With its excellent shopping, iconic sites and famously friendly locals, Cologne is the perfect destination for a city-break. Make the most of a weekend visit with our our 72-hour guide to this awesome German city…
Morning: Sugar Highs at Törtchen Törtchen
Start the day in the sweetest possible way with a masterclass in baking courtesy of the folks at Törtchen Törtchen. Under the guidance of Matthias Ludwigs, you can try your hand at making your very own batch of macarons.
Classes take place in the café’s ‘Backstube’ building, a small artisan factory that can be reached by subway within 15 minutes from Cologne’s city centre.
It’s a fully functioning workplace, so as you learn how to make macarons, you’re surrounded by the Törtchen Törtchen team, all busy constructing jewel-like pastries and tempering chocolate for their exquisite bonbons.
Having taken part in a class, I can genuinely recommend this as a great way to spend two hours. From preparing the ingredients, to mixing the ganache and piping the shells, I learnt so much (who knew one false move could turn a macaron mix into a marshmallow-y disaster?)
The good news is I managed to avoid any major catastrophes and came away with a pretty decent looking batch of macarons…
Group workshops focusing on macarons and pastries can be booked in advance via Törtchen Törtchen’s website.
Afternoon: Museum Ludwig
Back in Cologne’s city centre and in the shadow of the colossal Cathedral is the excellent Museum Ludwig. Its permanent collection is home to some of the world’s most iconic modern art pieces including pop art paintings by Roy Lichtenstein and enough Picasso works to rival galleries in Spanish and French cities.
If you’re visiting at lunchtime, it’s worth keeping in mind that the standard of food at Ludwig im Museum Café and Restaurant is top notch (not a soggy, pre-packed wrap in sight), making it the perfect spot to grab a bite before you go and get lost in the world of the abstract.
My visit coincided with the museum’s Joan Mitchell Retrospective. Black and white documentaries were interspersed with the artist’s paintings to provide insights into her state of mind when she produced some of her most complex pieces.
I wasn’t that familiar with her work beforehand, but ended up spending about two hours checking out the exhibition thanks to the clever layout and the interesting storytelling throughout. Really engaging stuff.
Evening: Beers and Beats
Eat your fill of traditional local grub at a cosy Brauhaus such as Brauhaus Gaffel am Dom or the ever lively Fruh am Dom. Later, head to the Ehrenfeld district and keep the party going at E-feld, a cellar-like club that attracts big name DJs. Alternatively, get in line at Ehrenfeld’s other major club, Underground.
Morning: Cologne Cathedral
First things first, tick Cologne Cathedral off your to-do list. The Cathedral has been the symbol of the city for hundreds of years and it’s easy to see why.
Not only is it one of Europe’s largest Gothic cathedrals, it was also one of the few buildings in Cologne to survive World War II (mostly) unscathed. While much of the city was flattened by bombing campaigns and reconstructed with 20th century architecture, the cathedral, which dates back to 1248 was only partly damaged.
It retains its stain glass windows that date back to medieval times as well as a modern ‘pixelated’ style window designed by artist Gerhard Richter. Ensure you’ve eaten a hearty breakfast before tackling the climb to the top of the cathedral’s bell tower. Over 500 steps await.
Afternoon: Shopping. Shopping. Shopping.
With its cool designer boutiques and diverse selection of cafés and restaurants, The Belgian Quarter is one of the city’s hippest neighbourhoods and is a shopper’s paradise.
You’ll be hard pressed to walk away empty handed from its unique clothing boutiques, shoe shops and vintage record stores. For main-stream labels and large department stores, head to Schildergasse, which is recognised as one of the best shopping streets in Europe.
Fuel your shopping trip with a delicious hot chocolate or wedge of cake from the delectable Café Eigel. Like cities all across Germany, shops are closed on Sundays (apart from small kiosks), so most larger stores open late on Saturdays – usually until 8pm.
Evening: Belgian Quarter and Kwartier Latäng
The Belgian Quarter is the ideal place to relax after a shopping spree. Salon Metzgerei Schmitz is a quirky little restaurant that once housed Cologne’s oldest butcher shop.
Although the decor still pays homage to the shop’s meaty past, these days you’ll find staff dishing out the best vegetarian quiches, cakes and salads in town, all prepared with fresh and organic ingredients.
Later, head to the Kwartier Latäng, Cologne’s student quarter and sample the lively nightlife. Meister Gerhard is a popular spot for Tapas and wines, while Spirits Bar serves some of the finest cocktails in the city.
Morning: MAKK Museum
With shops lying dormant until Monday and most of the population still snoozing, Sunday morning is the perfect time to head to the Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln, also known as MAKK.
The museum has acquired over 100,000 items dating from the 10th century to the present, including furniture, decorative items and ceramics. Its most popular collection features 20th century household items including old televisions, telephones, cameras and radios, as well as modern art by the likes of Kandinsky.
Afterwards, head to Café Fassbender and enjoy their legendary brunch.
Afternoon: Rheinauhafen Walk
For the best view of Cologne, take the lift to the rooftop terrace of the Köln Triangle at Ottoplatz 1, a sky-scraper tower block located on the east bank of the Rhine.
The 360-degree panorama from the 103 metre-high top floor is spectacular. Hop in the lift to the 28th floor, walk up to the 29th-floor penthouse and see the city from a whole new perspective.
From the Köln Triangle, walk south, past the Deützer Bridge, along the footpath that runs along the east bank of the Rhine. This pedestrianised route gives you the perfect view of the old town, across the river.
This is a busy route – walkers and joggers will be out in force along the way, but there are plenty of benches where you can press pause and just take it all in.
Having worked up an appetite, tuck into your final traditional feast of your trip at Peter’s Brauhaus and get planning your next visit to Germany’s most laid-back city.
Flights to Cologne
- Fiona Hilliard