Cologne (or Köln) is one of the largest cities in Germany, and a bustling hub of media and business on the Rhine. The dramatic Kölner Dom can be seen from miles away, and a number of other beautiful Gothic and Romanesque churches dot the city. There are also museums dedicated to Roman history, modern and religious art, ethnology, sports, and even chocolate.
There are two lovely, massive green lungs in the city containing a number of distinct parks and recreational areas and several beer gardens. In warm weather there is a fun outdoor culture in Cologne and thousands of people gather in these areas for picnics, sports and socialising. The two pedestrian strips of Hohe Strasse and Schildergasse offer great shops, cafes and street music.
Cologne is well known for its or traditional neighbourhoods. One of the most interesting districts for tourists is the bohemian Agnesviertel neighbourhood where visitors can find local fashion designers, bookshops, bars, and art galleries.
Cologne has a vibrant and colourful cultural life. Visitors can sample locally-brewed Kölsch beer and other gastronomic specialties. The city is also known as the gay capital of Germany with a large Gay Pride event held every year. The local inhabitants are known to be very friendly, sociable and liberal, making Cologne one of the best German cities in which to meet people and make friends.
Cologne has a temperate oceanic climate, and is among the warmest cities in Germany thanks to the strong breezes blowing in from the nearby North Sea and Atlantic Ocean. Average temperatures in the spring, summer and autumn are warm and pleasant, ranging from 57°F (14°C) in May and September to around 66°F (19°C) at the peak of summer in July and August. Winters (December to February) are cold but not bitterly so, with average temperatures hovering around 32°F (0°C). Rain is fairly steady throughout the year, although the long days of summer offer more sunshine hours than winter. The best time to visit Cologne is between May and September, although visitors should prepare for sudden rain showers.
Cologne has excellent public transport made up of subway, tram, and bus lines. Single tickets and multi-day passes are available from ticket offices and vending machines at most stops. Taxis are also available. Driving in central Cologne can be a bit of a nightmare, with confusing streets and many areas open only to residents. Fortunately the city centre is fairly compact, and most areas can be comfortably reached on foot or by bicycle.