Cologne off season
You are probably thinking, Cologne in the winter? No way! But hear me out, this city has so much to offer even in the colder months and you will get a great deal on airfare/hotel. The main reason for my visit was to visit my husband Markus, who is working on a project in Cologne for the next few months. While he worked, I enjoyed walking the city, museums, shopping and breaks in between for delicious food and cold Kolsch beer.
The City Center
Even with all the great food and beer , there is ample opportunity to walk off the extra indulgences. Germans are no different than Austrians in their love for the outdoors and extremely active life style. They have a saying, "to stay home is to die"…these people get out and about! The massive crowds from Friday afternoon to Sunday evening in the city center are nearly overwhelming. Downtown Cologne sits right on the Rhine river, as well as the main train station. The energy when you step into the station is amazing, so many people coming, going, eating, shopping and even standing around drinking a beer and eating a currywurst. The smells and sounds remind me a little of going to the state fair…but faster paced. We stayed at the Wyndahm, located right outside the train station on the opposite side of the cathedral. This hotel was perfect for getting around on foot. Better yet, it was clean, affordable and the people were extremely accomodating.
Things to see and do
My grandfather spent some time in Cologne during World War II. Even though much of the city had to be rebuilt after the war, in my mind I tried to picture him there. The main cathedral by the station is like nothing I have ever seen, mammoth and so tall you have to look straight up when you are right beside it. This would have been one landmark mostly standing during that time, although it needed massive repairs/rebuilding after the war. We happened onto another landmark (maybe not so obvious) on a Sunday afternoon in old town, a German pub called Papa Joe’s where a jazz band was performing. I was stuck by a wave of melancholy when the female lead belted out a beautiful version of "Dream a little Dream". She was even dressed in 40’s garb. I was very much transported back in time.
Museums of Cologne
There are many museums to see in Cologne and if you are near the city center, most of them are within walking distance. Here's a look at the museums I checked out:
Museum Ludwig is a must see for art lovers, it has an awesome collection of modern art, including one of the largest Picasso collections in Europe. Currently the Museum Ludwig presents the works of artist James Rosenquist. The exhibition presents the artist's colorful works together with collages and archive documents that have never before been publicly presented, showing the process of his often monumental works. The Rosenquist collection is on exhibit from now until March 4, 2018. We also enjoyed the permanent displays of Salvador Dalí (see Barcelona) and Andy Warhol, this museum was well worth the price of admission (13.00 €).
The Chocolate Museum
I couldn't possibly go all the way to Cologne and not visit a museum built to showcase the history of chocolate! The Cologne Chocolate Museum is a beautiful modern building, built on the Rhine to convey the look of a ship. Take the tour to learn how and where the cocoa tree grows and how it is harvested and how this process has transformed over time. You'll never guess who "discovered" chocolate first...the ancient natives of Florida. You will also be treated to a chocolate sample from a giant chocolat fountain - delicious! Admission: 11.50 €
The Romano-Germanic museum has a large collection of Roman artifacts from the ancient Roman settlement of Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium, on which modern Cologne is built. The museum was completed in 1974 above the place where the Dionysos mosaic was found. The collection gives a lively picture of the Roman culture on the Rhine so long ago. It is possible to see everyday objects such as containers, coins and toys, a precious Roman glass collection and other findings from the early settlements in the Rhineland. My only complaint for this museum is that most of the information plaques are in German only, perhaps book a guided English tour. Admission: 6.50 €
The Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum is a large, contemporary ethnological museum with a variety of international cultural exhibits & art. It's not that any particular piece of the exhibit is extraordinary but rather the way the enite collection is organized and presented. I loved how well the collection conveyed the concept of all people, of all cultures, in any age, having extreme sameness. Admission: 7.00 €
Typical German cuisine is meat heavy, but I had no trouble navigating some really delicious eats with no meat. Probably the most famous meal in Cologne is the Currywurst, sausage seasoned with curry and curry dipping sauce served with fries. For meat eaters, try it, no trip to Cologne would be complete without a Currywurst. The street fries are absolutely second to none, seriously the best french fry I have ever eaten! My favorite Cologne beer hall, Gaffel am Dom, located right outside of the train station had great food/drink at great prices. Don't let the google reviews fool you, 3 out of 5 stars does not do this place justice! We also had seriously good seafood pizza at the 12 Apostels, actually twice because it was that good. Another restaurant I went back for a second time was Well Being, a vegan Vietnamese restuarant and it did not dissappoint either time. All things considered, we did not have a bad meal the entire week.
Locks of Love
Many cities in Europe have bridges with locks of love, which are paddlocks that couples engrave or paint that are attached to the bridge and then there's a kiss and the keys are tossed in the water. We had always wanted to do this, so when I saw a vendor selling locks and engraving them, I couldn't resist.
A little piece of us over the Rhine river of this amazing city.