Let eyeo help you around the city of Cologne as you arrive for DMEXCO.
This September, the who’s who, the cognoscenti, the important people in the world of digital business, marketing and innovation will arrive in Cologne Messe for the DMEXCO expo.
Cologne is also home to a whole bunch of other festivals, expos and trade fairs. Gamescom is another notable one but there are so many that Cologne even has its own train station for the expo centre – Köln* Messe/Deutz.
As a proud Cologne-based company, eyeo would like to help you get the most out of our wonderful city. Read on for our Guide to Cologne.
* Köln is the German name for the city. You’ll see it written like this on most signs.
Arriving in Cologne for DMEXCO
If you’re flying into Cologne, you’ll arrive at Köln-Bonn airport (CGN). From there, it’s a 15 km/20 minute drive to Köln Messe/Deutz or the centre of town. A taxi will set you back an eye-watering 40 or 50 euros for the 15 minute drive. If you can expense it, why not travel in style? Oh, by the way, Uber/Lyft etc. don’t exist in Cologne. It’s MyTaxi or nothing I’m afraid.
If public transport is more your jam, you need to take the S-Bahn (like the overground lines in London) from the airport to either Messe/Deutz or the center. To arrive in the dead-center of town, look for the Hauptbahnhof stop. Both the S13 and S19 trains, as well as an RE train will get you to both destinations. Note that you usually have to buy a ticket on the platform, and validate it by stamping it in a little machine.
If you want a slightly different experience, you can always fly into Düsseldorf airport (DUS). The two cities are pretty close, and some airports (e.g. London City) will only fly to Düsseldorf. It’ll take you around an hour to drive (but the taxi is incredibly expensive). The best way is to take the skytrain to the airport train station, then jump on an RE, IC or ICE train to Koln Messe/Deutz or Koln Hauptbahnhof.
The RE and ICE trains are different to the S-Bahn mentioned above, and ticketing options can be quite confusing. As a rule of thumb, RE trains are cheaper and slower (11.50 euro from Düsseldorf to Cologne), and the IC and ICE trains will be faster but more expensive. Watch out for delays as well: “+5 min Später” on the signs means that your train will be 5 mins late.
Getting around Cologne
The nicest way to get around around Cologne is simply to walk. If you have a hotel around Köln Messe/Deutz it’s a 15-20 min walk over the very picturesque and instagrammable “Hohenzollernbrücke” (the big bridge) to the Kölner Dom (the big cathedral).
Once you familiarize yourself with the Dom, it’s incredibly hard to get lost, as you can just aim yourself towards it and you’ll end up in the center again.
As with most German cities, Cologne is great for cycling. There are cycle lanes everywhere (as a pedestrian watch out for the slightly different colored sections of pavement – obstructing cyclists is a big no-no).
Cologne is also really flat, so cycling is a joy even for the less fit among us.
If you’re up for using the tram service, be aware that they stop around 1am on weeknights and resume around 4:30am. The route maps are available here.
Staying in Cologne for DMEXCO
Tip #1 – Book early.
Seriously. Cologne isn’t all that big, and when there’s an expo in town, let’s just say that the hotels aren’t shy about hiking up the price. If you know you’re going to be at DMEXCO early, then grab that room ASAP.
Tip #2 – Stay in town.
As tempting as it might be to stay as close as possible to DMEXCO, it’s kinda boring around there. It’s really not hard to make the journey from Cologne center to the expo centre, and staying in the center will open up a world of opportunities!
Tip #3 – City Tax
Hotels in Cologne will charge you a nominal amount (in the region of 6 euros) as a kind of tourism tax. If you’re there for DMEXCO representing your company, you can fill out a form to avoid paying this tax.
As eyeo has a whole squad of remote workers who descend on the city at least twice a year, we like to think we’re experts in finding sweet hotels. Here are a few of our faves:
Flandrischer Hof – decently priced, good location. It’s clean, they give you Haribo on your pillow every day and has OK WiFi.
Ascot Hotel – It’s cheap enough, has good WiFi and when I stayed there, you could get a free branded Kölsch (the local beer) glass for writing a review. What’s not to like?
Pullman Cologne – Not as cheap as the other options, but definitely the right way to stay in Cologne. A glass elevator whisks you to the 12th floor for great cocktails and a spectacular view of the city. Rooms come with free Evian water, shampoo and body gel.
Eating and Drinking in Cologne
Now we get to the fun part of our guide!
Usually the first place the eyeo crew meets up is Päffgen. A traditional brauhaus or beer hall, you can sample local delicacies like a half-meter (20″) sausage or the Schweinshaxe (a massive lump of pork knuckle :D).
They also serve Kölsch in the traditional “stange” – a 200ml glass. While British visitors may shudder at not having a pint, be aware that these glasses are replaced rapidly (without you asking) by the waiters.
The only way to stop them is to cover your glass with you beer mat, which tells them you’ve had enough!
Brauhaus Reissdorf is pretty traditional too, definitely worth a look! Bei Oma Kleinmann has good schnitzel, which in the words of one colleague “are literally like a doormat!” It’s also worth mentioning that Oma Kleinmann is famous in Cologne, and usually busy, so make a reservation (or go very early or very late).
For a vegan *experience* in Cologne, close to DMEXCO, you have Trash-Chic.
Herr Pimock is pretty good for brunch if you need to fill your belly before the show!
Drinks-wise, we have a few options. For the down-and-dirty option, you can buy a beer in a kiosk and wander around with it. It’s so perfectly normal, noone will stare at you, and most kiosks even have a bottle opener on the fridge to make your life easy.
If you’d rather sit down for a beer, cocktail or whatever, we recommend a few places. Ona Mor makes delicious cocktails, as do Spiritsand Shepheard As mentioned above, the top floor of the Pullman Hotel is also a great venue for cocktails and a great view.
Beers in Cologne are easy. Pretty much anywhere will serve you a Kölsch, but if you want a pint of something, the Jameson Pub is worth a look, although we prefer the Craft Beer Corner. If the weather is still nice, head down to KM 689 to pretend you’re on the beach!
Things to do in Cologne that aren't DMEXCO
Cologne is much more than an expo center, and we would recommend taking the time to see some sights around the city.
The Kölner Dom is the obvious place to start. An immense Gothic cathedral, 500 years in the building, dominates the skyline. Inside is a joy as well, especially the Gerhard Richter stained glass (you’ve honestly never seen anything like it).
For a great view of the city, go to the Cologne Triangle. 100 meters up, you get a 360 degree view of the city. Perfect for showing off!
Other than that, just walk around the city, and find your own favorite spots! Everyone speaks English, so you’ll have no problem finding your way.
Tips and tricks
#1 Carry cash. Cologne is a pretty cash-heavy city. A lot of places don’t accept card and even some cash machines won’t accept non-German cards. Cash is also quicker for paying for a tram/underground ticket as you can pay on some trains.
#2 Stay out of the bike lanes. As mentioned above, but worth reiterating. There’s no faster way to anger people in Cologne (apart from saying Dusseldorf is a better city) than wandering into a bike lane.
#3 Walk. Seriously – the city is lovely, and small enough that most places can be reached on foot. Who knows what you might discover when not squashed into an underground train?
#4 Don’t spend all your time at DMEXCO. Get out, get some fresh air and see what Cologne has to offer.
#5 Smokers, stock up. Don’t rely on cigarette machines in bars etc., as you will need a German credit card to activate them. Go to a kiosk and grab a couple of packs!
Like what you’ve read so far? Why not join us at DMEXCO?