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Cologne's Alternative Attractions

22nd July 2015

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.

 

 

Belgian Quarter (Belgisches Viertel)



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.

 

NS Dokumentationszentrum – Gestapo Prison



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.

 

Ehrenfeld



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.

 

 

Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum


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.

 

Cologne Cathedral

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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A Day in Budapest

13th July 2015

Updated February 2017

 

 

Budapest is without a doubt one of the most fascinating cities on the Danube. What with its stunning buildings, diverse history and relaxing hot springs, it’s no wonder it features as a must-see stop on almost all of our river cruises. With our Danube River cruises, you will have the chance to explore Budapest for the best part of the day, giving you a real chance to get under the city’s romantic skin.

Here are a few of the best bits you don’t want to miss out on.

Shoes on the Danube

A powerful tribute to the many Jewish Hungarians that were killed in WWII, the Shoes on the Danube Bank mark a dark period in the city’s modern history. The Arrow Cross militiamen who carried out the slaughter are said to have ordered the victims to remove their shoes at the edge of the river. They were then executed so that their bodies fell into the water to be washed away. You will find the display on the west bank of the river on the Pest side of the Danube Promenade. It’s just a short walk away from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

The view from Fisherman’s Bastion

From this picturesque spot, you can see all along the length of the Danube from a panoramic platform. Not only are the vistas sensational, but the neo-Gothic design of the Fisherman's Bastion (Halászbástya) also makes it worth the trip. You’ll find it on Castle Hill, close to another one of the city’s most stunning buildings; the Matthias Church. This ornate Roman Catholic place of worship towers grandly above the area and contains one of the most impressive religious interiors in Budapest.

Have a beer in a “ruin” pub

Kerts or “ruin” pubs, as they are known in English, are a unique drinking venue to the city of Budapest. Formed in derelict, abandoned buildings, trendy bars have sprung up all over the city, kitted out with old furniture and donated wares. They serve a double purpose: firstly, they are some of the coolest places to drink in the city and, secondly, they provide a place for communities to gather. Ruin pubs are dotted all over the city, in and among some of Budapest’s best attractions, making it easy to visit one or two during your sightseeing travels. Ruinpubs.com gives you an excellent breakdown of the Kerts in the area, complete with map and directions. For an authentic experience in Budapest, don’t miss out on these rough-and-ready gems.

Buda Castle at night

Before you head back to the ship, you must take a moment to see Buda Castle lit up at night. This huge, historic complex comprises of both the Royal Castle and the Royal Gardens, and has long been the official residence of the kings of Hungary. A World Heritage Site, this glorious castle also has within it the Budapest History Museum, which tells the story of the city from its founding years up until the modern period.

The Spas

One of the most unique quirks about Budapest is the amount of spas that you’ll find located around the city. The Gellert Baths is one of the best known and most visually alluring of the spas, but as a result of this it can become overcrowded, especially in the peak season. For the most novel experience, try the Szechenyi Baths’ outdoor pools, which are regularly used by tourists and locals alike. Veli Bej, the oldest Turkish bath in the city, is a much more intimate and quieter affair and can be found at Fejedelem Way - just don’t forget your swimming gear.

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