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
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.I want to explore the 10 Things to do in Cologne (Köln) Germany! #VisitKoeln #UrbanCGN #UrbanCologne Click To Tweet
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 Museum. Here you will travel 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.
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