Cologne is the fourth largest city in Germany and a popular tourist destination for people passing to or from Holland. The city has a great cathedral, lots of wonderful cafes and international restaurants, and the historic architecture is worth taking in. Moreover, the city has a great range of museums and free activities so it’s pretty budget friendly. I found the city to be a bit too “modern” and less vibrant than other German cities but it does have a certain charming quick pace to it. Compared to cities like Berlin and Munich, Cologne is a lot less touristy and makes for a great stopover on your way between the east and west sides of Germany.
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Cologne
1. Visit the Kolner Dom
2. Visit the Wallraf-Richartz museum
3. Visit Grüngürtel
4. Take a river cruise
5. Visit the church of St. Kunibert
Other Things to See and Do
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1. Walk around
Spend time walking Cologne’s neighborhoods. Agnesviertel is a bohemian area filled with shops, art galleries, bookstores, and pubs. Alte Feuerwache has a great flea market during the summer. The riverside has some modern buildings and of course there is always the historic center to explore.
2. Celebrate the Winter “Karneval”
The biggest festival Cologne is the winter Karneval. It occurs every February and, on opening day, crowds line the streets and watch a huge parade. This is followed by lots of eating, drinking, and merrymaking.
3. Visit the Cologne Synagogue
The synagogue is notable for its architecture and te Torah within the synagogue was rescued by a Catholic priest from another synagogue as it was being burned during Nazi rule. In August 2005, Pope Benedict XVI visited this place of worship.
4. See the Museum Ludwig
This art museum has an excellent exhibit on German expressionism, but the main draw is the variety of postmodern art they have here. There is essentially work from all major genres (and artists) of the 20th century. If you love modern art, this museum is for you. Adult admission is 11 EUR, and discounts are available for students, seniors, and families.
5. Visit the Schokoladen Museum
This place is dedicated to the history and production of chocolate. You’ll learn about everything from the Aztecs’s production of it to modern day cocoa growing. The end of the tour features a chocolate fountain for sampling and a fully-stocked shop. Admission is 9 EUR, and discounts are available for groups and families.
6. Educate yourself at Kolumba
This is a museum that has a huge variety of exhibits, that cover several years’ worth of history. The building itself was constructed to enclose the church St Kolumba, dating back to the late Gothic period. There is a range of religious artistry, medieval paintings, Coptic textiles, and more on display. Admission is 5 EUR for adults, while everyone under 18 enters for free.
7. Experience the nightlife
There are a slew of bars, lounges, and clubs throughout the city. Many of them feature really interesting decors and themes, while some are quite glamorous. Places like Shepheard and Papa Joe’s Klimperkasten are a little more slow-going, whereas, Lauschgift and Alter Wartesaal are great places for dancing and theme-night fun.
8. Take a day trip to Beethoven’s Birthplace
Bonn, the town where Ludwig van Beethoven was born, is located 25 km from Cologne. It’s easy to plan a day trip to this city and visit the composer’s house or some of the other museums on offer. It’s about a 20-minute train ride, and one-way tickets cost 12-18 EUR.