Every Cologne resident has more than their fair share of zest for life and partying spirit – it's in their DNA. After all, Cologne is more than just a city – it is a matter of the heart, an emotion and an unfalteringly positive state of mind. At the root of this outlook are carnival, kölsch beer and, of course, Cologne Cathedral.
When you hear cheers of "Kölle alaaf" across Cologne, it can mean only one thing: the mayhem of carnival has arrived (or Fastelovend as it's also known). 'Completely crazy' or 'out of its mind' don't even come close to describing the scenes in the cathedral city the week before Ash Wednesday. Carnival season begins in Cologne on 11 November at 11.11am and finishes on Ash Wednesday as it does everywhere else in Germany. But that's where the similarities end. As everyone can see, Cologne carnival is in a league of its own, especially in the final week when the street carnival has the city firmly in its grip. To experience Cologne's unique exuberance at any other time of year, drop in to one of the traditional and welcoming bars in the area around Alter Markt and Heumarkt square or the large brewery taverns scattered throughout the old quarter. Kölsch – the city's signature beer – never stops flowing there, the kitchens dish up Rhineland specialities and there is so much friendly and light-hearted revelry you would think it were carnival all year round. Every type of kölsch has its own distinctive flavour – and, of course, its own brewery. The beer waiters, known as Köbes, remain immune to the general merriment: a certain gruffness is the hallmark of a genuine Köbes. The only thing that can dim the exuberance of Cologne's residents lies some 30 kilometres up the river Rhine in the form of Düsseldorf, whose reserved character couldn't be more different to Cologne's wild exuberance.
The scores of clubs, pubs, bars and restaurants in the city are heaving with locals and tourists, young people and students, particularly at the weekends. Popular haunts are the student district Kwartier Latäng, Friesenviertel, Belgisches Viertel, Südstadt and – increasingly – Ehrenfeld, traditionally an industrial quarter. Prices are surprisingly reasonable, especially for a city of this size. But it's not just carnival, bars and breweries. Cologne's vibrant arts and music scene also encapsulates the city's lust for life. The Cologne Musical Dome is the city's biggest theatre, with 1,700 seats, and is famed for its spectacular productions. Then there's Christopher Street Day, Germany's largest event for the gay and lesbian community. Alternatively, a home match for the city's Bundesliga football team never fails to entertain – even if the club's position in the league table doesn't always live up to the fans' high hopes.
Something guaranteed to surpass expectations, however, is the city's museum scene, in particular the magnificent Ludwig Museum which features works by Picasso, Warhol and Lichtenstein. There's also the Romano-Germanic Museum, where the exhibits span 2,000 years of history, the Wallraf Richartz Museum, with art from the Middle Ages through to the 19th century, and the chocolate museum for sweet-toothed visitors. If the culture and excitement of Cologne takes its toll and you need some time to relax, head to Rhine Park, one of the largest and prettiest in the city. Locals describe this park on the eastern bank of the Rhine as being on the 'wrong' side of the river. Nevertheless, you can get over there on the cable car. And if, after all that, you still have some time to spare, why not head to KölnTriangle? At a height of 100 metres, the observation deck offers probably the best view of Cologne old town and its . On a fine day, you might even see as far as Düsseldorf – just don't tell your friends in Cologne!
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What travellers from around the world are saying
Visiting a co-ed spa was a foreign concept to me, being born and raised in Canada. Nudity in my culture is reserved for your own home where some have issues looking at themselves in the mirror. The gym change room is another publicly acceptable nude room, many of us have mastered the art of undressing by using a towel without exposing our private parts. My wife, Kristen, and I walked into that spa and let go of our Canadian mentalities. I undressed in the co-ed change room next to a woman in her 60s. She had kind eyes, a warm smile and no knowledge of nude shame as she stripped down without embarrassment. Kristen and I entered the spa, dropped our towels and were liberated, free for all to gaze upon! There were adults of all ages and body type, casually conversing as if being nude was more comfortable than being clothed. I had to constantly remind myself that people are not judgemental of bodies here, something I have never experienced in North America. Nudity is very much a part of the culture here. This German spa was the first place I have experienced harmony and equality among class, age, sex. Nobody knows whether you walked in with an Armani suit or a ripped t-shirt, you are all equal, beautiful and free. I immediately felt unjudged and part of the community. The architecture and decor of the spa was heavenly. Stone tiles lead the way to a large open room with lounging chairs and a marble swimming pool. The ambiance is zen, with only the sound of calm conversations and light background music. Buddha heads, candles, bamboo designs and waterfalls decorate the many rooms with relaxation and beauty. The outdoor rooftop contained hot tubs and saunas to keep you warm and steamy as well as cold pools and a bucket of snow used to cool your body down before jumping back into the hot tub. I left with my body relaxed, my skin clean, and my mind at peace. I learned that the human body is a beautiful gift which should be appreciated and accepted. Nudity is our original state and should be more widely accepted.read more »
Christmas Markets in Cologne
My notions of winter in Europe have been shaped by Hollywood movies. I expected to watch snowflakes romantically descend upon short winter days, and the cosy glow of Christmas trees in makeshift homes (think boutique hotels) to keep me warm. What surprised me on my December trip to Germany was the camaraderie and sheer revelry at the country’s famous Christmas markets, compelling enough to brave the single digit temperatures and rejoice over a white winter! If the thought of Europe evokes images of quaint old churches in juxtaposition with hi-tech buildings, and old towns with cobbled streets and artistic cafes, a winter trip to Cologne only romanticizes those images further. Come December, chirpy little Christmas Markets pop up among the city’s most charming neighborhoods, and become the go-to place for the city’s locals. Colorful booths line the streets, selling traditional German and Christmas gifts, like the famous Räuchermännchen, a wooden toy that is an incense smoker in disguise. Food stalls serve up hash browns, frankfurters, crepes, and local delicacies. People gather around drinking glühwein, the famous mulled wine of Europe warmed with spices, chatting, warming up over some neighborhood gossip. Christmas music plays everywhere, and the night rings with the clinking of cups and prost. Such revelry! At the Christmas Market on the Alter Markt in Cologne, local craftsmen and women demonstrate their talents with wood crafts, crystal painting and glass glazing; it is fascinating to observe the precision and pride that goes behind each little piece of work, and meet men and women who have come to these markets since they were little boys and girls. But the icing on the cake in a festive Cologne is its main market, which glitters in the dramatic backdrop of the city’s oldest and most charming cathedral; truly a European Christmas!read more »
Früh am Dom
If you are feeling thirsty after your tour of the stunning Cologne Cathedral, pop into the Fruh Brauhaus which is located right across from the Dom. For such a touristy location, it is surprisingly packed with locals which is refreshing. (Recent survey found that 70% of the clientele were from the city) The 'kolsch', the local beer served here is also very refreshing. Not too gassy so it goes down well, especially in the unique little 200ml glasses they serve the beer in. The food is good here, generous portions. Altogether a great place to relax in and have a few glasses of the awesome Kolsch.read more »
Köln ArkadenGreat indoor shopping Cologne - Köln Arkaden
You can spend hours and hours doing some shopping in Cologne or the cities close by. But too often, the cold and wet weather makes you feel more like curling up at home or in the hotel. So if you are not up to running through the rain just to get some souvenirs oder shopping goods, Cologne (and North Rhine Westphalia) has some great indoor shopping malls to explore! Köln Arkaden You can find 'Köln Arkaden' in Cologne Kalk. This is a very modern building with about 180 Shops. You can get there by tram or car although there are not that many parking spaces available. You can find a good array of shops in here, especially kids will be quite happy thanks to some huge toy stores. This mall has more a 'grab what you need and leave' feeling while the others are more inviting to spend some time in. But this mall is good for some great Late Night Shopping! Opening Hours Köln Arkaden Monday to Thursday 10 am - 8 pm Friday and Saturday 10 am - 10 pm every 1st Saturday 10 am - 12 pm www.koeln-arcaden.deread more »
Mexx Outlet Korschenbroich
You can spend hours and hours doing some shopping in Cologne or the cities close by. But too often, the cold and wet weather makes you feel more like curling up at home or in the hotel. So if you are not up to running through the rain just to get some souvenirs oder shopping goods, Cologne (and North Rhine Westphalia) has some great indoor shopping malls to explore! Mexx Outlet Korschenbroich I love Outlet Shopping. There are not that many close to Cologne but one worth a visit is the 'Mexx Outlet' in Korschenbroich which is close to Neuss an not that well known. You can only go there by car and the drive lasts about 30 minutes from Cologne. Visiting this outlet is especially a tip for parents with young kids as you can get really good bargains (30-70% off) when you are looking for Baby clothes or kids outfits but they also have a good women and men section. It is never really crowded so you will always get a parking space. The Outlet looks and feels like a regular shop so there are no rummage tables around that make you feel uncomfortable and there are enough dressing rooms. There is even a small café in it with good coffee and cakes. Tipp: Visiting at the beginning of the week (Tuesday/Wednesday) and you'll have much more choices as they bring in new stuff every week. No special website available for this location. Opening Hours Mexx Outlet Monday to Friday 10 am - 7 pm Saturday 10 am - 6 pm Friedrich-Ebert-Straße 9 41352 Korschenbroichread more »
Die WohngemeinschaftCafes and Bars in Cologne - Die Wohngemeinschaft
Cologne is a lively city on the river Rhine, smaller than Berlin but still a city not to be missed when in Germany. It offers sights such as the UNESCO World Heritage listed cathedral, a high concentration of museums and galleries, shopping streets, old town alleys and cafés and bars with a laid back flair. The “Kölsche lifestyle” is catching – reason enough to come to Cologne! Die Wohngemeinschaft This place is unique as it is decorated like a real apartment, a flat share to be precise. Like in any shared apartment, the kitchen is the heart of it all – in this case this is the café and bar downstairs, where you will get coffee, pastries and snacks during the day. At night a DJ will turn this place into a dance floor and bar. If that’s too much of workout for you, you can simply hang around in one of the many individually designed rooms of the fictitious roommates and sip your drink. Die Wohngemeinschaft Richard-Wagner-Straße 39 50674 Köln 0221 39760904 www.die-wohngemeinschaft.net Opeming times: Daily 15:00 until 02:00read more »
Café FeynsinnCafes and Bars in Cologne - Café Feynsinn
Cologne is a lively city on the river Rhine, smaller than Berlin but still a city not to be missed when in Germany. It offers sights such as the UNESCO World Heritage listed cathedral, a high concentration of museums and galleries, shopping streets, old town alleys and cafés and bars with a laid back flair. The “Kölsche lifestyle” is catching – reason enough to come to Cologne! Café Feynsinn This spot serves probably the best breakfast in town. When you step in you might feel like you have just boarded a time machine. Old chandeliers hang from the ceiling, which is decorated with romantic stucco and a beautiful painted sky. For our breakfast you will be given little menus where you can choose between organic scrambled eggs, croissants, various cheeses and even homemade marmalade. Lunch and dinner are also available. Herbs come from their own little garden and many other used products from the region. All ingredients are organic, the coffee comes from fair trade partners plus Café Feynsinn is part of the slow food movement. So indulge their great food and enjoy the cozy atmosphere and treat yourself to this little gem in Cologne. Café Feysinn Rathenauplatz 7 50674 Köln 0221-240 9210 www.cafe-feynsinn.de Opening times: Monday to Thursday 9:00 until 01:00h, Friday 09:00 until 02:00, Saturday 09:30 until 02:00 and Sunday 10:00 until 01:00read more »
KeimaksCafes and Bars in Cologne - Keimaks
Cologne is a lively city on the river Rhine, smaller than Berlin but still a city not to be missed when in Germany. It offers sights such as the UNESCO World Heritage listed cathedral, a high concentration of museums and galleries, shopping streets, old town alleys and cafés and bars with a laid back flair. The “Kölsche lifestyle” is catching – reason enough to come to Cologne! Keimaks The most interesting combination of a bar, café and restaurant in Cologne is surely the Keimaks just around the university of arts near Chlodwigplatz. This tiny spot may at first just look like a cocktail bar, but turn around and have a closer look – tot he right and in the back you will find tables to sit down and a huge menu on the wall with a small but tasty collection of an interesting variation of Mediterranean, Asian, regional and even French cuisine. The drinks are spectacular. Keimaks serves -as you may have guessed right in the first place- great cocktails and fine wines. Keimaks Kurfürstenstraße 27 50678 Köln 0221 312670 Opening times: Monday to Friday 18:30 until 01:30, Saturday and Sunday 13:30 until 01:30read more »