Our First Taste of Germany – Cologne and Dusseldorf.

In our last update we revealed that a short visit to our home country, England, had accidentally resulted in an impromptu purchase. A house.

You can read more about why we decided to invest our money in bricks and mortar, and why it won’t limit our travels here. (We owe you an update on how we pay for both our mortgage and our travel costs – it’s coming soon!)

After spending the whole of 2015 on the road backpacking through 6 incredible Asian countries plus a rather disappointing Australia and New Zealand, we took a short break in 2016 to play house – though we still managed to visit an impressive 5 countries during that time (Portugal, Switzerland, France, Italy and Mauritius).

2017 marks the return of budget backpacking and less time in England, and we kicked the year off in style by taking our first ever trip to Germany.

Why Germany?

A return to our roots of luxury backpacking (where we prove that you can travel on a budget without sacrificing on comfort) meant that we needed to scour the web in search of super cheap flights.

We use a combination of methods to find the lowest fares possible and on this occasion a well-timed visit to flight comparison website Momondo resulted in one of our best deals yet – return flights to Cologne for just £19.98. This doesn’t quite trump our flight from Malaysia to Australia for £22 but it’s up there!

Proving that you don’t need to be rich to see the world, we travelled with budget carrier Ryanair and have absolutely no idea why they get such bad press. The flights were pleasant enough and I really can’t find anything to complain about, which is more than can be said for most airlines.

Ryanair are currently selling flights for as little as £4.99 and so if you’ve got the travel bug but limited funds, you should definitely check them out. We’ve already booked return flights to Luxembourg in April and I’m eyeing up Denmark and Poland too!

Where to stay in Cologne

Unless you plan on staying for a while, it’s best to base yourself in Cologne’s Altstadt (old town). This will put you in the best location to see all that Cologne has to offer, whilst also allowing you to access other parts of Germany by train using Cologne’s Central Station – we took a day trip to Dusseldorf and were pleased to be able to see two cities in one quick visit (we were only in town for 3 days).

germany budget

We use a mixture of hotels, apartments and guest houses when we travel and thanks to our travelling out of season – it is super cold in Germany in January – we were able to find lots of great deals.

After securing such epic flights, we opted to splurge a little on accommodation and so booked 4 star City Class Hotel at £85 per night – way over our normal budget. We loved it because it is incredibly central and made our stay super easy. When you’re only in town for a little while it’s annoying wasting valuable tourist time on walking miles back to your hotel at the end of the day. It also made enjoying Cologne’s nightlife easier as we were able to make the most of all the cool pubs and bars without having to worry about how to get home after one too many beers!

Cheaper options include Hotel Weber and Hotel Berg – both are basic but are in great locations and include free Wifi for only £45 – £50 per night.

Alternatively you could stay in an apartment for as little as £36 per night using Airbnb. This is great if you are on a really tight budget as you often have the use of kitchen facilities meaning you can also save money on eating out. Plus they’re usually really comfortable.

Personally for short stays we tend to prefer the convenience of hotels, saving apartments for when we are spending longer in a city but we can’t deny that there are some excellent deals on apartments in Cologne.

Hohenzollern Bridge and the Cathedral at night

Getting around Cologne

Budget travel means tromping past the queue of people waiting for a cab and instead heading for the airport train station. When getting a cab costs EUR 40 and a train is just EUR 2.80, it’s a bit of a no brainer, plus we didn’t want to miss out on riding our first ever double decker train! (Yes, we are that sad).

double decker train germany

German trains are the most confusing trains we have ever had the pleasure of riding and so it did take a while for us to figure out how the hell to leave the airport.

Firstly it appears that in Germany (or Cologne / Dusseldorf at least) the eradication of humans has begun and you can literally only buy tickets from a machine. In German. Which we don’t speak.

One handy bit of advice which I wish we had known before is that Cologne Central Station in German is Koln Hauptbahnhof (shown as Koln Hbf for short) – so if you find yourself struggling at the ticket machine – this is what you want.

Plus you MUST validate your ticket by sticking it in a little machine near the train platform BEFORE you board the train. Special thanks go out to the annoyed local who got so sick of watching our confusion get us no where and jumped in to explain all of this to us.

Now it may be tempting to avoid buying a ticket – there are no ticket barriers and so what’s stopping you getting a free ride?

Well, of the 3 train journeys we made we saw 2 ticket inspectors and let me tell you, it is not a good idea to cross them! If you don’t have a ticket they will not take it lightly and, though it was hard to follow the altercation we saw due to the language barrier, it’s pretty safe to say that they don’t take any shit!

visit cologne

Successfully embarking the correct train selfie

All the sights of Cologne are in comfortable walking distance once you reach the centre and so for the rest of the time you won’t need to spend any cash on getting around. On one particularly fun day we walked an impressive 9km which we hope will reduce the effects of the large quantity of Kolsh we later drank.

What to do in Cologne

Our favourite activity in any city is always wandering around and exploring. In Cologne this means ambling down quaint cobbled streets taking in culture with every turn.

With the breathtaking Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the river Rhine; countless beerhouses and pop up food markets all around you, I promise that you will not get bored.

Here’s what we got up to:

  • Ate Currywurst – EUR 4 (ish). You could spend a lot more depending on where you go, but really, it all tastes the same so don’t be fooled!
  • Attended our first ever hockey game. Local team Kölner Haie were playing the Ausberger Panthers and this was a huge highlight of our trip – we would highly recommend booking a ticket when you’re in town. Tickets start from EUR 14 and can be bought here. Go Sharks!!
Cologne ice hockey

The atmosphere at the Sharks game was electric

  • Climbed the 509 steps of the Cologne Cathedral (WOW! and Ouch) – EUR 4 each.
  • Attended Sunday Mass at the Cologne Cathedral (this is phenomenal by the way, and we’re not religious at all. It’s an experience that you won’t want to miss) – Free – but we did donate a Euro to light a  candle.
  • Drank a disturbing amount of Kolsh, Cologne’s locally brewed beer. This was not as cheap as I had imagined. In Prague for example the beer is usually less than a Euro but we paid on average 2 Euro for a 0.2l glass (which looked like a bloody test tube to English pint drinkers like us!).
  • Took a day trip to Dusseldorf – around EUR 15 (This is the cost of a return train ticket)
  • Visited the famous Lindt chocolate museum – you can spend as much or as little as you like. We skipped the actual museum (9 EUR entry) and instead sampled the goods in the cafe and gift shop
  • Felt the love at the popular Love Lock Bridge (actual name Hohenzollern Bridge) – don’t forget your lock!
Hohenzollern Bridge

Thousands of locks on Hohenzollern Bridge


 Hohenzollern Bridge cologne

…and of course we had to leave our own!

  • Took a few pastries to the face in the amazing Merzenich Bakery. Their pretzels are life.
  • We can never visit a new city without having a drink in their Hard Rock Cafe – though none will ever be as good as London!
  • Ate a humongous chicken schnitzel
  • Went to the STRANGEST beer house. There are no words. You must visit to experience for yourself.
  • There are an absolute shit ton of shops if your budget allows for some retail therapy. We travel with carry on luggage only and so this is rarely an option for us but we were tempted by all the warm clothing. Did I mention it was freezing!?
  • Ate greasy, delicious street pizza – around EUR 2.50
  • No visit to a city would be complete without propping up an Irish Bar. There’s plenty to choose from but our fave was the Corkonian

Have you been to Cologne? Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments below.

COMING UP: We’re back in England for 5 short days before hitting up country number 30 – Singapore! We’ll be visiting for Chinese New Year and can’t wait to tell you all about it! Sign up for our Newsletter to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Money making tip – last year alone we made £534 by using cashback site Top Cashback. Sign up today and start earning money when you shop online. More money = more travel!!

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