Roman walls, medieval churches and the curving arcs of the railway bridge – more than two millennia of history and architecture come together in Cologne. The twin spires of the cathedral dominate the charming Altstadt, the best place to take a follow-your-nose wander to beer halls and taverns.
Day 1: Medieval Churches
Where else to begin your journey through Cologne than the glorious Kölner Dom, the city’s twin-spired cathedral that miraculously escaped unscathed from the bombing raids of World War II. Packed with art treasures, work first began on the building in 1248 and wasn’t complete until 1880. Inside, the building is a symphony of light and space thanks to the flying buttresses, stained-glass windows and richly carved choir stalls. Many other medieval churches fill the old city, including turreted Gross St. Martin above Fischmarkt and the lovely church of St. Ursula. For a view of Cologne’s towers from the Rhine, take an atmospheric afternoon or evening dinner cruise.
Day 2: Cologne Museums
Cologne is a cultural gem, and not only because of its churches. See sculptures, tombs, mosaics, ruins and entire bits of wall from Roman times at the Roman-German Museum. Trace the history of art by admiring the Wallraf-Richartz Museum’s collection of Dutch masters, medieval treasures at the Museum Schnütgen, and 20th century and postmodern art at the Museum Ludwig. Cologne’s history is unraveled at the Kölnisches Stadtmuseum, the city’s Third Reich experience at EL-DE Haus, and gorgeous textiles and designs are displayed at the Museum of Applied Arts.
Day 3: Cologne Cuisine
There’s much more to Cologne’s dining and wining scene than raucous beer halls with oompah-pah bands and sauerkraut – though there’s a lot to be said for spending a night drinking arm-in-arm with your neighbors at a tavern. The local beer is called Kölsch, and the food you’ll encounter in beer halls and regional restaurants includes hearty blood sausage, potato pancakes with apple sauce, and open sandwiches on pumpernickel bread. Step outside the beer taverns and the world is your oyster, from Japanese sushi and Middle Eastern falafel to crepes, pizza and pasta.