We have just come back from a 3 night stay in Cologne. I received a lot of advise from this site before we went so I thought I'd post my veiws. In 1 word - FANTASTIC! All advise I received was correct and I'm glad I acted on it. The city isn't pretty or quaint by any means as it is a business city but we soon grew to like it even within a couple of days. Just watch out for the bicycles when you are out walking as they have the right of way and they go at some speed!!!
We stayed at the Hotel Leonet in Altstaddt. A nice hotel with very friendly English speaking staff. Basic but clean bedroom with bath, shower, TV, and well stocked minibar. Good buffet breakfast (7-10am) with cold meats, cheese, cerial, sausage, bacon, eggs, yogurt, several types of teas and Coffee. Small "wet- room" with a jacuzzi, dry sauna, steam room, sun beds a running machine and an exercise bike all for 5 Euros p.person. My wife and I had it all to ourselves for 2 hours (IMAGINE THAT IF YOU DARE!!)Hotel situated close to bars and just about every kind of eating establishment you can think of. Also close to trams and buses. There is a massive shopping centre there (and I mean BIG!!!!!) You must visit the Dom (Cathedral) which is situated next to the main railway station (Hauptbahnhof) It is truely amazing. There are 6 Christmas markets and they are beautiful and have very unusual gifts.
Don't do as we did by taking a taxi from the airport to your hotel. It cost us 30 Euros. On the way back to the airport it cost us 2 Euros each by train!! Just go to the orange ticket machine, look for "Hauptbanhof" and key in the 4 digit number. It will then tell you how much to put in for a ticket. The trains are remarkably efficient and the information boards displaying train times, platforms and stations are very easy to read
I am learning the German language at the moment but I didn't get much chance to practice it because most people there speak English to one degree on another and like to practice their English. I did get lots of smiles and nods when I did speak German though so they do appriciate it even if you only say a few words; hello, goodbye, thankyou etc.
Wrap up warm at the moment. There doesn't seem to be any dress code in the bars and restaurants so just dress comfortably.
I think thats just about it but please reply if you have any questions.