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1st Dec 2016 12:39pm | By Paul Wojnicki
Not a lot of people know this, but there are actually five seasons in Cologne. The usual four plus carnival season - which runs all the way from early November to Mardi Gras.
Cologne credit: horstgerlach
So here are five things to do in Cologne in the Fifth Season and save yourself an expensive ticket to Rio or New Orleans in the process!
Cologne has more pubs per capita than any other city in Germany and well over seventy clubs so you’re not going to be lost for somewhere to drink. Add a thriving student population and Germany’s largest LGBT community and you have the recipe for a giant party at any time of year, but in the Fifth Season festivities are ramped up further still.
The “party mile” of Zülpicher Straße is the epicentre of the hedonism and has enough cocktail bars and pubs to put you on the wagon for months afterwards. But pretty much everywhere in Cologne is party central during the Fifth Season; you don’t even need to leave the train station as the former waiting room on the ground floor is now a bar/nightclub. Budget conscious travellers however might want to head over to Zülpicher Platz, on the Habsburgerring. Student friendly clubs here like Das Ding and Cent Club have drinks for a little as a Euro. If you’re looking for somewhere more upmarket then head for ultra-stylish Seiberts Classic Bar and Liquid Kitchen, located in an old town house in the city centre, where you have to ring a bell in order to enter and you are guaranteed the best cocktails in Cologne. Indeed the bar features in many “best bars” in Germany, Europe and the world lists.
Cologne Christmas Market credit: Michael Luhrenberg
There's a brief period in which Christmas and New Year celebrations take over from carnival, but this is a great time to visit as well, with no fewer than seven Christmas markets - most with spectacular backdrops and all with plenty of booze. For something less traditional head over to the pink and purple stalls of the Gay and Lesbian Market; Cologne is the LGBT capital of Germany and the risqué scene projects itself onto the Christmas market. Expect energy, positivity and very er... untraditional wares. If you prefer to keep things traditional then you’re well catered for in the markets of the Old Town, harbour and under the spires of the UNESCO listed Dom.
The iconic cable cars might be out of service in winter but that needn’t prevent you getting up in the air. The south tower of the cathedral is probably the most arduous way to get a birds’ eye view - with 533 steps to the top. The 100m high KölnTriangle across the river is infinitely easier and you get a great view of the Dom from the 360 degree outdoor viewing platform. If you’re looking for a completely different view then head to the top floor of Kaufhof Parkhaus 1 on Cäcilienstrasse. This 1950s parking lot has a great view of the southern prospect of the Dom, Antoniter church and Cologne’s TV tower. And all for free.
Frankfurt, Germany credit: Pixabay
We all like a bargain, and if we can see two cities in one trip then all the better. German trains are fast, and punctual, which makes Cologne ideal for a twin city break. Frankfurt (1hr 20), Dusseldorf (27 mins) and the former capital of West Germany, Bonn (19 mins), are all very easy side trips. The romantic castles, legends and hills of the UNESCO listed Middle Rhine Valley are also on Cologne’s doorstep and can also be visited by ferry - as can Bonn.
The Rhine is one of the most romantic and serene waterways in the world, but as the Fifth Season gets closer to Mardis Gras the waterways of Cologne go as wild as the rest of the city. KD cruise ferries run carnival parties in the run up to Mardis Gras with top DJs and live acts for just 22€ per person. The party cruises run on select weekends from 7pm until 2am and have gained cult status over the last few years. Monthly disco events are also held on the boats in the warmer months. If you’d prefer a more serene experience then hop on board one of KD’s daily ferries to Konigswinter or Koblenz and enjoy the Upper Middle Rhine’s legendary valleys and castles for a fraction of the cost of the 5 star cruise ships that also make the journey.
Cologne is easily reached by Eurostar with one way tickets starting at just £45. You’ll need to change train in Brussels Midi but this is included in the price of your ticket.
We stayed at the AZIMUT Hotel Cologne City Centre which is right next to the Hansaring S-Bahn station, or a 15 minute walk from the Dom. There are plenty of small restaurants and cafes in the vicinity and the river Rhine is easy to reach. The rooms are large for a city hotel and the staff extremely friendly. Rooms start at a very reasonable £61 per night.
For more information on any attractions or hotels visit the super helpful team at www.cologne-tourism.com or step into their office opposite the cathedral, just outside the main train station.
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