Fifteen miles north of Bonn (the capital of former West Germany) and 30 miles from the borders both of Belgium and The Netherlands, Cologne is Germany’s fourth-largest city after Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich. Dominated by its cathedral, which supposedly contains the relics of the New Testament’s Three Wise Men, the city is a cultural, financial, and industrial center of Europe. It is also a tourist mecca, as it is reported that among the Cologne event venues are the highest number of bars per capita of anywhere in Germany.
The airport used by all those visitors is the Cologne/Bonn Airport (CGB), approximately 10 miles southeast of the city center. It has service to most points in Europe, but a connection in another European city must be made if coming from North America.
The city’s convention center is the Congress-Centrum Kolnmesse, which has 2.8 million square feet of exhibit space for almost 20,000 persons and 41 meeting and function rooms for a maximum capacity of 9,600 persons.
Hotel venues in Cologne include the 454-room Maritim Hotel Koln, which has 21 meeting and function rooms, with its largest able to host 1,600 persons; the 365-room Marriott Cologne, which has 18 meeting rooms covering almost 22,000 square feet of space; the 306-room Hyatt Regency Cologne, which is on the eastern side of the Rhine and has 13 meeting rooms, the largest measuring 6,000 square feet; the 207-room Hotel Mondial am Dom Cologne-MGallery Collection, which has five meeting rooms and a 2,000-square-foot ballroom; and 142-room Hotel Excelsior Ernst, which celebrated its 150th birthday in 2013 and has 13 meeting rooms, including the Gobelin Saal for 200 persons.
There is an excellent array of private-function venues in Cologne. Try Gloria Theater, a former cinema specializing in film premieres, which has a 1950s look and feel, has access to numerous shows and performers, and can host up to 800 persons; stately, imposing, pink-and-white castle Schloss Arff, which dates to the 16th century, has been in the possession of the Geyr-Schweppenburg family since 1803 and has space inside for up to 80 persons and a marquee outside for 300; Tanzbrunnen Koln, which is one of Cologne’s most spectacular spots, with the cathedral behind it and a huge, sail-shaped, mostly open-air function facility that can accommodate more than 12,000 persons, also includes the 689 Cologne Beach Club and several terraces along the Rhine; equally spectacular KolnSKY, which occupies the very top two floors of the Triangle Tower at a height of almost 350 feet and has a glass hall and a ballroom that can host 400 persons, and E-Werk Koln, a former electricity generating building that today is an open canvas for events, with space for 2,000 persons that can be combined with the Palladium opposite, at twice the size, for really enormous parties.
Restaurants perfect for groups in Cologne include brew-restaurant Bierhaus en d’r Salzgass, which has traditional decor, has a history dating to 1838, and has large, group-friendly tables in large halls; and Gruber’s, which has formal and informal rooms, an Austrian menu, and event space inside and out that can be used outside of normal restaurant hours. Another historical, traditional choice, Brauhaus Em Kolsche Boor, has been in operation since 1760, brews its own beer called Gaffel, and has a summer terrace for 26 persons and private rooms for up to 450; while Osman 30 has fantastic views from its 30th-floor perch in the Cologne Tower and private rooms for up to 100 persons. Finally, maybe the oldest restaurant in Cologne, the Haxenhaus Zum Rheingarten, which dates to 1231, offers a suitably traditional menu, and has two private dining rooms with Rhine views for 25 and 55 persons, respectively.