Looking for tips on what to do in Cologne, Germany?
As part of our ?Travel Tips? series, we interviewed Melvin Boecher who has lived in Cologne, Germany for a period of 8 years.
Melvin shares with us his Cologne travel tips and knowledge on what to do in Cologne for those looking for the best places to see, eat, stay, drink, and explore.
Take it away Melvin?
Why Visit Cologne?
Cologne is an open minded city. It?s maybe not as beautiful at first look like other cities, but when you walk around, you?ll see that it?s one of the nicest cities in Germany.
The Altstadt (old town) has some very nice buildings, which lie right at the river Rhine. Just next to it is the Cologne cathedral, a UNESCO world heritage site. It?s worth the climb up into one of the two towers.
Cologne is about the atmosphere and its people. People in Cologne love their city. They have their own dialect and quite a few music bands who sing about the city in these dialects.
People from South or North Germany won?t be able to understand a word. It?s quite a unique music scene.
Best Things to See and Do?
There is no way around it?you have to visit a brewery. You?ll sit down and get a Kölsch (Cologne beer) right away without asking for it. At the very moment it?s empty, you?ll get a new one without asking for it, until you put your beer mat on top of your glass.
Another highlight is of course the cathedral. You should climb the 386 steps to the top. After that, walk across the railroad bridge and there you?ll find the perfect picture of Cologne.
The bridge and the cathedral? Maybe wait for sunset or even a bit more until the cathedral and bridge are lighted. That would make a great photo.
Where to Eat?
Cologne is full of cafes & bars. A few nice ones are:
Best Place to Have a Drink with the Locals?
Most tourists pretty much go to the old town, which is worth walking through and my places mentioned above are at the ?Ring?, which are about 10 ? 20 minutes walk from the old town.
There are a few nice breweries in the old town, which are also quite popular with the locals:
You should also walk through Zülpicher Strasse towards outter city from Zülpicher Platz. There are many bars. My tip is Stiefel. It?s a real rock bar. Graffiti on the walls, pool billiard, kicker, cheap beer.
How is the Public Transport? Is Cologne a Walkable City?
I love walking and Cologne is easy to walk. But there is also a very good public transport system with many trams and busses.
People in Cologne also love to ride bicycles and I would recommend to do so as well. There are pretty much cycle paths everywhere, so it?s safe to ride.
The city life is pretty much on the Eastern side of the river Rhine. You?ll have the old town in the centre at the river and then you?ll see 2-3 rings around the city. That way it?s very easy to find your way around.
Any Wine Regions Nearby?
For a day trip, if you have a car, I would recommend you drive to the river Mosel, which is about a 40 minutes drive.
It?s a little river, set in a very beautiful valley. There you?ll find one of the top wine regions of the world!
German wine might not be as well known as Italian or French, but the quality is first class. Even if you don?t like drinking wine, you should consider heading there. There are many walking paths and the scenery alone is worth it!
Where to Stay?
I personally haven?t stayed in these properties myself, but they come recommended:
If you are looking for something special and have a bigger budget, check out:
Any Markets or Shopping Areas Worth a Visit?
You?ll find some nice shops in Ehrenstrasse, but in recent years more and more chains have opened their, which has destroyed the atmosphere a bit. But it?s still worth going there!
Friesenstrasse and Hohe Strasse are the main shopping streets. You?ll find pretty much everything there.
Small boutiques are pretty much everywhere around the inner city, surrounded by the ring with the rail tracks. Just wander through the side streets and you?ll find some good shops.
Major Events and Festivals throughout the Year?
If you want to experience one of the best carnivals of the world, Cologne is your spot. It might be cooler than in Rio, but the difference is that the whole city takes part. Everyone?absolutely everyone is dressed up!
We?ve told that many friends from abroad and nobody has really believed us, until they experienced it.
There are many street carnival parades of different sizes. The biggest one is on Carnival Monday & there will be huge trucks and thousands of people attending!
They throw candy as big as chocolate bars. You?ll have plenty of beer and you won?t have it alone. Travel solo and after 5 minutes you?ll get invited by the person next to you!
People sing carnival songs in the Cologne dialect and it?s just an amazing atmosphere! Forget carnival in Rio, Venice or anywhere else? Cologne shouldn?t be missed, if you like carnival.
Favorite Side Trip?
I?ve already mentioned the river Mosel above. That?s worth a trip. But you could also head East towards ?Bergisches Land?. It?s a very scenic landscape with many hills and old town centres.
Get a nav-sat, but first get lost on the small streets, before using it.
What is the Best time of Year to Visit?
Carnival is around February/March, which is really fab to experience. Otherwise I would suggest May ? September to visit Cologne.
The Christmas markets are also very special, so December might be of interest to visit Cologne as well.
Getting There and Away?
It really depends where you live. I know that an international bus service stops in Cologne, which should be a very cheap option.
The Cologne airport is also a base for GermanWings, a good low cost carrier. You should check rates with them.
Not that far away is Dusseldorf, which also has an international airport with a few low cost airlines.
Best ?insiders? tip for travellers?
Check out couchsurfing and stay with the locals. They will be able to help you experience that special atmosphere of Cologne.
I love Cologne because ____________ ?
I love the nature and the countryside. There are only a few cities in the world where I could imagine living for a while?and Cologne is one of them!
Have you visited Cologne? What tips can you add?
BIO: Melvin Boecher is the man behind TravelDudes.org which is a community of travelers exchanging tips to help other travelers. He is also behind the Travel Talk on Twitter social media event which happen twice every Tuesday. You can hang out with Melvin on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.