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Poconolady May 22nd, 2011 02:42 PM

Germany trip suggestions requested
We are in the planning stages of a trip for Nov/Dec. We are two fairly active seniors who will be taking their first post-retirement trip, since we will no longer be hemmed in by vacation days, we are doing a Germany, Tucscany and 14 day transatlantic cruise combination Last year we did a great train trip from Munich, Regensburg,Prague,Seiffen and Dresden,This year we plan to fly into FRA, sightsee for a day in Frankfurt, and then continue on in the evening to Colone where we will base ourselves for 5 nights. We are looking at seeing Cologne, Bonn, Dusseldorf and hopefully a smaller quaint charming town.
We are open for suggestions for activities, can't miss resaurants (prefer more local places than top ranked restaurants) and must see sites and money saving train suggestions. In the past Fodorites have given us such excellent advise and suggestions.. The Christmas Markets will be on during our visit, so we can't miss those! We would actually have 4 1/2 days to see this area (not counting Frankfurt), on the fifth day we can take an afternoon flight from Cologne/Bonn airport to Bologna to continue the rest of the trip. We prefer to take trains and other means of public transport rather than driving, especially at that time of year.(Last years cold and snow really confirmed that idea!) I would prefer to stay in one hotel to cut down on dragging bags around, especially since we will have to bring a lot more clothes due to the cruise. I am looking at the LeMeriden Dom Hotel but would welcome suggestions for others that are near the train station and in a central city location in Cologne. Ok., its time to go dig out the German language CD;s and start brushing up on my German!

Echnaton May 22nd, 2011 03:22 PM

Guten Abend Poconolady!

I am sorry to say that November/December is the worst time to visit Germany. It will be rainy, cold and dreary, with very short days. Don't you have the opportunity to visit us in a more agreeable season? May is perfect to visit Germany.

Anyway, let's try to make the best of it. Cologne has lots of world-class museums and quite a few beer halls. You should take the train to Aachen and visit the cathedral there (where Charlemagne was crowned in the year 800 A.D.). Be sure to have lunch or dinner in the Postwagen at the City Hall.

Monschau is one of the most charming historical towns in Germany.

Düsseldorf is also a beautiful city, with Germany's most elegant shopping mall, the Königsallee, with many splendid museums and with a gorgeous riverbank (Oh, I forgot you will be there in November).

Try to go to the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann near Düsseldorf - it is a fantastic museum of the history of mankind. And it is located in a beautiful valley (sorry, I forgot you will be there in November).

For hotel search, I recommend They display the distance from the train station. There are several dozen hotels in walking distance to the train station.

Poconolady May 22nd, 2011 07:04 PM

Nope, sorry, but Nov/Dec is the time for us! We have visited other areas of Germany during that time frame on several other trips so I'm sure that we can handle it again. Last Nov we survived 24 inches of snow in 24 hours in Seiffen, walked around outside all day and had a wonderful time. Cold rain doesn't bother us at all,we are gung-ho to experience what we can, when we can. I would love to visit during the spring or summer, but airfares just don't cooperate with that. Thank you for your suggestions, I will get right on researching them.

docdan May 22nd, 2011 07:38 PM

Good for you!! - one does get weary of folks who insist on ideal weather or else they can't do anything. I am of the mind that the occasional nasty whether adds to the sense of the character of where you're visiting, so why not enjoy it?

I knowthe topic is Germany, but when you go to Tuscany, I cannot recommend highly enough driving through the area known as the Val D'Orcia - it really has to be experienced.

Poconolady May 22nd, 2011 08:14 PM

One other advantage of traveling during the off-season is far fewer crowds. Museum lines are shorter, stores are not crowded, trains have plenty of seats and even the Christmas Markets are relatively uncrowded during the daytime hours on weekdays--especially later in the afternoon when the tour busses take off. When your travel time is limited I have found that you have to make the most of what little time that you have. I seem to be able to cram a lot of experiences into a short amount of time. Sure we are tired when we get home, but at least we know that we have been somewhere. I'll be able to sleep someday when I'm too old to get around!

nz101 May 23rd, 2011 01:59 AM

I travel during the European winter too - because I can only take bulk time off work in December/January. I love it - snow, Christmas decorations, mulled wine, no crowds. Fantastic. Of course I'd love to travel during summer season too, but hey, a bit of cold, snow and short days ain't gonna put me off.

madamtrashheap May 23rd, 2011 02:37 AM

Aaaah Christmas Markets - IMO the best time to visit! I'm glad to read that you are already aware of them, you'll get the most out of your trip to Germany during that time then. There are Christmas Markets in Italy too, which I'm sure you're aware of, but of course many are regional to the area and different again to those in the Germanic countries.

In terms of recommendations for places to visit in Germany, and keeping in mind the "Weihnachtmaerkte" as well as places already visited, you'll find 1 day in Frankfurt enough I'd say, and Cologne as a base is a great idea and will also have quite a few things you'd like to see and do I'm sure (Dom/Cathedral, EL-DE Haus, old town streets, floating Christmas Markets as well as the big ones in front of the Dom...). Bonn is a pretty town, but not a whole lot going on as a general rule. Rhein cruises are obviously a weather-dependent thing, but a cruise between towns is an option if they are running at that time of year. Dusseldorf is again worth a look, but not sure what else you're planning on seeing there. If you have a car you can drive along the Rhein River and sightsee, check out castles (not all are open to public), with a little Riesling tasting on the side, otherwise the region is well-served by trains which stop in a variety of little towns (Bacharach is a favourite of many, Bingen - quite small but great castle called Mouse Castle nearby) or you can jump a train up to Heidelberg and explore for a day (castle, Christmas Market, old jail, main cathedral, strong but weird tasting beer).

quokka May 23rd, 2011 04:49 AM

I am probably a minority here but I have to admit that I did not think too much of Düsseldorf.

From Cologne, I'd rather recommend a side trip to Aachen with Charlemagne's cathedral and an atmospheric Christmas market.

The most interesting city in the Ruhr district is IMHO Essen in terms of culture, medieval history with the two 9th and 10th century abbeys, and the history of industrialization and the recent changes this region underwent since the end of coal mining. You may want to have a look at my page about Essen over on Virtualtourist:

A destination that is popular among the city people around Cologne and the Ruhr area but hardly known to foreign visitors is the Ahr valley, a side valley of the Rhine halfway between Koblenz and Bonn. The double town of Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler has the old town of Ahrweiler, the posh spa in Bad Neuenahr, and excellent red wines - the latter two will be most welcome on a chilly November day. I have a page on that too:

Poconolady May 23rd, 2011 05:36 AM

Fantastic suggestions--keep them coming, I really appreciate the honest views of people who live and have traveled in the areas that I am considering visiting.
Rhein Day Cruises--between which cities are the most scenic, how long do they last, is there inside seating and do they run during this part of the year on a seasonal schedule?

oldmacdonald May 23rd, 2011 10:32 PM

I once visited Washington DC in Jan during a snow and ice storm and literally was the only person viewing the US Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence! That changed my mind about winter travel!! How about Bad Homburg - a charming spa town just north of FRA?

madamtrashheap May 24th, 2011 12:36 AM

Have a look at (lots of stops along the way) or http://www.loreley-linie.loreleyvall.../cruises/(this one has less stops) for timetables and stops along the way. Again, the weather will determine how far you go, but the towns between Koblenz and Bingen probably fit the bill in terms of scenery, etc. There is indoor seating on the water level and seating on the upper level is outdoor. They run during Winter, but on a limited timetable compared to Summer.

You could take the boat one way and then the train back quite easily. But pick a town you'd really like to see and get off there, sightsee, eat, and then train back as it will take a day to see somewhere without rushing.

valtor May 24th, 2011 04:13 AM

From Cologne you can visit the samll town of Brühl. It is 20 km from Cologne, by train you reach it in 10 minutes.
Brühl was the residence of the Prince Bishops of Cologne. They built a splendid palace (Augustusburg), which is now part of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The palace is well known for its magnificent staircase.
Also near palace there is Max Ernst Museum, if you like his art.

Both these sites are near train station.
They are closed on Monday. From Tuesday to Thu. the palace is open 9-12, 13:30-16. Sat and Sun 10-17.

Mainhattengirl May 24th, 2011 06:35 AM

The Christmas market in Bad Homburg was one of may favorites and I visited a whole bunch of markets last year. Set partially in the courtyard of the Kaisers' summer palace, it then winds down into the town. The miniature steam train running around the medieval tower in the middle of the courtyard was pretty cool.

You don't give your dates, but there are some really wonderful markets in the smaller towns around Frankfurt, but they are only on for a weekend. The ones in Idstein, Büdigen and Seligenstadt were also favorites of mine. The one in Rüdesheim, though pretty, and in a great, scenic location just didn't do it for me. I thought too many of the stands were selling tacky, cheap imports. It is worth a go though, even if only to ride the chairlift to the top of the vineyards for the view of the Rhine.

The Frankfurt market is actually quite fun, they have a lot of good products for sale and it seems to be the party market as everyone heads down there after work to drink Gluhwein. The churches that surround the market have lots of concerts too, which are lovely to attend, especially in the Kaiserdom and the Alte Nikolai.

I wrote a post / trip review about the Christmas Markets last year, if you want to pull it up to read.

For staying in Cologne, our favorite place is the Coellner Hof Hotel. It is about a 10 min. walk from the train station. Has lovely decor and one of the tastiest and extensive breakfast buffets I have had.

KarenE May 24th, 2011 08:55 AM

Cologne is not a pretty city, totally destoyed in the second worldwar. Duesseldorf is not much better in my opinion. We live 2 hours from Cologne and often go there for cultural events and exibitions in the excellent museums, though. The best hotel is the Excelsior Ernst. Be sure to get a room in the renovated part.

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