With an extravagant gothic skyline and centuries of history, it is no wonder that the city of Cologne – or Köln to the Germans – is hailed as one of Europe's urban jewels. First settled by locals over 2000 years ago, the arrival of the Romans soon afterwards brought about rapid expansion and modernisation. Today, this city beside the River Rhine has been transformed it into a nucleus of trade and culture, and the list of must-sees are seemingly endless. Cologne Cathedral is the largest gothic church in Europe and Germany's most visited landmark. Alongside remnants of the ancient Roman walls, you'll find a huge collection of modern masterpieces by pop artists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein at the revered Ludwig Museum. Cologne's traditional German magnetisms include romantic boat rides up the river Rhine, a gorgeous harbour-side Chocolate Museum located near the old town and of course scores of Christmas markets that pop up over the Advent season.

Dortmund’s gritty history is built on steel, coal and beer – a combination that has transformed the characterful streets for centuries. While the steel and coal commerce may have declined long ago, its industrial remnants can be seen throughout the city. The beautiful Zollern Colliery made its name as a coal mining centre in 1898, and now hosts fascinating exhibitions about life in the 1900s. While Dortmund was one of the most heavily damaged cities during World War II, it has rebuilt itself as a tech hub – and its educational institutions and technology centres exude an opportunist, cosmopolitan demeanor. Of course, the city’s famous football club make it the obvious home for the German Football Museum, which houses a 3D cinema, treasure chamber, World Cup winners coach and mini pitch – perfect for both kids and adults alike! After a long day’s exploring, head to the Brewery Museum to learn about Dortmund’s history as the nation’s number one beer capital, or relax in one of the green, open spaces that cover over half the city.

The perfect balance of metropolitan life and culture, Düsseldorf is a city of innovators and artists . Enjoy the bohemian art and architecture of the Old Town before heading to the tree-lined streets of Königsallee for an afternoon of shopping. Take a wander down the stunning riverside Rhine Embankment Promenade, which leads to some of the finest bars in the city, or explore the historic gardens of Schloss Benrath, home to the candy pink Baroque Palace. Whatever your interests, Düsseldorf is a little gem just waiting to be discovered.

It might be celebrated for its thriving fashion industry, art culture and electro scene, but Düsseldorf takes on a whole new persona over the festive season. Divided by the Rhine River, Düsseldorf at Christmas offers plenty of reasons to be merry: bustling Christmas markets, illuminated courtyards and quaint gingerbread houses at every turn. The festive hub of this bustling city, head to Marktplatz, where countless stalls selling yuletide gifts and delectable treats await.

Cologne at Christmas is like something from a fairy tale. The magic of the festive season is felt throughout the largest of Germany's cities - with traditional music and 160 stands full of festive wares, it makes for an unforgettable experience. According to Cologne legend, ‘Heinzelmännchen’ gnomes guard each market in the city, including the Angel's Market, ensuring that every item sold across each stall is authentic - so any gifts you do pick up will be truly unique. Breathe in the warming scent of cinnamon at one of the many themed Christmas markets in downtown Cologne, and be sure to stop by the spectacular Cathedral or the Chocolate Museum.

Cologne, Germany

Dortmund, Germany

Dusseldorf, Germany

Düsseldorf, Germany

Cologne, Germany