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.
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.
Masked balls and early morning drinking, fancy dress and the cutting off of neckties - the crazy days' of Carnival in Cologne see the locals acting seriously silly. The fun climaxes with the mammoth Rose Monday carnival parade through the city on 8 February.
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/
From international brands like Cos, Diesel and Kiehl's to indigenous favourites like concept store Kauf Dich Glücklich and handbag emporium Liebeskind Berlin, Ehrenstrasse is one of Cologne's go-to shopping streets for fashion conscious visitors.
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.