I have long had a fascination with this German city. Kölsch is my favorite beer and I have a deep fondness for German style pub food, especially the kinds you can find in Köln. Truth be told I came here to eat and drink. That’s pretty much as far as I had thought it through. And fortunately the locals seemed to agree that was a good idea. For a detailed exploration of Köln brauhaus food and drinks, see my indepth blog on the topic. But Köln the city is really awesome too so I wanted to provide at least a passing article on what you can find outside of a brauhaus. While we were in Amsterdam we took a day trip down so my daughter could see the city, then came back afterwards by ourselves for another four days.
If you ask the average Kölner about their city you’ll often hear them describe it as ugly (it’s absolutely not). But there’s a thing here about the town in relation to other German towns because most of the buildings there are quite new. Almost the entire town was destroyed by UK bombing during the second world war in a targeted strike. Recently in trouble for failing their targeted bombing runs, the royal airforce needed a win and decided on a flashy 1000 plane strike to prove they could cripple a city by air. That city was Hamburg. But as fate would have it, the weather was bad. So they looked for another big city within range and Cologne it was. In a single day they dropped nearly 1500 bombs on Cologne, about 1000 of which were incendiary which engulfed the city in flames. Around 42,000 civilian homes were damaged and over 13,000 destroyed. Although the cathedral remained standing even though it was bombed 12 separate times. In all Cologne suffered 262 air attacks and 34,711 long tons of bombs were dropped. Over 20,000 people died in arial attacks.
The Köln Cathedral
The first thing you see when you get off the train is this enormous gothic cathedral (the largest gothic cathedral in norther Europe). It’s literally right next door. And you can pretty much see it from anywhere in the city. I’ve seen a lot of cathedrals but I was still impressed by this one. Construction started in 1248 and was not fully completed until 1880. It houses the reliquary Shrine of the Three Kings which supposedly contains the remains of the three wise men who visited Jesus at his birth, gifted to the Köln church by Constantinople in 314.
Kölsch and the local brauhaus culture
To me the main draw to Köln was the food and beer culture which is widely known. The variety of beer there, Kölsch, is regionally protected and there are 26 varieties brewed in town, most of which are only available at their respective brauhauser (or brewhouses). See my full post on Kölsch food here.
Walking around town
Köln is a great city. Easily walkable with lots of neighborhoods to explore. We probably walked 10 miles our first day there and countless more as we explored later. Originally I had planned to stay in the Latin Quarter but after our day trip reconnaissance I chose a more centrally located apartment near the Pfaffen brauhaus which turned out to be the perfect spot. Although a week or two later during Carnival it would have been quite rowdy there.