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When someone says ‘Cologne’, the first thing that pops into your mind is no doubt the fragrance. But what about the 2000-year-old city that invented it?
This cool cultural capital has a lot to offer and is a favourite destination for history lovers and die-hard party people alike.
Like much of Germany, this university city can be a pricey place to visit for the uninitiated. That’s why our crack team of travel experts have put their heads together to come up with this guide of where to stay in Cologne, based on your budget, and your interests.
We’ve done the hard work, so you don’t have to, and you can start planning just how to fit that enormous cathedral into one killer shot! It’s harder than you think!
So read on, and keep an eye out coz we’ll throw in some bonus insider tips on food and activities as well as the best advice on where to stay in Cologne, or Koln, as the locals call it.
Table of Contents
Where to stay in Cologne your first time – Altstadt-Nord
Where to stay in Cologne on a budget – Altstadt-Sued
Best area to stay in Cologne for nightlife – Ehrenfeld
Coolest place to stay in Cologne – Belgian Quarter
Best neighborhood in Cologne for families – Nippes
Not too fussed about where you’ll stay and just looking for the best accommodation your figures can buy? Have a look through our favourite choices for Cologne as a whole!
The value-for-money Hotel Eigelstein, in Altstadt-Nord, has homely interiors for all their spacious rooms. All rooms have a range of amenities that will help to ensure a comfortable stay. Rated 9.0 on popular sites, the hotel is in a convenient location, near to the main tourist and shopping areas.
The light wood-panelling of the Hotel Capima’s shared and private areas gives an airy and comfortable feel to the hotel, located in the Nippes neighbourhood. A buffet breakfast is on offer in the immaculate dining room, and guests can avail themselves of the onsite casino in the evenings, for an extra thrill!
Excelsior Hotel’s rooms have been described by guests as exquisite, offering movies-on-demand and a mini bar. Located in the heart of Innenstadt, in the very centre of the city, the hotel features a gym, sauna and a Turkish steam bath.
Guests of Excelsior Hotel Ernst am Dom are invited to experience Asian cuisine at Taku, or try French dishes at Hanse Stube. In the evening, guests can wind down in the comfortable lounge bar.
Located in the west of Germany, not far from neighbouring Netherlands and Belgium, Cologne is the largest city on the Rhine river.
It’s a funky, laidback university city that has a different atmosphere to the efficient rigidity of some other German centres.
Koln Karneval, for example, from November to March, is a five-month long ‘fifth season’ to the city. It culminates in a week of ‘crazy days’, with dress ups and parades to rival any of those seen in Rio!
With a cityscape dominated by the behemoth that is the Cologne Cathedral in Altstadt, there are more galleries and museums that could be expected in a city of this size. Add to that neighbourhoods of stunning architecture dating back hundreds of years, and you’ve got a well-rounded scene for tourism.
And with the most pubs per person in Germany and a burgeoning river life scene, you’ll never go thirsty, or bored!
The 9 larger neighbourhoods of Cologne nearly all adjoin to the central city or share borders with the Rhine that runs through it.
For example, Mulheim is your go-to to get amongst the lively Turkish community. Cross the river from the centre to grab a world-class doner kebab. Or Rathenauplatz, which is idyllic for those looking for an area unscathed by WW2 bombs. Nestled behind a student street, the beer garden in the park here is an ideal way to while away a sunny afternoon.
So let’s find the perfect spot, in this hip haven of culture and craziness, for you to rest your head!
Altstadt-Nord (North) is the absolute epicentre of all things Cologne. It is the site of the hub of the transport of the area, right in the middle of town.
It’s the perfect place for those new to the city as you can barely take a step in any direction without finding yourself in front of something noteworthy.
First and foremost, this is the home of Cologne Cathedral. This glorious building is visible from almost everywhere in the city and is guaranteed to impress. Seeing it for the first time as you exit the central station, your head will keep going up, and up, and up, to try and take in the height of those spires. Coming to terms with its sheer ground size is another story!
Altstadt-Nord is also the site of most of the Old Town. Though 76% of it was destroyed in WW2, it has been painstakingly rebuilt to recapture the charm and olden-days feel of centuries gone by. This is a lovely place to simply wander through the narrow winding alleys, or linger at the traditional tap houses en route. Home to a number of handicraft markets, frequented by locals and visitors alike, you can pick up souvenirs for the home here, while supporting small local business.
Head to Glockenstrasse to find the origins of cologne perfume, as the famous 4711 was named after this street number, a homage by the perfumer to its humble beginnings.
Less than 20 minutes on foot from Cologne Central Station, the hotel offers guests an ideal base when in Cologne. It is situated just a short stroll from a number of popular bars, clubs and restaurants.
Multilingual staff are available to help with reservations or dining recommendations for those staying in their bright, recently refurbished rooms.
Ready to book? We’ve put together our favorite places to stay in Munich so you don’t have to stress!
Only two minutes walk from the central station, Hotel Sandmanns am Dom is close to Cologne Cathedral, eateries and shops.
This 3-star hotel offers an express check-in and check-out feature, luggage storage and free Wi-Fi. Guests of the 11 rooms (book quickly to not miss out!) will find a gift shop within the complex.
On-site dining options include a restaurant, which is an ideal place to enjoy a meal.
Boasting a sauna and located a short walk from Cologne Cathedral, Cologne Marriott Hotel offers elegant accommodation.
Every contemporary room at Cologne Marriott Hotel includes tea and coffee making facilities, a refrigerator and a seating area.
Cologne Marriott is located in the heart of Cologne’s entertainment district with restaurants, cafés and nightlife on the doorstep.
On the other side of the dividing line that is Cacilienstrasse lies Altstadt-Sued (South). Here you’ll find almost the same level of accessibility, at a price that’s easier on the wallet.
Rated highly for nightlife, food and sights to see, as well as in striking distance of the icons of its northern brother, this neighbourhood is one of our favourites for where to stay in Cologne.
Part of the old town runs into this part of the central ring, with ruins of the medieval walls still visible in areas. You’ll also find a bunch of stunning churches, with varying architecture, to give you more of a glimpse into Cologne’s past.
Altstadt-Sued has plenty of museums and galleries, to help you learn and immerse yourself in history and culture while travelling. Some of note include the Sports and Olympic Museum, the Chocolate Museum, and the Temporary Gallery, more permanent than its name suggests.
You can find a range of theatres and music venues in this neighbourhood too, to keep the evenings alive after a full day of wandering. They dot the region in unlikely places, so keep an eye out on your strolls and you may come across a hidden local delight!
The river makes up the eastern border of the Altstadt-Sued area, giving visitors the chance to soak up some rays by the water, or huddle over a hot chocolate and German pastry in a riverside cafe, depending on the season!
This comfortable bed and breakfast with homely touches is a short stroll from 4711 and the Volkstheater Millowitsch.
Bermuda Triangle B&B is located in the heart of Cologne’s entertainment district with restaurants, cafés and nightlife on the doorstep. The bed & breakfast is positioned within a short stroll of Rudolfplatz Underground Station.
The funky and fun Aparthotel Adagio is located close to the area’s tourist attractions. It offers modern apartments with an en suite bathroom and a kitchen. The crisp clean designs will have guests feeling like they are in great hands, especially as the staff are a particularly praised feature of this accommodation in online reviews.
Boasting a rooftop terrace and a sauna, this is the ideal place to stay in the southern side of the circle.
Every cosy room at Romantik Hotel im Wasserturm comes with a mini bar (yes!)and slippers, while the bathrooms feature bathrobes and showers.
In the evening, guests are able to relax in the comfortable lounge bar or grab a bite in the on-site restaurant after a long day exploring.
This is the go-to place for all things after hours. Legendary for its nightlife, Ehrenfeld is home to the best dance clubs to get your fill of the famous German electronica. There are also a number of live music venues, for the indie or alternative fans.
Well-known as the artists’ quarter, and officially part of the city of Cologne since 1888, Ehrenfeld has theatres and art galleries, alongside warehouse clubs and dive bars. This proximity means you can cover the whole range of fun on offer, in short order.
To really get you clear-headed and clean-limbed for the evening ahead, shoot down to the Neptunbad to steam, soak and spa yourself silly. No need to bring your togs though, as bathing is done the old-fashioned way!
The neighbourhood is ideal for exploring on foot, and the streets are flat. You might still want to fortify yourself from any of the many excellent coffeehouses you’ll find on the way.
The residents of Ehrenfeld are proud of where they come from, identifying first and foremost with the neighbourhood, before the city, before the country. There is a strong sense of community here, and it’s an area trying to escape the gentrification, or pushing up of prices, that has been the fate of other nearby neighbourhoods.
They’re also noted for their inclusivity, as is all of Cologne, to be fair, and this is evident here in Ehrenfeld with the Cologne Central Mosque. This enormous glass and concrete building proclaims the city’s diversity and tolerance with pride.
A buffet breakfast or a coffee in the onsite cafe will set you up for the day, and night, ahead. These pristine rooms, privates available, have been commended for their comfortable beds and cleanliness of facilities.
Rent a bike from reception to zip around the area, and save your legs for the bar-hopping later on!
Guests can soak up the sun on the terrace or enjoy a beverage at the bar.
After settling into their room, guests can explore the local area with use of Aachener Strasse/Gurtel Underground Station, which is minutes from the hotel.
Ameron Hotel Regent’s in-house restaurant offers Italian-inspired meals – why not enjoy out on that terrace?
Rooms at Hotel Imperial Cologne are comfortable and feature a mini bar and cable/satellite channels.
Those staying at the hotel can enjoy a unique dining experience at the in-house restaurant, and each evening guests are welcome to relax in the comfortable lounge bar or outdoor terrace.
Hotel Imperial Cologne is close to shops, dining and Cologne’s nightlife.
A neighbourhood where their churchyard turns into a beer garden in summer? Sign me up! The biergarten is a mainstay of German social life and the placement of this one in front of St. Michael’s Church is testament to the Belgian Quarter’s effortless cool. If you want to meet locals, this is the place to head when it’s warm, to join groups of 20 and 30 somethings mingling in the evenings.
Brusseler Platz, the square where this church stands, is also one of the central places for the parades of Karneval, housing the revelry and shenanigans that go with it!
The Belgian Quarter (Belgisches Viertel) gets its name from its own street names, referring to Belgian provinces or towns. Belgium itself isn’t too far from Cologne, so there are no doubt historic links there.
Knowing this to help you navigate, here is where you’ll find streets of boutiques and galleries, as well as trendy coffee shops and bars. For food, you’re in the Belgian Quarter, so surely a waffle is in order!
With this as your sustenance, you can go in search of the street art of the region. Street corners, lamp posts and garage doors have all acted as easels for the graffiti or urban artists of the city. See if you can spot the famous banana stencil in various spots, and ask a local what they’re all about!
The coolest of places in the coolest of neighbourhoods, the individually themed rooms of the Hostel die Wohngemeinschaft will have you feeling like you’ve stepped back or sideways in time!
Close to the cathedral, nightlife and a major underground station, the hostel is well-situated for exploration of the area.
This modern hotel features immaculate, comfortable rooms.
Flandrischer Hof Hotel boasts a range of lunch and dinner options with on-site restaurants, Brasserie Brvegel and LOCCA.
The area surrounding Flandrischer Hof Hotel Cologne is popular for its shopping. The hotel’s multilingual staff will ensure that every traveller has a hassle-free stay.
The sumptuous rooms of the Steigenberger Hotel offer views of the Cologne Cathedral and easy access to the hotspots of the area, as well as tea and coffee making facilities.
Private bathrooms offer bathrobes to guest, while the in-house dining options have been raved about by guests in reviews.
Located just north of the centre city, Nippes to Alstadt is walking distance for the ambitious, or easily accessible by public transport for others.
The family-friendly neighbourhood of Nippes has, in recent years, become one of the most fashionable areas to live in the city. What this usually means is that the young professionals of the region are heading there as a place to start families, so it’s well set up for visitors with young’uns in tow.
The first thing you’ll want to do once you’ve dropped your luggage is head to one of the cake shops in the district. Where the British go in for tea and scones, the Germans are all about the coffee and cake. When in Cologne…
A laid back area with plenty of green spaces, multicultural Nippes is a safe neighbourhood with areas that kids can roam about in, burning off that cake energy, while parents can watch from the shade (or join in and burn off the coffee too)!
Nestled in a curve of the Rhine, Nippes has all that the riverside has to offer while heading in from the water, visitors can wander down streets lined with rows of late 19th century houses.
Nippes is home to the Cologne Zoo, which is always a hit with young and not-so-young alike. And then there’s Sculpture Park where you’ll all enjoy working out what, exactly, those big outdoor monuments are meant to be!
This accommodation provides basic rooms with essential amenities. Their option of connecting rooms and cooking facilities makes this perfect for families travelling on a budget.
With the Koln-Nippes station nearby, this provides easy access to the centre city, or the option to explore this neighbourhood on foot.
This is an absolute hidden gem. For the price, the rooms are outstanding and the service exceptional. Guests have praised the many nice touches, like the included refreshments in the rooms. Classy and elegant, some rooms are even equipped with a spa pool! That’d be a sure-fire hit with the kids!
Situated just south of the central Nippes area, this hotel provides classically decorated rooms with seating areas for the family to relax in.
For those wishing to dine out during their stay at Viktoria, there are a variety of eateries situated nearby. It is within walking distance of Koln Hansaring Station, which allows easy access in and around Cologne.
Cologne is a surprise to many who think they know German towns. Laidback, friendly, and hip, it has a lot to offer those who care to spend a day or two in its diverse neighbourhoods. An ideal day might start with coffee and cake, go via an art gallery and a few boutiques for ‘essentials’, then a stop in the shade of the Cathedral. Your day may take you on a different path but wherever you’re heading, Cologne can provide.
Especially if you choose to stay in our best overall hotel, the divine Excelsior Hotel Ernst am Dom, which will set you up perfectly for all your activities and give you an enchanting place to lay your head.
Now you know what we know, go ahead and get planning, having chosen where to stay in Cologne from our list. For a city like this one, really, all the options are great!
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Born in Los Angeles, Aaron Hovanesian is one of the original staff writers for Hotel Jules. Having backpacked the world as a young man, Aaron now prefers to travel the world in luxury, proudly staying in the world's most amazing hotels and properties. When Aaron is not traveling he lives in Western Colorado he can be found brewing his own beer (probably an IPA) or spending time with his two amazing golden retrievers.