Planning a trip to Cologne, Germany, and looking for ideas on what to do? This comprehensive travel guide is your resource for discovering the top must-do activities and experiences that make Cologne a unique and vibrant city. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or returning traveler, I’ll be your guide to the best of what this city has to offer.
Navigating Cologne – how to get around
Getting around Cologne is a breeze thanks to its well-connected public transportation system. While walking is a great way to explore the city, the KVB is a convenient and efficient option for longer distances. Trains, trams, and buses run regularly and the Stadtbahn underground train is particularly easy to navigate.
Buying tickets is also a simple process, with the option to purchase them online through your mobile phone. For a more eco-friendly option, consider renting a bike or electric bike as the city is very bicycle-friendly. While I found riding an electric bike to be a thrilling experience, some caution is advised as they can go quite fast. In fact, I often saw bikers effortlessly weaving through the streets, even overtaking the trams.
Take a stroll through Cologne’s timeless Aldstadt
Exploring the old town of Cologne, also known as the Altstadt, is an absolute must for any first-time visitor. This charming area is filled with winding cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and a lively atmosphere that is perfect for a day of exploration. As you stroll through the old town, you’ll encounter some of the city’s most iconic landmarks, including the awe-inspiring Cologne Cathedral and the world-renowned Museum Ludwig.
But the Altstadt is much more than just a collection of tourist sites – it’s also home to countless cafes, bars, and restaurants where you can enjoy a cup of coffee, a cold beer, or a delicious meal while taking in the picturesque surroundings.
Get high in Cologne: Take a thrilling ride on the Rhein-Seilbahn
If you’re looking for a unique and thrilling way to see Cologne, Germany, look no further than the Cologne Cable Car (Rhein-Seilbahn). This exciting attraction provides some of the most stunning views of the city and the Rhine River and is a must-see for anyone wondering what to see in Cologne Germany. As the first European cable car to cross a river, the Cologne Cable Car is both a historic and scenic landmark.
We were lucky enough to visit on a beautiful sunny day, which made for an unforgettable experience. Although I don’t have a fear of heights, the 30-meter elevation above the rushing river did give me a bit of a fright. Fortunately, each car is equipped with safety phones to help ease any worries. Despite the short ride, the tranquil and picturesque views from the cable car make it a must-do activity during your time in Cologne.
Cross the Hohenzollern: The Bridge of Locks and Love
Move over Paris, because Cologne’s Hohenzollern Bridge is giving the City of Love a run for its money with its personalized love locks. As a cultural landmark with stunning views of the Cologne Cathedral and the Rhine River, the Hohenzollern Bridge offers romance and history. Walking across the bridge, you’ll be amazed by the thousands of colorful padlocks left by couples, each one bearing their initials and a symbol of their everlasting love.
The bridge is not just a symbol of love, though. As the most heavily used railroad bridge in Germany, it also serves as a vital transportation hub with pedestrian and bike paths. Interestingly, the Hohenzollern Bridge is the only bridge in Cologne that survived the bombing during World War II, making it a testament to the city’s resilience and a must-see attraction for anyone visiting and wondering what to see in Cologne Germany.
Visit a Traditional Beer House and have “ein Kölsch bitte”!
Looking for a true Cologne experience? Look no further than the city’s beloved beer scene! A visit to a traditional Brauhaus is an absolute must, especially for those who love a good brew. And in Cologne, that means trying Kolschbier, a beer that’s brewed exclusively in the city. Served in 0.2-liter glasses, be prepared for waiters to promptly replace your empty glass with a fresh one. When you’ve had your fill of beer, simply place your coaster on top of the glass to signal you’re done.
For the best experience, head to Gaffel am Dom, a top-rated and authentic beer hall located next to the train station. The ambiance is unbeatable, and the German cuisine (think huge portions of bratwurst and potato pancakes) is simply delicious. Looking for another option? Peter Brahaus is another popular choice among locals and tourists alike. Don’t miss the chance to try the refreshing Kolsch and infamous pork knuckle in this lively spot. Prost!
Explore the vibrant and iconic Fish Market Square
Whether you’ve seen them on postcards or in movies, visiting this small square located on the banks of the Rhine is a must-do when in Cologne. Although it’s no longer a fish market, Fish Market Square is now a lively hub of activity filled with pubs, restaurants, and bars. The magnificent St. Martin church stands behind the houses and provides a stunning backdrop for photos. Take some time to stroll around, people-watch, and take in the beautiful views of the Rhine River. It’s the perfect spot to relax and soak up the vibrant atmosphere of Cologne.
Marvel at the Magnificence of Cologne’s Cathedral
The Cologne Cathedral is an absolute must-visit, especially for those who appreciate impressive architecture and historical landmarks. Located adjacent to Central Station, the Dom is an iconic symbol of the city and is impossible to miss. This masterpiece of Gothic architecture began construction in 1248 and took centuries to complete, surviving both World Wars.
One of the highlights of visiting the cathedral is the opportunity to climb the 500 steps to one of the spires, which offers breathtaking views of the city from nearly 500 meters above. Make sure to also explore the interior of the cathedral, which is just as awe-inspiring as the exterior. With its towering stained-glass windows and intricate details, the Cologne Cathedral is truly a sight to behold.
Experience Cologne from a unique perspective
If you’re looking for a unique way to see Cologne’s top sights and monuments, a Rhine River Cruise is a must-do. From the water, you’ll enjoy stunning views of the city’s iconic skyline and picturesque riverbanks. As you cruise along, your knowledgeable guide will provide interesting commentary on Cologne’s history and the buildings that line the riverbank. Sit back, relax, and take in the beautiful scenery for an unforgettable experience.
Experience serenity in the heart of the city at RheinPark
RheinPark is a picturesque oasis located on the banks of the Rhine River, boasting breathtaking panoramic views. Whether you’re in the mood for a leisurely stroll, a jog, or just meeting up with friends, RheinPark is the perfect destination.
During the warmer months, the park comes alive with visitors enjoying picnics, concerts, and other events. Springtime is particularly stunning, as the park bursts into a kaleidoscope of colors with the blooming of flowers in full display. Take a break and relax at one of the cafes or bars nestled within the park, or take a ride on the charming small train that meanders through the picturesque landscape.
Discover the origins of Eau de Cologne at the Farina Fragrance Museum
Immerse yourself in the rich history of fragrance and discover the birthplace of the iconic Eau de Cologne at the Farina Fragrance Museum in Cologne. Explore the working area of Johanna Maria Farina, the creator of the original Eau de Cologne, and learn about the production of fragrances from a knowledgeable guide. Engage your senses by smelling various extracts and essential oils, and guess their scents for a fun and interactive experience.
The tour ends with a complimentary souvenir bottle of unisex cologne, featuring notes of bergamot and citrus. Don’t forget to check out the museum’s shop to see what other fragrances are available for purchase. With limited spots available, be sure to make a reservation in advance for this unforgettable hour-long tour at the Farina House.
Go on a day trip to the Augustusburg and Falkenlust Palaces in Brühl, Germany
Looking to explore some castles in Cologne, Germany without traveling too far? Look no further than Schloss Augustusburg and Falkenlust Palaces in Brühl, located just a 30-minute drive or 20-minute train ride from Cologne. These 18th-century UNESCO World Heritage sites boast stunning baroque architecture, with Schloss Augustusburg being the first example of the Rococo style in Germany.
You can take guided tours or use audio guides to learn about the rich history of these palaces. Don’t miss the exquisite castle gardens, with their picturesque ponds and flower displays that showcase the breathtaking natural beauty of the surroundings. Plus, the location is incredibly convenient, as the castles are just a short walk from Brühl station, making it an easy day trip from Cologne to immerse yourself in the regal charm of these historic landmarks.
A city that will capture your heart
Cologne, Germany has so much to offer for travelers seeking a memorable trip. From exploring the historic Old Town and admiring the stunning Cologne Cathedral to visiting the unique Farina Fragrance Museum and relaxing in the scenic Rhein Park, there’s something for everyone. I hope this guide has given you a taste of what to expect and inspired you to plan your own adventure in this beautiful city. Don’t miss out on the chance to discover Cologne and all of its wonders!
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