16 Hours in Cologne

Cologne (or Köln, in German) is apparently the fourth most popular city in Germany and the largest city on the Rhine. Having heard of the Rhine but thinking cologne was only the makings of Chanel and Hugo Boss, I was excited and intrigued to hear that we were heading off to the city for a day or two. A ‘day or two’ turned out to be just 16 hours, nestled between a flight in from Manchester and a train out to Berlin. A whole city in just 16 hours? Challenge excitedly accepted.

Taking a morning flight from Manchester we landed in Cologne Bonn Airport around 10am, hopped on the S-Bahn and by 11am we found ourselves standing next the Köln Cathedral donning hats and gloves ready to explore.
First stop – The Köln Triangle, an office building standing some 103m tall, providing a pretty stunning panorama experience. Other than the supporting vertical beams and pesky (other) tourists you get an uninterrupted view across the Rhine towards the main area of the city. The view of the cathedral, nearby churches and the rest of the city could be enjoyed for just €3 each. Now for a panorama seeker like me, that’s a pretty sweet deal in my opinion.

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Heading back down to ground level we made our way across the Hohenzollern Bridge where you get to see the (some say charming) ‘love locks’ that cover every bit of metal.Legend has it that if a couple lock their love (in the form of a metal padlock) to the bridge and then throw the key into the raging Rhine below, the couple’s love will last as long as the lock stays clinging on to the Hohenzollern Bridge. Personally, I think this should be kept for the Pont des Arts in Paris but its still worth experiencing.

After checking out Great St Martin church and having experienced all the hustle and bustle of Schildergasse, Köln’s main shopping area, we were ready for some grub. Food scoffed (the restaurant wasn’t of note) it was time for the Christmas markets. Both full from diner and beginning to flag, we didn’t partake in the usual Gluhwein and Currywurst but took great fun in watching the ice skaters make their way around the rink. It was lovely to just be and people watch – seeing all the festivities going on around us. If there’s one thing you must do in Köln it is people watch.

10 hours down, 6 to go and well rested we hit the streets for some breakfast. Having fallen in love with nugatbrezels the day before we made our way to the nearest Merzenich (an amazing chain of bakeries/cafes). Next – Köelner Dom (Koln cathedral). Here’s where logistics failed us a little. Being the day after boxing day there was a special service going on in the cathedral, which meant we weren’t allowed admission until 1pm. Thinking this might cut it a bit fine for catching our train, we settled for seeing the tallest cathedral in the world from the outside alone. It turns out the cathedral website is very informative. I’d suggest looking before you visit – some might think that obvious but that’s neither here nor there.

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Köln in 16 hours? Easy. Having seen a fair amount of the city in a short time I would recommend only spending a ‘day or two’ there. We successfully ticked off 5/10 of Tripadvisor’s top 10 things to do in Köln (with the remaining 5 consisting of a theme park, zoo and museums). If planned well, staying near the centre and prioritising time you can see most, if not all of what Köln has to offer. This said, if you’re really into your museums you’ll need a bit more time to explore the 20 something museums and galleries listed in Lonely Planet’s things to do in the city.

Hitting 12pm we felt we had got a good feel for the city.  Not feeling in the mood for any museums and not seeing much benefit of a Rhine river cruise we ambled some more before getting the ICE train out to Berlin where the adventure continued…

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