ODEON Cinema, Cologne ****

ODEON Cinema, Severinstrasse 81, Cologne

Often, small, non-franchise theaters are grungy, with uncomfortable seats, a small screen and horrible sound. Not so at the ODEON. The seats are very comfortable and seem relatively new. The screen is - for the size of the theater (I was in theater 2, there is also a theater 1) - excellent: it doesn't seem any smaller than in one of the huge theaters from somewhere in the middle of the room.
The sound is excellent; I'm not sure which system they use - it probably isn't 1.000 channel surround, but for the film I saw it was more than adequate.

The nice thing about the Odeon is: they show movies you'll likely not see in the big places, either because they are not mainstream or because they're independent pictures. Often, international films will be shown with the original soundtrack and subtitles, so your chances of seeing an English-language film here is quite high.

Another nicety is the café that is right inside the main foyer: it is comfortable and the prices are excellent. Speaking of prices: the theater ticket itself was cheaper than at one of the multiplexes. Unfortunately, they seem to have lost their liquor license, so you'll only get alcohol-free beer (which is good quality).

The only annoyance is that they don't have numbered seats; i.e.: you can pick any place to sit you like. This may be an issue if you're visiting a popular film in a group that wants to sit together (if you're late).

The area (Severinstrasse) is also a great place to visit, especially in the summer. It is one of the few areas in Cologne that has its own subculture. You'll find plenty of restaurants of every type within just a few minutes' walk from the Odeon.

MotelOne Köln-Mediapark, Cologne ****

Having stayed so many times at this hotel’s sister hotel (Waidmarkt) as well as at other MotelOne’s around the country, I basically knew what to expect.

The room wasn’t any different than any other MotelOne, of course, but the personnel here seemed friendlier. Since I had booked the hotel via HRS, I entered a (positive) review on this hotel. I was very surprised to get an email from management, thanking me for that. I’d reviewed the Waidmarkt location before, noting on the negative side that the hallways (carpets?) always smelled strongly like some chemical soup. No response there.

The location of the hotel is quite good - you’ve got an interesting section of the Hansaring (B9) very near, where you’ll find plenty of restaurants and bars, all very colorful, flanked by a park with a narrow lake. At the beginning of this section is a subway station, reachable by foot within a few minutes.

The Mediapark area isn’t really that interesting IMHO, despite the huge effort to integrate business, living, restaurants and shopping, as it seems to mostly die out after about 6PM. There are some restaurants there that will feed you just fine, though all of them are chain outlets.

You can walk to the hotel from the central train station in about 15 minutes (I made it in 12, but I probably walk faster than average) - with luggage!


Hotel Drei Kronen, Cologne**

The hotel is very close to the central train station and the cathedral, the building is first-row to the Rhine river. While this is nice for going out at night (if you’re keen on visiting one of the tourist-trap restaurants in that area), but getting there from the train station is - if you have a lot of luggage - a pain. Don’t take a taxi, they will hang you by your feet for waiting an hour for a passenger and then driving 800m. On foot from the train station, you’ll either have to walk up and back down some massive steps (you have to get over the cathedral “hump”) or circumnavigate the entire cathedral, adding a good 500m to your journey.

Most of the rooms go off to the rear or side of the building, only a few are to the front, facing the river. I really don’t recommend you get one to the front, however, since it tends to be quite noisy until late at night. And, you haven’t come to Cologne to sit in the hotel room and look on the river, right? Also, in the summer - when you’ll tend to have to keep the window open at night to let in cool air (no AC) - you’ll likely be surprised at how loud river boat traffic and the trains going across the large bridge just across from the hotel can be.

My room was to the rear (Room 54), which was fine, as rooms to the side will look onto other buildings standing no more than 2m away (not to mention various noisy compressors mounted to the walls)… unfortunately, the curtains were quite light in color, letting light pass in nearly unhindered. Even for me - I prefer waking up in a lit room - it was so bright that I woke up about an hour before the alarm. If you’re used to sleeping in a room without any light at all, you’ll have a hard time.

The room itself is okay in size, the furnishings look pretty new and are functional. A major pain is the fact that there is no power outlet anywhere near the “desk”. I had to slide the laptop all the way to the left and turn it slightly (great for your back) to be able to use power from near the window.

The bathroom smelled - pretty badly - like a bathroom does when one of the waste-water seals isn’t sealing anymore (toilet or sink). Running the shower to get water into the siphon didn’t work this time. One of the shower towels had a black hair on it, yuck, and the shower had a shower curtain - my absolute favorite way to keep water in the shower - not! The radiator had strange pinkish splotches on it and the aerator in the tap was so full of calcium, it sprayed water this way and that. All things that can be taken care of pretty easily, but unfortunately - in hotels of this type - never do. Without this issue, I’d have given a star extra.

Also, although the room has another room between it and the elevator (which only goes to level 4 1/2), the motor from the lift was quite noticeable. The “entry system” is “old-style” - a key with a huge fob on it. You have to take the key with you in the evening, as reception closes at 10PM. I ended up taking the key off the fob and putting it in my wallet.

To be fair, the price was quite good, I paid €59 without breakfast (+10€). Also, they have quite a fast Wifi access for free - definitely a plus! Breakfast, on the other hand, is a complete joke: two small plates of cheese and meats, some yoghurt, that’s it. Not even worth half the price.

So would I recommend the place? The bathroom smell might just be a problem in this room - if that is the case and you don’t have a lot of luggage and you don’t eat breakfast, then the hotel is okay. With luggage, I would definitely go elsewhere.


Sandmann's Hotel, Cologne ***

Sandmann’s is a small hotel-cum-lounge type of place. My room was 1-2, which is on the first floor and to the street. The entire hotel only has 11 rooms, and all are non-smoking. Despite the busy street, the windows did a good job of keeping most noise out. Mind you, there is no A/C and I doubt I would be able to sleep without earplugs should I have to keep the window open at night.

A bit annoying was the way the curtains were set up: they weren’t completely closable, leaking quite a bit of light from the street into the room. It was bearable, though.

The room is in “sahara deco” - as I would expect for them all to be - the hotel’s name makes that a requirement I guess. Nice touches everywhere, with a garish contrast provided by nearly neon pink stuff (like the chair, the wastebasket, the shampoo bottle).

I didn’t have breakfast, but it looked pretty good albeit somewhat simple, to be consumed in the small lounge portion. It didn’t look to be a steal at €10 extra, though.

The bathroom was clean (as was the room) and functional, though the shower sported my favorite accessory (not!): a shower curtain. Also, no thermostat control, it took a bit to get the temperature right.

My only real gripe is the bedframe: either the frame is too high or the mattress too low - in any case, you can’t get in or out of bed without getting some pain setting into your thighs from the wood. Also - but I attribute this to my personal clumsyness - the rear panel of the frame is about 5cm higher than the rest, so when I went around the bed and dodged the chair, I smacked my knee right into the corner of the board, not to my amusement, I assure you.

The location is pretty good, very close to the central train station and the cathedral.


Hotel Esplanade, Cologne **

The hotel is located near a tram station (Zuelpicher Platz), from which you can get straight to the central train station or take one of two lines that form an inner ring, so you’re very well connected.

Also, a lot of shopping and some attractions are within easy walking distance.

The hotel has a lift, the room I was in (43) had the bathroom in a short hallway that ended in a second door to the main room.

The room seemed large, but it turned out to be too small to use the provided chair at the desk to work - there simply isn’t enough room between the end of the bed and the desk. Sitting on the end of the bed works, but not very well. This isn’t an issue if you’re a tourist, but if you need to get a bit of work done, doing it in the room might not be an option.

The room was to the street side - and Hohenstaufenring is
very busy, at all times of the day. Because of dual windows, however, noise was very well abated with the windows closed. If you’re the type that needs to have the window open at night, you will need to demand a room to the rear.

Also, and I’ve become quite used to this in older hotels, a lingering smell of sewage gasses inundated the bathroom. I tried my usual trick of pouring water in any siphon I could find (this bathroom had one in the floor), but that only worked for a short time. Also, much to my dismay, the bathtub / shower has a curtain, something I can’t stand. On the positive side, water temperature was regulated by a brand-name thermostat, so thumbs up there.

Breakfast was average at best, no highlights. One major downer became apparent when I lifted the lid to the hot foods (scrambled egg and bacon): a cloud of retched smell engulfed me, making me put down the lid as quickly as I could. Something was wrong, I couldn’t say wether there was a bad egg in there or the frying grease from the bacon was old, in any case I opted for the cereal instead. The visuals of the half-cooked bacon would probably had made me take the same decision even without the smell.

All in all, the hotel is ok for the price (an odd €61,61 for the room), although breakfast - which was included in the booking but priced separately at €10 on the bill certainly wasn’t worth it - if possible I suggest getting the room without breakfast, there are plenty of eating opportunities “just around the corner”.

One more tip: if you’re looking to take the tram due south on school days at around 8AM, don’t bother: the trams are so packed full, I ended up taking a taxi.

Hotel Zum Bahnhof, Cologne-Dellbrück **

Stayed: April 11, 2013

Despite having an appointment in the south of Cologne the next day, I had to book into this hotel in Dellbrück (which is on the other side of the Rhine river, quite a bit east): there were almost no hotels left within my budget due to a trade fair going on in Cologne that week.

There is an S-Bahn trainstation right across the street, however, so getting there from the central train station only takes about 15 minutes.

The hotel has an attached restaurant, which was too expensive for my tastes; I ended up walking quite a ways through Dellbrück and dining at a Brauhaus. Breakfast is in the restaurant, but has a really poor selection with possibly the smallest rolls I’ve ever seen and jam only available in small plastic packets. While there is a good quality espresso machine for restaurant use, the lady looking after the breakfast was not permitted to make decent coffee for the guests; bitter tasting filter coffee had to suffice.

My room (top floor) was okay, the bathroom was quite large, mainly due to the position of the shower unit. Cleanliness was quite ok. It was outfitted with two single beds which were comfortable enough.

What is a bit of an issue - especially in the morning (probably starting quite early) is the noise from the trains, that run quite frequently. The double-glazed windows don’t seem to keep that noise out very well and I ended up waking up much earlier than my alarm.

All in all, if you’re not much for breakfast in the morning, this might be a good alternative, even though you’re quite a ways from Cologne. I arrived by train, which is about as easy as can be with the hotel so close to the train station. If you’re coming by car, I would guess you’d have an issue finding a parking spot.

Oh yea: no elevator!