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.
Cologne celebrates carnival on a grand scale. More than a million people watch the 7km-long Rosenmontag procession, whose 12,000 participants distribute some 300 tons of sweets, 700,000 bars of chocolate and 300,000 miniature bouquets to waiting revellers. This year the big day is February 27th.
For more than forty years Kölner Haie have been a fixture on the German ice hockey scene and have become one of Europe's best-known teams. The 2016-17 season is already underway, with no fewer than seven home fixtures at the impressive LANXESS Arena.
The annual Kölner Lichter event transforms the Rhine in Cologne into a flood of music and colour on 16 July. Germany's biggest synchronised firework display is preceded by live performance on the open-air riverside stage and by a floodlit convoy of ships processing downriver into the city.
Norway's most famous male combo since the Vikings, a-ha play the LANXESS Arena for just one night on 26 April. Expect much more than a nostalgia fest from the eighties pop idols, who re-formed in 2015 to record their tenth studio album, Cast in Steel.
The cathedral may be Cologne's most famous landmark but its soaring Gothic south tower is also one of its best viewing platforms, at least if you're fit. Climb the 533 steps to the top and you'll be rewarded with views that are properly breathtaking.
If your time in Cologne is limited, head for the area around Domplatte. The world-famous cathedral aside, it's also here that you'll find two of the city's finest museums: the Römisch-Germanisch museum with its spectacular Roman mosaics and antiquities, and the Museum Ludwig, which has a world-beating collection of pop art.
Pick up the latest edition of the free Chic Belgique guide to explore the best of the Belgian Quarter's renowned boutiques, from the elegant women's fashion at Tom & Hatty or L'Éphémère to jewellery, bags and gifts at La Seda and limited edition trainers at The Good Will Out. www.chicbelgique.de/index/
Lush with oak, ash, beech, maple and lime and dotted with ponds and waterways, the 200-hectare, forest-like Stadtwald in Lindenthal is part of Cologne's green belt. It is a spectacular expanse of parkland, loved by picnickers and joggers alike. There are pony rides for kids plus a zoo with deer, donkeys, sheep and highland cattle.