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A wonderfully detailed cathedral and excellent local beers and beer halls are what Cologne is best known for. But this city was founded by the Romans, so if you peel back the layers of post-war concrete you can see traces of all sorts of architecture, and a long and colourful history. Book one of our recommendations for the best places to stay in Cologne and all this will be a stone's throw away.
Cologne also has a reputation for being one of the friendliest, and liveliest, cities in Germany. It's not clear where this reputation stems from, but maybe it's the good cheer flowing out of the beer halls? Some of the best beer halls are in the Altstadt, the older part of town, and along the river, so you can combine several of Cologne's pleasures very easily by sitting outside with a stein enjoying the view.
Cologne is also one of Germany's business centres, so some of the best places to stay in Cologne are actually business hotels. As well as the big brands in hotels, Cologne also has smaller boutique options, hostels and even campsites.
For the Cathedral (and surrounds)
Regularly voted the single most popular tourist attraction in Germany, Cologne Cathedral, or Kölner Dom's wonderfully detailed spires are the first thing you'll see if you arrive in Cologne by rail. Otherwise they're the thing you'll walk towards to get your bearings. Very Gothic and very German, this building sustained fourteen hits by aerial bombs during WW2, but its twin spires survived to stand tall. The rest of Cologne was famously flattened.
The inside of the cathedral has even more wonders than the outside. It houses the 'Shrine of the Three Kings', an ornately cast multi-tiered gold sarcophagus containing the bones of the three wise men. And a wealth of important art and relics.
If you've the legs for it, it's worth visiting the top of the tower - there are 509 steps.
If you really want to experience the wonder of the Dom attend a service. On Sunday mornings there are services on the hour until midday, and then at five o'clock and six thirty. On other days of the week there are services at seven fifteen, eight o'clock and nine, and then at six thirty in the evening.
Because the Dom is across the road from the train station many of the best places to stay in Cologne are close enough to the Dom to make an early morning visit a matter of a short stroll.
Within walking distance of the cathedral are many of Cologne's other great churches and important buildings. Considering its size, Cologne is rich in museums. It's got:
⁃ two religious art museums,
⁃ a modern arts museum
⁃ and a design museum,
⁃ a fine art and medieval art museum,
⁃ a Roman history museum (Cologne also has the remains of its original Roman wall),
⁃ an ethnological museum,
⁃ and a chocolate museum. Among other smaller museums.
- Casa Colonia is one of the best places to stay in Cologne if you want somewhere small and modern in the centre of town. They do a hearty breakfast and have all the mod. cons. you need to be comfortable, with the personalised service you get where there are only 13 rooms. Families will want to book their suite, one of the best places to stay in Cologne if you're looking for an easy self catering option.
For the food and drink
Local beer is called 'Kölsch', and traditionally served in 200ml glasses, so that you're always drinking it fresh and cold. Beer hall waiters are generally quick to serve you a fresh drink and the usual way of marking out your bill is via the marks waiters leave on your coaster.
If you want to buy Kölsch to take away the main brands are Reissdorf, Gaffel, Mühlen and Früh, but there are at least 30 other local brews.
Some of the local breweries serve excellent traditional food too. Local Rhineland classics include fried black pudding, red cabbage, boiled bacon, white beans, flat fried potato cakes and beef or horse meat joint marinated in vinegar and sultanas. This is Germany so it's heavy on the meat, especially sausages in a wide variety.
Some of the best bars and breweries are south of the cathedral, so this is one of the best places to stay in Cologne if you're planning on enjoying Cologne's hospitality to the full.
- If you're looking for something unusual book the Hotel im Wasserturm. As you might get from the name, this building was originally a water tower, but has been converted with style and flair into a business hotel with some 'boutique-y' touches. There's a spa, but one of the best spots in the hotel is the rooftop restaurant, from which there are wonderful views of the whole city.
Best Hotels in Cologne
Casa Colonia 16 rooms from 69Cologne
A small contemporary hotel with chic rooms and one self-catering apartment. Lovely breakfast terrace, bar, and warm friendly atmosphere. Family friendly too.Sights nearby - Easy access on foot to the Cathedral, Old Town and city centreViews - Some rooms have panoramic views of the CathedralLocal markets - Good for local colour.
Hotel im Wasserturm 78 rooms from $104Cologne
Wonderfully unusual hotel, previously a red brick water tower. Chic contemporary interior design throughout spacious rooms. Fabulous roof top bar and restaurant, breakfast garden, and spa. Trendy, stylish, luxurious.Roof terraceFoodiesCity StyleViews - Panoramic views from the roof top terrace over the entire cityRecommended by - Tablet, Small Luxury Hotels
Hotel Burns Art 77 rooms from $119Cologne
Uber cool and a super artsy chic hotel located on a quiet street of Mülheim. Unique and amazingly creative art can be seen in the hallways and rooms. They also offer apartments with kitchens for long term stays. Rooms are airy with comfortable bedding and clean designs. Fashionably elegant.Local exploring - Easy access to the city from the underground, and right next to the harbour and the charming Rheinpark gardens.City Style - King size beds, comfortable and friendly rooms with plenty of natural light, clean design and warm maple wood.Sights nearby - The Cologne Cathedral and the LANXESS Arena are nearby.Lively - Hip and happening.
Grandhotel Schloss Bensberg 36 rooms from $171Cologne (Bergisch Gladbach)
A spectacular Baroque castle with panoramic views over Cologne. Five Star luxury includes magnificent classical rooms and suites, a three Michelin starred restaurant, top of the range spa, golf course, private chapel, and artworks. A luxury destination filled with grandeur.Foodies - Vendôme restaurant is commandeered by an award-winning chef and three Michelin stars.Spa breaks - Top of the range spa and therapies.City Style - A spectacular Baroque castle.Views - Panoramic views of Cologne.
Hopper Hotel St Antonius 54 rooms from $151Cologne
Chic hotel in 1900 building, just five minutes from Rhine River in Cologne centre. Rooms have contemporary wooden furniture and marble-tile bathrooms. Restaurant serves French menu, also a gym and sauna to enjoy.City Style - A chic stay - some rooms have views over to Cologne Cathedral, with the river and sights just minutes awaySights nearby - Easy walking distance of the Old Town, Cologne CathedralLocal markets - Alter Markt is a 15-minute walk
Hopper Hotel St Josef 65 rooms from $167Cologne (Dreikönigenstraße 1-3)
Magnificent displays of art and sculptures at the hotel. Rooms are chic with wooden floorings and bathrooms have natural marble. In a great location close to the Old Town and shopping areas. The restaurant overlooking the courtyard houses valuable paintings found during restoration work.City Style - A former chapel in southern Cologne, boasting sleek contemporary decor with oak flooring, walnut furniture and natural stone.Local exploring - An ideal bolthole in the city, just two minutes from the Rhine, and the Old Town and the vibrant Severinstrasse Street.Sights nearby - Rheinauhafen harbour is just a short walk down the road and the Cologne Cathedral cannot be missed.Views - Great views from hotel
The QVest Hideaway 34 rooms from $222Cologne (Altstadt-Nord)
This old neo-Gothic style library building now houses a contemporary hotel, offering luxury accommodation and a private art gallery. Set in a relaxed neighborhood with fantastic links to the city. High ceilings and trendy bar area. Close to exciting local restaurants.Local markets - The Infamous Christmas MarketDesigner - Houses a private art gallerySights nearby - Cologne CathedralFull of characterRecommended by - Tablet
Humboldt1 7 rooms from $364Cologne
A trendy hotel in the heart of Cologne. Romantic rooms feature rich hues, glittering chandeliers and plush leather bed-heads. A glamorous bar, complete with piano, is the perfect place to while away an evening. With easy access to shops, restaurants and many city sights this is a chic choice.Local exploring - The ideal base for city exploring, within walking distance to many of the cities major attractions.City Style - A hip hotel in the heart of Cologne complete with an elegant bar for evening entertainment.Sights nearby - Be sure not to miss the famed Cologne Cathedral.Romantic - Good for couples.