Cologne, Germany

Photo: 5hours Hotel Company

Berlin tops the list as the coolest city in Germany. Hamburg and Frankfurt aren’t too far behind. Cologne is always overlooked, though. It’s time to give the largest city along the Rhine another glance.

Cologne is one of the oldest cities in Germany. During the Middle Ages, it was the largest city in the Holy Roman Empire. So there’s a definite historic vibe. It’s also a college town that’s home to seven major universities, including the prestigious University of Cologne. There are more than 30 museums and hundreds of galleries. It even has the most pubs, per capita, in the whole country. So Cologne has a liberal, artsy, and friendly vibe, as well.

Your opinion of Cologne starts to change as soon as you arrive at your hotel in the center of the city. Innenstadt is where the Cologne Cathedral, 12 Romanesque churches, and the 14th-century City Hall stand. So you expected a classic, quiet feeling. But the 25hours Hotel The Circle, in Innenstadt’s artsy Friesenviertel District, is anything but boring.

Photo: 5hours Hotel Company

Last year, the 25hours Hotel The Circle took the former headquarters of an insurance group, which was probably pretty dull at the time, and turned it into a colorful, urban retreat. Its huge main hall is a futuristic space with modular furniture and playful statues. It features a shop with unusual things, a record store with leather sofas, and a cafe to keep you caffeinated. There are even Schindelhauer Bikes for rent.

The upstairs rooms are just as playful. Each one varies in size from Medium to Gigantic. You select a Large room with a wooden floor and beams, a king-size bed, and lots of sunlight. Wooden slats separate the bedroom from the bathroom. A Smart TV, Ultimate Ears Boom Bluetooth speakers, and a canvas FREITAG bag (to use during your stay) are tucked around the room. While a new friend, in the form of a stuffed animal, is sitting atop the comforter.

Then there’s the eighth floor. Within this fun, quirky hotel, the top floor might be the coolest space of all. First, there’s NENI. The Mediterranean restaurant has floor-to-ceiling windows, hanging plants, delicious mezzes, and German wines. Then there’s the Monkey Bar with its industrial vibe, relaxed terrace, and fruity cocktails. Last, but certainly not least, is the view. You have an uninterrupted view of the Gothic cathedral, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, from the entire floor. Cologne is stunning, cool, and completely underrated.

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