10 things to do in Cologne, Germany

10 things to do in Cologne

Nina Akimkina

One of the largest Catholic churches in Europe, Cologne’s Cathedral of St. Peter and the Virgin Mary is constantly under construction and restoration. According to local legend, the devil promised the end of the world with the last stone of construction, so residents have no choice but to keep building and rebuilding the building. During World War II, Cologne was almost completely destroyed by Allied aircraft, but the Cologne Cathedral remained untouched by bombing because the pilots used it as a topographical reference point.

2. Hang a lock on the Hohenzollern Bridge

The majestic six-gauge arch bridge over the Rhine, located in close proximity to Cologne Cathedral, seems to be the same age as the Industrial Revolution, but it appeared in its present form after World War II. On both sides of the railroad tracks are lanes for pedestrians and cyclists, and the bridge railings have become a popular place to hang locks as a token of love. The Cologne authorities make no attempt to combat this tradition, so the Hohenzollern Bridge has a reputation as one of the city’s most romantic spots.

3. Forgive yourself a little weakness at the chocolate museum

All sweet-toothies should visit the Lindt Chocolate Museum to get a glimpse of how the beloved dessert is made. Apart from tasting it, you can also order chocolates with any combination of fillings, and the author’s chocolate will become the most original Cologne souvenir to give to friends and relatives.

4. Perfume with cologne

Cologne, which became a household name, owes its name to Cologne – Eau de Cologne. Another name is Cologne water (Kölnisch Wasser). Cologne has been produced since 1709 to the present day. The famous cologne 4711 appeared in 1881 and is not related to the brand Eau de Cologne. The 4711 in the name is the house number on the Glockengasse, where the perfume store is located. The two brands have different scents, so you can choose to your liking. There are also modern versions of colognes with trendy citrus and spice notes.

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5. Order a glass of Kölsch beer

Kölsch beer is among the regional beers protected by a special convention. As a sign of respect for the local brand, the residents of Cologne established a ritual of drinking this beer from a narrow, high 0.2 liter glass, known as Kölner Stange.

6. Relax your body and soul at Claudius Thermae

The Claudius Therme, located on the banks of the Rhine, offers health and relaxation treatments in spring water with temperatures ranging from 33 to 37 degrees. You can choose between indoor and outdoor pools. Saunas, whirlpools, backwaters, and massage showers complete the already pleasant scene.

7. Have fun at the carnival

The Cologne Carnival is one of the longest in Europe. Its history intertwines pre-Christian traditions of celebrating the winter solstice and Christian celebrations preceding Lent. The festivities in Cologne begin in November and don’t end until mid-February. In its modern form carnival was established almost 200 years ago, when the town council decided to hold a street festival in the Venetian style – with masks and fancy dress. The quintessential festivities are Pink Monday, when Old Town merriment reaches its peak, and Violet Tuesday, which is similar in essence to Orthodox Goodbye Sunday. In the evening of Violet Tuesday, the people of Cologne burn a huge effigy in the square, symbolizing the sins accumulated during the year.

8. Take a ride on the cable car

In 1957 the cable car over the Rhine was the first ropeway in Europe, and since then over 15 million people have ridden it. Nowadays it’s hard to surprise a sophisticated tourist with such an attraction, but the Kölner Seilbahn remains consistently popular for its beautiful panorama of the city.

9. Take a tour of the museums

Despite the fact that little remains of the old city after World War II, the mayors have done their best to present the history and culture of Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia and Germany as a whole to tourists in the best possible way. The exhibition of the Romano-Germanic Museum covers the period from the Paleolithic to the Middle Ages. The art galleries in the Walraf-Lichartz and Ludwig Museums offer extensive displays of paintings by famous European painters and representatives of the Cologne School. In the Ludwig Museum one can also view the Agfa-Foto-Historama photography exhibition, in which the oldest Daggerotypes date back to the forties of the 18th century. The Cologne Museum of Applied Arts displays over 100,000 pieces of furniture, porcelain, weapons and jewelry, offering a fascinating insight into the history of Western European household decoration from the Middle Ages to the present.

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10. A visit to the zoo

Cologne Zoo is considered one of the oldest in Germany. Its plan is to reach the highest level of ecological organization of the space, to equip as natural an environment as possible for wild animals. Traditional bars in many pavilions were replaced by impact-resistant glass, so that visitors have an illusion of a full immersion in the wild jungle and rainforest.

10 Best Things to See and Do in Cologne, Germany

With over 2,000 years of history, Cologne sits on the Rhine River and is known for its Roman ruins, medieval churches, cozy pubs and fascinating museums. This vibrant cultural center offers plenty of attractions to keep you busy throughout your stay, from strolling through the picturesque Old Town to cruising the river or taking pictures of its famous cathedral. Read on to find out the best things to see and do in Cologne, Germany .

Climb to the top of Cologne Cathedral

Gothic cathedral in Cologne

Gothic Cathedral in Cologne

Climb to the top of Cologne Cathedral (nearby hotels)

The first stop on most Cologne routes, Cologne Cathedral is one of the most visited landmarks in the country. This towering beauty, located near the left bank of the Rhine, boasts two spires that rise above the city skyline. Take a trip to the top for a panoramic view from its summit, where you’ll be glad you made the effort after 509 steps. After looking at the views, explore its interior to discover the intricate features of this UNESCO landmark dating back to 1248, including stained glass windows from the 1500s.

Explore Old Town (nearby hotels)

A beautiful part of the city, Cologne’s Old Town gives you a chance to stroll the cobblestone alleys when you get to squares like Heumarkt and Altermarkt. Stop at Am Hof to see its fountain, built in 1899, and then admire old churches such as the Great St. Martin, or check out the many boutiques, galleries, cafes and restaurants that are now housed in traditional stores. Take a picture of Cologne’s old town hall, the Kolner Rathaus, as it dates back more than 900 years.

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Take a cruise on the Rhine (nearby hotels)

One of the best ways to explore the city is on a scenic river cruise. The boat offers views of the city’s most iconic landmarks, with unparalleled views of Cologne Cathedral, the stunning buildings surrounding the Old Town, the new Reinauhaufen district and the famous Hohenzollern Bridge. You can also enjoy a night cruise to see the city illuminated by lights, and river cruises with dinner offer an unforgettable buffet while enjoying the beautiful views.

Admire art at the Ludwig Museum

Ludwig Museum

See art at the Ludwig Museum (nearby hotels)

A must for all art lovers, the Ludwig Museum houses several Picasso paintings in its galleries, known for their pop art, abstract and surrealist works. Enter the glass and metal building to find the largest array of pop art outside the United States, including such famous artists as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and the surrealist Salvador Dali. Be sure to see Warhol’s “Brillo Boxes” and Roy Lichtenstein’s “Maybe,” and then visit the Sammlung Haubrich collection, which covers Expressionist art.

A sample treat at the Chocolate Museum (nearby hotels)

If you have a sweet tooth, the Cologne Chocolate Museum will be a real treat. This fun but educational attraction attracts the whole family, where you can learn how chocolate is made and then get some samples to try. You can trace the journey of cocoa beans from tropical greenhouses to the factory and admire the chocolate fountains and truffle shelves. Kids will love the interactive displays, the collection of molds and antique chocolate boxes and wrappers, and the opportunity to create their own chocolate bars for the home.

See exotic animals at the Cologne Zoological Garden

Cologne Zoological Garden

Cologne Zoological Garden

See exotic animals in the Cologne Zoological Garden (nearby hotels)

Take a break from the bustle of the city and visit the Cologne Zoological Garden, a 50-acre oasis with more than 7,000 animals of over 700 species. Founded in 1860, it is one of Germany’s oldest zoological gardens and can be seen in its collection of 19th-century Moorish-style elephant houses and a historic birdhouse resembling a traditional Russian church. Be sure to see a mock-up of the rainforest on Monkey Island, admire the aquarium and say hello to the big cats.

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Admire the colorful displays at the Botanical Garden (nearby hotels)

Located north of the city, the Botanical Garden is next to the zoo and is one of the most beautiful parks in Cologne. Founded in the 19th century, the garden is home to more than 10,000 plant species. It is a perfect excursion in spring or when the sun is shining, where you can stroll through the beautifully landscaped gardens to admire its vibrant flowers, greenhouses and lawns. Don’t miss the Mediterranean Garden, which is next to a tranquil pond and Italian Renaissance garden, subtropical house and cactus house.

A roller coaster ride at Phantasialand


A roller coaster ride in Phantasialand (nearby hotels)

If you need speed or just want to get away from the city for an adrenaline rush, head to Phantasialand for a day of rides. The variety of rides and attractions will keep you entertained for the day as it showcases different parts of the world on its themed rides. It is one of the largest theme parks in Europe, known for its cable car, Viking boat ride, monorail and a reproduction of old Berlin. Get ready for head loops, fast falls and vertical drops, and you’ll even find refreshing splashes in the summer.

Follow your nose to the Museum of Fragrances (nearby hotels)

Did you know that Cologne is where cologne was invented? You can learn all about its history at the Fragrance Museum, where fragrances and perfumes were perfected back in the 18th century. Take a tour to get a behind-the-scenes look at the process at the oldest intact perfume factory in the world, where you can enter the vaults and see the lab equipment. Afterwards, head to the nearest 4711 store and try to create your own fragrance.

Time your visit for one of his annual events


The time of your visit for one of his annual events (nearby hotels)

Christmas in Cologne is one of the most delightful times of the year – you can wander through the traditional markets. Shop at the stands that line the streets and marvel at the chains of light that illuminate the area, including the densely populated market held under the looming cathedral each year, where you can sip gluhwein and sample traditional treats. Of course, Oktoberfest is another favorite time of year where you can dress up in your favorite Dierndl and Lederhosen, drink pints of local beer and sample local delicacies.

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