I’ll admit, I’m a novice traveler. But based on the small list of places I’ve visited, it feels like there are two kinds of cities.
There are the cities that could be summarized as “You came, you saw, you conquered” and as much as you enjoyed the visit, you don’t have a burning desire to go back.
And then there are the cities that you completely fall in love with and even if you’ve seen and done everything, you could still return to them over and over again. Because it wasn’t just visiting the city’s highlights that made the trip enjoyable. It was also the atmosphere of the city. Or the lifestyle and the culture. Or maybe it was just the memories you’d created there that leave you feeling like you could come back again and again.
For me, there are two cities like that. Sorrento, Italy and Cologne, Germany.
My now husband and I visited Cologne together back in September of 2015. It was the first stop on our first trip to Europe together. Matt was actually lucky enough to live there for about a year and a half before he met me so I was so BEYOND excited to finally get to see the city that still felt like his home. The best part? Since Matt already lived there, he knew the city as well as any other local which meant I got VIP treatment as he showed me around the city.
We were staying in Cologne for three nights, but only spent one day visiting the city. You can actually see a lot of the city in a day, but that doesn’t mean you’ll want to leave right away. The city and it’s highlights are pretty amazing, but what stood out the most to me was the city’s atmosphere. Put simply: it is just a really fun city to hang out in.
The Cologne Cathedral [also called Kölner Dom in German]
This is a must see if you ever visit Cologne. The Kölner Dom is Germany’s most visited landmark and for good reason. It is STUNNING.
One of the most interesting things about this cathedral is that despite most of the city being flattened during WWII, the Kölner Dom stayed standing because it’s two spires were so easy to recognize for military pilots.
Entrance into the cathedral is free, but the climb to the top of the South Tower costs about €3. It will take about 20 minutes [and 533 spiral stairs] to get to the top but I promise the view is absolutely worth it. This was hands down one of my favorite parts of Cologne.
The Hohenzollern Bridge
Behind the Kölner Dom you’ll find The Hohenzollern Bridge. Follow the walkway along the bridge to the other side and you’ll come across a gorgeous postcard view of the city. This is actually one of the most popular photo spots in Cologne because you can get a great shot of the bridge with the cathedral in the back ground. Both the bridge and the cathedral get lit up at night which makes for an equally stunning photo opportunity.
But what is really cool about the bridge is it actually covered with thousands of love locks.The padlock trend began in 2008 and while I’ve seen it in other European cities, so far I’ve found Cologne’s bridge to be the most impressive. Experts estimate the padlocks weigh over two tones!
Cologne’s Old Town
After you’ve visited the Cathedral and overloaded your Instagram with selfies by the bridge, head over to Cologne’s Old Town. This is one of the city’s most loved areas, and for good reason. The entire area is bursting with things to do. Talk a walk through the area and you’ll find old churches and historical buildings, along with museums, monuments, and beautiful fountains. The Alter Markt and Heumarkt are also major attractions and you’ll find them closer to the center of the Old Town.
For the foodies out there, the area is full of restaurants, cafes, pubs, and breweries. We passed through the area around lunch time and stopped at one of the restaurants that directly faces the Rhine. Sitting there enjoying our meal was one of those small, insignificant moments of the trip that still stands out to me. It was such a beautiful day, and I remember thinking I could have easily spent all afternoon there just taking in the surroundings. Matt mentioned that when he lived there, he would often come down to the river with his friends and spend the afternoon sitting in the sun, enjoying Kölsch beer, and people watching.
First, I’d like to point out that Matt HATES shopping. Like he’ll buy 10 shirts in different colours so that he can avoid having to go shopping for the next three years. I on the other hand love it. Especially in a foreign city. I could spend all day popping in and out of stores exploring what the current trends and styles are for the area. So how do I know Matt loves me? He took me to Schildergasse.
Schildergasse and Hohe Straße are SUPER popular shopping streets that see more than 13,000 people every hour. The streets date back to Roman times, but are now filled with major department stores, shoe stores, and perfumeries. But it doesn’t stop there, close by you’ll find Ehrenstraße, a newer area full of trendy boutiques, cafes, and fashion stores and Mittelstraße where you’ll find the more luxurious stores.