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Cologne


Germany | CologneCologne is the fourth largest city in Germany and has stylish architecture, top-class museums, an endless parade of shops and excellent hotel facilities. It is also remarkably easy to get to, as the flying time from London is just over an hour.

While it may not be as famous for nightlife as Berlin or Munich, the city is one of the most popular weekend destinations in Germany with Germans. Cologne Cathedral is the most visited building in the country.

But it isn't all about indoor activities. The city straddles the Rhine and provides endless scope for riverside walks or bike rides. Nature parks dot the water's edge, or you can simply lie on the grass and enjoy the surroundings or watch the boats make their way towards Switzerland and Holland.

Elsewhere, the city has top-class music venues and clubs, not to mention more pubs per head then anywhere else in Germany. And, as it's the home of the country's media and entertainment industries, you can move from traditional brauhaus to trendy restaurant/bar in seconds.

But what are the must-dos in this great weekend-break destination? Travel Weekly takes a trip through morning, noon and night.

Bargain hunt 09:00:

clients can walk off their breakfast with a visit to Schildergasse, the most popular shopping street in Germany. Around 15,000 visitors flock to its vast stretch of department stores, food stalls and fashionable boutiques every day. But because the pedestrian area is based on an ancient layout of broad streets, the atmosphere here is never claustrophobic. Once tired of shopping, it's the perfect place for clients to grab a coffee and watch the locals go about their business.

Hohe in one 11.00:

time for clients to head for Hohe Strasse - a street that's linked the south of the city with the cathedral area since Roman times. These days it's a curious mix of modern consumables, traditional gifts and street performers. Visitors can stop for a bratwurst and enjoy the sights and sounds.

Gothic thriller 11.30:

a café stop beside the cathedral is the ideal way to gawp at the building's gothic splendour. The foundations were laid in the 13th century and since then the cathedral has survived everything from severe flooding to World War II bombing raids.

This history is reflected in the interior, which includes a 1,000-year-old wooden cross, an original medieval floor and 21st century stained glass windows. The bones of the Three Kings are claimed to lie in a golden shrine behind the altar.

But there's far more to the cathedral than religion. In 1998, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and now attracts more than 6.5 million visitors a year.

After exploring inside, there are street entertainers, musicians and peace campaigners to enjoy - a good way is from the towers above. Thankfully, none of these ruin the cathedral's spectacle or drown out the magnificent sound of St Peter's Bell - the world's largest free-swinging church bell, affectionately called "Fat Peter" by locals.

Arty facts 13.00:

suggest clients walk down the banks of the Rhine and grab a bite to eat from the market stalls lining the water's edge. Escaping the crowds is easy with a trip to the nearby Romisch-Germanisches Museum, which traces Cologne's past from prehistoric times to the early Middle Ages.

The museum houses a unique collection of Roman glass and medieval jewellery, plus a beautiful, intact mosaic dedicated to the god Bacchus.

If that's not your clients' bag they can try the Ostasiatisches Museum (Museum of East Asian Art), which contains art from China, Korea and Japan.

It was founded in 1913 and was the first museum of its kind in Germany. The collection includes Buddhist paintings and wood sculptures, Japanese screen paintings, colour wood prints and lacquer work. But for most visitors, the focal point is the traditional Japanese gardens of meditation, which provide a tranquil escape from the bustling city streets.

Cologne has 25 other museums, so there is plenty to fill time - although visitors might have a family battle on their hands deciding between the Deutsches Sport und Olympiamuseum and the Schokoladenmuseum (Chocolate Museum).

Making waves 14.00:

holidaymakers can jump on a KD Riverboat for a scenic cruise down the Rhine. The two-hour round trip goes through numerous towns and past many pretty houses.

There are excellent views of the city and the bridges that span the river. But the highlight has got to be the river's other craft, which are likely to vary from low-sitting barges and fuel tankers to traditional wooden rowing boats. It's time to sit back, sip lager and wave to mariners from all over Western Europe.

Dish of the day 16.30:

clients can head into the old town (Altstadt) for some regional delicacies. The whole area was lovingly rebuilt at the end of World War II and its narrow lanes and traditional pubs are a major draw. Here, clients can relax beside the Rhine or enjoy a meal in one of the breweries.

Specialities include halver hahn, which translates into "half a chicken" but in reality is a thick slice of rye bread covered with cheese, mustard, black pudding and raw onions, ordered under the name of kölscher kaviar.

If that doesn't appeal, try himmel un ääd (black pudding with potatoes and apple sauce), rievkooche (grated potato cakes) or Rhenish sauerbraten (marinated roast beef).

Beats international 18.00:

suggest clients sample the local music scene. The Berlin Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra are regulars at the Philharmonic Auditorium, but the venue has also played host to the likes of Placido Domingo, Liza Minelli and Miles Davis.

On the other side of the divide, the large Musical Dome hosts rock bands and musicals such as We Will Rock You.

Ale of the century 21.00:

settle into a cosy brauhaus and sample the local kölsch, a light, top-fermented beer served in slim glasses.

Cologne has more pubs than any other German city, and 26 local breweries each serving their versions of the ale. When drinking in breweries, your beer is brought to your table by köbes (traditional waiters). The brewery tradition can be traced back to the 15th century and, as long as you don't put your glass on a coaster, the köbes will just keep on serving.

Dancing shoes 23.00:

time to hit a club. For a sophisticated night, visitors can try the swish, modern bar at the InterContinental Hotel, which specialises in blues piano. If they want a dance, there's Friesenwall and Brüsseler Strasse, where the music ranges from house to jazz-funk.

The Quartier Lateng, at the start of Zülpicherstrasse, is where students hang out at ethnic restaurants and music pubs, as well as cosy joints such as the Rosebud cocktail bar.