This area is probably one of the cheapest flights you can get in the UK but there’s plenty more to it than meets the eye! Read on and start planning your next break away to this fascinating area.
As the fourth largest city in Germany, it goes without saying that Cologne has plenty to offer any and all visitors. Whether you decide to explore the winding streets of the Old Town or head further afield to the super hip Belgian Quarter, you’ll definitely sense the buzzing atmosphere no matter where you go. But would you believe that’s not all to it!
Cologne is actually part of a larger region, which encompasses the neighbouring city of Bonn to the south as well as the beautiful countryside all around it. It’s all only a short train ride away from Cologne, but it’s well worth the journey. Bonn has its own distinct history and charm about it, and from there you have amazing activities to keep you occupied that set it apart from your usual city break. Today I’ll be taking a closer look at what these lovely areas have to offer and provide a health dose of inspiration for your own city break planning!
Discover the charms of Cologne, Bonn and the Rhein-Sieg
How can you get to the Cologne/Bonn area from the UK?
Luckily for us, there are plenty of options to get to this amazing place. The main airport in the area is the Cologne/Bonn airport and there are plenty of great value flights available. The great thing is that you can get some great value no matter where you are. Direct flights from the UK depart from London, Manchester, Bristol and Edinburgh. Depending on the time that you buy your tickets the price of the flights can be as low as £11 for a return flight from London.
Once you make it to Cologne/Bonn airport you can easily access either Cologne city centreorBonn city centre. Thanks to the excellent public transport system in place in Germany, there are plenty of trains that depart from the airport. There’s no need to worry about knowing any German before you get to the airport.
Of course, it always helps but there are plenty of people there to help you out when you are buying your train ticket. Prices range depending on the distance but it shouldn’t cost more than €5 to get to the city centre of Cologne. From there it’s just a 10-minute train journey. Getting to Bonn is a bit longer at around 54 minutes but if you time it right you can get off the aeroplane and straight onto a train.
Cologne is an ancient city that manages to combine a couple of fascinating characteristics that have made it one of the top destinations in Germany. Whether you happen to be interested in culture, nature or you’re just a natural born foodie there’s plenty to enjoy. Read on for some of the most interesting things to do during your stay in Cologne.
The History and Culture of Cologne
With a rich and varied history that spans over 2,000 years, Cologne is one of the few cities in the area that has maintained a great deal of its historical heritage. There are historical influences all over the city that come from the Middle Ages and even from Roman times. Historically speaking this city has been a cultural hub for hundreds of years and that history is evident around every corner.
As soon as you step off the train, you’ll be first struck by its most iconic landmark, the Cologne Cathedral. This magnificent structure will give you an instant idea for the history of this amazing city. If you’re looking for panoramic views of the city I would recommend checking out one of the guided tours of the Cathedral.
Roof tour: Monday to Thursday from 10: 00-13: 00 (from 16 years old)
Indoor tour: Monday to Saturday 11:00, 12:30, 14:00 and 15:30, Sundays & holidays 14:00 and 15:30
Bells guide: Monday to Thursday from 10: 00-13: 00 (from 16 years old)
This cathedral is the largest in Northern Europe and is one of the most visited landmarks in Germany. So it’s on par with the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin! It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. I guarantee you’ll spend a good hour or so just be walking around the outside and be craning your neck upwards!
Guru tip: To see all of Cologne’s skyline in its full glory, I recommend crossing the Hohenzollern Bridge and heading up to the top of the KölnTriangle office building. From its rooftop terrace you’ll have sweeping views of the entire city!
Rhine Promenade and the Old Town
While the cathedral might be the only thing that you see at first there are plenty of other great highlights all along the Rhine. Probably the best way to soak in the views of the city is to walk along the Rhine. The first thing you’ll be struck by is the cobblestone streets and the distinctly old looking buildings. These are a relic of Cologne’s past as a huge trading hub. As you walk along you can also check out some great museums like the Romano-Germanic Museum or the Museum Ludwig.
When you enter the city you’ll probably notice the Hohenzollern Bridge. This is a great spot to get a fantastic photo of the Cologne area along the Rhine. If you happen to be travelling with that special someone, you can add your own love lock to the thousands that are attached to the bridge.
Cycling in Cologne
Fancy a little trip from the city that keeps you active? I can only recommend checking out the EuroVelo Route 15. Also known as the Rhine Cycle Route, this huge cycling route follows the entirety of the Rhine river from its source in Switzerland to its estuary in the Netherlands. One great trip you can do from Cologne is heading to the nearby city of Bonn – it’s a distance of about 60km each way, but it’s definitely worth it. The riverside route takes you through some lovely scenery and there’s a very laid-back atmosphere with plenty of other cyclists out and about too. Once you’ve made it to Bonn, it’s worth heading up to the amazing palace of Drachenfels, situated high up in the hills above the city. Its many spires make it look like something out of a fairy tale!
Even the city of Cologne itself is great to navigate by bike. Like many other major cities in Germany, there’s a very well-developed network of cycle paths and you’ll be able to easily navigate your way around the Old Town and the Belgian Quarter. I love cycling through the Inner Green Belt, a chain of parks which loop their way around the city centre. If you’re finding yourselves getting a bit tired, you can always park up at the beer garden by the Aachener Weiher lake and enjoy a little pint and a nibble to go along with it!
You can pick up a rental bike from Cologne Central station – look out for the black bikes with yellow Radstation stickers on them! For a whole day it costs €12, or you can go for a 2, 3 or 4-day hire which comes to €10 per day. There are also bikes for children and even tandems.
Where to Eat in Cologne
While Germany might not be on top of your list of culinary giants in Europe there is plenty for the discerning foodie to get stuck in. One thing that the Germans do right is comfort food and Cologne is no different. Think plenty of delicious savoury meats and delicious handmade sauces. There are plenty of great bistros and restaurants that are right along the Rhine. I guarantee if you visit one of these classic eateries you won’t be going home hungry!
For all of you fans of beer, there is a unique beer that is only brewed in the area known as Kölsch. This distinct beer is the perfect accompaniment to any delicious Schnitzel. In my opinion, its best enjoyed along the banks of the Rhine as the sun is going down! If you’re looking to save some money you can buy a beer in one of the many small kiosks in the city and enjoy it sitting down across the river from the cathedral.
Other Highlights in Cologne
Cologne is a city that is literally bursting at the seams with things to see and do! No matter what you’re interested in theres something to suit all tastes and interests. Visiting Cologne can be stress-free no matter what you’re looking for.
Shopping in Cologne
One of the true highlights in Cologne is the shopping. There’s something here for all budgets even if you just want to get a little something to remember your trip. You can spend hours and hours wandering around boutique shops trying on your next beautiful item. When you walk from Hohe Strasse to Schildergasse you are guaranteed of finding a bargain or two. If you’re a fan of trendy boutiques, then you’ll love the Belgian Quarter – you’ll find everything from record stores to places selling trendy clothes, lovely keepsakes and beautiful pieces of art work to take home with you.
Nightlife in Cologne
As you might imagine, if you have a city that’s famous for its beer there is definitely a vibrant nightlife to go along with it! There are plenty of great tours you can go on where you can sample all the different styles of Kolsch that are available in the city. The sheer volume of pubs is something that might be intimidating at first but never fear there is something to suit every taste. There are the traditional German Brauhauses or if you’re looking for something a bit more familiar you should check out Flanagan’s Irish pub in the Heumarket! I’d also recommend heading to the so-called Belgian Quarter for the nightlife as well, since the area’s home to plenty of cool bars where you enjoy some wicked cocktails. Belle Booze and Barracude Bar are two of my favourite spots for a little tipple.
Cologne is obviously a beautiful city but while you are there you should definitely try and tie it in with a day trip to the gorgeous area of Bonn. This city was the former capital city of West Germany and is a treasure trove just waiting to be discovered. It’s not just about the city though, there are plenty of ways to check out the surrounding area. I have a few personal recommendations about that but you’ll have to read on to find out! ;)
The Highlights of Bonn City Centre
Bonn is a truly historic city. Probably the most unknown thing about the city is that it used to be the capital city of West Germany. It was much to the surprise of the citizens and happened to become the capital by the sheer chance that the first chancellor of West Germany was from the Bonn area. Another thing that Bonn is famous for is that the great composer Beethoven was from the area as well. Today there is actually a fantastic museum there where you can learn about the history of this amazing man. Or you can pick up some seriously delicious souvenirs from the Haribo shop – after all, Haribo was founded in Bonn!
If you’re looking for a different kind of holiday for 2018 then I would seriously recommend a cycling tour in the Bonn region. It is one of the premier ways to experience the beauty of the Rhine. There are plenty of paths that suit all kinds of fitness levels so theres definitely no need to worry about that! All along those various paths are stunning castles and breathtaking hills. In my opinion, it would be hard to take the sheer beauty of these landscapes from a car!
Cycling Routes Around Bonn and the Rhein Sieg Area
Circular route that’s largely made up of Museums
Federal Quarter and Bad Godesburg
Circular route that takes in a number of federal buildings
Combination route of culture, nature and history
Three Rivers Tour
Extensive tour of the Rhine, Ahr and Erft rivers
Wasserburgenroue (Moated Castles Tour)
Probably the most waterside castles, lush nature
Castles, Views and Hikes
One of the most famous castles in the area is Drachenburg Castle. This breathtaking architectural structure is like something out of a fairytale. Over the past number of years, it has been lovingly restored and is definitely well worth a visit. Every year it attracts thousands of visitors and it has a great reputation for being one of the premier attractions in the region. While you are there you can learn about its amazing history stretching back for nearly 300 years.
From Drachenburg Castle you can soak in the views from the surrounding area on Drachenfels Hill. This hill literally translates as “Dragons Rock” and is the perfect vantage point to check out the beauty of the area. Much of the area is covered in lush forests and is the perfect way to experience the magic of the castle.
If you want to take in all of this in one go I would recommend the Rheinsteig. This is the 320km trail that follows the Rhine river and takes in many of these amazing highlights. It will take you into the absolutely stunning Siebengebirge Mountains.
Another great trail to check out would be the Natursteig Sieg. This fabulous trail offers plenty of unspoiled views to the willing exploring. I find there’s nothing more rewarding than earing that view or finding something that has been barely touched by humans.
Culinary Delights of Bonn
Another area you can check out on your travels is the “Valley of the Red Grapes”. One thing that Germany has been known to produce are some outstanding wines and the Bonn region is no different. Spending some quality time with these vineyards and getting to know the different types of wines would be the perfect romantic escape. The great thing about the area is that it is very friendly for cycle tourism.
A very popular way to see the area is to check out the so-called “Bike and Bed” hotels. These hotels are friendly towards tourists who are interested in cycling around the region. They have some great facilities where you can store your bike in the evening and can even provide you with rentals.
Discover the Charms of Cologne, Bonn and the Rhein Sieg with myHolidayguru.co.uk
I could talk endlessly about this amazing area but I reckon you’d be better of checking it out for yourself! Just over every hill and in every inch of this area there is something new to be discovered. Whether you want to have an active holiday or just want to relax this region has got you covered. There’s plenty of value to be had so there’s no need to worry about a trip to this area breaking the bank. There are plenty of deals on my blog so make sure you stay tuned for more.
This is of course one of the many hidden gems that I’ll be sharing with you during my spotlight on North Rhine-Westphalia this week, so be sure to keep checking back for even more inspiration!