You’ve scrimped, saved, and sacrificed for decades. You’ve worked overtime, skipped weekends, passed on treats and splurges – so now what? For many couples adjusting to retirement, the simple answer is: travel. With a tidy nest egg saved up, you don’t have to backpack or couch-surf like a twenty-something. Rather, many fellow mature travellers like to turn to river cruises – particularly in Europe – for their comfort, convenience, and culture-packed itineraries.
For cruises on one of Europe’s most magnificent waterways, the Rhine, the journey is a gateway to the wonders of Germany. You can be sure you’ll be making a stop in Cologne, but your total time in this treasure trove of a city might well be less than 24 hours. You’re best off planning ahead if you want to make the most of your time in this cultural centre. We’ve got the perfect itinerary to help you hit all the highlights.
Start your day off by visiting Germany’s most visited landmark – the towering Cologne Cathedral. With its two enormous spires, this Gothic masterpiece has the largest façade of any church in the world. Construction on the cathedral took a whopping 632 years – from the laying of the foundation stone in 1248 to its completion in 1880. Badly damaged during World War II, the cathedral today has been beautifully restored and draws approximately 20,000 visitors every day. Marvel at the stunning stained-glass windows, and the golden Shrine of the Three Kings, or brave the tower climb to get up close to the medieval bells.
Domkloster 3, 50667 Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Tel: 0221 92 58 47 20
Hours: Open daily 6:00am-9:00pm
Prices: Free admission. Tower climb is €3, cathedral treasury is €4.
Now fast forward from medieval times to the modern period. Just a two-minute walk from the Cathedral, the futuristic-looking Museum Ludwig is home to an impressive collection of Pop Art, Abstract, and Surrealist art. The museum also houses one of the largest Picasso collections in all of Europe, as well as many works by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. If you’re an admirer of modern art, Museum Ludwig is a dream come true.
Heinrich-Böll-Platz, 50667 Köln, Germany
Tel: +49 221 221 26165
Hours: Tues-Sun 10:00am-6:00pm
Lunch at Haxenhaus zum Rheimgarten
Walk five minutes south along the river and break for lunch at the Haxenhaus, a building with over 700 years of history that now houses an excellent German restaurant. From pork knuckle to goulash, you’ll find plenty here to sustain you for the afternoon ahead. If you’re feeling really ambitious, split the one-metre sausage with your travelling companion.
19 Frankenwerft, 50667 Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Tel: 0221 257 7966
Hours: Mon-Fri 11:30am-1:00am, Sat & Sun 11:30am-3:00am
Cologne Chocolate Museum
Ready for dessert? The Cologne Chocolate Museum is dedicated to satisfying your sweet tooth. Inside, you’ll find artefacts from the Mayans and Aztecs (the earliest consumers of chocolate), European chocolate pots, and vintage chocolate advertisements. You can also watch master confectioners at work in the Chocolate Studio, or dip into the Chocolate Fountain, a three-metre-high gusher that holds 200 kg of fresh liquid milk Lindt chocolate.
Am Schokoladenmuseum 1A, 50678 Köln, Germany
Tel: +49 221 9318880
Hours: Tues-Fri 10:00am-6:00pm Sat & Sun 11:00am-7:00pm
While you’re in the Rheinauhafen district, stroll down the the Kranhäuser, just a four-minute walk from the Chocolate Museum. Translated literally as “crane houses”, the Kranhäuser are three seventeen-story buildings constructed in an upside-down ‘L” shape reminiscent of harbour cranes. The buildings, which now house offices and apartments, are a nod to the area’s history as a key port and harbour, where goods were loaded and unloaded with enormous cranes (two real cranes still stand in the area as a monument to the area’s former usage). Though the buildings are not open to tourists, these modernist monoliths are quite a sight framed against the Cologne skyline.
Im Zollhafen 12, 50678 Köln, Germany
Now cross the Severinsbrücke (the suspension bridge just north of the Kranhäuser) and walk north along the Deutzer Werft. Once an important shipyard, the Deutzer Werft now host the annual Volksfest, the annual spring carnival. Even when the carnival is out of season, the wharf is a lovely place for a stroll in fine weather.
KölnTriangle Observation Deck
As you walk north along the Deutzer Werft, you’ll see the KölnTriangle in the distance. This cylindrical skyscraper is a landmark in the Cologne skyline. At the top of the tower, the observation deck provides panoramic views across all of Cologne. Look straight across the river and you’ll see Cologne Cathedral where you started the day.
Ottoplatz 1, 50679 Köln, Germany
Tel: +49 (0) 221-355004 -100
Hours: Mon-Fri 11:00am-11:00pm, Sat & Sun 10:00am-11:00pm
Dinner at Lommerzheim
Fewer than five minutes from KölnTriangle, your dinner awaits you at this popular and cosy German pub. You may have to wait for a table, but there’s an excellent beer selection to keep you occupied at the bar. Make sure you arrive hungry (highly likely after your busy day), so you can take full advantage of the menu of pork chops, bratwurst, meatballs, and German potato salad.
Siegesstrasse 18, 50679 Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Tel: +49 221 814392
Hours: Open daily 11:00am-1:00am
As you leave dinner with full bellies, you’ll see the Hohenzollern Bridge all lit up in front of you. One of the most recognisable icons of Cologne, this iron rail and pedestrian bridge arcs gracefully over the Rhine. As you cross the bridge, you’ll see Cologne Cathedral aglow at the end of it, welcoming you right back to where you began.
How to Get to Cologne from the Cruise Port
Cruise ships arriving in Cologne may dock at any of several ports, such as Godorf, Mülheim, and Niehl. To get quickly and smoothly from your port of call to the city centre, take a look at Shuttle Direct’s options for transfers into Cologne. With pick-ups available from airports and cruise ports all over Europe, Shuttle Direct can make all your travel arrangements that much smoother.
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct provide competitively priced transfers in Europe and North Africa from a huge range of airports, train stations and cruise ports. Offering a friendly and convenient service that can be booked in advance, Shuttle Direct have experienced staff on the ground, who meet you on arrival and transfer you directly to your accommodation. Elect a private or shared transfer, depending on your budget and group size, and you can rest assured that your onward travel will be organised and taken care of in a professional manner.