10 Things to do in Cologne (Köln) Germany

10 Things to do in Cologne (Köln) Germany

Located along the Rhine River, Cologne (also known as Köln) is a city filled with history, culture, and plenty to do for any traveler. This is partly due to its 2,000 year old history rooted in a Roman and French heritage. Then again, it may be that the more than one million residents offer a perfect melting pot of cultures. Residents truly believe in the saying, “Jede Jeck es Anders” (“It Takes All Sorts!”). Whether you are just on vacation or are there celebrating Carnival, you will be embraced by this majestic city.  So as you explore Germany’s 4th biggest city, check out our 10 Things to do in Cologne (Köln) Germany.

Cologne Germany is definitely getting added to my Bucket List! #urbancologne #urbancgn #visitkoeln Click To Tweet

1) Visit the Cologne Cathedral

Over 765 years old, the Cologne Cathedral became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. According to the Cologne Tourism Board, this beautiful structure is the most visited tourist attraction in all of Germany. This may partly due to the fact that it houses the Shrine of the Magi. The Shrine was created around the turn of the 13th century to hold the bones of the Three Magi (Three Wisemen) to welcome pilgrims from around the world. As you walk around the church you will see unbelievable devotional images including one of the oldest images of the Virgin Mary know as the Milan Madonna.

After exploring the inside of the church head over to the area between the cathedral cloister and Roncalliplatz. Here you find a set of stairs leading underground. You will pass one of the only remaining Roman cellars preserved in the city. You will also find a ticket center where you can opt to climb the spire of the south tower. To reach the top, you will have to climb 533 steps to the viewing platform. Once you make it to the top, you will be rewarded with an unbelievable view of Cologne (Köln).

Fun Fact: Along the wall of the Cathedral by the stairs leading underground you will find a beautiful tribute to Pope John Paul II & Pope Benedict as the passing of World Youth Day went from one to another here in Cologne.

2) Explore the Rhine River

Having the second largest inland harbor in all Germany, the importance of the Rhine River to the city of Cologne (Köln) is obvious. But unlike most shipping harbors, both shores of the Rhine in Cologne (Köln) offer several unique ways to see city:

  • If you are looking to relax, then take a lovely stroll through once labeled Germany’s best city park, the Rheingarten.
  • For a more of a modern feel, you can explore the Rheinauhafen District. Here you can marvel at the unique architecture or explore the many cafés, restaurants, and galleries.
  • If you want to relax and explore, then take a River Cruise with KD Rhine River Cruise. With a drink in hand, you can learn all kinds of facts about the city, see the ultramodern Rheinauhafen crane houses, or just sit back and enjoy the breeze.

3) Visit one of the Municipal Museums

If you are museum junkie, don’t fret! With so many municipal museums, Cologne (Köln) has a museum to satisfy your desire to learn about art, history, or culture. There are a variety of museums showcasing anything from Impressionist paintings in the Wallraf Richartz Museum & Fondation Corboud to sacred art from medieval times at the Museum Schnütgen and a large Pop Art Collection in the Museum Ludwig. However, the Roman-Germanic Museum is truly one of the best museums in the city as you can take in 3 floors of art and culture from Roman and medieval Cologne. 

Hot Tip: Snag yourself a MuseumsCard! Not only do you get admission to all municipal museums on two consecutive days, but you also get free travel on Cologne’s public transport system.

4) Shop the Local Markets

Photo Courtesy of KölnTourismus GmbH

Whether you are looking for  well-known fashion chains or off beat fashions from small boutiques, Cologne won’t disappoint. Hohe Straße or Schildergasse pedestrian streets in the old city near the Cathedral are great to find anything from fashion and jewelry to home furnishings or electronics.  However, if you are looking for trendy boutiques or something small and exclusive, then head over to the Belgian Quarter. Here you will find exclusive handmade jewelry, distinctive fashions, and numerous bars and restaurants for a perfect shopping experience.

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5) Visit Chocolate Heaven

The Schokoladenmuseum (Chocolate Museum) is a must for any chocolate lover! Originally created by Hans Imhoff in 1993, it has become one of the most visited cultural museums in Cologne. The museum takes you through various aspects of chocolate. First, you will discover the 5,000 year history of chocolate from around the world. Then you enter the glass-walled production facility where you see and sample the different Lindt Chocolates and Bonbons being made. Afterwards, relax in the Chocolat Grand Café with a hot chocolate and chocolate tart.

Hot Tip: Don’t Forget to bring your KölnCard to the Schokoladenmuseum & save 27% off the entry!

6) Lock in Your Love

There are several bridges that cross the Rhine River in Cologne (Köln). However, the Hohenzollern Railway Bridge (aka: Hohenzollernbrücke) is truly a fun and unique destination for any visitor to the city. This is due to the over 40,000 padlocks that have been hung from the iron bridge since 2008. Sweethearts can be seen taking an engraved lock and attaching it to the Hohenzollern Bridge. Then they throw away the key into the river Rhine as a symbol of their forever bound love.

Did you know there is a Love Lock Bridge in Cologne (Köln) Germany? #VisitKoeln #UrbanCGN #UrbanCologne Click To Tweet

7) Kick it at the Deutsches Sport & Olympia Museum

Germany has a rich and interesting history in both professional and Olympic style sports. This can be seen within the walls of the Deutsches Sport & Olympia MuseumHere you wiltravel along the time line of various sports activities including the tragic Olympic history Germany had to deal with during the 20th century. There is also the opportunity to participate in different sports activities making it a fun interactive experience for kids of all ages.

Hot Tip: Dont Forget to bring your KölnCard to the Deutsches Sport & Olympia Museum to save 20% off the entry!

8) Indulge Your Sense of Smell

Exploring the iconic birthplace of perfume/cologne is a must in this city. Still a popular fragrance, Eau de Cologne offers the opportunity to experience the oldest cologne factory in the world . At the Fragrance Museum, you will learn of Johann Farina the inventor of Eau de Cologne as you tour of his house and underground perfume workshops. In the museum you will also find a collection of historic perfume bottles and discover the history of how the red tulip became his iconic logo.

9) Eat the Local Cuisine

With more than 3,000 restaurants, finding something to eat in Cologne (Köln) Germany won’t disappoint even the most critical foodie. However, the local cuisine is truly a treat. The more popular dishes like Halve Hahn (Half Chicken), Kölscher Kaviar, or Himmel un Ad (Heaven on Earth) can be found on most menus throughout the city. Some of the best restaurants to try the local fare are Brauerei Päffgen & Gilden im Zims.

10) Drink Kölsch

Kölsch is a high alcohol content beer brewed in Cologne, Germany. There are currently thirteen breweries producing Kölsch in and around Cologne, but most local restaurants brew their own in house. Special waiters known as Köbes carry wreaths of Kölsch in .2 liter glasses known as Stangens around the restaurant replenishing the thirstiest of drinkers.  The beer is hoppy and less carbonated making it light and easy to drink.

Fun Fact: To get a Köbe to stop bringing you a new stangen of Kölsch, place your coaster atop the empty glass.

How to Get Around in Cologne

Cologne (Köln) is a cinch to navigate. Whether you are walking or riding a bike, you will find it easy to get around the main tourist sections of the city. If you prefer to ride, there are many public transport options that are cheap or even free to use with your KölnCard or MuseumsCard!

Where to Stay

There are plenty of places to stay in Cologne (Köln) that will fit any traveler’s style and budget. Whether you are looking for an active hostel, a family owned guest house, or a quiet luxury hotel, you won’t be disappointed in your options.

  • Budget: Hostel Köln offers hotel style rooms at hostel prices between Rudolfplatz and Neumarkt. This beautiful hostel also includes a wonderful breakfast every morning.
  • Mid-Priced: If you are looking for convenience and a good price then check out the Gasthaus & Hotel Laternchen. This hotel is located about 5 miles from the city center and has an unbelievable rating on Booking.com.
  • Luxury: Since 1863, the family-run Excelsior Hotel Ernst am Dom is in an ideal location as it is located across from the Cologne Cathedral. This luxury 5-star hotel offers award-winning cuisine and elegant rooms with a free minibar.

Book Your Stay in Cologne (Köln) Germany Todaya

Have you ever been to Cologne (Köln) Germany? Which of the 10 Things to do in Cologne (Köln) Germany is your favorite? Have we left out other things to do in Cologne (Köln) Germay that you would recommend? Let us know in the comments below!

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Disclaimer: The Bucket List Project was a guest of the Tourism Board of CologneHostel Koln. With that said, All opinions in “10 Things to do in Cologne (Köln) Germany” are our own. Also, “10 Things to do in Cologne (Köln) Germany” contains affiliate links. Using the links doesn’t cost you any extra, and it helps keep The Bucket List Project Blog free, fun, and community supported! We will never recommend a product we don’t genuinely believe in and trust.

53 thoughts on “10 Things to do in Cologne (Köln) Germany

  1. You’re right, many people tend to overlook Cologne. It gets overshadowed by cities with more dramatic history. Our favorite experience while in Cologne was the Rhine Cruise. Something everyone should do.

  2. I love that you put accommodation recommendations! It’s cute that Germany also has that place for locks just like in Korea. And beer! Great architecture also in Cologne!

    1. Yeah I knew very little about the Cologne Cathedral or the city in general till I got there. Couldn’t believe that they had the relics of the Magi and it was one set Pilgrim destination

  3. I’ve seen pictures before of the Cathedral but never realized it housed the remains of the Magi. The architecture is just un-real! Would love to try the Kolsh at the source (sorry, don’t have the right keyboard for the accents) especially if its a little more hoppy. Sounds like a great way to experience the culture!

  4. We didn’t make it to Cologne this year but hope to go in the future. My trip around the Rhine got messed up thanks to bad weather so, we need to go again for sure. Each German city has many choices. It is even difficult to decide which ones to visit. But, I loved the Rhine area. I can see myself living there.

  5. I heart Köln too! I loved the view from the cathedral tower, that was definitely my highlight. And now that I’ve acquired the taste for kölsch beer as well, I can’t wait to revisit the birthplace of the style.

  6. Cologne looks like a fun city to visit – I can’t believe I’ve never been to Germany! I would love to try Kolsch, sounds like a really interesting experience!

  7. As a UNESCO site, Cologne’s cathedral is a definite must-see, but like you said, there’s a lot to see in Cologne. We have friends in Cologne and Kolsch is always tops on the “to-do” list when we visit.

    One tip about the Schokoladenmuseum: You can make a customized chocolate bar and put your favorite goodies in and on it! I think that was the best part of the museum, even better than the free chocolate samples. 🙂

  8. Did you say Chocolate Museum? Now that’s one reason to go but I’d love to check out Cologne Cathedral, I’ve heard great things about it. The trip down the River Rhine looks cool thing to do. Thanks for your tips.

  9. Well to be honest, being an Asian, it’s the first time I have heard about Cologne. Germany is a hot favourite among tourists and we shall visit it some day. I liked all that you shared about Cologne, our interests match !
    Specially, loved the Cologne cathedral, that’s unbelievably beautiful and massive. I would also like to try the padlocks on the bridge. I love doing everything that promises more years with my loved ones. And yeah we are chocolate lovers too, so the idea of visiting a chocolate museum excites me. Beautiful post. Learnt few new things.

  10. I wish I found your post earlier – my boss told me he was going to Cologne last weekend, I could give him so recommendations. The cathedral is spectacular and my fave point would be to eat German food (which I like) and get some pints 🙂 Good luck with your pursuit and hopefully Armenia next!!

  11. Great ideas guys! I’m a big fan of love lock bridges around the world and love it that you’ve included one here. After a bit of self-love on that bridge, I’d have to hop straight to the chocolate I think >< I'm making Europe plans for 2018, so thanks for the travel tips!

  12. I’ve read a lot of beautiful blog articles about Cologne. It’s a shame that we haven’t included in our itineraries during our 3 visits in Germany. Although we really had a great in time cruising the Middle Rhine.

    1. Yeah, I’m going to be honest Liz if we hadn’t been forced to fly into cologne, I probably wouldn’t have gone there because I knew very little about it except for the fact that the cathedral is a major christian pilgrimage site due to the fact that it holds the relics of the Magi. But that was all I knew about the city. However fate sent us there and we had an unbelievable time. I love it when you find a place With No Expectations yet it totally surprise you and becomes unbelievable experience

  13. Couldn’t agree more with much of this list. The Cathedral is a truly awe inspiring icon that looms large over the city! Good to see the chocolate factory and Kölsch beer get mentions too 🙂

  14. Very nice collection of places with amazing pictures. I would love to visit Koln some day especially the majestic cathedral and the tempting chocolate heaven. Locking your love on the Hohenzollern Railway Bridge seems quite interesting. And I would so love to try Kölsch as well. Love this post! 🙂

  15. Point 9, is definetely something I have heard and I did not know that it had its roots in a city in Germany. You have a good list there, I would probably do the musuem, choclate tour for the frills, and do the river/cathedral as a must. Earmarked for whenever i visit Germany.


  16. Ah you had me at chocolate heaven! I’ve been to Germany many times, but not yet to Koln! The Cathedral is very impressive, I love that Gothic architecture, but walking 553 steps to reach the top sounds tiring! I need to get my fitness up before visiting!

    1. Yeah not going to lie, those steps were you in a little bit much for me and I remember walking down the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and it still wasn’t as bad as the Cologne Cathedral steps but the views are definitely worth it

  17. I have been in Cologne many times already, the interesting place to visit for me is the Cathedral of course, we always spend our christmas times here for the christmas market. We haven’t made a complete tour of the city yet but I could conclude that this city is a beautiful and interesting one.

  18. This is a great compilation! I especially like the idea of visiting the chocolate factory! 🙂 I’ve been to Cologne ages ago and visited the Cathedral, but it looks like I’m overdue for another visit! Thanks for posting!

  19. Oh Wow! The cathedral is absolutely beautiful and definitely worth climbing the 533 steps up the tower for the amazing views of Cologne. I’m a huge chocolate lover and will be visiting the Chocolate museum then eat and drink more chocolate at the cafe. Why not! Is it worth getting the Museums card? Great tips on Cologne, I’ve saved this for when I visit!

    1. Lana when you go you will definitely want to get the koln card but we also recommend getting the museum card because it gives you free entry into all the museums for the city and gives you free Transportation on the days that you go to the museums 2

  20. I absolutely love the architecture of Cologne Cathedral,its probably the one top place I’d visit if I am ever in Cologne. Also, the cruise on Rhine river looks pretty cool! Thanks for this list of top 10 things to do, will come in handy when I plan a trip.

  21. I’ve only been to Munich but would love to visit Cologne at some point, I’ve heard great things and I think I have a friend that lives there to (not sure on that one though) You have a great and varied list here 😀 Would love to visit the chocolate museum but when in Germany theres nothing better than drinking beer haha, so a Kölsch would be at the top of my list 😀

  22. This is one city I’ve yet to visit – so will have to add it to my bucket list! I’ve actually only been to Berlin in Germany, but I loved the German architecture (and all the food and beer!), and it looks like Koln is no exception! x

  23. I visited Cologne a while back, one cannot miss the Cathedral as you exit the train station, and yes drink Kölsch. The rest on your list I;ll have to go back someday.

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