Koln, or Cologne as it’s more commonly known in the UK, is a German Rhineside city with a 2000-year history. It’s one of the largest settlements in the country and boasts a magnificent cathedral with filigree twin spires. Known for its chocolate, sports, arts, culture, beer houses, carnival and liberal attitude, it’s also a significant commercial player, attracting lots of business travellers as well as those visiting for the area’s cultural offer. Do try kölsch while you’re here – it’s the city’s signature beverage – and visit the Musical Dome, the Wallraf Richartz Museum and the Ludwig Museum.
Althoff Grandhotel Schloss Bensberg
On a hillside offering impressive views across the city, this baroque castle is a truly grand setting for your stay. Several centuries old, it has period features as well as contemporary luxuries like in-suite jacuzzis. Althoff Grandhotel Schloss Bensberg boasts a two Michelin starred restaurant, Vendôme, by Chef Joachim Wissler, as well as the Mediterranean eatery Trattoria Enoteca and Restaurant Jan Wellem for your breakfast buffet. There’s also a 1,000-square-meter 4 Elements Spa, a swimming pool and a chapel (if you fancy tying the knot while you’re here). And there’s a 72-par golf club just minutes away.
Excelsior Hotel Ernst
Standing right opposite the cathedral (and the station, making it handy for rail travellers), this five-storey 19th-century townhouse is a refined setting to relax after a day’s sightseeing. Unwind in the spa, or with a drink in the cigar lounge, to the sound of live piano music. Excelsior’s Michelin-starred restaurant Taku is a draw, serving an east Asian menu, plus you can sample French fine cuisine at Hanse Stube, take tea in the Winter Garden drawing room and dine al fresco in the courtyard. The hotel’s decor weaves together antique pieces with contemporary textiles, to a sophisticated effect.