A Break to Amsterdam, Cologne & Düsseldorf

April 15, 2015

I’ve visited Germany a few times including the Mosel Valley, Berlin and Hamburg, & I’d always had a great time. I’d heard Cologne was an interesting city with loads to do & after a quick Google search I discovered it was really easy to reach by train from Amsterdam. So I developed a plan: take the ferry to Amsterdam, catch a train to Cologne and then spend time in both Cologne and nearby Düsseldorf.

Sailing Newcastle to Amsterdam

On a sunny Wednesday in March, my husband (David) and I checked-in at the ferry terminal and headed onboard. We’d upgraded to Commodore so we had a few drinks from our mini bar in our cabin and decided which restaurant to dine in. After much deliberating, we chose 7 Seas as I love the canapés, cold meats and salads – and the desserts too!

But before dinner we had a little look around the shops. As the exchange rate is so favourable at the moment there were some bargains to be had – a couple of (obligatory) bars of Toblerones as gifts and some Estée Lauder perfume (much cheaper than in the UK).

Dinner in 7 Seas was lovely as usual, with loads to choose from. I went to the buffet around 4 times and finished with a pile of yummy cheese.

It was then time to relax in the Navigators pub and enjoy the live acoustic music from the guitar player – who took requests.

Next morning we had breakfast before we docked and then took the coach to Amsterdam city centre.

Amsterdam
I’ve visited Amsterdam quite a few times so once we dropped our case at the left luggage at the railway station (only €3.85) we headed to one of the few attractions I’d never been to – the Rijksmuseum. It’s a huge museum with loads of art from the Dutch masters including Rembrandt and Vermeer. After lunch we headed back to the station and waited for our train to Cologne.

ICE train
Trains in Europe are generally cheaper than the UK. I booked our ticket on the DB ICE (high speed) train around a month before we travelled and it was only €34 one way for both of us. Bargain! It was a fantastic and comfortable train and not busy at all. Best of all, you could go to the front of the train and the driver’s cab had a glass wall and door so you could watch the driver and his view. The journey was under 2 ½ hours and it was interesting to just look at the scenery out of the window.

Cologne
We arrived in Cologne early evening so just found our hotel, had a wander around and then ate. Next morning we headed to the gothic Cologne Cathedral. It’s huge. It was worth a visit (for 20 minutes anyhow).

Next we went to Museum Ludwig which has hundreds of works of art including many by Picasso. Its temporary exhibition was a Sigmar Polkar retrospective. I have to admit I’d never heard of him, but it was interesting. After a lovely lunch by the river Rhine, we went to the Chocolate Museum. I wasn’t expecting much, but it was brilliant. You learn all about the history of chocolate and how it’s made, and you get tasters too – yummy.

Cologne is famous for its beer, Kölsch so we visited a few traditional beer halls to give it a go. They tend to serve it in small 20cl glasses and mark on a beer mat how many you’ve had. And they keep giving you more until you place a beer map on top of your glass. That signifies you want to pay – simple but clever!

For dinner we went to a traditional German restaurant where I had a dish called Himmel un Ääd (Heaven and Earth) which is mashed potatoes, black pudding and apple sauce. Sounds disgusting I know but it was really nice!

Next morning after a stroll we headed to Dusseldorf (20 mins on the train).

Düsseldorf

In Düsseldorf we spent a few hours wandering around and visiting a few more beer halls to try the local beer. Here it’s a darker beer called Alt. In the Altstadt (old town) there are literally hundreds of traditional beer halls, bars and Irish pubs. I left David here and went shopping. Königsallee and adjacent streets are a shoppers’ paradise, so I spent a couple of hours here and purchased a few items.

After more food (sausages and sauerkraut this time) and a few drinks we headed back to the hotel.

Auf Wiedersehen

Next morning we headed back home after a lovely break in Holland and Germany.

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