The hotel’s restaurant appeared quieter than the previous morning but as breakfast is served between 7.00 and midday on Sundays, perhaps other guests were having a well earned lie in. We enjoyed tucking into a wide selection of healthy and perhaps not quite so healthy (but equally delicious) options to keep us going for most of the day.
Returning to our room, it was then time to pack our bits and pieces together which we then left with the hotel concierge as our flight home wasn’t due to depart until late evening allowing us plenty of time to explore more of the city.
Our morning began with a stroll towards the magnificent cathedral and along the nearby footpath to the riverside embankment. The previous day we had chosen to head upstream so it seemed a good idea to take a walk in the opposite direction. As it was a lovely sunny, spring morning quite a lot of people were also enjoying a morning stroll, cycle ride or jog.
We hadn’t got too far before we were diverted off the riverside path due to flooding. It wasn’t too bad and we were able to take a parallel route on slightly higher ground.
We’d noticed that on the previous day the Rhine was fast flowing and river levels were high. Large barges continued to pass slowly along laden with their heavy cargo and we enjoyed a pleasant 30 minute stroll to the Sculpture Park located just across the road from the river. The park offers free admission and is open daily. It was somewhat smaller than we had expected but contained approximately 30 contemporary sculptures.
The park was created in 1997 with a mixture of permanent and temporary exhibits. Unfortunately, there was very little information about the sculptures or descriptions of their works which would have been helpful to understand the artists ideas. The park lacks a cafe or visitor centre but we had a wander around leaving at its rear entrance near to the zoo.
Not wishing to visit the zoo we continued the short distance along to the Flora and Botanical Garden which also offers free admission. It’s Cologne’s oldest park and is divided into two sections. The southern section of the garden known as Flora was created in 1864 with symmetrically laid out gardens in a variety of styles.
Spring flowers were showing their heads brightening up the landscape as we followed paths through the gardens and around the lake. In the centre of the park lies the historic Flora building which re-opened six years ago after a three year renovation period. This elegant setting now hosts concerts, conferences, weddings and other celebrations.
The Botanical Garden was until 1920 separated by a wall but has now been combined with Flora. It felt very relaxing strolling through its lush vegetation and pausing to admire the gorgeous blooms of early flowering camellias and magnolias.
We also came across several tropical greenhouses and a wonderful palm house styled on London’s Crystal Palace. The gardens were beautiful during our March visit and surely must be even more delightful during the summer months and I’d definitely recommend visiting.
Instead of walking all the way back to the city centre, we made use of the metro from the adjacent Zoo/Flora stop and within ten minutes were alighting at Rudolfplatz which is home to one of the city’s twelve medieval gates. The Hahnen Gate is the most impressive of the monumental gates and was built in the thirteenth century.
Although it was interesting to view this gate, the main reason for taking the metro to Rudolfplatz was so that we could explore Cologne’s Belgian Quarter which lies between Friesenplatz and Rudolfplatz.
Visitors to the Belgian Quarter could be mistaken for thinking they had crossed the border and were actually in Belgium as its street names are derived from Belgian provinces and cities.
Brüsseler Platz lies at the heart of this affluent residential district centred around the neo-Romanesque St. Michael’s church. People were sitting on benches and low stone walls around the square, relaxing in the sunshine. Surrounding the square we found numerous cafes, bars and restaurants offering Belgian favourites such as waffles and moules mariniere. It was tempting to call in for a plate of waffles but as our flight wasn’t until nearly midnight, we had decided to eat later.
Retracing our steps back to the metro, we took a service across the river to its east bank alighting at the Deutzer Bridge from where we strolled through the historic park alongside the riverbank.
In 2015 an attractive, newly created promenade known as the Rhine Boulevard opened offering panoramic views of the city’s skyline from the old town to its majestic cathedral. We passed a large seating area of wide concrete steps which would be perfect for watching the sunset and several bars and restaurants along this popular stretch of the river.
Our afternoon stroll continued across the Hohenzollern Bridge, another good place for some picture perfect views of the city. This bridge also takes the name ‘love lock bridge’ as it is weighed down with thousands of engraved padlocks on its metal railings. I’ve come across many of these on my travels but I can’t recall seeing so many in one place.
Back at our hotel we enjoyed a sit down in one of its lounges and a refreshing cool drink before going out for a meal to Päffgen Beer Hall conveniently located just five minutes walk from the hotel. This beer hall is slightly off the tourist trail and is frequented mostly by locals creating an authentic atmosphere in its dark wood panelled rooms and has a rustic feel.
The brewery only serve one type of Kölsch but as it’s light and hoppy and easily drinkable, I can’t see this being a problem. It’s served in small 20cl glasses at €1.80 a glass. Do try and remember to place your beermat on top of your glass if you don’t want any more, otherwise your glass will be replenished. Interestingly, a beermat acts as your tab with the waiter marking this with pencil ticks to keep track of your bill.
Deciding what to order, I plumped for ‘Dickie Bunne’ from the Cologne local speciality menu whilst across the table it was his favourite pork schnitzel once again. My dish was described as broad beans with bacon and baked potatoes and I had anticipated bacon lardons stirred into the broad beans but instead I was served two large pieces of thick, fatty bacon. After taking some time to remove the fat, I actually enjoyed the dish with its combination of flavours, it just wasn’t what I was expecting. The portions were generous and the food piping hot. It’s not haute cuisine but good for an informal tasty meal. English menus are available but most importantly please remember to have sufficient cash as card payments are not accepted.
It was then back to the hotel for one last time to collect our luggage before taking the train to the airport. As our 48 hour Köln Cards were still valid we did not need to purchase rail tickets for the journey, but should you need to, then these are just €3 each.
The journey to the airport took approximately 20 minutes and as it was late in the evening the terminal was very quiet. Our return flight to Manchester departed punctually at 23.15 landing in Manchester slightly ahead of schedule at 23.45 local time.
Visiting Cologne for the weekend had been very pleasant and we had found plenty of interesting things to see and do to keep us occupied from exploring the gothic cathedral to learning about its perfume industry.
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During our stay in Cologne we were guests of Visit Köln and as always all views and opinions are entirely my own.