Both are ideal for a school German trip - and the city of Cologne is also a great option for school science trips. Plus, it boasts a wonderful Christmas market. And both offer a completely different experience to the country’s capital, Berlin.
Cologne, which was a leading member of the Hanseatic League and one of the largest cities north of the Alps during medieval and Renaissance times, is the main cultural centre of the Rhineland.
There are hundreds of art galleries and more than 30 museums. The most popular among pupils does tend to be, rather unsurprisingly, the famous chocolate museum.
As well as learning about how chocolate is made and its history, you’ll also be able to taste some! A small bar is usually presented to visitors at the start of the visit, and there is also a 3ft fountain of liquid chocolate, into which an employee will dip a wafer for you. Delicious!
Another popular activity is a boat trip along the Rhine and Moselle. You can travel all the way down to Mainz, hopping on and off to explore the many charismatic towns that line the river.
Cologne is perhaps most famous for its lively carnival (one of the largest street festivals in Europe) and its impressive Gothic cathedral. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the cathedral is also the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe and is said to be Germany’s most-visited landmark.
The rest of the city’s architecture is a bit of a mixed bag – it was one of the most heavily bombed cities during WW2 and so required significant rebuilding after the war ended. Even the cathedral was badly damaged, but has, thankfully, now been fully restored.
German language groups will really enjoy using their language skills to explore this fascinating city. And if you are looking for a festive trip that will get your students talking, Cologne is hard to beat with its eight different Christmas markets!
Cologne also has a remarkable number of science-based attractions too, ranging from interactive museums to the German Aerospace Centre, one of Europe’s largest research institutions.
So, perhaps as you’d expect, there’s loads to keep your students occupied in vibrant Cologne. But what about if you opt for the quieter, gentler paced Rhineland?
The first thing to say is that this is a wonderful choice of destination if part of the reason for running your trip is to inspire a passion for all things German in your students. The Rhineland really is fairy tale Germany, complete with majestic castles sat atop imposing hilltops, charming and traditional towns, and peaceful monasteries.
The area was heavily influenced by the Romans and you can still see this influence as you explore the area today. Catholicism is prevalent in the area, and you’ll see many exquisite Catholic churches here, including Cologne’s very own cathedral.
And you’ll see vineyard upon vineyard too – viticulture being made possible by the Rhine’s ability to temper the climate to allow grapes to ripen fully this far north.
In fact, some of the world’s best Rieslings come from this very area and the wine trade has played a huge part in the history of the towns that line this section of the Rhine, between Cologne and Mainz.
The wine, along with other goods would have been carried north up the Rhine, which was the main river trade artery between the centre of Europe and the North Sea.
Still not sure whether the Rhineland is the right destination for your next school trip? We’ll leave the last word to French poet and novelist Victor Hugo, who said:
"The Rhine combines everything. The Rhine is swift as the Rhône, wide as the Loire, winding as the Seine…royal as the Danube and covered with fables and phantoms like a river in Asia."
If you're interested in arranging a school trip to Cologne or the Rhineland, please don't hesitate to contact us for further information.