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  • Writer's pictureanusha gopalakrishnan

Day Trip to Cologne, Germany | A Travel Guide

Our journey's final leg took us from Apeldoorn, Netherlands, to Cologne.

Opting for the road this time, my husband, a true car enthusiast, was eager to relish the drive along the renowned autobahn.

The day began with a hearty breakfast with the family. Next, we set off on a road trip to Cologne with our family. The journey took approximately 2.5 hours, factoring in time spent navigating traffic.

The Autobahn Experience

Germany is renowned for its beer, sausages, sauerkraut, and enchanting Christmas markets—hallmarks that often come to mind when people think of the country. And then, there's the Autobahn, an iconic symbol of German engineering and a unique feature that sets the country apart.

The autobahn is a network of highways in Germany famous for its one-of-a-kind feature of having sections without federally mandated speed limits. While there are stretches with speed restrictions, particularly in urban areas and construction zones, many parts of the autobahn allow drivers to travel at their own discretion, often resulting in higher speeds than on typical highways elsewhere in the world. It's famous for its efficient design, quality road surfaces, and the freedom it offers to drivers.

Funnily, according to various studies and statistics, the autobahn generally has a lower accident rate compared to other highways with similar traffic volumes and speed – thanks to the strict regulations and rigorous enforcement regarding vehicle maintenance, driver training, and adherence to traffic laws.

How did we find the journey, you ask? Well, it was the most exhilarating journey of our lives (evident from our squealing). With my uncle at the wheel, we cruised along the iconic German highway, feeling the thrill of unrestricted speed and the rush of acceleration. Overall, it was an adrenaline-pumping, thrilling experience made even more amazing by the beautiful scenery along the way.


Top Things to See and Experience in Cologne

In my view, Cologne can generally be explored in a day with effective planning and prioritization due to its compact layout. Ultimately, it all rests on your preferred travel experience.  

As for our experience, we were able to explore much of the city within a half-day timeframe and still had ample time to relax and pursue other activities which predominantly revolved around eating.

If you're keen on delving into the city's arts, culture, and culinary delights, I recommend allocating a day or two to fully immerse yourself and make the most of your experience in this charming city.

In this post, I will be sharing my travel itinerary with you. Before that let me share a travel tip with you:

Cologne is often referred to as Köln, so if you're traveling by train to Cologne, be sure to disembark when you reach Köln :D


1.     Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom)

The Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site known locally as the Kölner Dom, is a magnificent Gothic masterpiece located in the heart of the city and is one of the tallest cathedrals in the world. If you are taking the train into the city, this colossal church will be the first thing you see as soon as you exit the station.  

It is absolutely stunning!  We just stood in front of the church for several minutes, utterly mesmerized by its intricate details and sheer grandeur.  Construction of the Cologne Cathedral began in 1248, although it was not completed until 1880. It took over six centuries to build this impressive structure, which makes it one of the most ambitious building projects of the Middle Ages.

You'll be pleased to know that entry to the church is entirely free of charge!

The interior of the church is equally stunning. The thing that struck me the most were the elaborate and vibrant stained-glass windows. These windows illustrate various biblical scenes, saints, and symbols, and they are considered some of the finest examples of medieval stained-glass art in the world.

We spent a few minutes sitting on the church benches, marveling at this ancient architectural marvel and admiring its intricate details before making our way out.

Pro Tip:  If you are in the mood for some adventure, it is possible to climb the 533 steps to the top of the south tower for sweeping views of the Cologne as well as admire the cityscape from above.


2.     Explore Old Town (Altstadt)

Next we spent some time wandering through Cologne’s charming Old Town. Admire the colorful buildings and browse the shops for trinkets and souvenirs.

If you're a fan of shopping, be sure to explore Schildergasse, one of Cologne's primary shopping streets situated in the city center. This street is dotted with a wide range of shops, including international brands, department stores, and specialty shops


3.     Hohenzollern Bridge (Hohenzollernbrücke)

Walk across the Hohenzollern Bridge, which is famous for its love locks. Take in the views of the Rhine River and Cologne Cathedral from the bridge, and consider leaving your own lock as a memento.

I suggest enjoying a gelato while going for a leisurely walk. People claim that the sunset view is breathtaking, so if you can, stroll along the bridge and witness the sun setting.

4.     Indulge in a Currywurst

Currywurst is a popular German fast-food dish consisting of steamed, then fried pork sausage, typically cut into slices, and seasoned with curry ketchup sauce. It's often served with a side of fries or bread rolls. We had it to go and I’ll leave you with a photo of it :D


The rest of the time was spent having an early dinner with the family. For dinner, we opted for Thai food, which was especially satisfying for me as I was feeling a bit under the weather and the Tom Yam soup hit the spot. We shared laughter over cocktails and beers, enjoying each other's company at the restaurant.

Afterward, we treated ourselves to some delicious gelato from a nearby stand. I chose the hazelnut flavor, which was absolutely delightful. To top off the meal, we savored cups of coffee at a café overlooking the Cologne Cathedral, cherishing the moments together.

Spending time with my uncle and aunt is always a joy, and it was bittersweet to bid them farewell as our holiday came to an end. Nevertheless, we reminisced about our time together and eagerly discussed plans for future trips.

As we made our way to the train station around 7 pm, we said our goodbyes with heavy hearts. Our train was delayed by 30 minutes, we found ourselves wandering into a bookshop where we impulsively decided to send a postcard home. It's been nearly a month since our trip, and we're still waiting for news of its delivery—fingers crossed!

In my honest opinion, visiting Cologne for half a day was definitely worth it. The highlight for me was spending quality time with family and the exhilarating experience of cruising along the iconic autobahn—another item checked off my bucket list."







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