I arrived in Köln on a DB Bahn (German railways) ICE from Brussels. By booking well in advance on a “specified train and no changes” ticket, and with a discount for my Official Old F*rt status, I paid €30 for a 1st class seat. It was very fast and very comfortable. Not all the journey was on dedicated high speed track, but still.
The journey time should have been about 2 hours, but we were delayed slightly on that shared track by a broken down train ahead of us.
My return journey was on a Thalys train, Thalys being the multinational version of the French TGV which serves Brussels, Amsterdam and Düsseldorf (via Köln). The cost was €59 in Premium. Thalys operates 3 classes – Standard, Comfort and Premium. The difference between the latter two seems to be free food and drink.
It was all going well until the train broke down at Liège. Eventually all the passengers got off and we caught an SNCB intercity to Brussels arriving 85 minutes late. Whilst frustrating, the train crew did a good job of keeping us informed and the getting us onto the next Brussels train.
The delay entitled me to compensation. At the time of writing I have been offered 25% of the ticket price. I am confident I am entitled to 50%. We will see.
In Köln I stayed at the Lint Hotel http://www.lint-hotel.de, in the Altstadt less than 10 minutes walk from the Hauptbahnhof. The room was excellent and so was the breakfast. We did have one glitch however. Their reception is not open after 6pm on a Sunday and I seem to have missed their email about the self check in arrangements. The issue was quickly sorted out by a phone call, however.
It cost me €103, including breakfast and city tax. Good value.
My brief stay in the city did not involve visiting any restaurants, so they will have to wait for the next time. Certainly the area around the hotel, and between there and the station, offered plenty possibilities.
ⓒ iain taylor, 2019