Cologne is serviced by three airports: Cologne Bonn Airport, Düsseldorf International Airport, and Frankfurt Rhein Main International Airport.
If you have not booked a private transfer with us then you have a few options depending on what airport you are flying into. Below you will find the information for each of the three airports servicing the Cologne area.
Cologne Bonn Airport: This airport handles international and domestic flights and the hub for the low-cost airlines Germanwings and TUIfly, the airport is approximately 15 min by S-Bahn (local train) to Cologne Hauptbahnhof (central station). S-Bahn fare (ticket zone 1b) is about €2.80 one-way.
Düsseldorf International Airport: This airport offers many intercontinental connections. A train ride from the airport train station to Cologne central station takes about 40 minutes.
Frankfurt Rhein Main International Airport: This is the largest airport in Germany, served by all major international airlines. ICE (InterCity Express) high speed trains connect Frankfurt Airport and Cologne central station in less than one hour. Standard one-way fare is about €58. If you book your DB (Deutsche Bahn) train ticket online three days before your departure to Cologne, there are a limited number of seats at a reduced price of 30-50%. If you pay full price you do not have to take a specific train, but discounted tickets are restricted to the train on your reservation. Trains via Koblenz, which use the slower, yet extremely scenic route along the Rhine Valley, are also 30% cheaper. The ICE train takes about one hour; the slower more scenic route takes about two hours.
Cologne is served by two major railway stations: Köln Hauptbahnhof and Köln-Deutz.
Cologne is linked with Amsterdam, Brussels, Luxembourg and Paris by Thalys and ICE High Speed trains. Additionally, Frankfurt airport has direct service to Cologne and is within one hour by ICE trains.
Köln Hbf (Cologne) is set in the very heart of the city, right next to the famous Cathedral of Cologne, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This important rail hub is served by international Thalys, ICE and ÖBB Nightjet trains. This train station is served by metro, bus and tram lines.
Köln Messe/Deutz station is an important railway junction for long-distance rail and local services in the Cologne district of Deutz in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It is situated close to the eastern bank of the Rhine and connected via the Hohenzollern Bridge to Köln Hauptbahnhof, the city`s main station, which is just over 600 ft. away.
There is a train that links between Köln Hbf and Köln Messe/Deutz with an average travel time of 2 minutes. On an average weekday, there are over 400 trains per day traveling from Köln Hbf to Köln Messe/Deutz. The journey time may be longer on weekends and holidays. The cost of a train ticket from Köln Messe/Deutz to Köln Hbf is a minimum of around €8. To buy train tickets from Köln Messe/Deutz to Köln Hbf for the lowest price possible, we recommend that you book your tickets as early as possible. Tickets go on sale usually 3 months in advance, yet in some rare cases, this can be up to 6 months.
Cologne`s taxis are available 24 hours a day and can be found driving throughout the city, they are light yellow in color. Taxi meters start at a basic fee of about €3, plus €1 if you hail a taxi from the street; the fare rises about €1.50 to €1.70 per km thereafter, depending on the time of day. To order a taxi, call 0221-2882 or 0221-194 10.Is Cologne a walking city?
Cologne is an ideal place to explore on foot because the majority of the city`s attractions are clustered around the cobbled streets of the Old Town, which dates back to Roman times. This area is dominated by its Medieval cathedral, a useful reference point visible throughout, the city extends along the banks of the Rhine, where a modern promenade area adds a contemporary area to the historic base.
On the whole, the center of Cologne is not that big. It is entirely feasible to walk from one end of the center to the other on foot in about a half an hour.
Note: Cologne requires all cars to have a `Low Emissions` sticker in order to drive around in the city center (Low Emission Zone, `Umweltzone`). Rental cars automatically have the sticker, but if you`re driving your own vehicle, you`ll need to obtain one. We do not recommend driving in the city because the streets are heavily congested and the public transportation is very user-friendly and efficient.
For cheap parking, with quick connections to central Cologne, use `park and ride`. These park and rides are located at some stations; parking is free when you present a validated transit ticket on exit. This is most likely your best option as parking spaces/facilities in the city are hard to come by.
Cologne`s comprehensive mix of buses, trams, and U-Bahn (subway) and S-Bahn (light rail) trains is operated by VRS (www.kvb-koeln.de) in cooperation with Bonn`s system. The cost depends on the distance from the city or the place where you start your journey. Short trips (up to four stops) cost about €1.90 (around €0.95 for children), longer ones run about €2.40. Day passes are around €6.80 for one person. Purchase tickets from the automated machines (labeled Fahrscheine), from bus drivers, or at the stations. Be sure to validate your ticket before entering; validation machines are in stations and on buses.
The money-saving KölnCard costs about €9 for 24 hours (about €18 for 48 hr.) and enables you to travel throughout the city`s transportation network and get reduced-price entry to museums and other attractions. You can buy it at the tourist information center.
Note: This information and prices are accurate when this was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
Bicycling maybe one of the best ways to get around the city and the city is very bicycle friendly. Cologne has a Call A Bike system. After you register for an account online, it will charge your credit card a per minute fee. You can pick up or drop off one of the silver-red bikes anywhere in the city. It is also possible to rent a bike at many different places throughout the city. There are also some bike tours offered in the city as well.
Note: The bicycle lanes are usually painted a different color than the rest of the pavement, or they`re marked with lines and pictures of bicycles.
Cologne is a fairly safe place to visit, but there are certain precautions that should be taken in order to ensure a smooth visit to this city. Like always, common sense is the most important tool to be used for staying safe. Although petty theft and street crime are not of major concern in Cologne, they have been known to target tourists. We recommend that you don`t carry around large amounts of money, and avoid wearing expensive jewelry or looking flashy. Drawing un-needed attention to yourself is never a good idea.
We recommend that you never walk along the Rhine River around Alstadt (old town) after dark as it is considered by some to be a dangerous area. It is great to enjoy the architecture and charm during the daytime hours, but we advise you to not stay after the sunset.
We also want to advise you to watch out for pickpockets as you admire the Cathedral of Cologne. When you are looking up to admire the beautiful spire, you need to be aware that there are pickpockets that can be lurking outside and inside the cathedral ready to target tourist. Just be aware and keep your belongings secure and you should be fine.
Weather/Flooding: After winter and into spring, the snow in the mountains melts and the Rhine carries much more water than at other times of the year. The locals call this `hochwasser.` If you`re in Cologne during this time of the year, pay attention to flood warnings and do not take any risks. It`s not uncommon for entire areas of the city to close down due to flooding.
The currency used in Cologne and all of Germany is the euro (€), US dollars are not accepted. ATMs and banks can be located all throughout the city. If you require the services of a bank, try the ReiseBank is a good option and typically has a number of English-speaking staffers. We recommend you change your money at the banks as it is safer and they usually have a better exchange rate. There are Bureau de Change places around the city which are also good to use, but they can be hard to find.
We recommend that you exchange a small amount of cash prior to your trip, enough for a cab ride or basic spending on arrival. It is also useful to remind your bank and credit card company that you will be traveling to make sure your cards will work while in Germany. We recommend you record all your credit card numbers, as well as the phone numbers to call if your cards are lost or stolen.
Under the euro system, there are seven notes: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 euros. Notes are the same for all countries. There are eight coins: 1 and 2 euros, plus 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents.
In Germany, American Express, Diners Club, Master Card, and Visa are commonly accepted, with the latter two cards predominating. Note that many banks now assess a 1% to 3% `transaction fee` on all charges you incur abroad (whether you`re using the local currency or your native currency).
Average temperatures in Cologne vary greatly, with seasonal changes and day-to-day weather often comparable to that of south-east England or Northern France. Summers (July to August) are warm and pleasant but they tend to get a little humid (average temperatures as high as 86°F but can be significantly cooler barely 68°F as well). Autumn (September to November) and spring (April to June) are perfect for sightseeing. Autumn with its slightly cooler temperatures and beautiful foliage brings the best weather and cheapest hotel prices. Spring is also a popular season as the sun begins to shine and the beer gardens start opening up. Winters (December to February) are chilly and frosty, yet the festive atmosphere fills the air and the city looks like a fairy town with its twinkling lights and nightly markets.What are some of the events/festivals that take place in the city?
Weihnachts markte(Christmas Markets): Six markets offering food, drink and crafts plus events and Advent boat trips. These markets take place around the center of Cologne.
Kolner Lichter Musical Fireworks: In the summer the city of Cologne offers an extravagant firework display called Kolner Lichter. Watch from the river banks or from the river itself as the sky over Cologne`s Old Town lights up to the sound of music as the evening progresses.
Cologne Marathon: Over 27,000 runners come each year for the third most popular marathon in Germany.
Lange Nachtder Kolner Museen (Museum Night Cologne): each November the city`s museums open their doors between 7 pm and 3 am (up to 45 different museums participate) to welcome in everyone with live music, tours, readings and films. A single ticket will allow access to all the participating museums.
Summer Jam: This is the largest event of its kind in Germany with three days of all kinds of different music and performances taking place on different stages at the festival site on an island on Fuhlinger lake on the outskirts of Cologne. This event attracts some of the biggest names in reggae.
Carnival Cologne: The carnival takes place on the streets of the city each year offering a vibrant display of how to have a good time. You`ll find plenty of parties, parades and fun. There is a ceremonial burning of straw figures, bouquets of flowers and cries of `Kolle Alaaf` (Long Live Cologne!)
Kunstsalon - Musik in der Hausern der Stadt: This music festival takes place across Cologne, Hamburg, Bonn, Mannheim and beyond, that lets private hosts provide platforms for young and emerging artists to express themselves by performing in private venues. This annual event creates an intimate atmosphere for appreciating new music as well as drawing the cities together.
Cologne Pride/Christopher Street Day: One of the largest gay and lesbian events in Germany that celebrates and aims to raise awareness of social acceptance of lesbians, gays, bi- and transsexuals. The main event is the huge parade consisting of dancers, floats and sounds systems that makes its way through the city streets. Other events take place throughout the city during this weekend as well attracting about a million visitors each year.
Romanischer Sommer: Every couple of years the Romanesque churches come together to produce a summer festival of music performed at a variety of different churches. Here you`ll find a range of classical music, from string quartets to organ concertos and both solo and choral singing events. Piano recitals area also feature, as well as exploration of Chinese music.
Cologne is a traditionally Ripuarian-speaking city, though this has mostly been replaced by German, which is now the main language of the city. English-speaking guides and information are available for many of the landmarks of the city. The citizens usually have a lot of patience and appreciation for tourists that try to use the German language. Cologne`s citizens are very friendly and jovial people, welcoming tourists of all types and with all interests.
In general, older people in Cologne tend to have little or no knowledge of English, while younger Germans and those working in the business world tend to be reasonably proficient. Language is rarely a strong barrier, so this shouldn`t be too much of a worry for the average tourist. Just approach a friendly native and use a smile on your face. Due to a large number of immigrants, Persian, Turkish, Polish and Russian are also widely spoken. Announcements in the main railway station (Hauptbahnhof) are in German though some long distance and international trains have additional announcements in French and English. We suggest you get a good English-German guidebook and familiarize yourself with common phrases such as hello, goodbye, excuse me and numbers 1-10.
Whatever you feel like eating - you can have it in Cologne. Here you will find more than 3000 pubs, cafes and restaurants serving everything. There is no shortage of brewhouses where Kölsch is not only spoke (the dialect is called Kölsch as well) but drunk, and where a friendly and open-minded atmosphere will make you feel at home.
From Kölsch beer, to mouth-watering dishes, Cologne offers a delicious food scene you won`t want to miss. In general, Germans love their meat and they have many ways of preparing it. The traditional foods are quite rustic, but tasty and hearty. The typical brewhouse cuisine: Drinking `Kölsch` an eating `Himmel un Ääd`(Heaven and earth). Here are some local specialties you can eat in Cologne:
Halver Hahn - Slab of Dutch gouda with a rye roll with butter and mustard.
Himmel un Ääd (Heaven and earth) - Mixture of apple pieces (heaven) and mashed potatoes (earth), it is most often served with blood sausage.
Flönz - `Blutwurst`- black pudding
Rheinischer Soorbrode - joint marinated in vinegar with raisins, usually served with red cabbage and a kloss (potato dumpling). The joint may be beef or horse meat, so you may want to ask first.
Hämmche - boiled knuckle of pork, mashed potatoes and sauerkraut
Halber Meter Bratwurst - half a meter of origin German bratwurst
Dicke Bunne mit Speck - boiled white beans with hefty boiled bacon slices on top
Schweinshaxe (crispy pork knuckle) - pig`s leg, usually comes in a huge portion. This may just be the most succulent plate of food you may ever enjoy. Use the soft potato dumpling to soak up the meat that assembles on the bottom of the plate.
Rievekoochen/Reibekuchen - flat fried potato cakes served with a variety of sweet or savory toppings, which may include applesauce, Rübenkraut (the beet-sourced equivalent to black treacle) or smoked salmon with horseradish cream.
Mettbrötchen- Mett on a bun, mett being raw pork sausage meat. It`s a great snack that goes well with beer.
Schnitzel - A piece of meat (usually pork, veal or chicken) flattened, battered and fried to form a crispy, golden outer crust.
Leberwurst - known as liver wurst to non-Germans, this is another quick and affordable snack that will fill you up with meaty goodness. Traditionally comes served with sliced red onion and a bun.
There are plenty of international restaurants throughout the city if you want to go the non-traditional food route. Middle-Eastern, Asian, Italian, Indian, as well as Japanese and Thai restaurants can all be found around the city as well.
One of Germany`s major cultural centers, Cologne offers a variety of performing arts and nightlife options. The city offers over 70 clubs and party hot spots with something for everyone including countless bars, restaurants, brewhouses, and music venues. No other German city has as many pubs per capita as Cologne.
The brew houses, which in Cologne are a cross between a bierkeller (beer cellar) and a traditional British pub, are located throughout the city serving up Kolsch (the famous local beer). Look in the Altstadt (around Buttermarkt and Salzgasse) or go a little further out to the Belgische Viertel (between Rudolfsplatz and Friesenplatz) to find the biggest concentration of fashionable places to drink and eat. The Univiertel (university Quarter), around Barbarossa Platz and Zulpicher Platz, offers a concentration of nice establishments that attracts a lively nightlife crowd.
The central clubbing scene can be found around Zülpicher Straße and Luxemburger Straße streets. Plenty of clubs here cater to students` tastes and budgets in this area which is also a stronghold of the alternative scene.
From Friesenplatz to Barbarossaplatz squares, shopping boulevards turn into a very popular nightlife scene on Saturday evenings. `Die Ringe` is what the locals call these vibrant ring streets, which offer places to party with hip-hop, R&B and house.
The other main areas for nightlife are the Old Town, around Chlodwigplatz and Alteburger Straße, the fashionable Belgian Quarter, the original kölsche `Vringsveedel` (Severin Quarter) and the new multicultural trendy quarter of Ehrenfeld.
The KölnCard allows you to discover Cologne at a reduced price offering free access to public transport for 24 or 48 hours, as well as discounts up to 50% from numerous partners (sightseeing, art, culture, guided tours, shopping and gastronomy), and discounted entrance to the treasure chamber of the Cologne Cathedral. The card is available for single persons or groups. You can get a KölnCard at the Cologne Tourist board Service Center across from the cathedral; at all of the KVb and db ticket machines within the area where the card is valid for travel; in many hotels and hostels; and various travel agencies and tour operators. There are 4 types of cards available, each valid for 1 person or a group of up to 5 persons for 24/48 hours: KölnCard: includes free travel within Cologne.What is the shopping like? Where are good places to shop in the city?
Shopping in Cologne covers pretty much everything from all the main shopping chains, both international and German, to a historic and remembrance offering, and then more modern futuristic. The city also has a passion for open-air markets (especially during Christmas time).
The first Füssgänger (pedestrians-only) shopping zones in Germany originated in Cologne and present a seemingly endless and interconnected conglomeration of shops and shopping arcades.
Hohe Strasse, the main north-south street in Roman times, is now Cologne`s busiest commercial street, jammed every day (except Sunday) with shoppers, musicians, organ grinders, snack shops, and fruit sellers. On Hohe Strasse and its surrounding streets, you`ll find all the major international designer-clothing boutiques; stores selling silver, fine jewelry; and the big department stores. Schildergasse is where you find international men`s fashions, fine leather bags and purses, and French, German, and Italian designer shoes.
Most of central Cologne`s shops are between Rudolfplatz and the Dom. Off Rudolfplatz, Mittlestrasse, Ehrenstrasse, Pfeilstrasse and Benesisstrasse are home to smart clothes, jewelry, home furnishings and antique boutiques. Ehrenstrasse leads into Breitestrasse, a more exclusive street, as it heads back towards the Dom. The main shopping street is Schildergasse which runs parallel to Breitestrasse, and leads on from Mittlestrasse via Neumarkt, Hohe Strasse and back to the Dom.
Cologne`s most famous product is Kolner wasser (Eau de Cologne). Germany is one of the world`s leading processors of cocoa beans, a fact reflected in the mind-boggling array of top quality chocolates in the shop of the Imhoff Stollwerck Chocolate Museum.
Markets: The most dazzling markets in Cologne have to be the Christmas Markets that include the Alter Market in the Old Town, the Cathedral Market, the Marchenweihnachts market or fairy tale Christmas market on Rudolfplatz and the `alternative` market that stocks Moroccan moccasins at Stadtgarten. If you`re not in town at Christmas time, though, you can still find many outdoor markets to keep you busy. Flea markets regularly sprout up at the Alter Markt, with fresh food and vegetable stalls that line Wilhelmsplatz at the weekends.
Shopping Centers: Shopping centers with more than 100 shops are Koln Arcaden, Rhein-Center Weiden, Dumont Carre and Hurth Park. Neumarkt itself is a shopping center based around the Neumarkt Galerie mall.
Kaufhof Galerie (Cologne`s best general department store alongside Karstadt, on Breitestrasse) is located in Hohe Strasse, a popular shopping street which hosts several fashion multimedia shoe, cosmetics and jewelry stores.
Opening Hours: Shops on Schildergasse and Hohe strasse are open Monday to Saturday 10:00 am - 8:00 pm (generally).
Tax Information: VAT is currently at 19%. Travelers who live outside the European Union can obtain a tax refund (www.globalblue.com) on goods bought in Germany by submitting the purchased goods and the original receipt to the customs office at the airport. The export certificate should then be taken to any of the counters after the security check, where a cash refund is obtained. Note that a small fee will be charged on all refunds.
Important phone numbers in an emergency (dial without any local prefix all over Germany/always free of charge):
112 - Medical emergency and fire department
110 - Police
German medical facilities are among the best in the world. If a medical emergency arises, your hotel staff can usually put you in touch with a reliable doctor. If not, contact the American embassy or a consulate; each one maintains a list of English-speaking doctors. Medical and hospital services aren`t free, so be sure that you have appropriate insurance coverage before you travel.
Hospitals: St. Marien-Hospital, Kunibertskloster 11-13, 50668 Köln, Germany, Tel. +49 221 16290
St. Elisabeth-Krankenhaus, Werthmannstraße 1, 50935 Köln, Germany, Tel +49 221 46770
Uniklinik Köln, Kerpener Str. 62, 50937 Köln, Germany, Tel +49 221 4780