Aesthetically pleasing, Cologne is a city with both style and substance. A collection of cultures, from Roman to Germanic, have led to one of the most impressive skylines in Germany, but there’s much more to this city than pretty buildings and chocolate.
Take some time out to explore properly; with our river cruises you have the majority of the day at your disposal, so plan your itinerary well. Here are a few alternative ideas for your day in Cologne.
While the Old Town is well worth a visit for its picturesque architecture, winding alleyways and location to the main tourist attractions, for a glimpse at the alternative side to Cologne head over to the Belgian Quarter (Belgisches Viertel). Hip, trendy, alternative; whatever adjective you want to use to describe this neighbourhood, it’s a great place for shopping, drinking and dining. You’ll find everything here from artisan coffee shops and bars to boutique fashion stores and art shops. The quiet streets are covered in murals and the area is generally much more laid-back and quiet than the more central parts of Cologne.
Because who doesn’t want to explore the grim depths of a former Gestapo prison? In all seriousness though, this museum relays important information about the Nazi secret police’s role in World War II and also acts as a memorial for the Holocaust. Perhaps its best feature is the critically acclaimed “Cologne in the times of National Socialism” exhibition, which tells the story of the city under Hitler’s rule and it a permanent collection. The building itself is fully intact from the war era, which is quite remarkable considering the amount of bombs the allies dropped on Cologne. A must-visit for history buffs who love to learn about the darker side of European history.
Similar to the Belgian Quarter, but with a little bit more art, Ehrenfeld is another lively, yet trendy part of the city. Here, you will find an abundance of original art studios, quaint cafes and one-of-a-kind shops as well as plenty of stunning street art in mural form. Very much the creative heart of the city, the "Coloneum" movie production house and media centre resides here as well as the area’s landmark the Helios-lighthouse; the former home of the famous German electrical engineering company. A largely residential area, this part of the city is slightly further away from the centre but not too far that you can’t get there easily on Cologne’s impressive public transport network. A number of light rail stations connect you to the area through the Cologne Stadtbahn line. Take either 3, 4, 5 or 13 to get there.
A museum that takes you on a journey of the world, the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum is three floors of interactive fun where touching the exhibits is all part of the experience. The first thing that strikes you about this place is the Sulawesi rice boat that hangs in the lobby. From here, you are welcomed to explore the lives of others from cultures all over the planet. Part history lesson, part insight into human diversity, the entire museum is a truly remarkable look at different people, and perhaps how we aren’t all that different.
Although not alternative, no trip to Cologne is complete without a trip to its magnificent Cathedral. This massive church is located right in the centre of the city and, due to its huge size, it’s quite hard to miss. Its status as northern Europe’s largest Gothic church has made it one of Germany’s most popular landmarks so, like we said, it’s hardly off the beaten track
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