48 Hours In Cologne

After spending most of 2017 complaining about how badly I needed a holiday, when my friend messaged me to say she’d found £10 flights to Cologne and should we go, I jumped at the opportunity. I went on a massive road trip round Germany and Europe when I was younger, but I’d never actually been to Cologne so I was excited to explore somewhere new.

We decided to go for two nights to minimise time away from work and keep the cost of the trip down, and here’s what we got up to!

Cologne's trainstation

First day

Our flight got in around midday, and the train journey from the airport was really straightforward. We’d booked an Airbnb that was only a short walk from the station, so we were unpacked and changed in good time to head out to explore and find some lunch.

We spent quite a while pottering around the city scouting out somewhere that had vegetarian options and wouldn’t break the bank as we didn’t want to splash the cash too much right away, and settled on a bar near the river in the old town area.

Colourful buildings along the river Rhine in Cologne

On our first evening we booked a free walking tour so we could get to know the city and scout out anywhere we might want to give a little more attention on our only full day there. To be honest it wasn’t the best tour ever, but we did get shown around a few places we wouldn’t have found on our own with the time we had there. We also learned a little about the history of the city, and what the people are like!

The architecture in Cologne is quite random, as apparently when parts of the city needed rebuilding after the war it was something of a free for all, so as you walk about you’ll see that rows of buildings right next to each other look completely different. Some, like the colourful buildings in the old town are really pretty, but you do come across a few monstrosities too. I really enjoyed the eclectic mix of styles, so I snapped plenty of pictures of the streets there, and of course the star of the show, which is the Dom.

Cologne cathedral at night

It took the people of Cologne about 600 years to build the Dom, but they took a bit of a break between the 16th and 19th centuries. It also turned out that what I’d assumed was some kinda monument outside was actually a 1:1 replica of one of the spires at the very top. All I can say is it was ENORMOUS, and the Dom itself was just absolutely gorgeous.

Cologne Cathedral

Second day

The next day, we went to scout out train times for getting to the airport in the morning, and had a wander around the inside of the Dom. It’s free to go in, and I highly recommend going inside

I remember going around cathedrals with my parents as a kid and being absolutely in awe of how grand they are, and that feeling really doesn’t seem to diminish at all, however old I get. The stained glass, the mosaics on the floors, and just the sheer size of the building, and every little detail was just so beautiful.

Hohenzollern bridge

Next we went to check out the Hohenzollern Bridge, which crosses the Rhine near the cathedral and is adorned with locks of love. This is actually the first ‘bridge with some locks on it’ I’d seen in real life, having never been to any of the usual places like Amsterdam, so that was cute. We enjoyed the view of the city from across the river, and then headed back over into town.

Locks of love on the hohenzollern bridge in cologne
Locks of love on the hohenzollern bridge in cologne

We mooched about a little more, took some photos, and then found a spot to have coffee. We ended up in a place called Restaurant Lyly, which is a really nice restaurant in the old town that felt really cosy and the staff were super friendly. We had Turkish coffee and perused the menu and decided we would actually quite like to go back that evening for food.

If you do head to Cologne, I can really recommend eating there. We had a lovely meal there on our last evening, and the atmosphere was wonderful.

We also did a little bit of shopping on our last day, and made the most of the European January sales! Things were a lot more heavily discounted than they tend to be in the UK, the exchange rate on my Monzo card was insanely good, and I finally found a hat to fit my tiny tiny head! Happy days.

Colourfully painted buildings down a side street in Cologne

Sticking to a tight budget

Since my main reason for not travelling more often is that I simply can’t afford it, we did our best to keep costs down while we were there.

We took a free walking tour, but tipped around 10 euros, and apart from that we didn’t pay for any activities at all. We did nearly visit a museum, but perhaps I’ll visit if I ever return.

For food we only paid for two meals out, and went to a local supermarket to stock up the fridge in our Airbnb to tide us over the rest of the time, which worked out really affordably!

Our last day shopping trip was also pretty reserved, we only shopped in the sales and we couldn’t buy too much anyway as we only had carry on luggage and were flying Ryanair so stuffing our suitcases wasn’t an option.

Let me know if you’ve ever been to Cologne and what your favourite parts are, or if you have any good tips for travelling on a budget! I plan to do a bunch more travelling this year so I welcome any suggestions.