Following from the Easter trip down the beautiful Mosselle for some fine German Reisling, we had to stop by at Cologne (Köln) to check out this historical city founded in 38BC during the Roman period. In fact you can still see some of the ruins buried underground and well preserved with barriers around it, sitting in the middle of the city’s underground car park! This is the fourth largest city in Germany and is also known as the city of churches, with 12 large ones within the medieval walls. Party goers definitely have to come by in November for the Cologne Carnival which attracts apparently 1 million participants a year. That’s pretty impressive considering Cologne has a population of around 1 million people. Stories from this 200 year old tradition are exciting with friendly German faces all hanging out in the city center, all enjoying the locally brewed beer, Kölsch. Legally speaking, only beers brewed in and around Cologne can officially be called this name. It’s a nice pale refreshing and sweet-ish beer, perfect for a party, or any time of the year for it’s freshness. Cologne is a city of history, incredible architecture and amazing beers and parties. What else do you need? Here’s my list of must does for the big city of Köln !
Free Walking Tour
Probably the best way to find out about any city is through one of the Free Walking Tours that operates in pretty much every city in the world. It’s run by locals who know the city well, giving amazing insight into life in the city, historical and recent stories and of course the best places to go to and see. They operate pretty much everyday and even on those wet rainy ones. There is no better way to get to know a place than through a local who lives there! The tour here is smaller than the others I have previously been to, but our friendly and informative guide had some incredible facts and stories. Those awesome Carnival party stories and legends are definitely something you won’t get in a guide book! The tour takes you to pretty much all the important spots around town. Do bare in mind that it does actually start at 11 past 12 and 4. This is not a typo and you will find out why it starts at such an odd time during the tour.
Creation of this cathedral started in 1248 and it took around 600 years until it was officially completed. Standing at 157 meters tall, the twin tower Gothic cathedral is a real sight that looms over the city. This is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe and is a World Heritage Site. Have a wonder into the church and check out some of the incredible interiors.
It was definitely worth it to climb the stairs to the top of the church for the unbelievable views. There are a total of 553 steps and the views are for sure worth every single one of them.
Bridge with Locks
Just behind the cathedral is Cologne’s Love Locks Bridge. It is a real sight to see how many couples have demonstrated their affections to one another here on the bridge. Estimated at around 40, 000 padlocks of love are hanging on the bridge since this tradition started in 2008. That’s around 2 tons of weight added to this bridge!
For a bit of culture, head to Museum Ludwig for the city’s collection of modern art. Expect to spend a good couple of hours at this large complex which houses a range of styles from pop art, abstract and surrealism. It also has a large collection of Picasso, Wharhol and Lichenstein. Or check out this one just outside the museum!
From art to chocolate, walk along the beautiful river and towards the Schokoladenmuseum (Imhoff Chocolate Museum). The museum now has exhibits created by the famous chocolate company, Lindt. A visit will include seeing the Fountain of Chocolate and getting a guided tour about the creation of praline from raw cocoa. You can even book a chocolate making course or one of their chocolate with wine, whiskey or craft beer tastings. With no doubt, the shop will also be a popular spot for those important take away bites.
Just outside the chocolate museum is a vintage flea market. Cologne apparently has quite a few flea markets dotted around town, so you will definitely not miss one. There is just something nice about wondering around markets stalls on a nice cripsy cold Sunday and digging into old antiques. Always nice to find that hidden bit of treasure.
Köln has become quite well known as a hub for street art. A little walk around town and you will no doubt see some form of it somewhere. You can do street art walking tours or just go for a little wander, spotting out some pretty impressive art work!
As mentioned before, Kölsch must be created within the vicinity of the city. Peter’s Brauhaus is an eatery opened up in the city center for locals and visitors to feast while enjoying some of their freshly brewed beers. It is believed that the brewery was first opened around 1544 and it definitely serves some incredibly delicious light beers. The food too was incredible, think proper classic German dishes!
All in All
With the great sites, history, awesome beer and food, Köln is a great place to visit any time of the year. But it is way too tempting not to visit Köln during November for the impressive carnival – I will for sure be back for that!
Also published on Medium.