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A Weekend Guide to Cologne

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Growing up in Brussels, Germany was never very far away. Cologne in particular is less than 2 hours away from both Brussels (by train) and London (by plane) but until recently I had never taken the time to properly explore the city. Which was a shame really, because it’s a lovely place with just enough culture, shopping, food, and drink to make it a great weekend destination.

My Mum still lives in Brussels and she had been saying how she wanted to explore Germany more, so for her birthday I gifted her this weekend away. I think we really made the most of it and both had a lovely time (as we always do when we’re exploring somewhere new) so I’ll share my quick weekend guide with you below.

Where to stay
  • 25hours Hotel The Circle is modern and super quirky with space-age vibes. Rooms are stylish and comfortable, service is friendly and the bar and restaurant upstairs have a great view.
  • The QVEST Hideaway is another very stylish hotel set in a neo-Gothic building that used to be Cologne’s historic archives.

Both hotels are a 15 minute walk away from Cologne’s main train station and the famous Cathedral. Both looked great so it was a tough choice but we went with 25hours!

Where to eat

For brunch:

  • Kaffeesaurus (pictured above) is a great place for breakfast. We had a platter with the most delicious bread, grilled veggies, poached egg and cheese. Yum!
  • Hommage café was too busy when we wanted to go, but that tells you it must be good! Go there for crepes.
  • We also really enjoyed the breakfast at NENI, the restaurant at 25Hours Hotel. It had a delicious hot and cold buffet.

For lunch or dinner:

  • We enjoyed a schnitzel at Haxenhaus, which is a traditional German restaurant right by the river.
  • For a very “Cologne” experience, head to Früh am Dom. The place looks small from the outside but it’s huge! We had the Brauhausteller dish which includes both pork knuckle and bratwurst – perfect if you don’t have much time to try all the local specialities. Make sure you have a little glass of kölsh beer to wash it all down!
What to see
  • Cologne Cathedral or Dom is of course a must-see. It’s the city’s symbol and was once the tallest building in the world! You can walk up the steps to the top if you have a lot of energy, but we were happy just walking inside, admiring the stained glass windows. Look out for a modern window that was designed by Gerhard Richter in 2002.
  • Museum Ludwig (admission 11€) has a fantastic collection of modern art. I would highly recommend a visit there even if you aren’t usually into art. We went to a Hockney exhibition but most enjoyed the permanent collection which includes an amazing collection of Pop Art, Picasso pieces, and really gives you an overview of the most important artistic movements of the 20th century.
  • MAKK, the museum of applied arts, is worth a visit too. It was undergoing a refurb when we were there but we were able to see two nice exhibitions (Andy Warhol – Pop Goes Art and 34xDesign)
  • We only had time for two museums but there are many more: Kolumba (religious art), Kölnisches Stadtmuseum (history of Cologne), Farina (fragrance), Roman-Germanic Museum, Wallraf-Richartz (fine art) and more! The chocolate museum is popular.
  • For an iconic photo of the much-instagrammed colourful old houses, head to Fischmarkt by the river. It’s worth wandering around the little streets nearby too.
Where to shop

Museums are great, but we couldn’t resist doing a bit of shopping around Cologne. The Belgian quarter is a good place to start, with shops like Boutique Belgique and Simon und Renoldi offering some stylish womenswear. From there, head down Ehrenstraße which is a great shopping street offering everything you could possibly want! We found some designer bargains at the Zalando outlet – I’d definitely recommend a rummage around there.

Hopefully this quick guide will help you to make the most of your weekend in lovely Cologne. If you do end up using some of these tips, please let me know – I’d love to hear how your trip goes!

What to Do in Berlin in One Day

By Posted on 4 min read 1511 views
berlin itinerary

Berlin: One Day Itinerary

Now, I’m not suggesting that you only need one day in the great city of Berlin, but sometimes that’s all you’ve got! Whether you’re in town for a business trip or for quick city break like I was last month, you’ll want to make the most of what little time you have and see some of Berlin’s most famous attractions.

Here’s my one day itinerary which makes it easy to see most of Berlin’s highlights on foot.

potsdamer platz berlin wall
Start at Potsdamer Platz

Potsdamer Platz is a major intersection of roads but also a public square. It used to have the Berlin Wall running through it, and you’ll see a few pieces of it on display next to the metro station exit.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
Berlin holocaust memorial
Make your way to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

This 19,000 square meter Holocaust Memorial built between 2003 and 2004 is an impressive sight to see. It is made up of 2,711 concrete blocks of different sizes, ranging from 0.2m to 4.7 m, all arranged on uneven ground. I recommend you wander around the blocks, see how you feel when you are so deep inside the memorial that you can’t see anything else around you. Please, just don’t play hide and seek or sit on the blocks! Have a think about whether this is a good memorial for up to 6 million Jews (there is a lot of debate about this) but please be respectful.

Brandenburg Gate
Walk over to the Brandenburg Gate

Built in the 18th century to mark the end of the boulevard Unter den Linden, the Brandenburg Gate is now a symbol of German unity. This gate has gone though a lot! The chariot and horse statue at the top of it was once stolen by Napoleon’s army and taken to France. The gate itself was heavily damaged during WWII, and its access was cut off when the Berlin Wall went up in 1961.

Reichstag Berlin
Reichstag and pretzels
Grab a pretzel at the Reichstag

The Reichstag is the meeting place for the German parliament, the Bundestag. The building was badly damaged by a fire in the 30s and wasn’t properly restored until 1999.

If you wish to visit the building, be sure to book online in advance or reserve a table at the restaurant. It can get busy so you might want to visit early in the morning or late at night to beat the crowds!

Berlin river
Avocado cafe Berlin
Walk along the river and stop to enjoy the view

If you can get a table with a view, I’d definitely recommend making a pit stop at The Avocado, a cute little cafe by the river.

I really enjoyed my lunch there, in the sun, with a view of Museum Island. I had been expecting Berlin to be cold in October so I was pleasantly surprised to be able to eat outside.

The avocado and cream cheese combo was a revelation!

Berlin river and museum island
Bode Museum Berlin
Explore Museum Island

Cross the bridge over to Museum Island, which is home to five museums: Pergamon Museum, Bode-Museum, New Museum, Old National Gallery, and Old Museum. If you only have one day in Berlin, I’m afraid you won’t have time to visit them all. Take a peek inside Bode-Museum’s main hall (pictured above) which you can enter without a ticket.

Berliner dom
Stop to admire Berliner Dom

The largest church in the city, Berlin’s Cathedral can be admired from the gardens in front of it, or you can pay the 7€ entry fee if you want to see the inside of this baroque style building. If you climb up the steps to the top you’ll be rewarded with some nice city views.

Gendarmenmarkt and horse
Gendarmenmarkt
Walk over to Gendarmenmarkt

This is said to be one of Berlin’s most beautiful squares, with the grand Konzerthaus (concert hall) and 18th century French and German Church buildings. Visit around Christmas time to enjoy a wonderful festive market. On your way here, check out some of the architecture on Unter den Linden boulevard, including the Berlin State Opera and the Humboldt University.

Checkpoint Charlie?

So to be honest, I’m not sure if I should be recommending this one. I’ve included it because it is so famous but it really feels like a bit of a tourist trap! This was once the border crossing between East and West Berlin and many people tried, some more successfully than others, to get across to the West side here.

I didn’t have time to visit the museum, but it has very mixed reviews.

Berliner Fernsehturm
Dinner with a view

For a memorable dinner (or drinks) head to the Berliner Fernsehturm, a TV tower that’s 200 meters tall and offers great views over the city. The restaurant is revolving so your view will be constantly changing over the space of one hour! I’ve heard it’s very nice for breakfast too.

Enjoy a show

I’d highly recommend catching a show while you’re in Berlin. Chamaleon theatre specialises in contemporary circus in a beautiful, intimate venue – read my review of their latest show here!

Hotel Palace Berlin
Off to bed!

If, like me, you woke up very early to catch your flight to Berlin, you’re going to want to go back to a nice bed. I can highly recommend Hotel Palace Berlin. I enjoyed my room there so much that I found it extremely difficult to make myself go out and explore the city! My room even had a great view over the zoo and the Tiergarten park. The hotel’s location was perfect, near the metro but also in the heart of Berlin’s best shopping district. Make sure you visit the city’s biggest and most famous department store nearby, KaDeWe!

If you still have energy, go out an enjoy Berlin’s world-renowned nightlife instead!

So that’s the end of a very cultural day in Berlin! Next time I’m there I want to venture to some of the hipper areas like Kreuzberg or Neukölln and experience more of arty, cool Berlin.

Have you been to Berlin? What do you love about it?

What to do in Berlin in one day. Here's a simple itinerary to help you navigate the city and see all of its most famous attractions, including the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, and Checkpoint Charlie.

 

Review: Parade at the Chamaeleon Theatre, Berlin

By Posted on 2 min read 666 views

Back in the summer I received an email inviting me to Berlin to watch the all new PARADE show at the CHAMÄLEON Theatre. Needless to say, I hopped, skipped and jumped at the opportunity. It’s not every day that you get to spend a weekend in one of Europe’s coolest cities and at the same time get to see one of its most unique shows.

CHAMÄLEON is a small theatre located in the heart of Berlin. It puts on two shows a year and focuses on contemporary circus which includes acrobatics, dance, live music and sometimes even singing. I was lucky enough to chat with a couple of people who work there and I could immediately tell that they are incredibly passionate about what they do!

The stage itself is in a beautiful historic ballroom in the Art Nouveau building of Hackesche Höfe. It’s quite an intimate venue with small tables and table service. Sitting at our table (sipping on a gin & tonic) I felt much closer to the performers than I ever do at many of London’s big West End theatres.

The show itself was really impressive. PARADE blends comedy with acrobatics, dance and music. The performers, who come from all over the world and met for the first time this summer, have great chemistry and work together well to achieve amazing acrobatic feats.

It’s incredible what the human body can do. One of the performers, Beata Surmiak from Poland, was particularly impressive and really was the star of the show! She was incredibly strong and could balance her whole body on one hand, on a guys head! I was blown away by her skills.

The show also featured live video animations controlled by the artists in real time in front of the audience, and a great soundtrack of electronic music, pop songs, and live percussion. This made the show even more dynamic and immersive.

Patiently waiting for my G&T before the show starts

Overall, I found the show really enjoyable, impressive, funny and full of surprises! I’d recommend an evening at the CHAMÄLEON Theatre to anyone visiting Berlin. It’s something a bit different that you won’t find elsewhere!

I was a guest of the CHAMÄLEON Theatre however my enthusiasm for PARADE is 100% genuine!