Cologne, Germany

View from the Koln Triangle.

Over the summer, I learned I would need to go to Cologne, Germany for a conference in October. I texted Cory and asked if he wanted to join me. To my pleasant surprise, he said yes. And so we embarked on what we later realized, would be our last grown up adventure together (just the two of us) for some time.

Cologne is a small, beautiful, hip city bursting with hidden gems (like record stores, thrift stores and coffee shops) once you leave the city center. Completely demolished in World War II, the city rebuilt itself in the decades after. All that remained after the war was its amazingly impressive cathedral, which started construction in the 1200s, and continues to even this day. It is the tallest twin spired church in the world, and pictures can’t even begin to touch on its incredible height.

For our time in Cologne, the plan was that Cory would explore, and meet me for mini-adventures when I had a break from work (on days that went from 9 – 9 this was a bit tricky, but we managed!). If you want to know all the facts, hidden gems and how to navigate the city, ask Cory. He would meet me at the conference center, or later at the hotel, and would share everything he learned that day. And so, with that, here are our recommendations, tips and tricks for enjoying your time in Cologne.


We anticipated eating might be tricky (me being gluten free, Cory vegetarian), and boy were we right to assume that! If you have allergies, do some research ahead of time! English translations are not always perfect, and not all hard copy menus list allergens (though they often do online).

Bring cash because many restaurants will not accept anything but a German bank card, even if you have a chip & pin. We learned the hard way once. Also, German restaurants actually give you a time limit on how long you can stay at the table, and as you approach the end of this limit, they are very efficient at getting you out. Be aware in case you were hoping to linger.

In terms of tipping, it’s about 10% of the check. When the waiter comes over to give you the bill (tip: learn how to ask for this in German!), you let them know how much change you want or how much to charge to the card. There is no leaving coins behind on the table.

With our restrictive diets, we did find a few great places to eat, supplemented by trips to the grocery store for staples such as gluten free bread, avocados, peppers, carrots, beet hummus and cheese. I was thoroughly impressed with the German grocery options – and even brought back some of their gluten free brown bread, which I brought just about everywhere with me.

Dean & David 

A juice and salad/curry chain, Dean & David was a gluten free, vegetarian dream. We enjoyed carrot ginger juice and vegan tofu yellow curry on our first afternoon in Cologne. The food was surprisingly good, and perfect for a cold dreary day. There are multiple locations throughout the city, including one in the train station. Prices are pretty fair (a large portion of curry was about seven euros).


An Asian fusion restaurant with tons of gluten free and vegetarian options. You build your own stir fry by going up to the counter, filling your bowl with vegetables and proteins and passing it off to be cooked. There are a few different options, where you can pay by weight or an all you can eat. Unless you are able to eat two giant bowls of stir fry, I recommend going the weight route.

TIP: Go to the location in the Koln Triangle, and then take the elevator up before or after to see panorama views of the city. More on that later!


Wellbeing was some of the best food we had in Germany. The restaurant was inside someone’s home (the kitchen was parsed out to be standalone with a few tables inside). Everything was vegan and there were even raw options. I had summer rolls and a rice noodle udon soup in a spicy coconut milk broth. It was divine. Cash only!

So much soup!
So much soup!

Gaffel am Dom

A cozy beer house by the Cathedral, Gaffel was our only true German food experience – but was quite good! Cory ordered creamed spinach with fried eggs and boiled potatoes (without their jackets!) and I had roast beef with fried potatoes and bacon. It was absolutely delicious, and definitely a great last night in Germany meal. The restaurant itself was massive and filled with patrons, even late on a Monday night. The wait staff will automatically bring you beer unless you tell them otherwise, so hint hint to anyone who doesn’t drink beer.


This ultra hip, amazingly good coffee house was around the corner from our hotel in a former jail that used to imprison anti-Nazi officials (including the mayor of Cologne). Cory enjoyed many pour-overs, and I favored the latte, but switched it up for a black tonic (espresso + tonic) on my last day. Great atmosphere, seating inside and out, and friendly baristas.

Kasehause Wingenfeld

Cheese lovers unite! This little shop is tucked away at the end of the main shopping area of Cologne, with a cheese counter boasting products from all over Europe. I bought a comte and brie from France because both of these are “black market” in the US and because they are amazing. They also proved to be a great lunch with my brown bread on one of the many occasions that there were no or limited gluten free options for lunch during the conference.

Things to Do

Cologne Cathedral

The cathedral is massive and can’t be missed. In addition to a place to visit, it’s also a great landmark so that you can find your way around the city. The outside is so incredibly ornate, and its history is rich (as I mentioned above).

Look closely, Cory is standing in front! This thing is massive.
Look closely, Cory is standing in front! This thing is massive.

Inside boasts amazing stained glass, and if you’re lucky to go on a sunny afternoon, you’ll be greeted by a fabulously colored lights reflecting off the interior. One of the windows was installed as an art piece (not religious, so it’s a bit controversial) and the most amazing squares of colored light decorate the inside.

Ludwig Museum

Even if you aren’t a modern art fan, the Ludwig museum is still a treat. Plenty of videos, mixed medium, paintings and photography dot the walls and floors. We went during an exhibition of Karl Schenk­er, a photographer from the early 1900s who was known for retouching his photographers. Think Instagram worthy pictures, but done in 1910. It was very cool (he even took photographs of mannequins and waxed figures that looked eerily real).

Tip: If you bring a backpack, you will need to check it in their complementary coat room. You can bring food and also enjoy it in the lobby.

For more views of the Cathedral, you can go outside Museum Ludwig.
For more views of the Cathedral, you can go outside Museum Ludwig.

Chocolate Museum

We went to the Chocolate museum on our first day (literally hours after we landed). I think I would have appreciate it more had I not been so jet lagged, but nonetheless it was fun to learn about chocolate, how quality was instilled in the 1870s after people started using fillers in bars (chocolate and suet? yuck!) and even witness a chocolate bar making and wrapping factory. There are plenty of samples throughout.

Bike Tour

Cory went on a three hour bike tour of Cologne through Colonia Activ. He toured all parts of the city, learned about its history and architecture and some fun facts (there are 16 tons of locks on the Hohenzollern Bridge). He highly recommended it – though keep in mind if you go in the fall, bundle up! And be prepared to have the tour given in German and English.

Get “Lost”

Walk through Cologne, get lost, find your way back (using the Cathedral or river as a landmark) and learn the streets. We spent many hours wandering and absorbing.

Sometimes you turn a corner and there is a creepy puppet staring at you. Sometimes there are many creepy puppets.
Sometimes you turn a corner and there is a creepy puppet staring at you. Sometimes there are many creepy puppets.
Bubble man!
Bubble man!

The snitch!
The snitch!

Koln Triangle

The barista at KaffeSapien told us about the Koln Triangle and recommended this over the dome (which we could not find, nor figure out what she meant by that!). For 3 euros, you can take an elevator to the top for panoramic views of the city. Definitely worth the fee, and I would advise you to go on a clear day.


We stayed at the Hyatt Regency on the Rhine. Apparently this is the hotel that Justin Bieber and other famous individuals stay at (I am assuming in the nice, suite rooms). Our room had its quirks – such as flickering lights, TVs that turned on randomly, noisy fans and a shower that was basically a firehose – but overall it was nice. The breakfast was definitely better than many of the continental breakfasts I’ve had in European hotels before – and I am happy to report I didn’t have a visceral reaction when eating there every morning.

The facilities have a nice spa on the first floor, with a steam room, sauna, hot tub and pool, as well as a gym – all complementary to hotel guests. They provide bath robes, locks for the locker and towels.

It was the perfect location to walk into the city center, and to take a morning run along the Rhine.


Did you know that there is a website that highlights every single cheese monger, shop, barn, road shack and store in the state of Vermont?  You’re welcome.

As a lover of all things cheese, I had to at least start making my way through the list of 49 “cheeseries.” My friend Meghann is also a lover of all things cheese, and so we embarked on a leaf peeping, cheese eating, wine seeking, maple consuming adventure through the southern part of the state.

First stop? Brattleboro, VT for a very quick stroll through the town. We made a lightening speed detour in Twice Upon a Time, a store filled with “everyone’s grandmother’s things in one place” according to Meghann. We debated whether or not to buy 1980s ball gowns to wear for the rest of the trip, but opted to keep things real with our fall gear instead. I sadly did not see the beloved tea shop that sells the best chai (we’ll just have to go back!).

Afterwards, we drove down the road to the Grafton Village Cheese Company. I have attended plenty of cheese classes – but never a cheese tasting. I have found my mecca. Bowls and plates of cut up cheese are everywhere, and it is essentially a grand cheese party free for all. We sampled a range of cheeses from cheddars (aged 1, 2, 3 years and “old timey”). We sampled parmesans. Smoked maple. Basically heaven. In the center of the store is the case of extra awesome cheese. The goat cheese covered in ash that I so loved in Paris was calling my name. And after a quick sample, we snatched up a tiny wheel to enjoy.

Grafton Village is also on a farm. The petting zoo portion was sadly closed, but we still hung out with goats.

The best part about hanging out with goats in Vermont? You don’t have to claim that this was an activity you did on your customs form when entering the US.

Next stop was Putney Mountain Winery in Putney, VT. The tasting room was inside a giant basket store. I’m pretty sure there was a basket Reptar, among sharks, deer, moose and other creatures that lined the ceiling.

Putney Mountain Winery makes fruit wines and cordials. We tried Rhubarb Blush, Simply Cranberry, Simply Blueberry, a black currant after dinner wine, ginger cordial and maple cordial. Needless to say, I left with a bottle of the ginger cordial because in addition to loving all things cheese, I also love all things ginger.

We intended to find a place to picnic near the winery, and enjoy some of our new cheese treats. A Black Sabbath cover band was playing in the middle of town and essentially that was about all you could hear. Interested in a different type of ambiance, we looked at Google Maps and decided to drive to some green spaces. First green space? A cemetery. Second green space? The creepiest baseball field with a shack in the middle of the property and ripped up living room furniture outside. We sat in the car crying laughing for five minutes outside the shack before deciding to continue on our way.

Then we stumbled across Hidden Springs Maple – a very cute maple sugar shop with picnic tables and Adirondack chairs! Score. We stepped inside first and left with maple drinks, maple syrup and maple ice cream. Lunch was enjoyed, safely.

Stuffed to the brim (at least me, Meghann seemed to do a better job pacing herself with cheese!), we headed back to the car to drive about an hour North towards Woodstock. Our third stop was the Cabot Quechee Store. It was also an antique fair and flea market, and an alpaca exhibit. It was amazing.

Somehow, more cheese was consumed. This time, there was probably 30 varieties ranging from every cheddar under the sun, to bacon to garlic to Tuscany themed and more. I tried the spreadable port wine cheese and regretted it.

With just 90 minutes to spare, we made it to our final destination – Billing’s Farm and Museum (where they also have cheese!). Back in the 1890s, the farmer made 5,000 pounds of butter a year to distribute from Vermont to New York. Today it’s just an awesome museum with a few too many mannequin figures. We strolled the property taking fabulous pictures, watched them milk dairy cows (it is sadly done by machine and no longer done by hand these days – I guess this is more sanitary!) and visited the baby calves. Fresh apple cider was available, and we ended the visit with a quick stop to buy some of their butter cheddar cheese.

It was time to make our way back home – but since the Quechee Gorge was on the way, we stopped. And climbed to the bottom, which was fabulous, until we had to climb back up the mountain to the top. But in retrospect, this was probably good after the amount of cheese we had consumed. “Working off that cheese business.”