Head to historic Cologne for a short break with a difference

This picturesque and culturally vibrant city on the banks of the Rhine is little more than an hour away from London Heathrow
Dieter Jacobi
12 April 2024

Germany needs no introduction as a city break destination. Whether it is Berlin, Munich, Hamburg or Stuttgart, the German map is dotted with places ideal for a brilliant weekend.

This list also includes Cologne. The country’s fourth biggest city is an urban jewel, set beautifully on the west bank of the River Rhine.

British Airways is well aware of its charms. The national carrier flies in at least once a day (and 12 times every week) from London Heathrow – and what’s more, with British Airways Holidays you can book your flights and hotel all in one place.

The flight is the shortest of hops, taking just one hour and 15 minutes. It delivers you to a city where history leaps out at almost every corner.

Cologne’s close proximity also makes it good news for football fans: it is one of the host cities of UEFA EURO 2024, making the Scotland vs Switzerland (19 June) and England vs Slovenia (25 June) matches being held in Cologne within easy reach.

Unmissable sights, towering historical landmarks

It is impossible to miss the Dom, Cologne’s enormous 13th-century cathedral, which dominates the centre of the city. How enormous? With its twin Gothic spires soaring 515ft (157m), it is the third tallest church on the planet. At one stage, in the late 19th century, it was the tallest building on earth. Glorious.

BA City Breaks: Cologne


You’ll find the extraordinary Shrine of the Three Magi inside this grand cathedral: preserved from the Middle Ages, it’s one of the largest and most sophisticated medieval shrines, a reliquary which is said to house the holy bones of the Biblical Magi.

You can’t miss the Rhine either. It flows past the city in grand fashion, the three colossal iron arches of the Hohenzollern Railway Bridge making the scene even more spectacular.

Nor do you have to admire it from the distance of the banks. You can take to the river with local cruise tours, which offer gentle voyages at all times of year. This includes during the winter, and the run-up to Christmas, when boats set off on regular Advent cruises, showing off the cityscape in a blaze of twinkling lights and festive cheer.

Benefits of booking with British Airways Holidays

  • Book now, pay later with deposits from £60 per person*, and pay off the balance in as many instalments as you like. Balance is due four weeks before travel for short-haul trips
  • A dedicated 24-hour, seven-days-a-week helpline for any issues while you’re away. And if your plans change or the unexpected happens, British Airways Holidays will prioritise getting you home as soon as possible
  • ATOL protection for all holidays – meaning your money is safe and you can rest assured you won’t be stranded abroad

Of course, Cologne has a close association with the festive season, thanks to the Christmas markets, which take over the Neumarkt, Heumarkt and Domkloster squares in November and December. But Cologne is a superb shopping destination in every season – stores calling out to visitors along the likes of Gürzenichstrasse and Pfeilstrasse.

Innovative museums and centuries of heritage

You can easily spend a fascinating afternoon at the Museum Ludwig
www.badurina.de / KölnTourismus GmbH

There is also enough culture to fill several long weekends. The Museum Ludwig has colourful works by the likes of Dali, Picasso and Warhol, as well as by German artist Martin Kippenberger.

Elsewhere, Time Ride will carry you back to the Cologne of the 1920s, via the wonders of virtual reality. The Romano-Germanic Museum traces the city’s tale back even further, to its Roman roots, in underground ruins and elaborate mosaics. And if you are impressed by the cathedral, Cologne’s 12 Romanesque churches – including the gorgeous 10th-century St Aposteln, with its frescoes and stained glass – may also appeal.

Where German cuisine meets international flavours

The riverside is a great place for a stroll and a bite to eat
Dieter Jacobi / Koln Tourismus Gmbh

What about fuel for the body as well as the mind? There is no shortage of choice on the food front either. Cologne has more than 3,000 restaurants, serving up dishes of almost every conceivable taste and international flavour – although those keen to try local cuisine might head for RheinZeit, next to the river, where German staples such as sausage and schnitzel are given a gourmet twist.

More reasons to choose a holiday from British Airways Holidays

There are all kinds of advantages to booking

  • Frequent flights to key destinations throughout British Airways’ vast network of short-haul destinations from three London Airports: London Gatwick, Heathrow and London City. These are daily, and even multiple times a day, so you’ll be able to find a flight that suits your schedule
  • A generous baggage allowance of 23kg per person is included, free of charge – there are no extra costs to add on
  • Plenty of choice and peace of mind: British Airways has partnered with numerous hotels – rated 3* and upwards – and brands, all of which are required to pass an extensive health, fire and safety checklist

The riverside is also one of many areas of the city awash with lively bars. Cologne is the spiritual home of Kölsch – a tasty local ale, generally served in small yet tall glasses (Stangen), light enough not to cause a morning headache.

Visitors keen to look a little further – but not too far – afield may already be aware that Cologne shares its airport with neighbouring Bonn. The one-time capital of West Germany is a small but inviting city, less than an half an hour’s direct train ride from Cologne, where you can delve into modern German history at the Haus der Geschichte, and explore the house where musical genius Beethoven was born, in 1770.

To book your city break to Cologne, please visit ba.com/cologne

*T&Cs apply. Deposit balance due 28 days in advance for short-haul holidays. Travel restrictions may apply