While sitting at one of my favorite restaurants with some friends on New Years Day last year (it’s slowly becoming tradition), my friend and I booked a slightly spontaneous trip to Germany. You see, my best friend who you’ve seen a few times here on the blog, travels a TON for work. I’ve reeped some of the benefits by tagging along to fun places or meeting her at the end of work trips for a little vacation. With my flex schedule and her crazy travel schedule, we make a good travel duo.
She had a trip to Germany on the books and I have ALWAYS wanted to see this country. My Grandmother is from a little town outside Dusseldorf and although her memories of Germany are grim and filled with anti-semitism, there has always been a part of me that wanted to see where she was from. I heard so many stories growing up about Germany and I wanted to see it for myself. A super cheap flight find while at Superica (okay a few margaritas deep too) and I was booked!
Now, what the hell to do in Germany?
Well, thankfully, my Dad has visited a ton for work and so had Kristin. We knew we wanted to see Cologne, a short train ride from Dusseldorf, and there are also a few countries near by like Luxembourg and Belgium. I was ready to plan!
I stumbled onto Katie’s Bliss Germany trip post and was instantly consumed by the CASTLES. Had no idea there were so many Cinderella style castles. There’s actually a specific one that inspired Walt Disney to make Cinderella’s castle in the movie. We decided to check out a castle or two, visit a couple of cute towns and add on Belgium. Here’s what we did.
Travel Guide To Germany & Belgium
Arrival Day, Day One & Two
Bonn & Cologne & Castles
Where We Stayed
Bonn Marriott – Although this was a great hotel, it was not near anything. We got lucky that it was next to a train stop and made it easy to get around but it was in no way walking distance to anything in the city.
Where We Ate
- Pomm Fritz –
curry wurstand fries, loved their food!
- Kurt Coffee – cute coffee shop next to
- Sonjas – fun little bar with a large beer selection and great bar snacks like cheese and olives
- Biergarten Alter Zoll – a casual
biergartenthat overlooks the Rhine
What We Saw
- Schloss Drachenburg
- Beethoven’s House
- Haribo Store Factory
- Dom (Cologne)
- Fischmarket (Cologne)
What We Did
We flew into Dusseldorf and took the train to Bonn. It’s a major city just outside of Cologne but made more sense to stay here. Cologne didn’t have great hotel options and the castles we wanted to see were south of Bonn anyway. Bonn was a super cute city, similar to Paris almost but with German architecture. Lots of shopping, great restaurants and is also home to Beethoven and Haribo.
I arrived early on Thursday and spent that afternoon trying to stay awake, walking around Bonn and ate a German classic, currywurst and fries. So delicious. Kristin and I connected that evening once her work trip was over. We grabbed a late night snack before heading to bed.
first full day
Bonn was a quick train ride to the castle, Schloss Drachenburg, which was in an adorable little town, Konigswinter. We grabbed breakfast, a giant slab of ham and
Once we came down, we took the train back up towards Bonn but stopped at another cute town, Oberdollendorf. We had lunch on the Rhein at Weinhaus Am Rhein. We sat here for hours drinking Riesling, eating schnitzel and potato pancakes with smoked salmon while watching the boats go by. It was one of my favorite moments of the trip. The weather was the nicest we had the whole time we were abroad. We were able to sit outside in just a tee and take it all in for several hours.
On day two, we headed to Cologne via a super quick 25-minute train ride to see the Dom. It’s an impressive cathedral in the heart of the city. It was constructed in the 13th century and survived many many bombings over the years. You also can’t do Cologne without stopping by the Fish Market where these cute colorful buildings were. We then stopped at Brauhaus Sion for sausage by the meter, Kolsch beer and of course a pork knuckle. It was all delicious! We finished our day out with a few final Kolsch at Fruh.
Day Three & Four
Where We Stayed
Hotel De Tuilerieen – one of the prettiest hotels, great location and incredible service
Where We Ate
- De Halve Man Brewery – also known as Half Moon Brewery
- Poules Moules – recommend making a reservation
- Garre – hole in the wall bar with great beer
- That’s Toast – delicious brunch
What We Saw
- La Grand Place De Brugges – the main market and plaza
- Half Moon Brewery Tour – great brewery tour with a beautiful view of the city and delicious beer
- Ten Wijngaerde – the only preserved beguinage in the Belgian city of Brugges – it was beautiful and full of blooming daffodils
- Minnewater – also known as lover’s lake!
For day three & four, we headed to Brugge by train. It was just two transfers and honestly, a great way to get there. Brugge is a beautiful town in Belgium that is known for its canals, cobbled streets and medieval architecture. It was such a cute spot and I wish we stayed one more day here and did more exploring! There were a few Airbnb experiences I would’ve liked to have done like waffle making classes or beer tasting. We ended up just eating and drinking our way through the city for the 28 hours we were there. Don’t forget to buy some chocolate!
We headed to Dusseldorf at the end of day four by train. We arrived fairly late, not really needing to grab dinner. Instead, we crashed and got an early start on our last full day.
Here’s what we did in Brugge.
One tour I did want to make sure we did do in Brugge was the Half Moon Brewery tour. It’s the oldest brewery in Brugge and they built a
The Market Square is a must visit area of Brugge. The Belfry tower is located here along with these colorful buildings that are an Instagrammable moment. In this square is also the West Flanders Provincial Court and the statues of Jan Breydel and Pieter de Coninck (no idea who they are, but it seemed important). Definitely make a stop at Markt to take it all in.
TIP: I always like to visit popular areas like this as early in the day as possible to avoid the crowds and get that perfect photo!
Day Five and Six
Where We Stayed
Hotel Nikko + Max Brown Hotel
TIP: My poor friend became ill on our last day and due to my severe phobia of getting sick and also just wanting to give her some space, I opted to get my own room for the last night. Our hotel didn’t have anything reasonably priced, so I turned to Hotel Tonight, a hotel booking app. Found a great deal at Max Brown Hotel and it turns out it was my favorite hotel I’ve ever stayed at. You can get $25 off your first stay with my code
JCAMERATA, you can download the app here.
Where We Ate
- Bistro Zicke
What We Saw
- Schloss Benrath – a pink castle that was blooming with cherry blossoms
- Altstadt – “Old Town” walk along the water, do some shopping and hang out at a cafe and enjoy a beer.
- KO – shopping district in Altstadt
The only thing I really wanted to do in Dusseldorf was actually leave and see Rheydt. The town my Grandmother was from. It was a 35-minute train ride outside of the city. A small tiny, poor town, but I just had to see it for myself. I couldn’t be 30 minutes away and not bother to go see it.
This detour took a couple of hours and we ended up back in Dusseldorf before noon thanks to an early start
What To Pack For Germany & Belgium
I’ll never be able to pack for a winter getaway in just a carry-on. It’s simply impossible for me if it’s over 3 or 4 days. I did
We were in Germany and Belgium towards the end of March. It was definitely cold and I wish I brought a few additional layers like gloves and maybe even a hat. Since both Germany and Belgium were big walking cities, comfortable shoes are a must. For me that meant Reeboks and a comfortable flat bootie. I wore solely sweaters layered with a light thin long sleeve. This was I had warm layers without adding bigger bulkier sweaters to my suitcase. For weather in the low 40s, maybe