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Best 15 Things To Do in Cologne Germany

Cologne, known as Köln to locals, is a vibrant and historic city in western Germany. Located on the banks of the Rhine River, it’s known for its stunning cathedral, delicious food, and traditional beer. Cologne is a city of contrasts, with a mix of old and new architecture, hip neighborhoods, and historic landmarks. There’s no shortage of things to do in Cologne, from exploring the city’s cultural and artistic offerings to indulging in its culinary delights. Here, I’ve compiled a list of the 15 best things to do in Cologne, especially great for first-time visitors!

1. Visit the Cologne Cathedral

One of the most important sights in Cologne is the Cologne Cathedral. It is a Roman Catholic church, which is under the patronage of St. Peter the Apostle. The Cologne Cathedral is one of the largest cathedrals in the Gothic architectural style and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

2. Listen to the sounds of the Philharmonic Orchestra

The Kölner Philharmonie is a concert hall that opened in 1986 in the building complex of the Museum Ludwig in Cologne. It offers a diverse music program from jazz sessions, folk, pop events to concerts, and much more. Here you can find classics, but also newcomers. Regional and international music from all over the world in a unique atmosphere.

3. Explore the Chocolate museum

Germans are good at beer, bread, and chocolate. (And cars and so on, but that’s not so important). At the Cologne Chocolate Museum, you can get an insight into chocolate making and its history. In addition to exciting insights and accumulated knowledge, you can also taste the chocolate right away in the museum’s own café. If you’re still looking for something as a souvenir, you’re sure to find something in the museum’s chocolate store. 

They also offer courses on how to make your own chocolates, but unfortunately, these are only offered in German at the moment.

Fragrance Museum Cologne

4. Find your favorite museum

Besides the famous Chocolate Museum, there are many other museums to choose from in Cologne.
Some of the most popular are: the Museum Ludwig, Fragrance Museum, Wallraf–Richartz Museum, Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum, and the NS-Documentation Center of the City of Cologne.

5. See the Great St. Martin Church

The Great St. Martin Church is one of the twelve large Romanesque churches in Cologne. It impresses with its imposing architecture, which forms an interesting contrast to the adjacent buildings. Great St. Martin is located in the middle of the old town and is and is closely surrounded by residential and commercial buildings from the 1970s and 1980s.

If you want to see more historical churches, visit also St. Mary in the Capitol. This is the largest Romanesque church in the city.

6. Visit Flora Botanical Garden

I love botanical gardens, they always give me Great Gatsby vibes, and the botanical garden in Cologne is no exception. In the Flora, more than 10,000 native and exotic plant species are exhibited outdoors and in greenhouses. Many of them are staged in themed gardens. The centerpiece of the facility, which opened in 1864, is the Festhaus, also called Flora.

7. Explore the many parks

If you want to immerse yourself even further in nature, or simply need a break from the hectic city life, Cologne also offers several parks where you can unwind. Some of the most popular parks and green spaces in Cologne are the Volksgarten, Rheinpark and the Cologne City Forest.

Kölsch! (1)” by total13 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

8. Have a Kölsch and Halve Hahn in Old Town

Kölsch and Halve Hahn are two Cologne staples. Kölsch is a light beer traditionally produced and enjoyed in Cologne. Halve Hahn is a popular pub snack consisting of rye rolls with cheese and seasoning ingredients. If you want to try both and even more Cologne specialties, the Brauhaus FRÜH is the perfect place. 

9. Boat trip on the Rhine

After your meal, you might want to sit down and relax on a boat trip on the river Rhine. This will give you time to unwind and see the city from a different perspective.

Love Locks Cologne” by ChiralJon is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

10. Love Locks on the Hohenzollern Bridge

Love is in the air. Or on the bridge? Like many other cities, Cologne has adopted the tradition of love locks. Here they can be found on the Hohenzollern Bridge, which is also a sight in itself. You are supposed to lock the lock on the bridge and throw the key into the river. That way, your love is locked forever. How romantic. 

11. Stroll through Belgian Quarter

The Belgian Quarter is one of the most popular neighborhoods of Cologne and is located in the southern Neustadt-Nord. Its name is derived from the street names that refer to Belgian provinces or cities. So here you can find, among others, the street names Antwerp, Ghent, Brussels, and Liège, as well as the provinces of Brabant, Limburg, and the region of Flanders in their German translation. The neighborhood is particularly popular not only because of the beautiful buildings and the relaxing flair, but also because of the numerous chic boutiques, pretty cafes, popular restaurants, and trendy bars that can be found here. Perfect to immerse yourself in the Cologne city life.

Cologne Carnival” by Harold R Cologne is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

12. Visit Cologne Carnival

If you find yourself in Cologne in mid-February, you can join the Cologne Carnival! Carnival is the fifth season for Cologne people. Here it is celebrated as extensively as hardly anywhere else in Germany. Dressing up is a must! Just as festive parades from which sweets are thrown, good mood and Kölsch. Here, the people of Cologne prove why they are (or at least claim to be) the friendliest city in Germany.

A short trip

13. See Augustusburg and Falkenlust Palaces in Brühl

Brühl is just a short drive (16 km/10 miles) from Cologne and is home to two of the most beautiful palaces in Germany. Augustusburg and Falkenlust Palaces are definitely worth a visit if you want to see a palace from the inside. The Augustusburg and Falkenlust Palaces form a historic complex of buildings connected by the extensive gardens and trees of the castle park. The palaces were built in the early 18th century in the Rococo style and have been considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984. If you come during the concert season, you can even enjoy one of the Brühl Castle Concerts at Augustusburg Palace.

14. Visit one of the most popular theme parks in Germany - Phantasialand

Also in Brühl is the Phantasialand. Phantasialand is an amusement park that, with almost two million visitors in 2019, is the second most visited amusement park in Germany and one of the 15 most visited seasonal amusement parks in Europe. Exciting themed worlds and thrilling roller coasters await you here, immerse yourself in a completely different world!

15. Go to the Cologne trade fair

The Cologne trade fair is one of the best-known trade fairs in Germany. There is always plenty to discover here, from the latest technology to fashion to fine food. Internationally, it might be known for Gamescom, which is the world’s largest trade fair for computer and video games, measured by exhibition space and number of visitors.

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