Nestled on the western fringes of the country, Cologne is one of the best cities and best places in Germany to explore. Hands down! Bustling with life and character, there’s an incredibly diverse mix of the best things to do in Cologne that you won’t want to miss.
Cologne is one of Germany’s largest and most diverse cities to explore and with Cologne Cathedral, its many world-renowned museums and the vibrant Belgian Quarter, there’s something for every visitor to enjoy.
Take a look, below, at some of the favourite spots to visit in Cologne.
You’re going to have a great time in Germany.
How To Get To Cologne
Cologne is a well-connected city and easily accessible by train, plane, car or horse and carriage (though, the latter will take you quite a while).
By train: We decided to take the train from London (via Brussels), which took around 6 hours of travel time with the most epic 2-hour transfer in Brussels where you can grab yourself a quick waffle and see the Grand Place before whizzing across on the ICE train to Cologne.
You can also travel from most cities via the train network across Europe.
By plane: Cologne has its own airport that’s a short train/taxi ride from the city centre and is one of Euro Wings hub airports (meaning lots of choice for flights).
River cruise/Boat: As Cologne hugs the shores of the River Rhine, there’s an opportunity to arrive at the city via river cruise or regional boats too.
Best Things to do in Cologne
1.) Scale the heights of Cologne Cathedral
With over 500 steps, this can be a pretty steep climb but well worth it to scale the heights of one of Cologne’s most iconic UNESCO World Heritage sights.
Now, what I would say is that the climb to the viewpoint can get a little tough. There are hundreds of stairs and when it’s busy you feel like you can’t control your walking pace. Well, I was scared of slowing down incase I held the whole queue up.
If you want to avoid this, pop over and climb the tower in the morning, before the crowds arrive. Oh, and take a bottle of water, and a good pair of shoes and enjoy the views of the city.
2.) Party and gorge in the Belgian District
The Belgian District is one of Cologne’s most fun places and a totally great neighbourhood to spend an early evening for drinks, food and meet-ups with friends.
Filled with an array of cool bars and delicious restaurants, it’s the perfect district to spend your evening in the city.
Just make sure to book any Cologne restaurants before you head out, especially on weekends. We found that lots of the places in the Belgium District became really popular on Saturday evening and made the mistake of not booking.
3.) Visit The Museums
Cologne is well known for its world-class museums, make sure to explore the many places, including the incredible Ludwig Museum that hosts work from Picasso and other world-class artists.
Every year, Cologne also hosts one of the coolest festivals where you can explore, party and enjoy the museums in the middle of the night.
Filled with DJs, plenty of bubbles and heaps of people – the Museums become the place to be, see and enjoy. Museum Night happens once every year.
We had so much fun and I think we stayed up until about 2 am inside the museum itself. It really is one of the best things to do in Cologne.
Just be sure to grab tickets well in advance and check the Cologne museum website for upcoming schedules. We loved it.
4.) Gorge at the Chocolate Museum
Fellow chocolate lovers rejoice! Hands down, anything with choice and I’m there, and you can’t travel all the way to Cologne without visiting the Chocolate Museum.
Before arriving, be sure to book these Cologne Chocolate Museum tickets. This way, you’ll avoid those pesky peak time queues and wander straight in. We found this to be the easiest way to save time in Cologne.
Plan, plan and plan even more!
Once here, take a tour of the ‘secret’ formulation area, enjoy a little chocolate and learn more about the craft of chocolate making.
Though they say secret, I still don’t get how that’s the case when we get to see all the ingredients going in! Whatever, I’m not complaining.
Oh, don’t forget, the Chocolate Museum in Cologne usually has members of staff wandering around.
They don’t advertise it, but they usually have a bag filled with chocolates with them. Ask a few questions, or just say hello and see if they offer you a bar or two.
This happened to us on a few occasions and my tummy thanked me every time for being polite.
5.) See the quaint churches of the city
There’s a whole heap of beautiful churches to see in Cologne, make sure to take the time to visit St. Martin’s especially – its architecture is truly beautiful.
Afterwards, you can spend some time strolling and visiting some of the other best things to do in Cologne before rocking up to the Belgium Quarter for an aperitif or dinner.
6). Walk across the Hohenzollern Bridge
For a beautiful view of the city, walk across The Rhine River. This is a great area to stroll in Cologne, especially at sunset.
One of the best ways to do this is via Hohenzollern Bridge to the Rheinboulevard where you can sit back, relax and enjoy the glorious sunsets that Cologne has to offer.
Plus, on the banks of the river, you’ll find lots of little bars and cafes that make this area of Cologne so nice to stroll. Just make sure to wrap up warm if you visit in winter!
7.) Gorge on kölsche cuisine
When in Cologne, make sure to stop for some traditional kölsche cuisine at Früh am Dom.
The relaxed vibe of the place, delicious food and Kolsh beer is most definitely a reason to take a pit stop here.
Honestly, we left totally stuffed and don’t regret one mouthful!
8.) Explore the historic Old town
Cologne dates all the way back to the Roman period, which can only mean there’s a whole array of different architectural styles and histories to explore.
One place you should definitely see is the old town, here you’ll find colourful houses, quaint shops and cobbled streets that are reminiscent of life many centuries ago.
9.) Visit Cologne’s youngest district, Rheinauhafen
One of Cologne’s newest districts, Rheinauhafen is the perfect place to discover the city’s coolest new buildings, the Crane Houses.
This once bustling port area has now been transformed into a creative hub and some pretty cool buildings that’s one of the best things to do in Cologne when the sun begins to set.
The views are gorgeous. That being said, if you’re more interested in the history of Cologne, then this area might not be for you.
Remember, it’s you that’s visiting, so be sure to choose the best things to do in Cologne that fit you.
This all being said, if you fancy an escape from Cologne’s city streets, drive out to Phantasialand. It’s one of the best theme parks in Germany and the rollercoasters are so good!
We loved Black Mamba and F.L.Y. – just be sure to take some throat lozenges. You will scream so much!
10.) Watch the sunset 103 metres above Cologne
One of the best viewpoints in the city is from the brand new, Köln Triangle.
For a small entrance fee, you can take the lift to the 103-metre pinnacle that overlooks the historic centre of Cologne.
Head here around sunset and enjoy watching the city and the iconic Cologne Cathedral transform with sparkly orange hues.