Experience Cologne

Get ready to peruse the halls of Interzum during the day and enjoy some of the sites, tastes and beauty of this German city during off-hours.

Tourist in front of the Cologne Cathedral
No visit to Cologne is complete without a photo by the Cologne Cathedral, or Dom. With its impressive Gothic architecture, the Shrine of the Magi, outstanding stained glass and many other important works of art, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Andreas Möltgen / KölnTourismus GmbH

Cologne, Germany, is a city full of things to do and see. Consider this an introduction of sorts.

What: Interzum Cologne 2023
Where: Koelnmesse Exhibit Complex, Cologne, Germany
When: May 9-12
Hours: 8 a.m.-7 p.m. (exhibitors); 9 a.m.-6 p.m. (visitors)
More information: Interzum.com

This month, many members of the bedding industry will be destined for Cologne to take part in the world’s largest furniture components show, Interzum Cologne, which runs May 9-12.
The show occurs every two years, although Interzum in 2021 operated on a digital platform, thanks to Covid-19.

Whether you are journeying to Cologne for the first or the 15th time, it never hurts to brush up on fun things to do while there.

First, a quick rundown of the show:

  • Interzum attracts more than 1,800 exhibitors from 60 countries. At least 80% of visitors and exhibitors are from abroad.
  • The Koelnmesse Exhibit Complex, which houses the trade fair, covers 187,400 square meters (2 million square feet). It’s huge.
  • In 2019, Interzum Cologne brought in 74,000 visitors from 152 countries. 
  • This year, the show will be a hybrid event. Interzum will supplement the physical show with digital offerings.

This exhibition might be large — from the exhibitors showing off machinery and components to the number of people flowing through the halls — but the connections made are one-on-one. Enjoy the time you have there: Ask questions, see the latest components and machines, visit colleagues and take the time to make new connections.

Outside of the show, you can be as busy or quiet as you like. Cologne has a little bit of everything — from ancient artifacts to modern designer boutiques. 

Curating culture

Situated along the Rhine River, Cologne is Germany’s oldest major city, with more than a million residents. No matter where you go near the river, one dramatic sight is part of the skyline — the Cologne Cathedral, or Dom.

The Chocolate Museum on the banks of the Rhine invites visitors on a sweet journey into the 4,000-year-old history of chocolate. The glass factory also provides an insight into the production of chocolate today. Dieter Jacobi / KölnTourismus GmbH

Its history dates back to A.D. 1248, when the first stone was laid. At 157 meters (516 feet) tall, the Dom is the second-tallest church in Europe and third-tallest in the world. Inside, stained-glass windows — including one by Cologne artist Gerhard Richter — add color to soaring archways. In addition to the impressiveness of the 2,415-square-meter (26,000-square-foot) space, visitors come to see the Golden Shrine of the Three Magi, which is said to hold the bones of the three wise men who visited Jesus after his birth. 

If you can’t get enough of ancient cathedrals, you can check out any of the 12 large Romanesque churches, built between A.D. 1150 and A.D. 1250, which are found within a semicircle of the city center.

For a different learning experience, Cologne’s Old Town has a number of museums, ranging from the Museum Ludwig (which has the largest pop art collection outside of the United States) to the Wallraf Richartz Museum with its medieval and impressionistic paintings. There also is the Farina Fragrance Museum, home to — you guessed it — perfumes, with particular attention paid to the production and history of eau de cologne. If you have a sweet tooth, you may want to check out the Chocolate Museum. Interested in sports? There’s the German Sports and Olympic Museum. Traveling with kids? The Odysseum provides science and fun for the whole family.

To people watch or soak in the sun, enjoy the Rheinauhafen, Cologne’s waterfront district. People stroll, ride bikes and picnic in this picturesque area. As you near the Hohenzollern Bridge, you’ll see locks covering the sides, the result of couples placing padlocks on the railings and throwing keys into the river, symbolizing everlasting love. 

Want to kick up your heels and enjoy the sites from a river view? According to Cologne.de, hourlong harbor tours take visitors past the Dom, Old Town, the Chocolate Museum, the German Sports and Olympics Museum, and end at the former fishing village of Rodenkirchen, with all its dining options.

Time to eat

Cafe Schmitz
Cafe Schmitz is a popular meeting place in the Belgium Quarter.
Axel Schulten / KölnTourismus GmbH

Let’s talk about restaurants. Sushi, curry, pasta and other international foods easily can be found in Cologne. But to experience German culture, you can seek out brauhäuser, or brewery restaurants, in the city center. According to the Cologne Tourist Board, Cologne’s oldest brauhäuser include Brauhaus Sion on Unter Taschenmacher, which first opened in 1511; the Cölner Hofbräu P. Josef Früh near the cathedral; and the Brauerei Päffgen on the Friesenstraße.

You can’t talk about breweries without mentioning kölsch — the local top-fermented beer. Special to Cologne, kölsch is light and contains less sugar and malt than other types of beer. 

Picnic on the bank of the Rhine River.
The bank of the Rhine is ideal for walks, picnics or even a bike ride.
www.badurina.de / KölnTourismus GmbH

The Cologne Tourist Board also names two local food specialties on its list of 11 reasons to visit Cologne. “Halver hahn,” which translates to “half rooster,” contains no chicken — only a rye bread roll topped with cheese, mustard and onions. “Himmel un äd,” which means “heaven and earth,” includes black pudding, fried onions, mashed potatoes and applesauce. Food trucks also offer “Rievkooche” (potato fritters), which are served with cranberry preserves or applesauce.

If you’re looking for something a little more upscale, never fear. Cologne is home to a number of Michelin-starred restaurants, including Alfredo, Le Moissonnier, La Société, maiBeck, Maître im Landhaus Kuckuck, Maximilian Lorenz, NeoBiota, Ox & Klee, PULS, Taku and Zur Tant.

What did you bring me?

In addition to visiting all the historic and delicious places in Cologne, tourists also have plenty of shopping areas to keep them busy. The most popular shopping streets are Schildergasse and Hohe Straße. At their intersection stands one of the largest department stores in Europe, the Galeria Kaufhof. With five floors of shopping, you’re sure to find something.

If you prefer a more laid-back vibe, the nearby Belgian Quarter offers “high-quality off-mainstream fashion and
designer labels,” the tourism board notes. “Often housed in historic buildings, which adorn the streets, the extravagant rooms alone are a must-see.”

You might want to pack a jacket and an umbrella and throw in a pair of shorts for good measure. In Cologne, average high temperatures are in the upper 60s F and lows in the mid-40s F. Rain is likely 12 days out of the month. But keep an eye on the temperature before you travel. In 2017, it was unseasonably warm with temperatures in the 80s F. 

Getting around

Many sites are within walking distance of the Rhine and Old Town. However, if you’d like to travel farther afield, mass transit will be your friend. The central train station is adjacent to the cathedral and will take you from a full day at Interzum to wherever you want to go. DB Navigator or Citymapper are helpful apps to have on your phone. Both allow you to navigate multiple connections and station platforms, check schedules, find out about delays and alternate routes, and more. 

Speaking of apps, take a minute and download Google Translate or iTranslate if you don’t speak German. Many people in Cologne speak English so language isn’t much of a problem, but it’s a good idea to have this app handy for voice and text translation or for taking photos and getting a translation of the words in the photo (think all-German menus). TripAdvisor is another useful app to locate places or restaurants to visit, along with reviews.

Viel glück! (Good luck!)

Read more about the tourist attractions mentioned in this article by visiting Cologne-Tourism.com. Also visit Blog.KoelnTourismUS.de and HiddenCologne.de for tips on places to eat, the best street art and favorite ice cream spots.

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