To add some color to the grey late november skies, we decided to start the Christmas season as early as possible by heading to Germany for the weekend and have an early Christmas in Cologne. The city is just a short 3 hour drive from our home so the kids wouldn’t have to miss a day of school.
You may have noticed from previous posts that the CosmopoliClan blog is lacking pictures from wintery landscapes and snow fun. Well, there’s a reason for that… We’re no big fans of autumn and winter, we need sunshine to thrive. There’s one exception, our silver lining in this grey and wet time of the year and that’s Christmas. The atmosphere, the tree, the man himself, the songs… we love all of it!
With only 2 days to spend we decided to treat the kids to a Saturday afternoon in Phantasialand in nearby Brühl and then indulge in the Christmas atmosphere of the city all Sunday long. We would stay in the Hilton Cologne because of the central location and convenient parking.
It was our first visit to Phantasialand. As you might know by now, I tend to prepare our journeys and city breaks quite thoroughly so I had searched for a detailed digital map of the theme park beforehand, surprisingly without any result (no recent maps anyway). Even the hotel’s concierge couldn’t help me.
Luckily, as I’m writing this post, Phantasialand must have come to the same conclusion and I see that they have fixed this issue. But anyways, look no further, you can find the map right here:
We explored the park starting from the land of ‘China Town’, close to where we parked. The girls found a park-passport at the entrance that would entitle them to get a certificate by collecting stamps at child-friendly attractions and by posing with some of the park’s characters. We very happy to also find the park brochure here with – finally – a map.
The rollercoaster story that will love forever
The park is very clean and the kids were quite impressed by the decorations of China Town. We continued our way to Mexico and decided to go for a rollercoaster ride that goes by the name of ‘Colorado Adventure’. All rides are close together and from the entrance it can be hard to see which entrance belongs to which ride. Accompanied by an adult, kids from 1 meter on were welcome so how wild could it be, right? Well… Aaaaargh! This turned out to be the fastest and wildest rollercoaster ride we had ever experienced. The girls were freaking out and, much to the delight of more experienced rollercoaster fans but unfortunately for us, the ride seemed to last forever. Call us softies but when it finally finished we just had to catch our breath. It might have taken us some minutes but then we could definitely see the humour of it. Anyways, this experience makes for an unforgettable family adventure. We were too overwhelmed to think about taking a picture – and maybe, even if we would have taken get one, I could have chosen not to share it :-P.
The further we walked, the more enchanting the park became. We especially preferred the area around the ice skating rink.
Many attractions for (little) children can be found from this point on and the atmosphere was great! The food stands offer delicious treats such as churros con chocolate and poffertjes (little pancakes, Dutch style) and everything was very clean and fresh. So even this notorious food critic gladly indulged.
The outdoor part of ‘Wuze Town’ is very fairytale-like but the indoor part can use a renovation. Luckily the weather was nice enough to spend the entire afternoon and evening outdoors.
On a more practical note: In our search for a lady’s room we ended up in the ‘Unter der Linden’ restaurant and had to face a line of about 50 ladies. We found out too late but, in this lady’s room, there’s a dedicated kid’s room too. So, when nature calls you can just skip the line.
We decided to avoid the crowds and not stay for the fireworks show but were lucky enough to catch the ‘Tiempo del Fuego’ with fire and light projections.
After reaching the exit, we noticed that the parking lot (not asphalted) was poorly lighted and so it did prove a bit difficult to find our car but we got to it eventually.
Hotel Hilton Cologne
After about half an hour we reached the Hilton Cologne and easily found an HHonors (Hilton’s loyalty program) dedicated parking spot in the hotel’s carpark. We had been upgraded to a very spacious room where we had a great night. One of the perks of being a loyal HHonors (Diamond) member and a very welcome one when traveling with kids. Oh and before you ask: none of us suffered from rollercoaster nightmares!
The hotel offers an excellent breakfast (and absolutely free for HHonors Gold / Diamond members), which is always a pleasure when you’re away from home. The hotel concierge had been very proactive, emailing us a Dutch version of the Christmas markets information soon after we had made our booking.
Cologne’s Christmas markets
The Dom, Cologne’s famous cathedral, is just a short stroll from the hotel. A crazy Asian lady was lying flat on the ground to capture the entire building on camera. Ha! Well, we settled for this more modest picture.
The Dom cathedral is highly impressive in size, too tall even for a decent close-up photo. Unfortunately its color is less impressive so it doesn’t make for a very attractive picture. Good thing we are there to add a dash of color to it, right? 😉
We opted to take the little Christmas train because the girls’ little legs would do enough walking as it was. We hopped from one Christmas market to the other but our favourite was the Weihnachtsmarkt Kölner Altstadt.
It felt so very authentic! This was the first one we visited and at that time of day it wasn’t too busy yet. We admired the craftwork presented and savoured much – too much – of the delicious treats along the way. I have to admit that I enjoyed the moment so much that I forgot to take pictures of everything that was on offer… But hey, I’m making it right by also sharing a few images that capture the atmosphere just as we experienced it.
Haven’t been to Cologne yet but have it on your list? Then we recommend this Cologne itinerary for first-time visitors by fellow-blogger Chelsea, a.k.a. The Portable Wife. Or, in case you have been to Cologne before, what’s your experience? Should we reconsider visiting the city in spring or summer? If so, any suggestions on things to do in Cologne with kids? Feel free to share those in the comment section.