Cologne or Köln is surrounded by the Rhine river in the western part of Germany, famously known by the locals as a captivating place with heritage, rich history and numerous interesting things to do in Cologne. Right from a visit to the most famous Cologne Cathedral, soaking in the panoramic views from the Seilbahn cable car, or going wow at the architectural beauty of the city especially during a stroll on the Rheinauhafen, the travellers to this city will leave with the most captivating feeling ever in their lifetime. Things to do in Cologne is outnumbered including a journey to discover the shops, bars, restaurants and nightlife in the Belgian quarter, or rather relaxing time by strolling through the picturesque grounds of the Schloss Augustusburg, the UNESCO World Heritage sites and the Falkenlust hunting lodge. We have listed the top 8 things to do in Cologne for you to not miss the best of the lot 🙂
1. The Cologne Cathedral
A UNESCO World Heritage Site right near the left bank of the Rhine, this towering landmark of Cologne is a masterpiece of High Gothic architecture. The Cathedral of St. Peter and St.Mary is undoubtedly one of the top places to visit in Cologne. Being one of the largest cathedrals in Europe, the Cologne Cathedral was started in 1248 and is known to be the most ambitious architecture building project in the Middle Ages. The 157-meter-tall twin towers are impressive with its incredible interior one cannot miss. The cathedral is filled with treasures under the roof which is held together by 56 pillars across an area of 6,166 square meters. Treasures include the 12th-century Reliquary of the Three Kings curated by local goldsmiths; the Treasure Chamber, with precious objects including ancient reliquaries and manuscripts; the famous relief of the Adoration of the Kings from 1440. There are many well-planned and executed guided tours available to the cathedral. There are events, concerts and services performed at the cathedral available for the general public.
2. Cologne’s Old Town
While exploring the historic museums and churches in Cologne, you will naturally land at the city’s little and beautiful Old Town. Here, you will traverse through the numerous alleys by the traditional old houses, boutique shops, cafes, galleries and restaurants. This experience is so surreal that this is one of the best things to do in Cologne. Pleasant paths by the Rhine, picturesque views of the ancient city, countless monuments and fountains, archaeological zones with many artefacts and ruins, the Cologne’s Old Town is a fantastic place to be in.
3. Rhine River Cruises
Your trip to Cologne is incomplete without taking a cruise along the Rhine. This one-hour Cologne Sightseeing Cruise is definitely one of the best things to do in Cologne to get unparalleled views of the city’s landmarks including beautiful buildings of the Old Town, the Cologne Cathedral, and the Hohenzollern Bridge. At night, one of the most popular and recommended things to do in Cologne is the Rhine River Evening Panorama Cruise to go on a two-hour excursion to witness the city dancing and glowing with lights. Soak in the views while savouring the traditional delicacies.
4. The Wallraf-Richartz and Ludwig Museums
If you are an art lover and you have set foot in Cologne, don’t look further and head straight to the Wallraf-Richartz Museum and the Ludwig Museum. The two excellent galleries house a wide variety of European paintings including works by Manet, Rembrandt, Leibl, Renoir, Slevogt and Liebermann. The Wallraf-Richartz Museum is filled mainly with the work of Cologne school. The Ludwig focuses on contemporary and modern painting. The same building also houses the Agfa-Foto-Historama which displays photographs and cameras from the 1840s.
5. National Socialism Documentation Center
If you are interested in learning more about the life under the rule of Nazi and the aftermath, then pay a visit to the National Socialism Documentation Center which gives an unvarnished account of the horrors faced.
A list of top things to do in Cologne cannot miss this memorial as it is a combination of a memorial site, interactive museum and also a research centre. Set in the original building where the Gestapo held prisoners captive, the most chilling experience of your visit will be when you enter the original prison cells in the basement which has the writings of the prisoners scratched into their walls. The centre beautifully attempts to put a face with individual stories on the feelings of the police state on Germans and other occupied countries. Another notable portrayal of the centre is how it focuses on the aftermath of the era of the Nazi.
6. Cologne Zoological Gardens
Cologne Zoo was founded in 1860 and is also the oldest zoological gardens of Germany. With a fine collection of 19th-century menagerie buildings, Moorish-style elephant house with an old birdhouse, the Cologne zoo resembles an ancient Russian church. Ape Island with a dupe rainforest and aquarium filled with aquatic life, an enormous big cat enclosure are some of the top highlights of the Cologne Zoo. This becomes one of the best things to do in Cologne mainly for the biotope habitat set up which allows visitors to view the animals through the glass and without any bars. Another appealing feature of the zoo is one can witness how the history and attitudes towards zoo have unfolded over the years through modern amenities fitted into historic buildings of the original menagerie.
7. Cologne Cable Car and Telecommunications Tower
Established in 1957, the first European cable car across a river, the Cologne Cable car across the Rhine is undoubtedly the big draw of the city with those great views of the Cologne Cathedral and Old Town. To improvise your views, head to the Cologne Telecommunications Tower which is located northwest of Cologne’s Old town.
8. Chocolate Museums
Saving the best for the last, one of the most top things to do in Cologne would be to visit the Chocolate Museum (Schokoladenmuseum). Tracing its roots back to 1972, the Chocolate museum was founded when Hans Imhoff acquired the Stollwerck chocolate factory and realised there was a rubbish container filled with packaging material, broken machinery and other remnants of the chocolate manufacturing process. He ended up preserving and restoring these to form a basis for the museum which would exhibit the entire process from bean to bonbon. Interactive displays, antique chocolate boxes and wrappers, collections of moulds, free samples from the chocolate fountain, and also a working production line where the chocolate-making process can be witnessed. The icing on the cake experience is to design your own chocolate bar.
Suggested Read: World’s most amazing chocolate factory tours!
The list is endless and such cities can surprise travellers pleasantly. Start planning your Germany tour package and make the most of your time in Cologne the best ever. Pickyourtrail consultants will ensure your stay covers as many top things to do in Cologne as possible! Please leave a Whatsapp inquiry for more options. Happy travelling!
Suggested Read: 13 things that you MUST do in Germany