After our Dusseldorf Disaster™, we headed over to Cologne on a short train ride that went much more smoothly than any other public transport we’d experienced in Germany. We’d only have the rest of the day in Cologne, although research told me it was small enough that we could hit up the highlights pretty quickly and still have an evening to enjoy the nightlife.
Of course, we almost didn’t have an evening, in our panic to try and figure out how on earth we were going to get back to Weeze airport, now a further 30km away than the original 85km that had been a monumental nightmare to navigate.
But that was all sorted, as you may have read in my last post, so it was time to enjoy Cologne. The big question is – was it worth going to Cologne just for a day (and not even a full one at that)?
My research on Google Maps turned out to be accurate (unlike my research on Dusseldorf airport), and we could walk from the train station to our hotel, the other side of the old town area, in about ten minutes. That meant we managed to see pretty much the entire old town in an afternoon and still have time for some extra things. Here’s what we got up to!
The first thing we saw when we walked out of the train station was the colossal Cologne Cathedral, or Koln Dom.
It is absolutely stunning. We walked along the side, taking in all the details, before finally arriving at the front for the final masterpiece.
Even better – the sun had come out, and the blue skies made everything better!
I’d assumed that it would be costly to go inside, like many of the big churches and cathedrals around Europe, so I wasn’t too fussed about going in but David wanted to have a look. So imagine my surprise when we discovered that it was completely FREE!
We still had our bags at this point (school bag type backpacks) and had no issue going in with them, which was my main concern. So if you’ve only got a bit of time in Cologne or you’re waiting to check in to your accommodation, definitely still go in.
Cologne Cathedral is really impressive on the inside, purely for its size as much as the grandeur, but what really struck me were the stained glass windows.
They were AMAZING. Vivid scenes laid out for miles.
It was honestly worth going in for these alone.
There was also a rainbow stained glass window which I ended up not getting great photos of, but they reflected rainbow colours on the pillars, which was really stunning!
I’m really glad we (*David) decided to go in.
By the time we left the cathedral, it was time to check in to our second hotel of the ridiculous trip (after a quick snack from Merzenich bakery and a wander into a cheese shop which sold coconut cheese among other bizarre varieties!). As luck would have it, Buttermarkt was already on my list to see, and our hotel was right off this pretty little square.
Who else adores colourful buildings?
Set against the backdrop of St Martin’s Church, this is a postcard perfect location!
We stayed in the Rhein Hotel St Martin, which was an okay hotel but we had a few noise issues both from people partying in the rooms next door, and outdoor noise as we were right next to a lot of nightlife. Our twin room was small, and David took the bathroom handle off in his hand, which knowing David could be a him problem. Anyway, the most entertaining thing about it was the sign telling us that the WC had a shredder. We dubbed it the Shit Shredder, or the Dump Destroyer, and eventually the Turdinator. David told me to imagine cleaning it, and I said I’d rather not.
There was also a spare loo roll on the horn of a bull’s head on the wall of our room. I couldn’t decide whether the previous guests had left it there for a laugh and the housekeepers hadn’t noticed, or if this was a deliberate quirk…!
As well as Buttermarkt, there are some other lovely squares in Cologne, including Alter Markt, which is one of the main squares in the old town.
We passed through here a few times – the first time was quiet, and we were just on our way to our hotel. The second time… it was VERY different!
In the space of an hour, crowds of people had arrived to protest. We tried to figure out what was being protested, before realising that it was several protests in one. There were war protests, local political protests, LGBTQ+ protests… all very peaceful, but it was absolutely packed!
In Alter Markt, there’s a great looking attraction called Time Ride, a virtual reality experience where you “ride” a tram and travel back in time through Cologne. It’s basically a virtual city tour, and it sounds awesome! But we decided against doing it with our limited time in the city.
Crossing Hohenzollern Bridge
We’d already crossed the bridge on the train, but now it was time to walk across it. The bridge is famous for being covered in padlocks – you know the ones, where most of the people who have left them probably aren’t together any more.
I managed to get the above photo which literally looks like I’ve stolen it from a stock photo website. I even inadvertently captured a couple holding hands in the background! I promise it isn’t staged.
Cologne Triangle view at sunset
We had crossed the bridge for one reason: to go and find this viewpoint!
The Koln Triangle is easy to find as it’s one of the few skyscrapers around – and it’s just the other side of the bridge from the cathedral.
It’s a paltry 5€ to go up to the top for this seriously impressive view, which is one of the best bargains I’ve seen for a viewpoint like this.
We timed it perfectly as a lot of people had just left to find dinner, and we had some time up there before the crowds arrived for sunset. It’s a really cool view, and we got so lucky considering how bad the weather had been earlier that day. We couldn’t have got a nicer sunset!
It’s worth bearing in mind that it’s actually outdoors on the rooftop too, so wrap up accordingly.
Dinner & beer at Fruh am Dom
After enjoying the sunset, we needed to find somewhere for dinner, and I’d written this place down as it’s a great traditional place to enjoy German food and of course, Cologne’s signature beer, Kolsch.
I will admit it’s a bit touristy, but I thought it was a really good place to go and there were definitely a few locals around as well (evidenced by plenty of football scarves – I doubt many tourists travel to support Koln FC).
David went for a bockwurst which is really just a plain German sausage and I think he wished he’d gone for something a bit less bland and dry! I had the Käsespätzle (being immediately drawn to anything with cheese, of course) which was delicious.
We also had to indulge in a beer each, which was frightening for me as I don’t drink beer. However, Kolsch comes in these tiny glasses that are pretty easy to get through, and they were carried by the servers in these amazing round trays piled high with glasses. When we arrived, our server whizzed past our table and with a swift sleight of hand, two beers had appeared on our table.
Kolsch is the pride of Cologne, and there’s a massive rivalry with Dusseldorf’s Altbier. Whatever you do, don’t ask for the wrong beer in the wrong city!
Unfortunately with everything that went wrong with Dusseldorf, we didn’t have the chance to try Altbier, so I can’t say which is better. Given that I don’t like beer, I’m not the best person to ask anyway.
Drinks at Papa Joe’s Jazzlokal
Being a Saturday night, a lot of the pubs were packed and we couldn’t be bothered to fight through crowds, but we’d mentioned Papa Joe’s a few times – a live jazz bar which on further investigation, we decided looked really cool and we had to visit!
It was BUSY. We couldn’t get seats, and stood at the bar instead, enchanted by the cocktail maker behind the bar as we waited for the live music to start.
And no, I don’t mean a cocktail maker throwing drinks in the air and impressively pouring multiple drinks across multiple glasses at once. This was a little more simple.
They would put a glass into the little holder thing and then it would whizz along and stop at all the bottles it needed for the drink! So cool!
If we were in the mood for a proper night out, this would have been a really fun place to spend a few hours. However after our mental journey into the early hours of the morning, and an impending early morning pick-up, this wasn’t going to be a late one for us!
I’d recommend getting there early-ish if you want a seat, anyway.
There are also tons of really great looking pubs strewn across the old town, from traditional brauhauses to Irish pubs and nightclubs. This would be a great city for a night out with a few friends, but not so much for us in our tired state.
Thankfully, Cologne ended up being a very cheap day, which didn’t quite make up for our horrendous 200€ taxi, but it definitely made the weekend more worthwhile. I really enjoyed the city as a whole, too.
Plus I think we really made the most of our time there! Although there are tons of museums and art galleries to visit, we prioritised a couple of fantastic places (the cathedral and the tower view) with lots of strolling in between to get a feel for the city on such limited time. I was really happy with what we did!
Have you spent a day in a city where you managed to do everything you wanted to do?
5 thoughts on “A (Very!) Brief Day In Charming Cologne, Germany”
Like you, I only had a day in Cologne, and I visited during the Christmas market season, which made for a very-festive time. I didn’t know about the Koln Triangle, as I’d gone up the Cathedral for the city views, but I can imagine having views of the cathedral itself (along with the city) from the Triangle would’ve been a stunner! Thanks for showing us around town with your post. 🙂
I’ve been there twice but each time was about half a day, and they were long enough ago that I don’t remember much besides the cathedral. That’s where having a blog comes in handy as a memory-aid device!
You certainly saw a lot of the beauty of the city in your brief visit. I love the cathedral and the colorful buildings 🙂
Lovely pics of you and your partner! ❤
Lol Holly, not my partner! Just a friend. 😂