Cologne is one of these places that needs to be visited during Christmas time. Usually there is an enormous Christmas market near the cathedral and little Christmas markets are scattered all over town. However, Germany has cancelled most of the public Christmas celebrations this year and being Dutch I am not invited to visit the German cities during Christmas time. Luckily, I already visited Cologne in September this year. In this blog you will read whether it is worth it to visit Cologne in the off-Christmas-season, as we have to skip visiting Cologne for Christmas time. In my blog I will share recommendations for what to visit year-round.
The Hohenzollern Bridge is one of the quintessential Cologne sights. We parked our car near Cologne Messe, which is at the other side of the Rhine when you want to visit the old city center. From the Hohenzollern Bridge you get beautiful views of Cologne and its enormous cathedral, so it is definitely worth it to take a stroll in this area. The “other side” of Cologne has recently underwent significant developments and is becoming more of a hotspot, but because of COVID it was pretty quiet at this side of town. The Hohenzollernbridge has been taken over by padlocks of lovers as many bridges in Europe have. Not very original, but still a funny sight. We didn’t get to visit the bridge for sunset, but apparently the sun sets behind the cathedral, when you view it from the Hohenzollern Bridge.
One of the main reasons that I wanted to visit Cologne is because of the colorful houses of the Fish market. The Fish market is just a small square with colorful houses and restaurants, blink and you will miss it, but definitely a good photo spot! It was really crowded during the day, because all the terraces were open, so make sure to visit early if you want pictures without crowds. Near the Fish market you will find the Rhinegarten, which is a public park on the river banks of the Rhine. This was a really nice spot during summertime, lots of people were having drinks and doing picknicks in the park. It actually reminded me of the pre-COVID days 😉 If you don’t want to BYO there are lots of restaurants and breweries next to the park. They probably do not have the best quality, but I loved to sit on the terrace for people watching and enjoying my greasy schnitzel.
The most famous sight of Cologne must be the Cathedral! If you are able to look past its black color you can see amazing detailing. Building this cathedral took from 1248 until 1880, so you can imagine how many details have been incorporated. It was once believed to be the highest building in the world, until the cathedral in Ulm was finished in 1890. I had been to Cologne before, but had never entered the cathedral and I would advise you to visit this impressive church to admire the colorful stained-glass windows (amongst others). During COVID there was a small queue, but we were able to enter pretty quickly. It is free, so why wouldn’t you have a look inside?
Beer and schnitzel
A brewery is called a brauhaus in German and as it is such an important part of the Cologne heritage I would advise to visit one. Restaurants are pretty affordable in Germany, so make sure to have a long, sit down lunch with a local specialty and a beer. A really good brewery is “Servus Colonia Alpina” but unfortunately it was closed when I visited this summer due to a flood in the kitchen. This brewery is very nicely decorated with beer mugs being used as a decoration at the ceiling. If you don’t like to eat meat, you must have the käsespätzle. What I also really like about breweries in Germany is that they often have a good supply of non-alcoholic beers, so I was able to join in on the fun while pregnant.
Other things to do
I had a lovely day in Cologne and discovered that the city is definitely worth a visit outside of the Christmas season. It is a big city with many activities and a beautiful old city center that can be visited year-round.
As we only had limited time and wanted to have a relaxed day we didn’t do everything Cologne had to offer, but next time I want to do one of these things:
Rheinauhafen District: This is a district just outside of the city center, which is a young and creative hotspot in the harbor. It apparently is a good place to visit if you love architecture and design and it offers many good restaurants as well. During COVID it was pretty quiet here, as most tourists gathered in the historic city center, but I will make sure to visit it next time.
Belgian Quarter: This area is also located just outside of the city center and features many independent and local stores with less mainstream fashion and accessories. This area radiates Belgian charm, therefore its name.
Art museum: Cologne features many art museums. Again, due to COVID less was invested into the exhibitions, so I decided not to visit. However, next time I would like to visit the Ludwig museum, which is a modern art museum that features works of Picasso and Liechtenstein.