Ex­plor­ing: Cologne

Served by a new Bri­tish Air­ways di­rect flight from No­vem­ber, Cologne is the per­fect sug­ges­tion for both a Christ­mas mar­ket break or sum­mer stay, says Laura Gelder

Selling Travel - - Contents -

Cologne Cathe­dral – or 'the Dom' – could be straight from the pages of a Grimms' fairy­tale or the fires of Mor­dor.

Ris­ing from the street, its black­ened stone is al­most sin­is­ter, it's in­tri­cate carv­ing mes­meris­ing – hun­dreds of col­umns, arches and tur­rets soar sky­wards; pi­ous robed stat­ues and glar­ing gar­goyles gaze down on shop­pers un­con­cerned by the sooted vil­lain's lair loom­ing over them.

The cathe­dral is the third-tallest church build­ing in the world and even those not re­li­giously in­clined will be im­pressed by the ar­chi­tec­ture. And tak­ing the 533-step spi­ral star­case up to the cathe­dral’s south tower brings its own en­light­ment.

Cologne was bombed in 262 sep­a­rate air raids in the Sec­ond World War and it's not a pretty city. But its mix of Gothic, small pock­ets of ro­man­tic Rhine ar­chi­tec­ture and gritty ur­ban land­scape is in­trigu­ing.

At­mo­spheric Alt­stadt

The Old Town's nar­row cob­bled streets and brightly-painted, steeply-gabled houses are full of tourists for a rea­son.

They are very 'choco­late box-ey' - ap­pro­pri­ate then that a rich smell of choco­late ac­tu­ally does scent the air. This comes from the city's many con­fec­tionary shops and the Choco­late Mu­seum, which ex­plores the 300-year his­tory of co­coa and the se­crets of Lindt.

The area is also home to Ger­many’s old­est city hall, as much a Gothic mas­ter­piece as the cathe­dral, and lots of at­mo­spheric beer halls.

Hax­en­haus of­fers a peo­ple-watch­ing perch in sum­mer and cosy wooden benches and beamed ceil­ings in win­ter. Try pork knuckle and bratwurst with some foaming steins and Rhine wines.

The Bel­gium Quar­ter

This part of the city es­caped the bombs and its streets are lined with lovely Art Nou­veau apart­ment build­ings. The heart of the district is Brüs­seler Platz, a lively, leafy square with com­mu­nal ping pong ta­bles which of­ten trans­forms into a bier­garten. The area is fa­mous for its quirky bou­tiques and de­signer fash­ion.

Hip­ster Ehren­feld

Gritty and graf­fiti-cov­ered, this is one of the more mod­ern parts of the city, an arts­driven area filled with ware­house clubs, gal­leries, the­atres, dive bars, Turk­ish ke­bab shops and cof­fee houses.

The West Bank of the Rhine

The newly-de­signed Rhein­auhafen wa­ter­front com­plex is the 'youngest' district of Cologne. The wa­ter­front prom­e­nade is dom­i­nated by a trio of build­ings called the Kran­häuser – mod­ern glass and steel build­ings shaped like hoist­ing cranes – along with cafés, res­tau­rants and gal­leries.

Mu­se­ums ga­lore

If your clients like their cul­ture neatly laid out Cologne has lots of mu­se­ums. The city be­came a Ro­man out­post in 50AD but the Ro­man-Ger­manic Mu­seum dis­plays mo­saics and jew­ellery span­ning pre­his­toric, Ro­man and me­dieval times.

Fans of con­tem­po­rary and pop art should head to Mu­seum Lud­wig, which has Pi­cas­sos and Andy Warhols on its walls.

The 4711 Cologne House is the birth­place and flag­ship store for the world's most fa­mous brand of eau de cologne (mean­ing 'wa­ter from Cologne') which has been made since 1792. There's a shop and mu­seum.

Cologne Car­ni­val

One of the big­gest in Europe, Car­ni­val starts on the Thurs­day be­fore Ash Wed­nes­day, lasts for a week and is cel­e­brated with street pa­rades and par­ties in pubs across the city. The mon­day pro­ces­sion pa­rades three sym­bolic fig­ures – prince, vir­gin and peas­ant – but the par­ty­ing crowds in their flam­boy­ant cos­tumes are as much an at­trac­tion.


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