1. Climb to the top of Cologne Cathedral
This huge cathedral is remarkably the most visited landmark in the country. Its twin spires dominate the Cologne skyline, and you´re going to want to take a trip to the top for the breathtaking panoramic views of the city below.
While the 509 steps do make it quite hard work, you’ll definitely be glad that you made the effort once you’re up there. When you’ve safely made your way back down, take some time to wander around the breathtaking interior of this gorgeous cathedral. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Cologne Cathedral is a must-see on any visit to Cologne.
- Cologne Cathedral Address: Domkloster 4, 50667 Cologne
- Free to visit inside the Cologne Cathedral but €3 to climb to the top of Cologne Cathedral
2. Declare your love at Love Lock Bridge
Just around the corner from the Cologne Cathedral is the famous Hohenzollern Bridge. Now home to thousands of padlocks, romantic couples place them there before throwing away the key to symbolize their undying love.
With all the padlocks combined weighing over two tons, it´s fair to say that it´s quite a popular place. Simply find a spot of empty railing, write your initials, and clamp the padlock to seal your love forever. The bridge itself is pleasant to look at, and the views over the Rhine River only add to the romance in the air.
- Address: Hohenzollern Bridge, 50667 Cologne
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3. Take a Boat Trip Along the Rhine
This charming river that weaves its way through the city has been an integral part of life in Cologne over the centuries. Board your vessel adjacent to Hohenzollern Bridge and sit back, relax, and watch the world drift by.
It’s a peaceful way to see Cologne from an entirely different perspective, and on either side of the Rhine River, you will see church spires and impressive buildings pass by. While it’s enchanting to take a boat trip during the day, it is an ethereal experience to do at night, as the lights reflect beautifully off the water.
4. Explore the Old Town
Despite being almost completely destroyed during the Second World War, the Old Town of Cologne is a delightful place to wander around. The narrow cobblestone streets are scenic to behold. A great place to begin your tour of the area is Cologne City Hall.
From this historical building, it’s time to get lost amidst the old streets and squares that dot the area. The Old Town has remarkably managed to retain its charm and is a great place to spend an afternoon.
- Address: Alter Markt 28-32, 50667 Cologne
5. Visit the 12 Romanic Churches
It may be a stretch to fit all of them into your trip to Cologne, but you can certainly make an attempt. Dotted around the city, the twelve churches are well worth popping inside to ogle if you come across them. They date back centuries and encompass a wide variety of architectural styles.
Their distinctive and unique designs are, in part, what makes them so great to visit. If you’re in the Old Town, the Church of Great St. Martin is probably the best of them all. It is an amazing building, and its soaring architecture makes for some great, artistic photo opportunities.
Related Article: Visit the Fairytale Castles in Germany
6. Follow your nose to the Fragrance Museum
The city of Cologne is, in fact, where Eau de Cologne was invented. The Fragrance Museum is where scents and perfumes were perfected back in the 18th Century, and there’s a captivating tour of the premises which shows how the fragrances are created.
If you’re feeling inspired by your tour of the museum, then head to the 4711 shops nearby and try your hand at making your own scent. You’ll come away smelling fresh, unique, and ready to see the rest of Cologne’s attractions.
- Cologne Fragrance Museum Address: Obenmarspforten 21, 50667 Cologne
7. Treat your Taste Buds at the Chocolate Museum
Having freshened up a bit, a great way to treat another one of your senses is to head to the Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum. This fun yet educational attraction will teach you how chocolate is made, and you’ll even get some mouth-watering samples to try.
- Cologne Chocolate Museum Address: Am Schokoladenmuseum 1A, 50678 Cologne
8. Whet your Whistle with a Kölsch
Where would people in Cologne be without the water from the Rhine? This delicious beer originates in the city and is brewed from its abundant water sources. You can find beer in any of Cologne’s traditional bars, and the cold brews will certainly refresh you after a day of sightseeing in Cologne.
The perfect place for a drink is Biergarten Rathenauplatz, which is a peaceful park full of trees and, most importantly, ample supplies of Kölsch. Alternatively, head to Päffgen, which is a great beer hall full of ambiance and a great atmosphere.
- Address: Rathenaupl. 30, 50674 Cologne and Friesenstraße 64-66, 50670 Cologne
9. Celebrate Cologne Carnival!
The biggest festival in Cologne is well worth checking out for its fun energy and colorful parades. The week-long celebration that takes place in February each year is a riotous occasion that brings the people of Cologne together, with tourists alike, to celebrate and have a great time. With costumes galore and enough beer to last a lifetime, this is a carnival that you won’t forget.
10. Check out the Cologne Christmas Markets
Visiting Cologne when the Christmas Markets are on is simply a magical experience. Nowhere else goes to quite the extremes that this city does to make it a memorable time of year for all. Countless stands line the streets and cluster the squares while endless strings of light magically illuminate the area.
The Christmas markets are literally everywhere, and nowhere looks more impressive than the densely-packed chalets below the looming cathedral. Try and coincide your trip to Cologne with the Christmas Markets and make the most of all the Glühwein on offer.
Related Article: Christmas Market Cruise Down The Danube
11. Make the Most of all the Museums
There is an amazing array of great museums in Cologne for you to visit, and there are far too many to list. If art is your interest, then you will definitely want to head to the impressive Ludwig Museum, which has a number of Picasso’s paintings in its extensive galleries.
This 20th Century’s art collection is very different from the delightful renaissance and impressionist art on offer at the Wallraf-Richartz Museum. History lovers can instead head to the Romano-Germanic Museum or the fascinating Kolumba Museum.
With so many incredible museums in Cologne, it’s a good idea to buy a Museums Card, which is a cheaper way to see as many of them as possible. It also gives the user free transport on the first day.
12. Eat your fill at Bei Oma Kleinmann
Bei Oma Kleinmann is a unique restaurant that is a great place to head if you’re feeling hungry. The graffiti-covered walls make for a special atmosphere and the schnitzels on offer are unmissable. You’ll certainly have a memorable time at this popular Cologne restaurant. Make sure to book in advance as it can get very busy as it’s one of the best restaurants in Cologne.
- Bei Oma Kleinmann Address: Zülpicher Str. 9, 50674 Cologne
13. Bask in the Beautiful Cologne Botanical Gardens
This huge park is lovely to stroll around, and when the sun is shining, there’s no better place to be than the Cologne botanical gardens. Perfectly landscaped, the botanical gardens are great if you’re looking to step out of the hustle and bustle of the city for a bit. This is also one of the free things to do in Cologne. The greenhouses, lawns, and colorful flowers make this a delightful spot to visit.
- Cologne Botanical Gardens Address: Am Botanischen Garten 1a, 50735 Cologne
14. Sit Back and Relax at Claudius Therme
Cologne has a number of nice spas dotted around the city and its surroundings, but be prepared: in Germany, nudity is the norm, and bathing suits are usually prohibited. One of the most impressive spas in Cologne is Claudius Therme, which is absolutely amazing to visit.
It has a number of different takes on how spas are done around the world, and the place looks beautiful too. Afterward, take a seat on the terrace that overlooks Cologne and enjoy the view. With tickets starting at 13.50 euros for two hours, it’s well worth visiting.
- Claudius Therme Address: Sachsenbergstrasse 1, 50679 Cologne
15. Stop by the Quirky Belgian Quarter for some Unique Shopping in Cologne
Just like Brussels itself, this part of the city has an eclectic mix of architectural styles, and there are lots of fun and quirky shops and boutiques to visit. As it is the trendy part of town, there are numerous little cafes and bars to discover, hidden away amongst the alleys.
If vintage clothes are what you are after, then the Belgian Quarter is definitely where you want to head. The small shops sell unique accessories and fashionable clothes that you are unlikely to find anywhere else, so you can easily find a special souvenir or two to pop in the luggage for your loved ones.
16. Head to for the Modern Side of Cologne
Formerly a commercial port that used to hug the banks of the Rhine, this part of the city has been completely revamped and modernized. While some of the buildings are sparkly and new, the old historical buildings still survive amongst them.
The most impressive feature of the district is undoubtedly the modern Kranhauser buildings, distinctive in their crane shapes which loom over the Rhine. Now home to a lot of creative and arty industries, it’s nice to wander around a different part of Cologne to get a new feel for the city. There are lots of little restaurants and cafes around here that are worth stumbling across.
17. Support the FC Koln Soccer Team
Germany loves its soccer, and the electric atmosphere at the matches is almost unrivaled around Europe. Cologne has its own team, and their fervent fans kick up a ruckus every game to support their players and lead them to victory.
FC Koln, as they are known, haven’t been doing so well of late, but they can always count on their fanatical supporters to stick by them. It’s a fun, cheap, and memorable experience, so have a look and see if the team is playing when you visit the city.
18. Rollercoaster fun at Phantasialand
If theme parks are right up your alley, then you’re definitely going to want to head to Phantasialand. This amazing park has a huge selection of rides and attractions that will entertain you the whole day long.
Just a short journey from Cologne, it´s a fun day trip if you’re looking for a thrill. One of the most popular theme parks in Europe, Phantasialand takes you to different parts of the world on its themed rides. A day pass will set you back 45 euros for an adult ticket.
- Phantasialand Address: Berggeiststraße 31-41, 50321 Brühl
19. Sample Some German Currywurst
Although currywurst doesn’t originate in Cologne, you will inevitably see numerous places selling this delicious fast food. Whenever you’re feeling hungry walking around town, just grab currywurst, and you’ll be refueled in no time.
20. Learn to pronounce and spell the city like a local: Köln
When you arrive in Germany you’ll quickly learn that you won’t see any signs or maps with the city of “Cologne”, in Germany, it’s spelled Köln! The name of the city also doesn’t sound much like how we in English say it, either.
Germans will say their city name like /kœln/ where the “K” is hard and seems to roll right into the “LN”, sounding similar to the English word “clone” but with more of a “k” sound at the front. It might take some getting used to, but most locals know we English speakers have adapted their city name into something we can pronounce, but keep this in mind if you are asking for directions to the city from other parts of Germany.
Recommended Cologne Hotels
- Amazing View & Central Location: Excelsior Hotel Ernst am Dom
- Good Location & Under $100: Apartment Schmitz
Best Restaurants in Cologne
- Petere’s Brauhaus: Great for local beers, pork chops, and of course, sausages with sauerkraut.
- Le Moissonnier: Michelin star restaurant in Cologne that is perfect for a special night out.
More to see in Germany
Renting a car in Germany is the best way to see the country and visit some of the best castles in Germany. We have rented a car five times in Germany and can’t imagine not having that freedom. Often cars are less than $25 a day. We book on Discovercars.com. They have the best prices and free cancelation. Click here to check rates.
Have you traveled to Cologne? What were some of your favorite things to do in Cologne?
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