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
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
Upwards of three quarters of a million people regularly turn out for Christopher Street Day, which is what liberal, multicultural Cologne calls its annual gay pride festival. This year the festivities climax with a colourful parade through the city on Sunday 6 July.
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).
For a taste of Cologne's offbeat, multicultural side far from the usual tourist haunts, take a stroll along Venloer Strasse into Ehrenfeld, where you'll find everything from vintage fashion at Polysterschock in Geisselstrasse to cheeky slogan tshirts at Ehrenfeld Apparel in Körnerstrasse.
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).