If you want an exciting break, take a day trip Paris to Cologne Germany. Certainly one destination that I would really recommend. It’s just a bit more than 3 hours from Gare du Nord and if you plan your trip well, you can order Thalys tickets way in advance and get it at its lowest return ticket price (70 euros per person). If you take the first train out (around 7 a.m and the last train back at around 7 p.m., you’ll have 6-7 hours to experience the city.
You are in the Cologne city centre as soon as you step out of its central train station, looking up the famous Kölner Dom. (On your arrival, unless you already have one, head straight to the Tourism Bureau for more information and a map of the city, its offices facing the main entrance of the Cathedral.)
Köln is one of Germany’s oldest cities. In 1953, they unearthed its Roman remains, now exhibited in the Römisch-Germanisches Museum, right beside the modern art Museum Ludwig, two of the many museums the city have.
One museum where almost everybody inevitably head to is the Chocolate Museum, located almost at the end of the promenade. From afar, you can already see it jutting out like a ship. Don’t get too excited, though, there are no free chocolates around.
If it’s a gorgeous sunny day, like the day I spent there, it’s best to go straight to the promenade along the river Rhine, sit down and with the help of the map, plan your Cologne Stadtbummel while having brunch.
There are many ways to experience the city. You can either take a leisurely walk around, or take a one-hour boat tour, or take a hop on-hop off bus or join a guided tour on a Segway.
Shopping is a delight in Germany, and shopping in Cologne is no exception. The city has a big shopping area starting from the Hohe Strasse (the High Street) and overflowing to the Neumarkt (New Market).
Now, to my favourite topic – food. What and where to eat. Remember, this is not Paris. Eating out in restaurants in Cologne will not be horrendously expensive and (you know what?) the portions are manly.
All over Cologne you will see restaurants designated as a Brauhaus. These Brauhäuser are old breweries that have been converted into restaurants and serve hearty German meals to accompany your half litre of Kölsch, the native beer. These are the right places if you want to taste typical German dishes. (Sauerbraten, Rouladen, Rinderbraten, etc.)
If, like me, you want good food at budget prices, let me tell you about the place my friend and guide, Mary Lou Werning, introduced me to, China Jumbo’s, where for 7.80 Euros per head, one can eat from a Chinese buffet.
I failed in my duty to take pictures of the dishes, which were impressive – ex. soups, king prawns on spicy sauce, dishes that do not try to camouflage the lack of meat, baked bananas for dessert, etc) But, I had the presence of mind, after filling my tummy, to take a photo of the facade of the restaurant and the street where it is located to lead you there. (It’s not far from the Hohe Strasse. The buffet is served from 12h-21h.
Now, if I had to return to expensive Paris that same evening, I’d certainly eat dinner here before boarding my train.