promenades, the city boats over 20 museums, Beethoven House
When in Cologne, take a walk down the Rheinauhafen, the city's redeveloped former harbour area to enjoy views over the Rhine and some spectacular modern architecture.
There is plenty to do in the region, from taking the cruise on the river Rhine to enjoying many cultural activities throughout the year. The highlight is of course the colourful Cologne carnival, which gathers crowds from all over the world every November through February/March.
Apart from traditional German cuisine, you will find a wealth of other cuisines represented especially in Cologne and Bonn. From affordable fast-food and pub/bar fare to fine dining, the region has you covered.
If you drink alcohol, you should obviously visit one of the local Brauhaüser and enjoy an evening with one of the local Kölsch beers and the friendly, loud and sometimes bawdy atmosphere. Apart from those traditional establishments, you will all sorts find modern clubs in the nighttime, as well as both fancy and standardized chain cafes for daytime enjoyment throughout Cologne and Bonn.
There is nothing particularly dangerous about the region, but usual precautions you would take in any tourist destination obviously apply. Approach the police when in distress, they are friendly and take every person seriously, most of them speak at least rudimentary English. Locals will probably also readily help, although they would be less so inclined when in a hurry in Cologne or Bonn.