I couldn't write about my time in Cologne without mentioning all the Bachelorette and Bachelor parties I saw! Apparently, it's tradition in Germany for the bride or groom-to-be to try and sell stuff to strangers when they're out for their party. We saw about 20 groups during the day, wearing matching outfits and doing challenges and trying to sell things like condoms, shots or random belongings. I'm sure it would've been a wild evening in Cologne that night!
What to see in Cologne
Along with the rowdy wedding groups, there's a lot to see in Cologne/Köln! My parents have travelled to a few German cities recently and they didn't love Cologne. I think maybe because it doesn't have as much of the history as other cities as a lot was lost in the war. But I really rate it, I had a wonderful time and saw so much!
Both days I walked over 30,000 steps while exploring. The first day I woke up early and walked up to a local park before strolling into the city centre from my hostel (The Black Sheep) to meet a German friend. We had organised to meet in Germany at some point and she said Cologne was her favourite German city, which is why we chose it. We met outside the Cologne Cathedral but I didn't realise what an amazing building it was until I got there. At one point in the 1800s it was the tallest building in the world apparently! It's really incredible but it was super busy because of the lovely weather and we could only go inside the entrance, not the proper church part for some reason.
Then we walked down towards the Hohenzollern bridge which leads across the Rhine. It is one of those bridges that are covered in love locks. Gross. When we got to the other side we went up a tall building that had a 360 view of the city (3E entry fee and cash only). After taking in the sights we headed back across the bridge and went to the old town for lunch. I wanted to try some actual German food so we stopped at a place called Ex-Vertretung and I had a flammenkuchen. It was basically a German pizza, which I accompanied with the local Cologne beer, Kolsch. It was quite nice! She then took me around all the shopping streets which are apparently the most popular in Germany, and advised me to buy anything I needed while I was there, as most shops are closed on Sundays! It definitely caught me out a couple of times on Sunday when I say something open, only to find it closed when I returned later.
When we were wandering around we passed through an area (sadly I can't remember the name of it) where there were heaps of people just hanging around on the street around a church, just enjoying some drinks and each others' company. It was so cool!
Getting around Cologne
The whole transport was a little confusing. My bus from Amsterdam took me to the International airport and it took me a little while to work out how to get to town. My hostel actually had really good instructions for getting into town (you catch any train heading towards the Cologne train station), and I think it was 2,90E and took about 15 mins I think? Getting back to the airport to catch my bus out of the city was a bit more difficult, German train timetables are really confusing! Luckily I saw a girl from the hostel who spoke English and she kind of knew what she was doing. I'd had instructions from 2 different staff at the station and still wasn't entirely sure but I got there in the end, even though the train was about 25 mins late and we had both started to panic. There is also a tram system which is a bit easier to use, and if you weren't keen to walk a lot I would recommend a day pass to get around. I think it might actually technically be an "underground" because some routes went below ground and the symbol for it was U, but nobody quite understood me when I questioned them on this so....best of luck to you!
I stayed in the Black Sheep Hostel for 2 nights because it was the cheapest option that was close to the centre of the city. It's located above the McDonalds near the Barbarossaplatz station which wasn't the nicest of areas, but from memory, it only took about 20 mins to walk to the city centre or 4 stops on the tram. The facilities were about as basic as the previous hostel I was in but I didn't like it as much because the kitchen/common area didn't have wifi so I didn't really want to hang around. Luckily my room had really good wifi because it was one of the closest to reception. The beds were clean and basic and the hostel had fun decorations but my room was incredibly noisy because it looked out onto the busy street where I think a lot of people were at night because it's a party area. With the windows closed it was much better, but when the days are 29 degrees it gets pretty hot at night with 5 bodies in an enclosed room with no air con. I have realised I need to start taking photos of the places I'm staying!
There was a lot of German food around, as well as the other European options like Italian, Turkish and English food. Also a lot of bakeries but I was getting a bit sick of carbs so we got salads for dinner. In terms of German snacks, I just treated myself to some Haribo candy which was a great decision. There were a few food places open on the Sunday but by the time I felt like dinner, they were all closed. I went with someone from the hostel down to the doner store, which I guess is like kebab stores back home but I made a huge mistake when ordering and had beef on chips with a tzaziki-like sauce....I thought there would be salad but the chips were instead so...not the best meal I've had in Europe yet!