|The iconic Cologne Cathedral dominates the city’s skyline.|
One only has to spend a few hours in Cologne to realize that water is the lifeblood of this historical city. From the gently flowing River Rhine to the classic fragrance of Eau de Cologne and the amber nectar of Kolsch beer, the staple of every brewery tavern, water imbues this vibrant and cosmopolitan city with a unique character that’s instantly appealing.
Cologne is the fourth largest metropolis in Germany with a population of more than a million but it’s a surprisingly intimate and relaxed city, neatly contained in a series of elegant “quarters” or veedeln which can be explored easily on foot or via the fast and efficient U-Bahn subway and tram system.
More than 100 million visitors converge on the city each year, many on a pilgrimage to the iconic Cologne Cathedral. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is Germany’s most visited attraction, so tell your clients to expect large crowds throughout the year. It’s also possible to wander through Cologne quietly, stopping by at its ancient Roman ruins, pretty squares and fountains, and impressive monuments.
With so much to see and history to absorb, a guide is essential, and one of the best is Wolfram Buttschardt (011-49-173-905-9725, www.tourguides.viator.com), who delivers a wealth of knowledge in a highly personable and engaging manner.
Nothing, however, can prepare your clients for their first sight of the awe-inspiring Cologne Cathedral, a Gothic masterpiece dating to 1248 that dominates the city skyline with its soaring twin towers. (Note: The South Tower affords a panoramic view of Cologne, but alert clients that the spiral staircase is steep and narrow with more than 500 steps.)
If your clients don’t have their own guide, Travel Agent recommends booking a Cathedral Tour, which will reveal the wonders of the architecture, magnificent stained-glass windows and priceless treasures such as the Shrine of the Three Holy Kings. Attending one of the daily masses is a great way to see the Cathedral in action, or simply roam around quietly and tap into its powerful spirituality at your own pace.
Religion, art and culture are the cornerstones of Cologne with 12 beautiful Romanesque churches, 36 world-class museums, and more than 120 art galleries to lose yourself in, but there are also some lighter moments to be had.
A leisurely Rhine River Cruise offers a different perspective of the city along with some great photo opportunities. The Fragrance Museum at the Farina House traces the 300-year history of Eau de Cologne and gives the visitor a chance to snap up the latest fragrances. The popular Chocolate Museum is a must for anyone with a sweet tooth. (Tip: Don’t miss tasting samples from the chocolate fountain in the museum’s glass-enclosed atrium).
One thing is for certain in Cologne. With more than 3,000 restaurants and brewery taverns available, your clients won’t go hungry or thirsty. The foodie scene runs the gamut from current hot spots like the Michelin-starred Capricorn i Aires to boisterous and fun traditional pubs like Frueh am Dom, a few steps from the Cathedral.
Two excellent districts for dining are the leafy Belgian Quarter (we highly recommend Hopper et cetera with its peaceful courtyard restaurant), and the lively Friesen Quarter which has scores of restaurants, cafés and bars such as Heising und Adelmann—a stylish brasserie and beer garden.
Cologne’s bar scene is one of the best in Germany. We suggest, among others, Shepheard, Capri Lounge, Die Kunstbar, and Harry’s New York Bar, but night owls can pretty much wander from street to street and find something to their liking.
Note: Cologne’s famous beer, Kolsch, is served in smaller glasses called stangen. Blue-aproned waiters keep placing the Kolsch on the table without it having been ordered. Advise clients to, once they’ve had enough, simply place a beer mat over their empty glass and the waiter will bring them the check.
While the annual Christmas Markets are a highlight of the city’s annual calendar, there’s great shopping to be found all year, especially in the main shopping streets and department stores of Hohestrasse and Schildergasse.
For smaller and trendier boutiques, opt for Breitestrasse and Ehrenstrasse, and several upscale designer stores have opened on Mittelstrasse and Pfeilstrasse. Messing Mueller is a must for stylish home wares. For the best cakes and candies, head for Madame Miammiam. Zirkeltraining has a selection of unusual recycled bags, purses and sports equipment, sold at Cologne’s Contain Gallery.
If location and space rank high on your clients’ list of hotel requirements, Marriott Cologne scores well in both categories.
On a recent stay for Germany Travel Mart 2011, we were impressed with the hotel’s central location on Johannistrasse, an easy walk to Cologne’s main train station, Cologne Cathedral, and two of the city’s best shopping streets, Schildergasse and Hohestrasse.
The other surprise was the size of the standard Deluxe guest rooms. Our room #339 on the third floor had a very generous floor plan (almost 270 square feet) with a king bed taking up only a third of the room. A well-sized wardrobe and desk space still left plenty of room to move around in. (Note: The windows also open in all guest rooms).
The Marriott’s most requested accommodations are the 36 Executive Rooms; these come with access to the Executive Lounge serving complimentary breakfast, afternoon tea and evening cocktails, which can be enjoyed on two sun terraces in warmer months.
The premium Dom Suite has a terrific view of the Cathedral from its large terrace, and the spacious living room and dining area allow for entertaining business colleagues or friends away from the master bedroom. For further details, contact Julia Hieke (011-49-221-942-225-616, [email protected]).
Tip: Another great service offered by the Marriott is a Personal Shopping Butler who will guide and accompany you to Cologne’s best boutiques and carry purchases back to the hotel. Contact Head Concierge Steve Rossi (011-49-221-942-225-820, [email protected]) with queries.
|Blue-aproned waiters prepare to serve the ever-popular Kolsch beer.|