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8 free hours - Brussels or Cologne?

My husband and I are travelling from London to Vienna. We'll be going from London to Brussels, and then on to Cologne catch the night train to Vienna. We have 8 hours to kill between our arrival in Brussels and our departure from Cologne. Any suggestions on the best way to use those 8 hours? Focus on Brussels, or Cologne? Or split them evenly? Thanks!

Posted by
7489 posts

As someone noted in a similar thread, Cologne is more compact than Brussels. On foot and in a hurry, you can see more there, without considering the issue of which city is "better". I come down on the side of Cologne anyway. But if you do your Brussels map research, you can hit Grand Place, the Cathedral, an art museum (running from painting to painting ....), Coudenberg, Musical Instruments, Bozart, Sablon Square, in eight hours. I think Cologne will be more leisurely fun ... I admit that Grand Place beats Cologne's old town, but it's just one stop in Brussels. Cologne, for example, has better Roman monuments and a more important cathedral. (Top tourist destination in Germany by statistics ... )

Posted by
837 posts

Jessica, I think there is much more to see in Brussels. I agree with the first poster that, while much maligned on this board, has a lot to offer. The Grand Place is spectacular. Just off the square there is an atrium shopping mall, reminiscent, although not as large and "over the top" as the ones in Milan and Rome. In the same area is a small winding street of very picturesque restaurants. I don't know whether or not the food is good, but they are very attractive. There is also an Art Nouveau walk in the Steve's book that is a bit more distant, but very doable in 8 hours. There are also several very interesting churches and a the Palace. Cologne, on the other hand, is one of the most disappointing cities I have seen in Europe. The cathedral is well worth seeing, but, as pointed out above, is right next to the train station and thus accessible for quick viewing.

Posted by
4535 posts

I agree with David, spend most of your time in Brussels, even if just in the main place area and for a leisurely lunch of mussels et frites. Allow on hour or so in Cologne to see the cathedral.

Posted by
7489 posts

Just to improve the precision of my sloppy phrasing: The Cologne Cathedral is the top single site by number of visitors per year. I was not writing that Cologne has more visitors than Berlin! If you visit the Brussels Cathedral, make sure to find the plaques of gratitude to the UK (or maybe Canadian?) forces that liberated the city. BTW, I have read some interesting warnings about bill policies on the Brussels restaurant street on the TripAdvisor Forum. I've never had a sit-down meal there, but it is a sight that should be seen, if not ... eaten. That street also has also a unique, er, gender-equality response to Mannekin-Pis, but look first before showing your children. But if you've seen Kiki Smith's "Untitled, 2006" you won't be shocked.

Posted by
2193 posts

I agree with others suggesting Brussels is significantly underrated. It's definitely underrated by Rick's loyal fans here, who often quote nearly word-for-word his suggestion for a quick visit (i.e. go straight to Grand Place, eat a chocolate, drink a beer, and leave). In fairness, I really don't think Rick himself does Brussels any injustice since he dedicates quite a bit of time to the city in his guidebook, but his fans are somehow stuck singularly on his idea for a quick tour (i.e. Brussels isn't that great, so just do this). If it were me, I would spend most of that time in Brussels and catch only the Cologne Cathedral upon arrival there. Don't get me wrong, one can spend a lot of time in Cologne, but if I had to choose, it's an easy choice: Brussels. BTW, Brussels is now giving Antwerp a run for its money on hipness/coolness/trendiness/whatever you want to call it. Do a little research in some of the travel magazines – Travel & Leisure or whatever – you'll see what I mean. Happy Travels!