If a Rhine River Cruise is on your dream list, the delightful city of Cologne, Germany will more than likely be one of the cities you visit. Cologne, which can trace its origins back to the Roman era, has the largest and most famous church in Germany (and that's quite a statement). The city is filled with architectural marvels both old and new, and it's also home to some of Germany's best art and history museums. Apart from its sights, the best reason to visit Cologne is to experience its friendly atmosphere—it's one of the most fun-loving cities in Europe. Much of the cities’ activities center around pubs, where people gather to drink Kolsch, the local beer.
Cologne boasts a 2,000-year-old history with a rich cultural background. The Romans originally controlled the city. It flourished as an important trade and production center of the Roman Empire. The rulers left behind landmarks such as cathedrals and period buildings that were built in the Gothic style of architecture. The city was almost totally destroyed during World War II, but work on rebuilding it started in 1947. Today, this bustling metropolis known as the cathedral city still maintains its old-world charm.
Cruise ships dock in the heart of the Old Town, along a mile stretch between the Chocolate Factory and the central railway station. The cathedral is a five to 10 minute walk from where the ships dock.
The top attraction in Cologne is the magnificent cathedral Kolner Dom. This stunning 13th-century Gothic cathedral with dramatic twin spires took more than 600 years to finish. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must-see during a visit to Cologne. Art lovers won't want to miss the museum complex next to the cathedral, which contains the Ludwig Museum and the Wallraf Richartz Museum.
If you have time, visit the nearby Romisch-Germanisches Museum, which was constructed over the third-century Roman Dionysius mosaic.
Cologne has 12 Romanesque churches (all rebuilt after World War II), and the city is also well-known for its many art galleries.
Located at the spot where world-famous Lindt chocolates are made, this comprehensive three story museum takes visitors on a tour through the history of chocolate, and how it's produced—with a few samples along the way.
The museum was founded in 1976 thanks to the generosity of Peter and Irene Ludwig, who donated 350 precious paintings. The museum has thousands of exhibits of 20th-century and contemporary art, including masterpieces by Picasso and Russian avant-garde paintings by Michail Larionov.
Romisch Germanisches Museum
The museum highlights ancient Roman architectural elements, portraits, inscriptions and images on ceramics. The fabulous collection of glass and period jewelry dates back to medieval times.
BARS, TAVERNS & PUBS
This pub, housed in a dark, tavern like setting, offers a variety of beers from around the world, and, of course, the local Kolsch.
Frueh am Dom
The current owners of this pub are direct descendants of the master brewer Peter Joseph who founded it more than 100 years ago. It's also well-known for its cellar restaurant, where locals dine on delicious dishes such as "Cologne caviar," or black pudding with onion rings, a rye bread roll and butter.
RheinZeit Restaurant & Bar
This place showcases a beautiful hand-crafted pewter bar where skilled bartenders serve a variety of wines and cocktails.
Local specialties include rheinischer sauerbraten (marinated beef), himmel un aad (blood sausage with onions, mashed potatoes and apple sauce), hamchen (knuckle of pork) and rievkooche (potato fritters)—there's a stand outside Cologne's main train station that serves the most famous, and delicious, potato fritters. Another traditional snack is the halve hahn, a buttered rye roll, cut in half and topped with gouda cheese and mustard, and served with pickles and onions.
Almost everything is washed down with the delicious local Kolsch beer, always served on tap in signature 6.5-ounce glasses called Stangen. The palest of German beers, it has a slightly fruity flavor.
This 150-year-old brewery and restaurant received its international claim to fame when former U.S. President Bill Clinton dined there—but it has been long beloved by locals, who dine on decadent dishes such as "Heaven on Earth," a mash of black pudding, mashed potatoes, apple sauce and fried onions.
This historic inn on the banks of the Rhine has been serving traditional local specialties for decades.
Haxenhaus is a great place to taste some Cologne specialties. It has a rich history and has been serving sausages and other traditional meats and side dishes for many years.
Lokal Altenberger Hof
The menu changes daily, offering a variety of international dishes and pan-German specialties, such as maultausen (ravioli usually filled with spinach and meat).
A true locals' joint with long wooden tables made for sharing and an easygoing atmosphere, the Lommi—as it's affectionately been dubbed—serves regional dishes such as pork cutlets with fried onions for an incredibly affordable price.
The historic restaurant located on the banks of the River Rhine serves fresh fish as well as a variety of meats, salads and pasta.
Although Cologne is generally a safe and secure city with a low crime rate, take the same precautions you would in any other city: Stay vigilant and pay attention to your surroundings.
To report a crime or suspicious activity, call 110 for the police.
Cologne offers excellent health care services and some of Europe's leading medical centers. The St. Elisabeth-Krankenhaus is rated as one of the best hospitals in Germany. In case of an emergency, dial 112 for assistance.
Tip 5-10% in restaurants, bars, and cabs—but only if you are genuinely satisfied with the service. Unlike in the U.S., large tips are generally not expected in Cologne, or elsewhere in Germany.
To call a German number from within Germany, dial the area code first, followed by the local number. If you are dialing within the same area code only dial the local number. To make an international call from Germany, dial 00 followed by the country code. Toll-free numbers begin with 0800. Beware of numbers starting with 0900; they can cost several euros per minute.
Most pay phones take only phone cards, which can be purchased at any post office and at most newspaper kiosks.
Cologne Bonn Airport (CGN) serves Cologne and Bonn (phone 02203-4040-01, 02203-4040-02 or 02203-4040-02; http://www.airportcgn.de). There are also high-speed trains that connect the airports in Dusseldorf and Frankfurt, which also stop at the main train station in Cologne.
Cologne boasts an extensive public transportation network. The Kolner Verkehrs-Betriebe (KVB) is equipped with 60 S- and U-Bahn (trains above and underground) lines, 380 tram stops, and 320 bus stops. It is only a 20-minute run from the Cologne Bonn Airport to Cologne's main train station (Hauptbahnhof) when traveling by S-Bahn Line 13. From there, you can find plenty of connections. Most tram stops are also near an underground line.
Visitors have access to all forms of KVB public transportation through either a single pass, day pass, week pass or month pass. A single pass is normally 2.40 euros (2.80 euros to include a ride to Bonn, or 1.90 euros for a short trip of three stops or less). A day ticket is 6.80 euros, or 8.30 euros including Bonn and stops along the way there, such as Bruhl. A week ticket is 17.40 euros (24 euros to Bonn).
You can buy tickets at machines at most transportation stops, or at a KVB travel desk. You can also purchase them in advance online. http://www.kvb-koeln.de.
Cologne also has a 24/7 taxi network. Most taxis will have a surcharge of 2 to 3.50 euros, and then charge an additional 1.90 euros per kilometer for the first 7 kilometers, and then 1.70 thereafter. There is often a 50-cent per-minute waiting charge and a 1-euro charge for paying by credit card. Keep in mind that not all taxis accept credit cards, so be sure to ask before you begin your journey.
DO's & DON'Ts
Do learn at least a couple of German words such as danke (thank you), bitte (please) and bitte schon (you're welcome).
Don't be taken aback if strangers ask your permission to share your table at a pub or beer restaurant. These places are usually very crowded.
Do expect a faster pace of walking and talking in Cologne, especially in comparison to other German cities.
Copyright ©2017 Northstar Travel Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Courtesy of: Darla Logsdon
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