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Cologne is a great city for a 24 hour hit and run. It’s one of those towns that you eat up quickly, either by going from highlight to highlight in a day or by moving here for six months to really get to know it. Since most people don’t have half a year to explore just one small corner of a single European country, here’s how you can get the biggest bang for your buck.
Explore a bit of Cologne’s Roman past by checking out the Römerturm relic. It’s near Appelhofplatz U-bahn station but is also an easy walk from other side of the city centre. From there, head east towards the Rhine and stroll along the river through the Altstadt before looping back north for dinner.
The restaurant at Museum Ludwig, right behind the Dom, is reasonably priced and delicious with a chill yet elegant vibe. Try the Cologne specialty, himmel und erde (mashed potatoes, blood sausage and applesauce) – or, for the full Kölner körbes brauhaus experience, head across the Domplatz to Früh am Dom for a haxe (braised pig knuckle) and more Kölsch than you ever thought possible.
Museum Ludwig, Heinrich-Böll-Platz, Cologne, Germany, +49 221 2212 6165
Früh am Dom, Am Hof 12, Cologne, Germany, +49 221 261 3215
Tip: At a brauhaus, the waiter will tally your beers on your coaster and will bring another without asking as soon as the glass is empty, so put the coaster on top of the glass to cut off the tap.
The Cologne Cathedral (Dom) is the reason everyone comes to the city. It’s an impressive hulk of a beast, particularly when it is lit up at night. It is free to walk in the church and look at the giant gold box holding the bones of the Three Wise Men. Entrance to the schatzkammer (treasure chamber) and tower tours costs about €3–€4, and English-language tours are available.
Kölner Dom, Domkloster 4,Cologne, Germany, +49 221 1794 0555
After checking the obvious off the list, start walking west toward Breite Strasse, the main shopping street in the city for people with mid-sized budgets. The Schildergasse is mostly high street chains, and all the fancy shops are on Mittelstrasse between Newmarket and Rudolfplatz. Breite Strasse turns into Ehrenstrasse and eventually leads straight into the Belgischesviertel, which is full of independent galleries and small shops. Most of Cologne’s fashion designers have their shops here, and the streets are full of old houses that managed to escape the WWII air raid bombs.
Shopping works up a hunger like nothing else. Head a couple blocks south from the main streets of the Belgian Quarter to Aachener Strasse and start looking for the seemingly endless number of burger joints that have recently opened up in town. The best burger restaurant in the city is Die Fette Kuh in Südstadt, approximately 20 minutes from Rudolfplatz on the U-bahn (Line 15 to Chlodwigplatz). Check Facebook for the Burger of the Week, and remember to bring cash. The second best spot (much closer) is Beef Brothers; it’s also cash-only has a 20-minute wait time, but the hand-ground beef and crispy fries are worth it.
Die Fette Kuh, Bonner Strasse 43, Cologne, Germany, +49 221 3762 7775
Beef Brothers, Aachener Strasse 12, Cologne, Germany, +49 221 2983 4736
After lunch, take line 1 or 7 from Rudolfplatz to Heumarkt, or walk for 15 minutes along Mittelstrasse to the Wallraf-Richartz, a jewel of a museum in the Altstadt. Take in 15th- to 20th-century paintings by Reubens, Monet, Munch and many other in less than an hour.
Wallraf-Richartz, Obenmarspforten 40, Cologne, Germany, +49 221 2212 1119
You’re less than 10 minutes walk from the main train station, so there’s still plenty of time left to make your own cologne at the 4711 Museum in Glockengasse or fortify yourself with some good German cake in the Viennese-style Café Jansen just up the road.