Plan on a couple of days to explore Cologne's wealth of sights. The city maintains an excellent website (www.museenkoeln.de) with info on most of Cologne's museums. The MuseumsCard (per person/family €18/30) is good for one-time admission to all municipal museums on two consecutive days.
Altes Rathaus Area
The area around Cologne's historical city hall (Altes Rathaus) has been a major construction site while a new U-Bahn line is being built. During this time, massive archaeological excavations have unearthed many new discoveries about Cologne's Roman and Jewish past.
The Altstadt hugs the riverbank between two bridges, the Hohenzollernbrücke and Deutzer Brücke. You can easily spend a few hours just strolling and soaking it all in.
The heart of the ever so lively and trendy Belgisches Viertel neighbourhood, Brüsseler Platz is a lush square surrounding St Michael's Church. Locals play chess, make out, sip beer or catch up on the gossip. Hip boutiques and bars radiate out from here.
Harbour Redux: Rheinauhafen
London has its Docklands, Düsseldorf its Medienhafen, Hamburg is building HafenCity and now Cologne has joined the revitalised-harbour trend with the Rheinauhafen. South of the Altstadt, this urban quarter has sprung up along a 2km stretch between the Severinsbrücke and Südbrücke bridges. Dozens of 19th-century brick buildings have second lives as office, living and entertainment spaces, juxtaposed with contemporary designs ranging from bland to avant-garde. The most dramatic change to Cologne’s skyline comes courtesy of a trio of Kranhäuser (crane houses), huge inverted L-shaped structures that are an abstract interpretation of historical harbour cranes. There are some shops, restaurants and cafes as well as a riverside promenade but, as with all projects of this type, it’ll be a while before the quarter’s true character and personality make it a compelling place to visit.
Cologne's Romanesque Churches
Cologne’s medieval heyday is reflected in its wealth of Romanesque churches, which were constructed between 1150 and 1250, and survived largely intact until WWII. About a dozen have been rebuilt since and offer many unique architectural and artistic features. Even if you’re pushed for time, try seeing at least a couple, such as St Gereon, St Ursula or St Maria im Kapitol. The website www.romanische-kirchen-koeln.de has good info on all of them.