Scents and sensibility in Cologne - Travel

Janet Reeder tries not to overdo it on a trip to Cologne

If you love perfume you'll love Cologne - that stunning German city on the magnificent Rhine, whose name has become synonymous with fragrance.

Its Farina museum is the place to investigate the secret life of scent. The wealth, the intrigue and the glamour…Napoleon had special boots made so that he could tuck away the bottle a day he used to freshen himself up - at the equivalent of �2,000 a pop. And everyone wore it as they never, ever washed. It even started the fashion for designer copies, with 18th century interlopers creating shocking imitations to cash in on the cologne craze.

Staying at the Excelsior Hotel Ernst you get a real feel for the city. Here you can have business meetings over a breakfast where every sort of muesli/milk combination is covered. Lunch or dinner in the Hanse Stube restaurant is elegant but unstuffy and a model of German hospitality. Their other restaurant Taku has just won an award as foreign restaurant of the year. It's very chic and attracts well-heeled sophisticates and 'characters'. Loved the older man wearing leather wristbands trying to seduce two elegant young girls on the table next to ours. What are restaurants for if not people watching? Well eating, The food is very good which makes resisting futile. I did manage a trip to the spa however… the steam room to be exact!

Outside the hotel, dining opportunities include the Brewery Tavern Fruh Am Dom, a warren of different areas for downing the local Fruh beer and rustic German dishes. They keep refilling your glass which makes you just love the place even more.

Roman excavations, Cologne Cathedral and the Roman Germanic museum are great places to get a taste of the city's distant past. The Ludwig Museum has a brilliant modern art collection that includes pieces by Warhol, Kandinsky, Rauschenberg, Maholy Nagy and Dix and you can walk through excavated Roman sewers as part of a visit to the fascinating Roman Praetorium.

Plus, you can join in the fun of the Cologne Carnival November-February, when there are six days of street parades and general crazy cavorting.

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Travel facts:

German Wings has a regular service to Cologne-Bonn from Manchester airport with flight times around one-and-a-half hours. Visit: Cologne tourism: Farina Museum: 0049 2212941709

Stay at:

Excelsior Hotel Ernst +49221 2701

Room rates: From 270 euros for a double room - includes use of minibar, sauna and fitness facilities, service charge and VAT.

Highlights 2010April 21-25 Art CologneApril 24-May 16 Musik TriennaleJuly 2-4 Cologne PrideJuly 3- October 2010 Roy Lichenstein. Art as Motif, Museum LudwigJuly 17 Cologne LightsJuly 31-August 7 gay gamesDecember Christmas markets

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