Hostelworld Guide for Cologne

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The Gothic Kölner Dom Cathedral towers over Cologne, a city found in the west of Germany along the banks of the River Rhine. Home to around a million people, Cologne boasts a large number of top attractions, from modern art galleries to a chocolate museum. Here you'll also come across innumerable bars and restaurants, perfect to revive yourself in after a long day of sightseeing. The city centre is quite compact, so lots of places are reachable on foot, but never fear, if your feet need a rest there's also a top-notch public transport system. With numerous delights and a welcoming atmosphere, it's no surprise that Cologne is a firm favourite with visitors from around the globe.



In this Guide...      

Useful Information
After Dark
Places to Eat
Top Attractions
Budget Tips
Where to Shop

 The Essentials


Getting There

By plane: When arriving by plane, chances are you'll end up at either Cologne Bonn Airport or Düsseldorf International Airport, both short train rides from the city centre.

By train: Intercity railway services terminate in Köln Hauptbahnhof. Trains run on a large number of national routes from here, with high speed services heading to cities around Europe, including Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris.

By bus: Cologne's international bus station can be found beside the Hauptbahnhof on Breslauer Platz. Eurolines services operate from here to a variety of cities across Europe.

Getting Around

On foot: Lots of the main attractions are in close proximity to each other; however, you will most likely have to use public transport at some stage during your trip.

By train: A light rail service of S-Bahn and U-Bahn trains runs across the city both over and underground. One day passes are available and are pretty good value.

By bicycle: Bicycles are a popular way to get around Cologne. Try the Call A Bike service. These are city bikes that can be picked up and dropped off at various points throughout the city.

 Useful Phrases

Hello: Hallo
Goodbye: Tschüss
Please: Bitte
Thank you: Vielen Dank
You're welcome: Gern geschehen
Yes: Ja
No: Nein
Of course: Natürlich
Excuse me: Entschuldigung
How are you?: Wie geht es dir?
Open: Geöffnet
Closed: Geschlossen
What is your name?: Wie heisst du?
My name is...: Ich heisse...
How much?: Wie teuer ist es?
May I have the bill?: Kann ich die rechnung haben?

Cologne has a temperate climate, which means it tends to see mild winters and warm summers. July and August are usually the warmest months, with temperatures averaging out at around 19˚C. The most sunshine can be seen in June, which gets about 7 hours of sunlight each day. In the winter, temperatures hover around 1˚C to 2˚C and January is generally the coldest month. Cologne also gets quite a bit of rain throughout the year. Most of this precipitation falls between June and August.

 Good to know...

Language: German.
Currency: Euro.
Electricity: 220 Volts, AC/50Hz.
Area code: +49 (Germany), 0221 (Cologne).
Emergency codes: Ambulance/Fire 112, Police 110.
Time Zone: Central European Time (GMT +1).
Central Post Office: WDR Arkaden Shopping Mall, Breite Strasse 6-26.
Main tourist office: Köln Tourismus Service Centre, Kardinal Höffner-Platz 1.

Embassies and Consulates

UK: +49 (0)30 204570**
USA: +49 (0)211 7888927*
Canada: +49 (0)211 172170*
Australia: +49 (0)30 880088**
South Africa: +49 (0)30 220730**
Ireland: +49 (0)30 220720**
Spain: +49 (0)30 211 439080*
Italy: +49 (0)30 254400**
New Zealand: +49 (0)30 206210**
France: +49 (0)211 8285460*

*Consulates in Düsseldorf
**Embassies in Berlin

Hostelworld Guide for Cologne

 Cheap Eats

 After Dark

Café Rico, Mittelstraße 31-33, Innenstadt The chilled vibe and funky interior of this café bar makes it the perfect choice for some breakfast. Offering croissants, cheeses, meats, juices, coffees, teas and energy drinks, here you can ease your way into the day. Open Mon-Wed 10am-8pm, Thurs-Fri 10am-2am, Sat 9am-8pm, Sun 10am-8pm.

Alex, Friesenplatz, Altstadt Nord If you're looking for somewhere to grab a bite at lunchtime, Alex is an excellent choice. Sit outside at one of the multitude of tables to enjoy the bustling square that surrounds this popular gastro-bar, which offers baguettes, wraps, pasta, schnitzel and more. Open Mon-Fri 9am-1am, Sat-Sun 9am-3am.

El Gato, Engelbertstraße 31a, Innenstadt Serving a mix of Mexican and American dishes at reasonable prices, El Gato is quite a busy spot. Here you can enjoy your meal surrounded by cool Tex-Mex themed paintings in the big, bright dining room. Complimentary nachos and salsa are an especially tasty treat. Open daily 5pm-11.30pm.

 Tempting local cuisine

Ständige Vertretung, Frankenwerft 31-33, Altstadt Nord A great place to try out local dishes, this restaurant looks out at the Rhine. It's a cute spot with plenty of tables inside and outside. Soups, salads, pasta dishes and Cologne favourites such as 'Halver Hahn' (pictured) are all offered. Open Mon-Thurs 11am-12am, Fri-Sun 11am-2am.

Borsalino, Zülpicher Straße 7, Zülpicher You won't be hungry after a trip to Borsalino, thanks to large, filling portions of hearty Italian fare including a wide variety of pizzas and pasta dishes. After ordering, delicious doughy bread is deposited at your table by the friendly, English-speaking staff. Open Sun-Thurs 8am-1am, Fri-Sat 8am-3am.

Kölner Philharmonie, Bischofsgartenstraße 1, Altstadt Nord In operation since 1986, the Kölner Philharmonie makes its home in the beautiful concert hall beside the Cathedral. All types of music, from classical to jazz, are performed here, with concerts taking place almost every day. Check website for event schedule.

Cubana, Barbarossaplatz 5, Zülpicher With a happy hour stretching from 8pm to 1am, Cubana is the top choice for cheap, lip-smacking cocktails. Sit out under the large umbrellas to enjoy the warm summer nights and buzzing conversation or relax inside in the flickering candlelight around the spacious bar. Open Sun-Thurs 10am-1am, Fri-Sat 10am-3am.

 Gay/Lesbian Cologne

With its large gay population, vibrant scene and hugely popular pride festival, it's no wonder that Cologne is referred to as the gay and lesbian capital of Germany. Some venues to check out include the Blue Lounge Tanzbar (Mathiasstraße 4-6), Clip (Marsilstein 29) and Iron Bar (Schaafenstraße 45).

Low Budget, Aachener Straße 47, Altstadt Nord Holding much more than you would first expect, this nightspot offers 30 different types of whiskey, the famous local Kölsch beer and more. Famed for its open mic nights, you can prop yourself up on a stool underneath the low-hanging lights and listen to the varied music. Open Mon-Thurs 8pm-2am, Fri-Sat 8pm-4am, closed Sun.

Gilbert's Pinte, Engelbertstraße 1, Innenstadt Filled with cute little touches like the light-strung trees surrounding it, this bar is a great choice if you're looking for somewhere chilled to relax with a beer. From Kölsch to Kilkenny, it offers a wide selection of beers and liquors, along with red and white wines and cocktails. Prices are really reasonable and service is nicely prompt. Open Sun-Thurs 6pm-2am, Fri 6pm-3am, Sat 3pm-3am.

Blue Shell, Luxemburger Straße 32, Zülpicher The place to go in Cologne if you're of the indie-rock or punk persuasion, it's no wonder that the Blue Shell has been in operation for over 25 years. It hosts live music acts, a free movie night and a monthly poetry slam. Small and loud, the friendly crowd packs the bar's dance floor as a different DJ provides the music each night. Open Sun-Thurs 8pm-2am, Fri-Sat 8pm-4.30am; entry fees for gig nights vary.

 Don't Miss

 Mark Your Calendar

Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral), Am Domhof, Aldstadt Nord A Gothic masterpiece, the Cathedral is Cologne's most notable attraction and its numerous spires tower over the city. Construction of this giant church took 600 years. Inside you'll see marvellous examples of stained glass, tombs of archbishops past and much more. Open daily 6am-7.30pm; admission free.

 Oompa loompa doompadee doo

Schokoladenmuseum, Rheinauhafen 1a, Altstadt Sud You'll feel like you've won your very own golden ticket as you wander around and witness the creation of delicious chocolates. Equally educational and enticing, here you'll learn the history of this beloved treat. Open Tues-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat-Sun 11am-7pm, closed Mon; admission €7.50.

Kölner Seilbahn, Riehler Straße 180, Riehl For something a little different, why not take a trip on the cable railway that crosses the Rhine. In operation for around 50 years, it's still going strong today and is a very popular way to see Cologne, offering stunning views from the cable cars. Open Apr-Oct 10am-5.45pm; admission €6 for return trip.

Museum Ludwig, Bichofsgartenstraße 1, Aldstadt Nord Founded in 1976, this expansive modern art museum spreads out over five different floors. With both permanent and temporary exhibitions, it includes paintings, sculpture and video installations. Open Tues-Sun 10am-6pm, closed Mon; admission €9.

Köln Triangle, Ottoplatz 1, Deutz One of the best ways to get a bird's-eye view of Cologne, the Köln Triangle Tower viewing platform is over 100 metres tall or 29 stories high. Opened in 2006, it allows visitors to experience a striking panoramic view of the city below. Open daily Apr-Oct 9am-10pm, Nov-Mar 9am-6pm; admission €3.

February - Rosenmontag Part of Cologne's famous Carnival celebrations, Rosenmontag sees a huge number of people take to the streets of the city to watch a colourful parade of floats and performers.

March - lit.COLOGNE Europe's largest literature festival, lit.COLOGNE encompasses a variety of different events such as multilingual readings and exhibits. Authors from around the world take part.

April - Art Cologne On the go for over 40 years, this festival lasts for five days. The event allows galleries and artists from around the world to showcase their art. This includes painting, sculpture, photography, video and more.

July - Christopher Street Day (CSD) A hugely important event for Cologne's gay and lesbian community, this festival includes a colourful parade, numerous parties and a fair, along with a variety of discussion sessions.

July - Kölner Lichter or 'Cologne Lights' Each year hundreds of thousands of people enjoy this spectacle of musical fireworks. The show can be watched from the banks of the Rhine, or alternatively from the river itself.

September/October - Köln Comedy Festival During this festival of laughs, comics from Germany and all over the world perform at a number of different venues across the city.

October - InterKulturelle Woche Köln Over the course of this festival's two-week run, a huge number of events take place with the aim being to promote cultural awareness and tolerance.

November - Long Museum Night On this night, museums and galleries across the city open their doors to the public free of charge. Other events take place too, including readings and musical performances.

November-December - Cologne Christmas Markets Over 160 stalls sell their wares at Cologne's popular annual Christmas markets. Along with vendors offering handmade gifts and traditional food, there's also various Christmas-themed events and lots of twinkling lights to enjoy.

November-February - Cologne Carnival Taking place across a few months, this incredibly popular festival includes everything from street parties to parades to musical performances and much more.

Hostelworld Guide for Cologne

 Neighbourhood Watch

 Retail Therapy

Deutz Found across the Rhine from the centre of Cologne, you'll see some of the best views of the cathedral from this neighbourhood. There's a lot to see and do here too, including a plethora of cafés, bars and stores. Definitely worth a visit, even to just spend some time strolling along the pretty, tree-lined streets.

Altstadt Nord One of the most important areas of Cologne, Altstadt Nord is home to the city's main attraction, the Kölner Dom. You can also visit some of the city's top museums and galleries, including the Ludwig Museum and the Römisch-Germanisches Museum. Add to that top-notch shopping and a selection of great eateries, and you'll see why this district is so popular.

 A quaint affair

Brühl A mere 20 minutes by S-Bahn will take you from Cologne to the picturesque town of Brühl. Wander down the narrow, cobbled streets and you'll find many hidden delights, including St. Margareta Cathedral and the impressive Augustusburg Palace. At the Palace, you'll also find the beautiful Schlosspark Augustusburg with its gardens and fountains.

Innenstadt Shopping is the name of the game in this part of Cologne. From streets like Schildergasse and Hohe Straße filled with innumerable stores both local and international, to department stores like the Galeria Kaufhof and the Neumarkt Galerie, this is the place to go if you want to spend, spend, spend. You'll also find lots of cafés, bars and restaurants, perfect if you need a break from the stores.

Riehl In this area, north of the city centre, you'll come across many attractions. Pop into the Botanischer Garten und Flora for a stroll, then next door you'll find Cologne's Zoo and Aquarium. A short walk will bring you to the Kölner Seilbahn, the cable car line spanning the Rhine.

Neumarkt Galerie, Richmodstraße 8, Innenstadt Under the domed roof of this shopping centre, you'll find around 70 different shops selling everything from jewellery to sports equipment. The busy centre is unmistakable, thanks to the upside down ice-cream cone sticking from the side of the roof. Open Sat-Thurs 9am-8pm, Fri 9am-9pm.

Ehrenstraße, Altstadt Nord Cologne's slightly more alternative shopping street, Ehrenstraße is home to many clothes stores like American Apparel which is popular with younger shoppers. Join the crowds wandering along this narrow street to take in the colourful shop fronts and spend a euro or two.

Schildergasse, Innenstadt Another one of Cologne's famous shopping stretches, Schildergasse welcomes crowds of people every day, here to check out the multitude of stores lining both sides of the street. German brands such as the Kämpgen shoe store rub shoulders with well-known names from around the world like the United Colors of Benetton and C&A.

 Department store darling

Galeria Kaufhof, Hohe Straße 41-53, Innenstadt Spread out over 6 floors, this large department store sells clothing, electrical appliances, household goods, shoes, jewellery, and more besides. Many fragrant counters offer big name brand cosmetics and perfumes. Open Mon-Thurs 9am-8pm, Fri 9.30am-9pm, Sat 9am-8pm.

Hohe Straße, Innenstadt All along this winding, pedestrianised street you'll find a huge number of stores, both local favourites and top international brands. It's a great place to check out if you're looking for clothes, shoes, jewellery, electronic goods, household items and cosmetics. Shops include H&M, Zara, New Yorker, Esprit, Fossil, Lush and Swatch.

 Cologne for Free

 A Day in Cologne...

Wander through the Botanischer Garten und Flora The oldest park in the city, Cologne's botanic gardens date back to 1863. Listen to the birds chirping and smell the flowers in the air as you wander around this expansive green area. There are plenty of benches scattered around, giving you the opportunity to sit and take in the surrounding beauty. Open daily 8am-9pm, winter 8am-nightfall.

 And the bridge, it shines

Stroll across the Hohenzollern Bridge Mere moments from the cathedral, this bridge transports rail and pedestrian traffic across the River Rhine. Most interesting of all are the numerous padlocks attached along the bridge. Inscribed with names, dates and pictures, it's a real treat to wander along and check them out.

Take a walk around the Aachener Weiher Located close to the university, the Aachener Weiher is a manmade pond found in the middle of a pretty, open park area. Popular with crowds of people, it's a great spot to head on a sunny day if you don't mind sharing it with students, picnickers and the occasional duck.

Have a look inside St. Gereon Church One of Cologne's 12 major Romanesque churches, St. Gereon is a stunning piece of architecture and an important place of worship. A side altar houses an impressive Pietà statue and beautiful stained glass windows grace the church walls. Musical events are held here throughout the year. Open Mon-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 1pm-6pm.

Check out the Rheinpark Cologne's largest park area, the Rheinpark, as the name suggests, is found along the banks of the River Rhine. Filled with attractions aplenty, it boasts playground areas and sandy stretches of river-side beaches. Perfect for a chilled day of sunbathing, it's also a great spot for rollerblading if you seek more active pursuits.

Begin your day in Cologne by having a relaxed breakfast at Café Rico on Mittelstraße.


Once you've eaten, head into the Altstadt Nord area and visit Cologne's world-renowned cathedral (above).

Around this area you can also visit the Ludwig Museum and the Römisch-Germanisches Museum.

Have lunch at one of the cafés in Altstadt, many of which offer traditional dishes like the popular Halver Hahn.

Stroll over the Hohenzollern Bridge, taking the time to check out the locks decorating the railings, and then visit the Köln Tower for stunning views of the city.

Cross the river again to get to the Schokoladenmuseum, which boasts innumerable chocolatey delights.

Wander around Cologne's main shopping area consisting of Hohe Straße and Schildergasse, and check out the whole host of stores lining these streets.

Head over towards Zülpicher Straße, where you'll come across lots of great restaurants, such as the Italian eatery Borsalino.

If it's cheap cocktails you fancy, check out Cubana on Barbarossaplatz, where you can sit outside and chill.

For something a bit livelier, make the short trip to Luxemburger Straße and the Blue Shell, where you can headbang the night away out on the floor.

Hostelworld Guide for Cologne