I was tasked with the challenge of finding an interesting destination for me and two girlfriends to visit on a budget… surprisingly difficult around Easter weekend. All three of us are well-travelled, but Germany seemed like a good bet, unglamorous perhaps but reasonably priced with a short flight time, ideal for just a couple of nights away.
Cologne is a 2,000 year old city in the west of Germany, but much of the city was destroyed in World War II, leaving just a tiny area of historic streets remaining. A popular student city, Cologne has a large offering of cheap restaurants and bars, but few tourists so very quickly we felt immersed in the culture.
die Wohngemeinschaft – This well-known hostel is in the heart of the trendy Belgian Quarter and nearby to the attractions of the town centre. We were in the Danilo Bedroom, a stylish triple room with literary inspired decor. The room was extremely clean and fresh with quirky vintage furniture, subtle lighting and all the essential amenities. There are plenty of bathrooms, all well kept with modern facilities. Downstairs a lively bar is always full, serving reasonably priced drinks and snacks.
To Eat and Drink
Ernst Kaffeerosterei – Without a doubt the best coffee in Cologne… we walked 35 minutes to find this caffeine mecca. Ernst roast their own beans and pour to perfection, serving smooth and rich coffee with a delicious flavour. The quiet hipster cafe is always full with students working and friends catching up, we stayed for a while sipping our coffee and munching on the soft and flaky pastries.
Meister Gerhard – This lively tapas bar has a feel-good atmosphere, and I can imagine spending many Friday nights here if I lived locally. Along with glasses of German Reisling, we enjoyed fine meats and cheeses, patatas bravas and well-seasoned vegetable salads. The perfect meal to feast on with a group of friends.
Salon Schmitz – The Salon Schmitz institution has a brasserie, restaurant, bar and ice-cream parlour. We stopped by at this eclectic cafe for a light lunch, which consisted of deliciously wholesome salads, freshly made quiche and comforting spiced lentil soup. I’ve heard their cheesecake is fantastic too, so leave room for dessert.
The Coffee Gang – The small Coffee Gang cafe is ideally located in the centre of Cologne. This speciality coffee shop uses Ernst beans and serves delicious coffee alongside a range of tempting cakes.
Toddy Tapper – We had to ask a few locals to find out about the best of Cologne’s cocktail scene. Toddy Tapper is barely signposted, like many prohibition bars, but inside everyone is having a good time. Sit at the bar and order a Perigord Paradox, made from Whisky, Walnut bitters and orange syrup.
Le Moissonnier – The only 2 Michelin star restaurant in Cologne is run by Liliane and Vincent Moissonnier who know all there is to know about the French brasserie style. This lovely restaurant serves creative cuisine by Eric Menchon and the 4-course menu with wine suggestions offers very good value for money.
Utensil – Found in the arty Ehrenfeld area, Utensil is run by Cologne designer Anna Lederer who sells simple everyday products with an emphasis on design. Utensil is surrounded by cute boutiques and cafes on Kornerstrasse Street… if you are in need of a caffeine kick head to the modern Van Dyck cafe.
Gold Kant – A great boutique for Scandi inspired homeware and stationery. We admired the beautiful displays for ages whilst wishing we had more space in our luggage!
How we Live – A new and vintage furniture and concept store offering a collection of stylish Scandinavian brands including HAY, house doctor and ferm living.
Kolner Dom – When you mention Cologne, it is the giant cathedral which springs to mind for most people. The magnificent twin spires rise high above the city, and inside the church is filled with religious art and treasures. For a work-out climb the 533 steps up the Dom’s South Tower to see panoramic views of the city down below.
Museum Ludwig – A large contemporary museum dedicated to modern art, including an impressive collection of Picasso paintings. There is currently an exhibition of Gerhard Richter’s new work, an artist who has been based in Cologne for the last 50 years. The paintings are bright and bold, a series of complex abstract compositions which are very much open to interpretation.
Claudius Therme – For something a little different head to Cologne’s thermal baths for an afternoon of relaxation. The natural thermal spring water is nourishing for the skin and the sauna complex will relieve stressed muscles. A retreat for wellness and health-conscious travellers.
Altstadt – Cologne’s tiny old town is wonderful to wander round, especially when you consider what it has survived. Relax with a beer by the river and photograph the pictoresque houses near St Martin’s Church.
Bonn – Just 20 minutes away on the train, Bonn is the perfect day trip escape from Cologne. Bonn was once the capital of West Germany and is remembered best as the composer Beethoven’s birthplace. Wander round the old town before stopping off for a Kölsch beer overlooking the Rhine River.