In detail: by train by plane by car

External links Deutsche Bahn (trains) Cologne/Bonn airport Cologne public transport

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Getting to Cologne by plane Yes, there is an airport here at Cologne. ;) And its international airport code is "CGN".
Because of its vicinity to both Cologne and the former capital Bonn, it's called "Konrad Adenauer Airport Koeln-Bonn" or short "Koeln/Bonn Airport".

For flights within Germany or Europe:
The Cologne airport is Germany's largest base for "cheap rate" flights within the European Community. Various low-fare air carriers offer flights to/from Cologne for almost every country of the EU (Spain, Italy, France, UK, Czech Republic, Scandinavia, Russia...). Where these low-fare carriers are not available, there's also of course the good ol' Lufthansa that will get you to Cologne (for a much higher price of course...).

A list of all airlines serving Cologne airport is available from the airport website, but here's some names and links for low-fare carriers that fly Cologne:
For overseas flights:
AFAIK, Continental will have a daily direct connection between New York (Newark) and Cologne, starting on 11th of May 2006. As of the time of this writing, there's no other direct flights from/to the US, Canada, South America, Africa (except Egypt and Morocco), or Asia... but there's other airports that are suitable for getting to Cologne of course:
  • via Düsseldorf Airport (code "DUS")
    This is only about 50 Kilometers from Cologne which equals a 40-minute ride by car or a 1-hour-trip by train (more or less, depending on connections).
    At the time of this writing, there's direct flights to Düsseldorf from e.g. Chicago.
  • via Frankfurt Airport (code "FRA")
    Germany's largest Airport with direct flights to almost every major city on the globe. This is some 200 Kilometers from Cologne. Below the airport you'll have direct access to the german high-speed-train "I.C.E." that gets you to Cologne central station in about 50 minutes.
  • via other airports
    If you don't mind stops, you might check if you can get a connection to Cologne airport via London (UK), Amsterdam (the Netherlands) or Luxemburg also...
    If you consider flying in with Ryanair be aware that what they call "Frankfurt-Hahn" or "Düsseldorf-Weeze" is a very, very misleading naming. Either of these airports will make you have to travel one hour (!) before arriving in the town that the airport is called like...
Once arrived at Cologne/Bonn airport Take a taxi if you like: This will take you to the youth hostels doorstep in about 25 minutes and will cost you about 40 Euro or more. To be honest, I recommend the trains unless you share the taxi ride among multiple persons.
I was unable to find any information about the bus shuttle that once existed. It might have become obsolete in the meanwhile with the construction of the new underground train station at the airport. The standard buses of Colognes public transport service are available but they're a waste of time (at least for the airport connection)!
S-Bahn / public transport
At the airport, walk to the underground train station. Follow either the signs "Trains" and the symbols figured in the left picture. This will take you either to the underground stations Terminal 1 entrance or terminal 2 entrance. Before entering the tracks, get a ticket from one of the ticket machines at the entrance to the station (there's no ticket machines in the S-Bahn trains or on the track itself).
The ticket machine is operated by entering a destination code which can be looked-up in the list at the machine. Honestly, even I didn't manage to figure out what code to use... but a friendly person from the train company explained me what to do: Simply enter 2000. This will give you a ticket valid for a single ride on the entire Cologne public transport network which costs 2.20 Euro. Oh - if they should ever decide to change the codes before Warpstock Europe starts, the simple trick is to enter the code for the central station "Hauptbahnhof" and meaning all Cologne. Now, that's what I call cryptic...
Now proceed to the track. There's two directions: Towards Bonn or towards Cologne (Köln). The latter is the one for you - indicated by a sign like the one in the picture... ("Züge Richtung Köln" means "Trains in direction of Cologne"). Also, you can simply look for the green "Koelnmesse" signs, meaning the Cologne Trade Fair's area: This is exactly the same direction as the central station. To be exact, you'll pass the following stations:
Frankfurter Strasse - Trimbornstrasse - Deutz/Messe (trade fair) - Hauptbahnhof (central station)
After exiting the train, leave the track by descending to the main level below (see picture). Regardless if you prefer to take a taxi to the youth hostel or public transport, please leave the station at its northern exit Breslauer Platz. This is in direction of the ascending (larger) track numbers within the Central Station building.

If you access the trams via the main entry inside the Central Station building, you'll get different trams only and have to change lines, making this a detour of more than 15 minutes. So the important part is to find the right exit:

wrong exit
correct exit #1 correct exit #2

If you see the cathedral through a large glass front, you're on the wrong side!

No large panes? Usual doors? Pharmacy on your left and McDonalds on your right? Correct exit!

No large panes? Usual doors? Constructions and wooden walls with ads posters? Another correct exit!

The ticket you have bought at the airports railway station is also valid for tram rides all across Cologne - which means also for your ride to the Youth Hostel. So no need to buy a new ticket! (If ever you need to buy one anyway: There's ticket machines in the middle part of each tram wagon.)

foto: U-signs Once you have left central station on either of the above correct exits, you should immediately notice large signs that tell you to turn left to access the subway station. Okay. Turn left and follow the U-signs.

foto: subway entrance This will lead you to the Breslauer Platz/Haupbahnhof station entry (approx. 300 to 400 meters). There's two entries on either side of the street but they lead to the same track. Also, each descending staircase will lead you to the same track - there's only one now. Get down into the subway.
foto: subway line 19 usually, there should already a tram be waiting as this is the terminus station of line 19. Enter here, get yourself a ticket (unless you already have one from the airport) and exit 4 stations later at Boltensternstrasse.
Be careful: In the late night hours and up to 4 am, there might be a different line starting here as well - the "E"-line - which takes a different route and can't be used to go to the Youth Hostel! Also during night time service, line 19 might only go to Reichenspergerplatz. In this case, change there onto line 18 (terminus Thielenbruch) for the remaining 2 stations until the Youth Hostel.
foto: walk from station to YH Station Boltensternstrasse:
Here, proceed to the traffic light at the front of the station and cross the street that is to the right of the station. After crossing the street, turn left and cross another street again with a traffic light. Now the the youth hostel is some 200 meters in front of you on the right side (also see indicated way on the foto). If all goes well, we will have attached lots of signs that lead you to the YH...