The Sporting Life in Germany's Fast Lane

By Josh Krist

Michael Schumacher
Last year's Grand Prix

The giants of F1 racing will soon battle for the checkered flag at the legendary Nürburgring, 56 miles (90 km) southwest of Cologne and 37 miles (60 km) northwest of Koblenz. Running over the weekend of July 20-22, the race will transform the sleepy village of Nürburg, set in the Eifel Mountains, into the temporary center of the F1 racing world.

The Course

The course—known as "The Ring" by race fans—is so challenging that major auto manufacturers test their high-performance cars here and boast about it in their marketing materials. Imagine 60 laps of high-speed straight-aways that end in hairpin turns—that's what this race has in store.

Ticket prices range from as low as €89 all the way up to more than €400 for the best seats in the house. There are many walking paths around the course, so it's possible to set out on foot with a general admission ticket for a good vantage point away from the crowds. For a high-tech spectating option, rent a Kangaroo TV at the race for live video and stats at your fingertips--just look for the kiosk at the track.

Visitors should know that there's a microclimate here that's notoriously unpredictable. Torrential rains during races here are not unknown, and although the rains don't make the drivers too happy, well-equipped fans can watch in comfort as the best F1 drivers in the world compete at one of the most difficult tracks under challenging conditions.

Start Your Engines

There's still time to find accommodations and buy track tickets for "The Ring," but as any F1 driver will tell you, the race really does go to the swift. Here are links to get started right away:

  • Read about the 2006 F1 Grand Prix
  • Rent a car for a trip to Germany
  • Visit the official F1 site
  • Check out the track
  • Sign up for the free Europe Travel Report

There's only one hotel of note in Nürburg, the Dorint Novotel Am Nürburgring, situated right beside the track. its 207 rooms fill up well in advance though with hardcore race fans and media. There are bed & breakfasts in the nearby villages of Herschbroich, Adenau, and Nürburg, but Cologne and Koblenz are the best places to find a good deal on a hotel room. Nürburg is not served well by trains or other public transportation, so renting a car is a must.

Nearby: Cologne

Cologne offers plenty to see and do after the races: Cologne Cathedral is Germany's largest, and there are 12 large Romanesque churches in the city center; additionally, Rheingarten park and the old quarter are filled with traditional beer halls.

Across from Cologne Cathedral is the CityClass Hotel Europa am Dom, one of the best bets in Cologne. With 96 rooms, the hotel is walking distance from the city's main attractions and offers all the amenities, including a breakfast buffet, one would expect at a three-star hotel. The good news for race fans is that the rates at this convention-friendly hotel go down during the weekends--€47/67 for a single/double. Contact: Am Hof 38-46, 50667, Cologne, tel. +49/221/71 66 44-0, fax +49/221/44 10 73

The Senats Hotel, steps away pedestrian malls and shopping galleries of the Cologne business district and the Old Quarter, is another good choice. Weekend rates are €85/128. Contact: Unter Goldschmied 9-17, 50667, Cologne, tel. +49/221/71 66 44-0, fax +49/221/44 10 73

Nearby: Koblenz

The 2000-year-old city of Koblenz always has a festival or event on tap--if you need a dose of the arts to balance out the pure adrenaline of the race. Cultural events are regularly held at Ehrenbreitstein fortress and in front of the Elector's Palace, and Stolzenfels Castle hosts concerts around the year.

Festivals of note here include the international street entertainer festival in August, and, just a week after the Grand Prix of Europe, the Horizonte Festival of World Culture.

Hotel Haus Morjan, situated directly on the Rhine, regularly draws rave reviews from travelers for its full service restaurant and high quality of the rooms. With prices starting as low as €87 per night for a double, it's worth a little extra to get a room with a river view. Contact: Kölnrad-Adenauer-Ufer, tel. +49/02 61/30 42 90, fax 02 61/3 04 29 56