A little while ago Thalys invited to discover Cologne with them. Cologne in Germany? It made me think of Christmas markets and not much else. Needless to say I wasn’t really impressed. That’s until I starting talking to people in Antwerp about my upcoming adventure in Germany. Everybody who went there was extremely excited, especially about the Belgian Quarter. With some tips in my planner from the lovely Tine from Tinsel, I hopped on the Thalys. First class I might add, and that doesn’t suck! I’ve found that traveling by Thalys is quite a pleasant way to go around Europe. It doesn’t take you too long, the train stations are often located right in the city center (as opposed to the airports), it’s very pleasant to sit in and you get to see the landscape changing.
Upon visiting the city, I was really amazed by the creative vibe going throughout the entire Belgian Quarter (Belgische Vertiel) and the fact that is really can only be referred to as the hipster area (not to mention the amount of attractive and well-dressed men). There are many reasons to visit the city but we were there for the Le Bloc festival. The festival takes place in the aforementioned Belgian Quarter, the place to be if you want to experience the creative part of the city. Stores are open longer, there is a fashion show co-organized by the Flemish tourism board, different music acts on the streets, and an amazingly cozy atmosphere. This part of the city also really stole my heart. Every corner you turn you can find another cute little spot filled to the brim with handsome and well-dressed people. Did I mention the hot hipsters?
Here are a couple of spots that I tested and would like to recommend. You can find even more local spots on my Travel Europe Pinterest board!
Die Wohngemeinschaft: This thematic hostel lures in the hippest of hip crowds and also provides a great bar which is open for all
The entire area of the Belgian Quarter of Cologne is filled to the brim with cute little spots. The one that did stand out for me was the concept store Boutique Belgique.
Hallmackenreuther: This bar is the real vintage deal. You can sense that the bar hasn’t changed since the 70s. I had a great French toast here and really enjoyed the view over the Brüsseler Platz.
Yummy: This little breakfast bar was located across from the hotel where we were sleeping (Hopper et cetera.) immediately caught our eye. It’s a tiny little place with only about 3 tables and 4 tables in front of the diner. We didn’t get a chance to taste the food bu since it is Tinsel-recommended, I did want to include it into this list.
Belgischer Hof: This restaurant/bar was introduced to us by the Thalys crew and has a very pleasant inner square to sit in when the weather is excellent. We tried the “Flammkuchen“, which is a local specialty. It is similar to a pizza but without the tomato sauce and with several different toppings. I would recommend you trying at least one while in Cologne.
Museum Ludwig: This modern arts museum really was the cherry on our pie. Beautiful artists are features including Andy Warhol, Lichtenstein, Miro, Picasso and much more.
Frankenwerft Park: This park is situated behind Museum Ludwig with a view of the Rhein river. Great spot to hang out between the locals of join the kids in the fountain like I did!
Because this trip was organized by Thalys, I did want to leave you with this little bit of information. Thalys connects you from Brussels to Cologne in less than 2 hours and also has connections to Amsterdam, Paris, Lille and most of the big cities in between. And don’t forget, on these trains you can connect to their free WIFI if you’re in first class which is pretty awesome. If you’re in second, make sure to book a ticket that is SEMI-FLEX, B2B, Thalys ThePass fares or buy WIFI credits, more info here.
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