Cheap flights to Cologne
When it comes to real beauty the German city of Cologne wins first prize. Sat right on the Rhine, and boasting all the boat rides and riverside charm you’d expect, it’s a perfectly up-to-date medieval town.
It has all the spectacular sights, age-old wonder and breathtaking buildings of a historical setting, put together with modern lifestyle, some truly edgy and interesting nightspots, and a rich and varied selection of art and culture.
Even just taking a quick stroll though the city will take you past spectacular medieval cathedrals, Roman ruins, the multi-coloured buildings of the Altstadt, or old town to you and me, and plenty of interesting museums and galleries. That is, of course, provided you haven’t been lured away by its clutch of unique boutiques, trendy second-hand stores or chic designer outlets.
Take the waters at the Claudius Therme spa in the Rheinpark, which offers indoor and outdoor pools, whirlpools, saunas and health and beauty packages. On the last Friday of April, May and June it's open until 2am for the Long Sauna Night. claudius-therme.de/en
Give your fitness a boost and get to know Cologne quickly with one of Colonia Aktiv's guided cycle tours through this ancient and relatively flat city, or simply hire one of their bright red city bikes and explore the Rhine metropolis for yourself. colonia-aktiv.de
Christopher Street Day is to Cologne's summer what carnival is to the winter months, with half a million spectators expected to watch the colourful gay pride parade wind its way through the streets of the city on Sunday 5 July.
Cologne's carnival is the biggest and most famous in Germany, and the carnival season reaches its crescendo with the Rosenmontag parade on 16 February. It takes around four hours for the floats to wind their way through the city, watched by more than a million spectators. cologne-tourism.com
Two of the world's biggest pop divas grace the LANXESS Arena this autumn, with Lady Gaga rolling into town on 7 October for one gig as part of her ArtRave: The ARTPOP Ball tour and diminutive Aussie chanteuse Kylie Minogue following her there on 22 October. lanxess-arena.de
Don't leave Cologne without tracking down its famous refreshing perfume. The 4711 company's historic House of Fragrance in Glockengasse has a free fountain of Eau de Cologne, a small museum on the subject and plenty of beautifully wrapped gift items to take home (4 Glockengasse, 4711.com).
Take to the water with KD Rhine for a leisurely day cruise on the mighty river, sailing south to Beethoven's hometown of Bonn, the lovely wooded hills of the Siebengebirge and the famous bridge at Remagen, where there's a museum in one of the surviving towers. kdrhine.com
Celebrate spring with a visit to Flora, Cologne's beautiful and recently restored botanical garden, with its parterres, palms and palatial central Festhaus, and once you've had your fill of nature, head for the park's cafe, Dank Augusta (1 Am Botanischen Garten).