3 Days Holiday in Köln and Düsseldorf, Germany
Recently on a long weekend, we, as a family, went to Köln and Düsseldorf for a holiday. These two cities are 45 kilometres apart and can be visited as a part of one trip. We did a three days holiday, but if you have four days available, then two days in Düsseldorf and two days in Köln would cover quite a few places.
In this article, I have written about:
- Information and review about the places we visited and the restaurants we ate in
- Our learnings and my recommendations for those who are planning a trip to these two cities
So, here goes how we went about planning our holiday.
Usually, when we travel as a family, we prefer Homestays/apartments over hotels. The main reason is that such accommodations are big and spacious. At the price of a hotel room or sometimes just a little more, one can get separate rooms, a kitchen, in many cases 2 bathrooms too. But this time around, since the plan was made at the last moment, we couldn’t find any Homestays at the location we preferred. Hence, we booked a room at Holiday Inn Express through Booking.com.
The difference between Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express:
The significant difference between a Holiday Inn and a Holiday Inn Express is that the former is full service, while the latter is limited. In Holiday Inn Express, you wouldn’t find extra amenities like a swimming pool, fitness centre, etc., available at Holiday Inn, thereby making Holiday Inn more suitable for families and Holiday Inn Express ideal for short-stay business travellers.
However, since we didn’t plan to stay in the hotel room and planned to be outdoors most of the time, we chose Holiday Inn Express.
Some notes for my readers:
If you plan to stay in Holiday Inn Express as a family and want your children accommodated in the same room, you can ask for a double bed and a sofa cum bed. That way, the room can accommodate four people. However, I will point out that the rooms are small. With four people, it can feel stuffy and cramped. A stay in Holiday Inn Express is ok for single travellers or couples. A single room for a family is ok only if you use the room for the night and plan to be outdoors most of the time.
Ours was a three days trip, and we stayed for two nights in Düsseldorf and made a day trip to Köln. Although Düsseldorf and Köln are not far, going by public transport and returning on the same day can mean time wastage in travel and delays. A better thing to do is to stay one night in Köln and one night in Düsseldorf. If you have more days and plan to see both the cities and nearby sites, split your stay between the cities. That way, you can save time and use it to spend time in the city.
Here is the link we used for the hotel booking in Düsseldorf. You can apply filters and choose hotels or apartments/homes etc., based on your preference.
If you plan to stay in Köln, check out the accommodations here.
In either case, I would recommend staying somewhere close to the city centre if you plan to use public transport to visit places within the cities.
This is what our travel looked like. Since we live in Darmstadt, Germany, and planned this trip using the train, our starting point was Darmstadt Hauptbahnhof ( Central Railway Station).
Darmstadt, Germany to Frankfurt, Germany: By regional Train (RB)
Frankfurt, Germany, to Düsseldorf, Germany: By intercity fast train (IC)
Please note that intercity travel can be done through RB and RE trains too, but they are slower and more crowded. Since we travelled when the 9 Euro offer was valid ( June 2022-August,2022), we made use of it, by travelling in trams and buses within the city to visit different places. For travelling between Frankfurt and Düsseldorf, we chose the IC because we wanted to save travel time and avoid huge crowds.
So, here was how we planned our travel.
Darmstadt –Franfurt Fernbahnhof : RB ( Regional Bahn) with 9 Euro ticket
Franfurt Fernbahnhof-Düsseldorf : ICE ( Inter City Express)
For travel within Düsseldorf + Düsseldorf – Köln + Other day trips near Düsseldorf: RB/RE/S bahn with 9 Euro ticket
Düsseldorf-Franfurt Fernbahnhof: ICE ( Inter city Express)
Frankfurt Fernbahnhof-Darmstadt: der Airliner (9 Euro ticket can be used, but additional 3.8 Euros need to be paid per person). Der Airliner is a shuttle service between Frankfurt Airport and Darmstadt.
Tickets for Deutsche Bahn can be booked on their official website.
Some notes from my readers:
You might read this article when the 9 Euro ticket offer may no longer exist. However, you can use all the trains and public transport mentioned above at a fare valid at the time of your travel. Just keep in mind that RB/RE and S bahn are slow compared to ICE. The ticket prices of ICE trains are more that RB/RE/S Bahn.
If you are reading this article in 2023, from May, you can use the 49 Euro ticket, which is a successor of the 9 Euro Ticket offered in the summer of 2022. The 49 Euro ticket works, by and large, like the 9 Euro ticket. There, wherever, I have mentioned the 9 Euro ticket above in our travel plan, you can replace that with the 49 Euro Ticket. More information about the 49 Euro ticket is available here.
Below is the itinerary we followed:
Day 1: Reach Düsseldorf by afternoon; Visit Rheinuferpromenade, Rheinturm
Day 2: Day trip to Köln – Visit Köln Cathedral; Rhein views by walking along the Rhein; Early return to Düsseldorf; Evening: Visit Königsalle in Düsseldorf
Day 3: Schloss Benrath, Neanderthal museum. Head back to Darmstadt
Now, I shall take you through the itinerary details, the places we visited, etc.
We reached Düsseldorf and checked in. After lunch, we relaxed a bit and then headed towards Rheinuferpromenade.
Rheinuferpromenade is a 1.5 km long promenade lined with cafés, restaurants, galleries, and shops on one side and the mighty Rhine on the other.
The stretch is very active, especially in summer when tourists and locals flock in to enjoy the sun and sights of the mighty Rhein River. One can enjoy the lovely views, relax in a cafe or restaurant, and savour local food and beer.
You can also find my review of the Rheinuferpromenade here.
The stretch leads you to the Rhein Turm.
About Rhein Turm:
Rhein Turm is a 240-meter-tall telecommunications tower. One can enjoy spectacular city views from the M168 viewing platform (at a height of 168 m ). You can buy a ticket and use an elevator to reach the viewing platform.
The interesting thing is that the Rhein Turm is open till late at night, and there are discounted tickets if you wish to see it in the morning or at night. You can see even as far as the Köln Cathedral from the viewing platform when the weather is nice. It also houses a snack bar where you can sit with your favourite snack and drinks and treat yourself to this unique experience.
Here is one of the lovely views from the viewing platform:
The tickets to the Rheinturm can be bought on their official website:
You can also find my review of the Rhein Turm here.
A note for my readers:
If you want to visit both Rheinuferpromenade and Rhein Turm, you need at least 3-4 hours. A walk along the Rheinuferpromenade is long and can tire you. Do make these considerations when you are planning a visit.
After our wonderful experience at the Rheinuferpromenade and Rhein Turm, we headed to a restaurant named Bona’me, recommended by a friend. It turned out to be a fantastic experience.
My review of the restaurant is available here.
After dinner, we called it a day.
After breakfast, we took the S-Bahn to reach Köln ( Cologne). As mentioned earlier, Köln ( Cologne) is located just 45 kilometres from Düsseldorf and is easily reachable by car or public transport. By S-Bahn, it takes about an hour to get there. By RE, it takes about 40 minutes.
As soon as you exit the Köln railway station, you are greeted by the mighty Kölner Dom ( Cologne Cathedral).
About Kölner Dom:
Kölner Dom is a Roman Catholic church whose construction began in 1248 and was completed in 1880. It is said that after the attacks of the 2nd World War, when the city was in ruins, this Cathedral stood intact and undamaged. It was considered nothing less than a miracle and has been a symbol of the ‘will to live’ since then.
The interior and exterior of the Cathedral are beautified with exquisite work ranging from sculptures to mosaic works.
The Cathedral stays open, and visitors are allowed to enter free of cost. If you wish to know more, you can also book a guided tour through their website: https://www.k-d.com/de/ or book a guided tour that includes both the city and the Cathedral.
My review of the Kölner Dom is available here.
With just a few minutes of walking from the Cathedral, you can reach the banks of the Rhein River. It is lined with cafes and restaurants and looks lovely.
Here, you can also find small outlets of various ship tour companies offering panorama city tours. There are special night tours, etc. too. We had tried the KD earlier in Frankfurt and found it satisfying. So we had planned a tour through them in Köln too, but the hot weather made us drop the plan. Instead, we decided to spend a few hours at a restaurant where we enjoyed our meal with the views of the Rhein.
My review of the restaurant ( Cosa Nostra) is available here.
If you visit Cologne and want to add one more experience to your day trip, you can visit the chocolate museum. It is sure to be a fun experience for children and adults alike. You can book the tickets either on their official website or Tiquets.de. Compare and see where you get a better deal and book accordingly.
Around 3:00 pm, we took S-Bahn and headed back to Düsseldorf. Since it was a hot day, we rested in our hotel room and, in the evening, headed to Königsallee.
Königsallee, called Kö by the locals, is a boulevard in the city centre of Düsseldorf. The Kö is one of the leading luxury shopping streets in Europe. The stream of water called the Stadtgraben, bordered by trees, gives it its characteristic design.
It is an active place, especially in summer, as you can find people walking, jogging, reading a book on one of the benches along the Stadtgraben, or tourists busy exploring the area, clicking pictures, or checking out the shops. The Königsallee connects to the Hofgarten, a massive garden, and is an ideal place for a peaceful walk in the evening or even a picnic.
Information about the shops, galleries, hotels, etc., at Königsallee, can be found on their website:
We explored the Hofgarten on foot and then headed back to the hotel.
After breakfast, we headed to the Neanderthal Museum.
About Neanderthal Museum:
The Neanderthal Museum is located about 20 kilometres east of Düsseldorf city centre. It is where, about 160 years ago, the first recognized Neanderthal remains were found. It is easily accessible by car and public transport and worth visiting in Düsseldorf.
It has various exhibits, multimedia installations, audio presentations, and informational texts that tell the story of humankind starting at 4 million years ago. Using the museum app or the headphones (which can be plugged in to hear the relevant audio), one can get a good amount of information about the site and the story the exhibits convey.
The audio is available in both English and German.
The museum also houses a cafe with a terrace and a museum shop.
Tickets for the museum can be purchased at the site or booked on their official website.
My review of the Neanderthal Museum is available here.
A note for my readers:
Reaching the Neanderthal site by public transport from Düsseldorf city centre can take about an hour, requiring some changeovers. So, account for about 2 hours of travel time to and fro. Apart from that, if you see all the exhibits, you may need about 2 hours at the museum. So visiting the museum can be considered a half-day activity.
After visiting the Neanderthal museum, we returned to the city and had lunch at an Indian restaurant named Jaipur near Düsseldorf central railway station (Hauptbahnhof).
My review of the restaurant is available here.
Now was the time to visit Schloss Benrath.
About Schloss Benrath:
Schloss Benrath is a Baroque-style pleasure palace about 15 kilometres from Düsseldorf city centre. It was constructed for the Elector Palatine Charles Theodor and his wife, Countess Palatine Elisabeth Auguste of Sulzbach. The construction of the palace began in 1755 and was completed in 1770.
As you enter the palace campus, the first thing that catches your eye is the beautiful pond with a fountain right in front of the palace. The palace complex has a main building called corps de logis (used by the royal family) flanked by two arched symmetrical wings, the Maisons de cavalière (which initially served as a house for the servants). Behind the palace is a park open for visitors during the day.
Today, the main building, corps de Logis, can be visited with a tour guide. On the website, it is called the ‘The Palace ticket.’The two wings house the Museum for European Garden Art and the Museum of Natural History. Tickets can be purchased for visiting these museums on their official website.
We took a guided tour of the palace. It lasted about 1 hour. Our guide showed us the rooms and explained the meaning and significance of some of the artworks. She also explained the design aspects of the palace, the materials used, etc.
My review of the tour is also available here.
A note for my readers:
Since we had little time, we just took a guided tour of the palace. However, visiting the palace, museums, and the park can take more than half a day. Also, if you travel from Düsseldorf city centre to the palace by public transport, you can account for roughly 2 hours of travelling to and fro. That can make visiting the palace a full-day activity. So, consider all these before planning your trip to Benrath Palace.
After the palace visit, there was just enough time left to pick up the luggage that we had left at the hotel locker room and head for Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof to catch our train to Frankfurt Fernbahnhof. From Frankfurt Fernbahnhof, we took the der Airliner to reach Darmstadt.
We booked individual tickets to all the museums and other sites. However, if you are in Düsseldorf for a day, you can also buy the Düsseldorf card, which includes all the museums and public transport for 24 hours.
See more pictures from these two lovely cities here.
To read more about our holidays, check the Holidays page of my blog.
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