Things To See & Do In Cologne – Ultimate Sightseeing Guide
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Cologne, Germany is filled with things to do for every taste. The city has a rich and exciting history that is definitely worth exploring.
Not only is Cologne incredible to visit but there are also countless opportunities for photographs.
The city was almost destroyed during the Second World War but since then the locals have put a lot of effort into restoring their beautiful city.
Read my travel guide for Cologne if you are planning your trip to visit Cologne Germany.
If this destination wasn’t on your bucket list, after reading about some of the incredible attractions and things to do in Cologne, it will be.
While the list might seem endless, a lot of the activities are near each other and won’t take too much time to fully explore.
Make sure you don’t miss a single thing with this guide of places to see and best things to do Cologne.
If you need more help in planning a trip to this historic city, be sure to check out my weekend in Cologne guide.
Travel tip: A great way to see all of the tourist places in a short time is with a KölnCard or using Cologne’s sightseeing bus. The KolnCard offers you discount on many Cologne sightseeing tours.
What is Cologne Famous For?
Cologne is most well known for its 12 Romanesque churches, the magnificent Cologne Cathedral, the old town, mustard and as the place where Eau de Cologne was invented. Yes, that’s right.
The beautiful city has a rich and complicated history that has been preserved and rebuilt over the years.
A great way to experience Cologne and its history is through a night tour which will unravel the local legends and guide you through the darker parts of the city, its one of the top things to do in cologne at night.
Discover Top Tourist Attractions in Cologne, Germany
Cologne is filled with an impressive array of tourist attractions that bring visitors all year round. There are plenty of great places to explore including the Roman Gate which is a great place for a photo.
Below is a list of the best places to see in Cologne, Germany.
Things To Do In Cologne Germany | Cologne Tourist Attractions
Fun Things to Do In Cologne – Take A Rhine River Cruises
A great place to do some sightseeing in Cologne, Germany is from the Rhine River. A river cruise offers panoramic city cruises of the city both during the day and at night.
There are plenty of routes that showcase the Old Town, the Rheinauhafen district and some Cologne’s beautiful bridges.
Top Places To Visit In Cologne – Cologne Cathedral/ Kölner Dom
If you were to ask what Cologne Germany is known for, this cathedral would be the top of the list.
The Gothic cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and boasts an array of beautiful treasures inside, including the incredible Reliquary of the Three Kings.
There’s a reason why the cathedral is the most visited landmark in Germany. The view from the top offers an incredible panoramic view of the city.
Visit Cologne Old Town
A great place to spend an afternoon in Cologne is the Old Town. It was nearly destroyed during the Second World War but has since been rebuilt and now contains some of Cologne’s top attractions.
You’ll come across traditional old houses, galleries, cafes, shops and places to eat in many of the alleys.
You’ll be able to spend hours exploring the cobblestone alleys. The old town can also be explored via a bicycle tour or even a river cruise.
The Belgian Quarter is full of trendy galleries, bars, restaurants and boutiques. It’s a great neighbourhood to experience a different side of Cologne and maybe even catch some local live music.
Whether you’re into food, fashion or art, this alternative neighbourhood is one of the must-visit places in Cologne
If you’re looking for an escape from the city, there’s no better place than the Cologne Botanical Gardens.
It features a collection of greenhouses and over 10000 species of plants, including some incredible flowers. The Botanical Garden is definitely one of the top things to see in Cologne.
Altenberg Cathedral/ Bergischer Dom
The Gothic Altenberg Cathedral features magnificent stained glass windows as well as many abbots and tombs.
It has a long history that tells the tales of the Bergisch aristocratic families. But the most unique thing about the Bergischer Dom is that it is shared by both Protestant and Catholic congregations.
The church is open daily, and from February to December free guided tours are available to the public and is one of the great free things to do in Cologne.
Throughout the year the church hosts over a hundred spiritual concerts that are worth a visit.
Non Touristy things to do in Cologne take in match at the FC Köln
Constructed during the 2006 World Cup, 1. FC Köln is one of the top stadiums in the Bundesliga.
If you’re a fan of football, then attending one of the home games is a real treat. Stadium tours are offered throughout the year, these provide access to the most exclusive areas of the arena.
Romantic Things To Do In Cologne Stroll Along The Hohenzollern Bridge
Rebuilt after the war, Hohenzollern Bridge separates the industrial area from the historical area of the city.
The bridge attracts thousands of lovers who express their affections by placing love padlocks on the grates of the bridge. It’s a magnificent place to celebrate love as well as take a great photograph.
Kölsch Brew House Tour
Cologne is the home of the German-style beer, Kölsch. Discovering the history of the beer, can be done through the Kölsch Brew House tour which will take you through four brew houses Früh am Dom Brewery, Peters Brewery, Gaffel Haus and the Bierhaus on the Salzglass.
Schildregasse is the perfect place to go shopping. It’s one of the busiest shopping streets in Europe and features popular shops like Zara, H&M and Galeria Kaufhof’s flagship store.
The shopping street is also home to one of Cologne’s attractions, the Weltstadhaus, a building that looks like a huge glass whale.
Cologne’s Old Town Hall/ The Kölner Rathaus
If you’re planning a trip to the old town, Cologne City Hall is a great place to visit. The building is decorated with over a hundred sculptures.
It is most famous for its Renaissance facade known as a loggia which was originally built to replace the run-down medieval entrance hall.
The Old Town Hall has a 900-year-old history that features architectural influences from the 14th, 15th and 20th centuries.
It features over a hundred stone statues as well as the famous ‘Platzjabbeck’, a wooden face sculpture that opens its mouth and sticks out its tongue every hour.
If that wasn’t enough to tickle your fancy, the tower of the town hall also features a glockenspiel which consists of 48 bronze bells that ring four times a day. This is definitely a major tourist attraction in Cologne Germany.
The Lanxess arena has been a stage for many of the world’s stars. It serves as a modern multifunctional arena that can hold up to 18000 visitors.
It hosts both music concerts and sports events including ice hockey, basketball and handball. The venue has hosted artists like Ariana Grande, Depeche Mode, Metallica and many more.
A great way to check what’s happening at the arena event calendar.
Wondering what to do in Cologne Germany? A great place to see a panoramic view of Cologne is from the KölnTriangle. It’s a great place to watch the sunset as the wind blows through your hair.
The top of the building features a viewing platform that gives you information about everything that you see.
Entrance to the building itself is free but you’ll need to pay a small fee to access the viewing platform. If you’re feeling peckish the attraction also has a Mongolian barbecue restaurant.
Sightseeing In Cologne Germany
Along the Rhine, you’ll find a riverside walkway known as Rheinboulevard. It’s a great place to view the Cologne Cathedral as well as the old town.
The promenade is most well-known for its stairs that lead onto the bank of the Rhine and are a great place to sit and watch the city.
One of the newer areas of Cologne is the Rheinauhafen district. The district is named after the commercial port that previously occupied the riverside but has since been recreated as a hub from creative and digital industries.
The area contains some bold architectural buildings, as well as repurposed historical structures. It’s a great place to have a drink or sit down for a meal in between visiting all of Cologne’s places to see.
Cologne Sculpture park
Another great place to visit in Cologne is the Sculpture Park. It features some incredible contemporary sculptures created by artists such as Anish Kapoor and Heimo Zobernig. Admission to the park is completely free and is open all year round.
If you happen to be in Cologne on the first Sunday of the month, the park offers a guided tour for a small fee.
The Rheinpark is more than just an urban park along the Rhine, it features a beach club, a Roman Thermae-styled public bath and an open-air theatre. It’s a great place to ride a bike or take a stroll. You’ll even be able to play a little mini-golf. The park is open 24/7 and entrance is free.
Cologne Rhine Cable Car (Kölner Rhein-Seilbahn)
Located inside Rheinpark, Cologne’s cable car offers an incredible bird’s-eye view of the city with particular emphasis on the old town and the cathedral.
It’s a great place to relax and enjoy the view while snapping a few Instagram worthy pictures.
The cable car runs across the Rhein River, connecting the exhibition sites in Rheinpark, to the attractions on the other side of the river, including the Cologne Zoo and Botanical Garden.
It’s a great place to get from the two of Cologne tourist spots while enjoying a beautiful view. You can choose to take a one-way trip or buy a return ticket.
Aqualand Alternative Things To Do in Cologne Visit
If you’re looking for something a little adventurous to do, Aqualand is a water park jam-packed filled with attractions.
The park has several water slides featuring special music and lights. If waterslides aren’t your thing, there’s also a sauna, swimming pools and a steam bath.
Tünnes and Schäl statues
Opposite Groß St. Martin, you’ll find the bronze monument of Tünnes and Schäl. If you require a little extra luck, you can rub the thick nose of Tünnes. Both figures are legends from the puppet theatre in town, the Hänneschen-Theater.
Since 1802, the Hänneschen-Theater has been putting on traditional puppet shows for both kids and adults. After restoring damage from the war, the theatre is now home to puppets like Tünnes and Schäl, Hänneschen and Bärbelchen.
Places To Visit In Cologne – Experience Cologne’s Museums
Whether you’re interested in art, food or history, Cologne has many amazing museums. Here are some of the most interesting ones to visit.
Tip: If you’re planning on seeing a couple of Cologne’s tourist sites, I’d suggest you buy a MuseumsCard.
Museum Kolumba earns its place as one of the great things to see and do in Cologne thanks to the incredible experience of walking through the 100-year-old ruins of the church.
The art galleries and exhibition rooms offer a cultural and historic lesson. And the secret garden courtyard makes for the perfect spot to soak it all in. It’s also one of the top things to see in Cologne.
Cologne must see – Senfmuseum/ Cologne’s Mustard Museum
The German’s are known for their mustard which is why the mustard museum is such a great place to visit in Cologne. Senfmuseum traces mustard’s history back to the first seeds brought over by Julius Caesar.
Visitors are invited to watch mustard created on a restored mill from 1810 and even have a taste of the finished product. Stop in the gift shop on your way out to buy some exotic mustard to take home with you.
Rautenstrauch Joest Museum – Cultures of the World
The Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum contains an extensive collection of items that belonged to ethnographer Wilhelm Joest. It features historic photographs of Africa, Asia, American and Oceania.
You’ll be able to experience cultures from all over the world with multimedia points that’ll give you all the information you need. Of all Cologne’s visitor attractions, this one is definitely worth a visit and is also one of those unusual things to do in Cologne.
Cologne City Museum/ Kölnisches Stadtmuseum
The Cologne City Museum is a treat for history lovers. It displays an extensive collection of objects and artworks from the city’s history.
It also allows tourists and locals to experience Cologne’s progression from the Middle Ages to modern times.
Whether you’re intrigued by the Romans or interested in World War 2, Cologne has an intricate history worthy of your time.
Rheinauhafen Nazi Documentation Center
If you’re interested in history, Cologne has a great deal of it. The Rheinauhafen Nazi Documentation Center focusses on time in the city during World War 2.
It was once the headquarters for the Nazi secret police, The Gestapo. Now it’s a memorial site, museum and research centre.
Visitors are given the unique opportunity to experience life in National Socialism. If you’re feeling brave enough you can visit the eerie basement, where prisoners’ writings can still be found on the walls. This is one of the most interesting tourist places in Cologne, Germany.
Museum Ludwig boasts the largest collection of Picasso’s in Europe as well as the biggest Pop Art collection outside of the United States. If you’ve ever wanted to see one of Andy Warhol’s artworks up close, this is the place to do it.
It’s a must-see for fans of modern art and one of the top things to see in Cologne for anyone visiting for the first time. This museum is one of the top places to see in Cologne Germany.
Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln
Another of the city’s unique museums is the Museum of Decorative Arts. Featured in the museum are over 10000 pieces of decorative art including exhibitions of weapons, porcelain, puppets, and jewellery. If you’re looking for what to see in Cologne, Germany, this is a great option.
Roman-Germanic Museum/ Romisch-Germanisches Museum
Cologne has a rich archaeological heritage dating back to the Paleolithic period. During the war, a Roman villa was uncovered on the site of the museum which was fully excavated at a later date. Now the site is home to the Roman-Germanic Museum.
Displayed in the museum are the phenomenal Dionysus Mosaic and the Poblicius monument which were discovered during excavations.
Among other mosaics, you’ll also be able to find magnificent Roman glass and jewellery, domestic pottery and sculptures.
House of Fragrance/ House of 4711
If you ever wondered where Eau de Cologne first came from, look no further than the House of 4711.
The Fragrance Museum now offers tours of the world’s oldest intact perfume factory. You’ll be able to watch cologne be created and even craft your own scent.
Cologne Chocolate Museum
Who doesn’t love a little something sweet? At the Cologne Chocolate Museum, visitors are invited to discover how chocolate is made and learn a little more about everyone’s favourite treat.
The museum has a collection of moulds, antique chocolate packaging, interactive displays and a 3-meter high chocolate fountain that gives you a chance to taste the finished product. You can even design your own chocolate bar to take home with you. The Chocolate museum is one of the best places in Cologne for Chocolate.
The Wallraf-Richartz museum is home to art from both the Renaissance and Impressionist era as well as containing pieces from the Gothic and Baroque eras. It’s the perfect place for art lovers who will be able to get up close with some of Rembrandt, Degas and Monet’s masterpieces.
These Cologne attractions should be high on your list of places to visit.
Top Places to Visit in Cologne the Romanic Churches
Cologne is home to 12 Romanesque churches, each with their own special charm. They form a large part of the city’s history and date back centuries. You’ll easily be able to visit multiple churches in one day.
While all 12 churches are still open, below is a list of the top 5 which can’t be missed.
St Gereon’s Basilica
St Gereon’s Basilica is the strangest of Cologne’s Roman churches. The church was constructed in the 12th century but was built in four phases. This has resulted in the newer sections being annexed to the old ones, resulting in a very strange design.
A trip to the church will allow you to explore the collection of medieval murals, ancient relics and mosaics.
St Cecilia’s Church / Schnütgen Museum
Inside St. Cecilia’s church you’ll find the Schnütgen museum which is filled with captivating medieval liturgical art. You’ll also be able to see beautiful goldsmithery, stained glass, textiles, manuscripts and amazing sculptures.
St. Maria im Kapitol
Of all Cologne’s Romanesque churches, St. Maria im Kapitol is the largest. The church contains a collection of intricate reliefs depicting the life of Christ as well as a serene monastery garden that’ll transport you back in time.
Church of St. Ursula
Legend says that the church of St. Ursula is filled with the bones of 11000 virgin martyrs. The Basilica church is built on the ancient ruins of Roman cemetery and contains many beautiful relics that’ll keep you busy for an hour or two.
Groß St. Martin/ Great St. Martin
Cologne’s skyline would be incomplete without the crossing tower of the Groß St. Martin. During the war, it was bombed but this gave the people a chance to study its foundations. Nowadays, its main attraction is the minimalist furnishings and imposing architecture.
These are Cologne main attractions to visit.
Take a Day Trip From Cologne
Cologne is close to several great cities that also have incredible things worth the 20km trip. Brühl is a great place for a day trip if you’re eager to see a little more of Germany.
It’s home to Phantasialand, one of the most well-liked theme parks in Europe and is jam-packed with rides and attractions. Another great attraction in Brühl is the Augustusburg and Falkenlust Palaces, which offer a magnificent glimpse into 18th century Germany.
Final Thoughts on Places To See in Cologne
There’s definitely no shortage of things to do in Cologne. The city is filled with well-known attractions and hidden treasures, including the magnificent Chandelier Hall. I’ve written more about the hidden things to do in another post.
After a long day of exploring, you’re bound to be hungry. There are plenty of great restaurants, cafes and bars scattered around the city but I’ve made your life a little easier in my guide to the best places to eat in Cologne.
You can also find places to stay and other helpful travel tips in my guide to visiting Cologne. So you really have no excuse not to add this historic city to your travel wish-list.
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