Cologne - There are few destinations in Germany that welcome visitors so warmly, and fewer still that boast a footballing history so rich and intriguing, than the city of Cologne. has put together this handy little guide in aid of your visit to Germany's fourth-largest city...

Cologne is located on the River Rhine in the German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The biggest of a cluster of cities in the area, it lies south of Düsseldorf and just north of Bonn, the former capital of the Federal Republic of Germany. Cologne shares a high-speed rail connection with many cities including Frankfurt, Berlin and Munich, as well as Brussels in Belgium, and is served by the Cologne-Bonn airport, situated approximately 14.8 km southeast of the city centre.

From the centre of town you can visit Cologne's best shopping galleries, take a relaxing walk along the Rhine and spot some of the surviving structures from the original Roman settlement - Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium - from which the city stemmed. Make sure to finish back at Cologne Cathedral, the Kölner Dom (pictured), located slap bang in the middle of the city. The structure boasts some of the world's most ornate decoration - inside and outside - and is a UNESCO world heritage site, and if you climb the stairs, you'll have some unforgettable views.

Cologne is a cultural and social hub of Germany, home to many historical points of interest. The Ludwig Museum is one of the country's foremost art museums, but you can also visit the German Sport and Olympic Museum (pictured), the Archaeological Zone and the Jewish Museum. And if you fancy something a bit lighter on the brain and heavier on the taste buds, check out the Chocolate Museum on the banks of the Rhine. Just don't spend too long in the gift shop...

Home to 1. FC Köln, the original Bundesliga winners and a footballing powerhouse in North Rhine-Westphalia, the is situated in the west of the city. To reach the stadium, you need to take the U-Bahn (underground; lines 16 or 18) from the central station to Neumarkt then change to line 1, which takes you directly to the ground. Originally opened in 1923 as the Müngersdorfer Stadion, the venue has undergone two renovations, most recently in 2004 in time for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, during which it hosted five matches.

Once the final whistle blows and your heart rate has returned to healthier levels, head back into town for a taste of Cologne's unique nightlife. The famous Päffgen brewery is a favourite haunt for evening dining, while the nearby Belgian quarter has some of the coolest city bars around. Scheinbar and Barracuda Bar serve excellent cocktails, while Sixpack and Tausend are two of many nightclubs where the party seldom stops. Oh, and if you want to fit in, order a Kölsch (a beer served in a thin glass).

Famously, Cologne is the best place to be for the annual carnival in Germany. Beginning on 11 November and ending on the Catholic holiday Ash Wednesday, the city is officially in carnival mode. It's best to time your visit for the final week of the carnival - the Thursday before Ash Wednesday. Labelled 'the crazy days', this is a period of near non-stop partying and revelry, where fancy dress is the norm and celebration the golden rule. Once you've experienced it, you'll likely never forget it.