Cologne, Germany is a city that has it all – from stunning architecture to delicious cuisine and everything in between. In this Cologne travel guide, we will explore the top attractions, where to eat, the best places to stay, the best time to visit and more. Whether you’re looking for sightseeing, shopping, or just relaxing by the Rhine River, there is plenty to do in this historic city. Cologne is one of Germany’s oldest and most beautiful cities and there is definitely no shortage of attractions, from its famous cathedral to its numerous museums and galleries. So, if you are planning a trip to Cologne, Germany, this is the ultimate guide for you!
Table of Contents
- 1 How to Get to Cologne, Germany
- 2 How to Get Around the City
- 3 Where To Stay in Cologne, Germany
- 4 The Best Things to Do in Cologne
- 4.1 Cologne Cathedral
- 4.2 Hohenzollern Bridge
- 4.3 Cologne Triangle (KölnTriangle)
- 4.4 Farina Fragrance Museum
- 4.5 Chocolate Museum Cologne
- 4.6 More Museums to Visit
- 4.7 Great St. Martin Church
- 4.8 Rhine Promenade
- 4.9 Alter Markt – Cologne Old Town
- 4.10 Day Trips from Cologne
- 5 Where to Eat and Drink in Cologne
- 6 Best Time to Visit Cologne, Germany
How to Get to Cologne, Germany
Cologne conveniently has its own international airport, Cologne Bonn Airport, which makes traveling to Cologne as easy as choosing your airline and booking a flight. Alternatively, Frankfurt and Düsseldorf are both two cities located close to Cologne with international airports that offer flights from a variety of airlines. If you choose to fly into one of the nearby cities, taking a bus or a train is a great option to get to Cologne. The train ride from Düsseldorf to Cologne takes between 30-40 minutes and it takes around an hour and a half when traveling from Frankfurt.
How to Get Around the City
When it comes to transportation in Cologne, you have several options available to help you get around the city. First off, Cologne is uniquely designed and walkable, so you can explore the city at your own pace either on foot or by bike. Cologne also has an extensive public transport network, making public transportation easy and affordable. If you’re visiting Cologne for more than one day then it might be worthwhile to buy the KölnCard, which includes free public transportation and up to 50% off many museums, restaurants and more. Uber, taxis, and scooters are also convenient ways to get around within the city if you don’t mind paying a little extra. In addition, many hotels offer free parking so visitors don’t have to worry about paying parking fees during their stay, in the case that they decide to rent a car.
Where To Stay in Cologne, Germany
If you’re planning a trip to Cologne, Germany, there are a few things that you should know in order to make the best possible decision. First and foremost, the city is divided by the Rhine River. The old town, as well as most attractions, eateries and museums, are situated on the left (west side of the river), while the right (east side) looks and feels more modern and offers a grand vista of the city. There are a variety of accommodation options available, from hostels and budget hotels to luxury apartments and hotels.
Hyatt Regency Cologne: Luxurious hotel within walking distance of the cathedral and museums via the iconic Hohenzollern Bridge. The view of the city from the rooms is unmatched.
Excelsior Hotel Ernst am Dom: Five-star hotel located just steps from Cologne Cathedral. If you’re looking for upscale amenities and a prime location then this is the right hotel for you.
Stern am Rathaus: Located right in the heart of the city, Stern am Rathaus has a friendly and welcoming staff, a modern design and a large breakfast selection.
Statthaus – Statt Hotel: Located just a ten-minute walking distance from Cologne Cathedral, Statthaus offers various-sized apartments to accommodate families or groups of friends.
Legend Hotel: A modern and new boutique hotel in the center of Cologne’s historic Old Town.
Apartment Miro: If you’re looking for a homely vibe, then Apartment Miro is it. Centrally located yet quiet and cozy enough to feel like a home away from home.
Explore more hotels in Cologne
The Best Things to Do in Cologne
Cologne has something for everyone – whether you’re interested in history or artistry, shopping or sports – so there’s sure to be a sightseeing or tour opportunity that appeals to your interests. You can even take guided tours around some of Cologne’s more offbeat neighborhoods if you want an extra insider tip on where best to explore!
When it comes to exploring Cologne, there is simply no better place to start then at the imposing Cologne Cathedral. This UNESCO heritage site is a must-see for visitors of the city. Not only is it beautiful to look at, but its history is interesting as well. Dating back to the 8th century AD, this cathedral has seen many changes and expansions over its lifetime. Take in all of the intricate details on display inside the cathedral before making your way up to the top. Climbing up to the top by stairs is no easy task – as there is no elevator and there are a total of 533 stairs – but the view is worth every step up!
After Cologne Cathedral, the Hohenzollern Bridge is perhaps the second most iconic landmark of the city. Built in the late 19th century, the bridge was originally built to facilitate both rail and road traffic, however, after its reconstruction, the bridge was only open to rail and pedestrian traffic. Today, the bridge is a popular tourist spot where many couples celebrate their love for each other by placing a lock on the rails of the bridge.
Cologne Triangle (KölnTriangle)
KölnTriangle, or Cologne Triangle, is an observation deck standing at 103 meters tall that gives visitors one of the most incredible 360-degree views of the city. Visitors can observe this German metropolis from an innovative “window in the sky” and marvel at great views of the Rhine river and its surroundings. A 5 euro ticket will take you up the tower to the observation deck and you can take the lift or take the stairs and climb up to the top. On a clear day, the views from the top can span up to 80 km.
Farina Fragrance Museum
Farina Fragrance Museum dates back to 1723, making it the oldest perfume factory in existence. It offers a detailed look into the production of Eau de Cologne, including distillation apparatus and historical documents. Learn about the imitations and forgeries of Eau de Cologne that appeared on the market and how Farina Eau de Cologne has changed over time. Sample the original Eau de Cologne and don’t forget to check out their store as well. Tickets can be bought in person or via their website.
Chocolate Museum Cologne
The Chocolate Museum is the perfect destination if you’re a chocolate connoisseur. Here you’ll be able to experience hands-on learning and explore the history of chocolate and how it is made. Get up close to cocoa plants and understand the process of harvesting and manufacturing of the world’s best and most delicious chocolates. Along the journey, indulge in free samples and stock up on treats for your family and friends at the two gift shops located at the museum, which offer an array of gift ideas.
More Museums to Visit
Romano-Germanic Museum: Also known as Römisch Germanisches Museum, this archaeological museum houses Roman artifacts dating back to Roman settlements that used to reside in modern-day Cologne.
Wallraf Richartz Museum: This museum is home to some incredible art pieces from medieval times to the early twentieth century, making it a must-see for art history buffs.
Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum: Ethnographic Museum that offers various interactive exhibitions and demonstrations.
Museum Ludwig: Modern art museum that includes work from Pop Art, Surrealism and Abstract. Holds famous pieces by Picasso, Andy Warhol and more.
Schnütgen Museum: Art museum that is devoted to Christian pieces as well as prints and textiles from the medieval period up to the modern period.
Kolumba – Kolumba is one of the oldest museums in the city and it is home to modern and classic Christian artworks.
Great St. Martin Church
The Great St. Martin has been a prominent part of the Cologne skyline since the Middle Ages. The structures and foundations of the old warehouses still remain and can be seen around the church. Parts of the Roman walls are also visible, providing a unique look into the past. The minimalist furnishings and stone floors add to the clean and sophisticated atmosphere of this building. Once you have explored the intricacies of the structure, head down to their basement (1€ entrance fee) to witness some ancient Roman ruins.
The Rhine Promenade is one of the most popular places to take a stroll in the city. It extends from the Zoo Bridge to the Severin Bridge and is frequented by people of all age groups – from walkers and skaters to families with children. It is the perfect place to relax and take in the beautiful music of the lapping river and the picturesque views of the city’s skyline. Along the riverside promenade, there are plenty of food and beverage outlets ranging from pubs, bars and restaurants to cafés, stalls and kiosks, where you can stop and enjoy a feast with friends and family. For an entirely different type of experience take a boat ride on the Rhine River during your stay in Cologne!
Alter Markt – Cologne Old Town
If you’re interested in learning more about Cologne’s history, then consider touring the quaint cobblestone alleys of old downtown otherwise known as Alter Markt. This area was once home to marketplaces and bustling shops – an incredible glimpse into Cologne’s past. And if shopping isn’t your thing, then head over to one of the many traditional restaurants in this area for some delicious German cuisine. Be sure to also stroll by Fischmarkt, a charming square in the old town situated along the banks of the Rhine River, featuring colorful old houses, a fountain and outdoor cafes.
Day Trips from Cologne
Düsseldorf is located just 30 minutes away from Cologne and offers a variety of attractions to explore. Visit the Rhine Towers for great views, go shopping along Königsallee or experience the traditional “Altstadt” (Old Town) with its cobblestone streets and many restaurants.
Also a half hour by train from Cologne, Bonn makes a great choice if you’re looking for some culture and history. Spend your time viewing art galleries, exploring ancient castles or enjoying outdoor activities along the Rhine River. Be sure to visit Beethoven’s birthplace where you can take a guided tour through his former home.
Linz am Rhein
Linz am Rhein is a timeless village on the Rhine River that is full of quaint charm and beauty. Just under an hour away from Cologne, It is the perfect place to take a leisurely day trip and wander through its cobblestoned streets, admiring its historic architecture such as half-timbered houses and seeing the sights of the local area as they have been preserved in time. From markets and vineyards to churches and monuments, you’ll find something to admire and appreciate in every corner of this charming village.
Aachen is well known for its spas, beautiful churches and impressive architectural monuments including the Cathedral UNESCO World Heritage Site and Carolus Thermen Spa, one of Europe’s oldest spa complexes dating back over 2 millennia! It is also famous for producing authentic Aachener Printen which is a type of biscuit made using honey spice mix which makes it unique compared to other cities in Germany.
Situated at the edge of Odenwald forest around 2.5 hours away from Cologne, this lovely university town boasts old-world charm reminiscent of European cities such as Amsterdam or Paris. Take a leisurely stroll through Philosopher’s Walk also known as Schulgasse Street while admiring Baroque-style architecture on display all throughout old quarters before heading up to Heidelberg Palace where you’ll have a captivating view overlooking Neckar Valley below.
Finally, Monschau last but not least there’s Monschau; situated close to the Belgium border only about a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Cologne. This quaint little village takes visitors back in time thanks to its preserved timber houses.
Where to Eat and Drink in Cologne
Restaurants in Cologne
Bei Oma Kleinmann – Authentic and local eatery serving schnitzels with sauces and beers. Make sure to call ahead and reserve as this place fills up pretty fast.
Hans Im Glück – Top-notch burger chain offering vegan, vegetarian and traditional burgers. Great value for money. Try their sweet potato fries and don’t forget to ask for their cocktail menu.
Oma’s Küche – Traditional German cuisine in a cozy and friendly setting.
Brauhaus Sünnner im Walfisch – Situated in a 1600’s stepped-gable house, this authentic German restaurant serves meaty dishes and house-brewed Kölsch.
Haxenhaus – A traditional tavern found along the riverfront with homemade sausages, pork knuckles and Kölsch beer.
Bars in Cologne
Braustelle – Casual brewery with a wide selection of beers, bites and atmosphere.
Zum Goldenen Schuss – Local pub with a gritty vibe offering cocktails, music and a friendly atmosphere.
Délirium Café Cologne – Found in the old town, Délirium features an exhaustive selection of beer with 30 on tap, vintage video games and classic music hits playing throughout the night.
Seiberts – Classic Bar & Liquid Kitchen – Eclectic cocktails and aperitifs in a vintage-inspired bar.
FRIESEN Bar – Cocktailbar Köln – A retro, 1920s-inspired cocktail bar with intriguing cocktails, lounge sofas and easygoing house music.
Red Fox Bar – American-style bar with vintage arcade games, pinball, Skee Ball and more.
Rosebud Bar – Speakeasy-inspired bar with a relaxed atmosphere, outside terrace and a large selection of cocktails.
Cafes in Cologne
The Coffee Gang – A small, yet cozy coffee shop with superb flat white, daily pastries and a local vibe to it.
Goodchild Café – French-inspired café with fresh and delicious croissants, Danishes and other pastries.
Zwoo kafferröster – Excellent specialty coffee for when you’re on the good.
Café Sehnsucht – A laid-back brunch and coffee spot with a quaint terrace.
Café Schwesterherz – A homely café with fresh homemade cakes, breakfast items and great coffee.
Kaffeesaurus – Modern coffee shop with baked goods, roasted coffee and brunch specials.
Bäckerei Zimmermann KG – Traditional German bakery founded in 1875 with a wide selection of sweet and savory items for when you’re looking for a quick bite to eat.
Easylivin’ Coffee, Brunch & Lunch – Tucked away from the busy shopping district, this coffee shop offers amazing coffee and sandwich options.
Café Chocolate – The stylish Café Chocolate has divine hot chocolates as well as a large selection of brunch choices.
Best Time to Visit Cologne, Germany
Cologne is a beautiful city all year round. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of when is the best time to visit Cologne, Germany. However, there are a few general tips that can help make your visit more enjoyable. For example, it’s generally warm in May and June making it ideal to walk around the city and enjoy its parks, so if you’re looking for a warm climate, these are generally the months to visit. Likewise, September and October tend to be slightly cooler than July and August, however, the leaves are starting to change colors and the city is still bustling with activity.
Lastly, the winter months may bring in colder weather, however visiting Cologne during the Christmas market season is truly a treat. The entire city delineates a wintry fantastical backdrop featuring festive bazaars in various locations. For an unbeatable tour of the best Christmas markets in Cologne, you can refer to this guide.
Cologne is a captivating city that offers something for everyone. From its impressive landmarks to its unique cultural heritage, there are plenty of attractions and activities to enjoy while visiting. With this guide, we hope you have a better understanding of what the city has to offer, as well as helpful tips on how to make the most of your trip. So, don’t hesitate any longer – start planning your dream trip to Cologne now!