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If you haven’t been to Cologne yet, it’s about time you make the trip over. Founded in the 1st Century, Cologne is home to some of the country’s most historical museums, shops, and homes.

Cologne is the largest city in NRW and is well known for its excellence in media and arts. Similar to Düsseldorf, the city is split into two as the Rhine River runs through the old town. You may have heard all about the rival Kölsch beer (to our Düsseldorf Altbier) and the beautiful Kölner Dom… but there’s more to be said about this vibrant city.

Whether you’re planning a day trip or a full weekend getaway, Cologne definitely needs to be checked off your travel wishlist (as do other classics like Hamburg, Berlin, Munich, and Stuttgart).

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How long did it take to get there?

Cologne is only about a 45-minute drive from the city center of Düsseldorf (40 kilometers), which makes it an easy option when you’re looking for something new to explore around the area. It’s an easy drive, but some people even say that you’re better off taking the train to enjoy the view and avoid traffic.

The IC train will take you from Düsseldorf Main Station to Cologne Main Station in less than 25 minutes, and you’ll arrive in the center of all the action without having to find a parking space.

If you’re looking for a cheap way to get to there, I’d suggest hopping on a FlixBus or trying out their new train service that actually costs around 3,00 Euro one way! 

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What are the highlights of Cologne?

It is certainly no secret that there are a number of highlights to explore. These suggestions might not come as a surprise to you, and you may have even told yourself previously to avoid the tourist attractions at all costs… but some things just can’t be ignored.

 

  • Visit the Kölner DomThe Kölner Dom is one of the country’s most popular heritage sites (with an average of 20,000 visitors per day). It is a Roman Catholic cathedral that has been built up since 1248. The history, the architecture, and the design will amaze you.
  • Stroll Along the Love Lock BridgeThe official name of the bridge is the Hohenzollernbrücke which has been taken over by thousands (approx. 40,000) of love locks. It is a masterpiece where loved ones from all over the world publicize their passion for one another.
  • Hang Out Along the Rhine River: If you continue from the Love Lock Bridge, you’ll have the opportunity to stroll along the Rhine River and end up by the brand new Rheinauhafen docks which are quite a statement piece in the city today. It’s a popular place to relax by the water’s edge or grab a cup of coffee.
  • Get Your Art Fix at Museum LudwigThe Museum Ludwig is located just behind the Kölner Dom and is an incredible place to dive into modern art. The museum is also famous for having one of the largest Picasso collections in the whole of Europe.

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What are the hidden gems of Cologne?

If there is one way to find the coolest hidden gems around the city, it’s to hop off the internet and make some local friends. Only when you really live and breathe Cologne on a daily basis will you start to find the coolest hidden spots around the city. However, 0n a short weekend trip, we were able to find a few of our own (thanks to the locals).

  • Cologne Has a Great Food Scene: Of course, you can search the top 10 on Google, but like I said, asking the locals is a much better idea if you’re really looking for some authentic food in a local quarter in the city. Our favorite restaurant was FRÜH “Em Veedel” where you’ll find authentic local cuisine.
  • Belgisches Viertel / Belgian Quarter: If you hop off of the main shopping streets near the Kölner Dom, you’ll find the Belgian Quarter which is a more relaxed, laid-back place to enjoy your shopping experience.
  • Explore the Flea Markets: Instead of explaining why flea markets are so amazing, I’m just going to send you to one blog I wrote on the NRW Tourism website which includes a complete guide to vintage flea markets in Cologne.
  • Go Hiking: Hiking in Cologne? Say what? There are actually a number of hiking trails around the area that are worth exploring. If you use an app like komoot, you’ll find some of the most beautiful hiking tours (with pinpoints and maps included).

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Best Places to Eat in Cologne?

Here’s a list of just a few of our favorites, but remember, don’t take our word for it… ask a local and find some new and delicious hidden gems around the city.

Do you have any favorites that you’d add to the list? Add your tips in the comments section below so others can enjoy them too!

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Where to stay in Cologne?

You could spend hours online researching the perfect place to stay in Cologne and you’re still not going to narrow it down to one option. There are hundreds of beautiful hotels, hostels and Airbnb’s in the city, your options will never be limited.

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My cousin and I stayed at the DJH Köln Pathpoint for a number of reasons:

  • The location was perfectly central (and a 5-minute walk from the main train station)
  • They allowed us to park in their gated parking space (it’s not easy finding parking if you choose to drive)
  • It was affordable, yet still offered quality and comfort

Yes, this is a hostel. No, you do not have to be a youth to stay here. There are hostel dorm rooms if you’re looking to save a few Euros, or, you can book one of their double rooms with en-suite shower and toilet. Our experience was excellent, the staff are friendly, the rooms were simple, yet enjoyable, and we were just minutes away from our starting point – the Kölner Dom.

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Looking for a different type of accommodation? You can use the search function below to find the perfect place for you: 

Booking.com

Want to keep up the weekend getaway explorations? Go head out and roam the beautiful cobblestone streets of Amsterdam next weekend! 

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