Cologne, Allemagne

The 8 essential things to do in Cologne

Last update : 26/05/2024 15:41

Welcome to Cologne, an iconic destination in Germany that captivates travelers from around the globe with its unique blend of culture, history, and modernity. Nestled on the majestic banks of the Rhine River, this vibrant city is a true gem for those who love to explore new horizons.

The historic heart of Cologne, with its magnificent Gothic cathedral towering over the skyline, is a must-visit for any traveler eager to uncover the city's fascinating past. Cobblestone streets are brimming with charm, featuring quaint shops, lively cafes, and historic landmarks at every turn.

For history enthusiasts, Cologne's museums offer a fascinating glimpse into its tumultuous past, spanning from Roman times to the modern era. The Roman-Germanic Museum showcases extraordinary ancient treasures, while the Ludwig Museum presents an exceptional collection of contemporary art.

Cologne is also a city that celebrates cultural diversity. Its vibrant festivals, such as the Cologne Carnival, attract visitors from around the world to revel in the city's lively streets. Additionally, its dynamic arts scene offers a plethora of cultural events, concerts, and theatrical performances throughout the year.

Whether you're passionate about history, culture, nature, or gastronomy, Cologne promises an unforgettable travel experience to every visitor. Come and discover the magic of this dynamic city and be swept away by its irresistible charm.

1 - Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom)

Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom), Cologne, Germany

The Cologne Cathedral, also known as Kölner Dom in German, is one of the most iconic Gothic cathedrals in Europe. Located in the city of Cologne, Germany, it is dedicated to Saint Peter and the Virgin Mary.

Here are some highlights about the Cologne Cathedral:

  1. Architecture: The Cologne Cathedral is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. Its construction began in 1248 and continued for several centuries, although the main construction was completed in 1880. It stands at approximately 157 meters tall, making it the second tallest cathedral in Germany and one of the tallest in the world.

  2. UNESCO World Heritage Site: Due to its historical and architectural significance, the Cologne Cathedral was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1996.

  3. Artistic Treasures: Inside the cathedral, visitors can admire numerous works of art, including the famous medieval stained glass windows which are among the most extensive and impressive in the world. There is also a magnificent shrine containing the relics of the Three Wise Men, making it an important pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages and still today.

  4. Panoramic View: Visitors can climb up to the observation platform located at about 100 meters high in the south tower of the cathedral to enjoy a panoramic view of the city of Cologne and its surroundings.

  5. Ongoing Restorations: Over the centuries, the cathedral has suffered damage from wars, weather, and pollution. Ongoing efforts of restoration and preservation are undertaken to maintain its splendor and stability.

The Cologne Cathedral is not only a major tourist attraction in Germany, but it is also an important symbol of the city of Cologne and its religious and cultural history.

2 - Walk along the Rhine

Walk along the Rhine, Cologne, Germany

Walking along the Rhine in Cologne offers a serene and picturesque experience. Here's how to enjoy it:

  1. Start at the Cologne Cathedral: Begin your walk near the Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom), which stands majestically along the riverbanks. Take some time to admire its stunning Gothic architecture and maybe even explore its interior.

  2. Stroll through the Old Town (Altstadt): Wander through the charming cobblestone streets of the Old Town, lined with historic buildings, lively pubs, and cozy cafes. You'll get a glimpse of Cologne's rich history and vibrant atmosphere.

  3. Cross the Hohenzollern Bridge (Hohenzollernbrücke): As you continue along the Rhine, consider crossing the iconic Hohenzollern Bridge. This bridge is famous for its love locks, where couples attach padlocks to the railings as a symbol of their love.

  4. Enjoy Riverside Parks and Promenades: Along the Rhine, you'll find several parks and promenades offering scenic views and peaceful green spaces. Stop by Rheinpark or Tanzbrunnen Park to relax, have a picnic, or simply soak in the beautiful surroundings.

  5. Take a River Cruise: For a different perspective of the city, consider taking a river cruise along the Rhine. These cruises offer guided tours with commentary, allowing you to learn more about Cologne's landmarks and history while enjoying the scenic views from the water.

  6. Visit the Chocolate Museum (Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum): Located near the Rhine, the Chocolate Museum is a delightful attraction where you can learn about the history of chocolate and indulge in some sweet treats.

  7. Admire the Cologne Skyline: As you walk along the Rhine, be sure to take in the panoramic views of Cologne's skyline. You'll see a mix of historic and modern architecture, creating a unique and captivating cityscape.

  8. Relax at Riverside Cafés: Along the riverbanks, you'll find plenty of cafés and restaurants with outdoor seating, offering the perfect spot to sit back, relax, and enjoy a drink or a meal while watching the boats go by.

Walking along the Rhine in Cologne is a wonderful way to experience the city's beauty, history, and culture. Whether you're exploring landmarks, enjoying the green spaces, or simply taking in the views, you're sure to have a memorable experience.

3 - Museums and art galleries

Museums and art galleries, Cologne, Germany

Cologne is home to a variety of museums and art galleries that offer rich and diverse collections, ranging from modern art to local history. Here are some of the most notable museums and art galleries to visit:

  1. Ludwig Museum: Located just across from Cologne Cathedral, the Ludwig Museum houses one of the most important collections of modern and contemporary art in Europe. You'll find works by Picasso, Warhol, Lichtenstein, and many others here.

  2. Wallraf-Richartz Museum: This art museum features an impressive collection of European paintings from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. You can admire works by masters such as Rubens, Rembrandt, and van Gogh.

  3. Römisch-Germanisches Museum: If you're interested in Roman history, this museum is a must-visit. It showcases a vast collection of Roman artifacts discovered in the region, including sculptures, jewelry, and everyday objects.

  4. Farina-Haus Perfume Museum: Discover the history of Eau de Cologne and the perfume industry in this fascinating museum, located in the house where Eau de Cologne was invented in the 18th century.

  5. Sports and Olympic Museum: This museum offers an interactive exploration of the history of sports and the Olympics, with exhibits on athletes, popular sports, and iconic moments in sports history.

  6. MAKK - Museum of Applied Arts: This museum highlights art and design from the 19th and 20th centuries, with collections of furniture, ceramics, textiles, and decorative arts.

  7. Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum Chocolate Museum: Explore the history and production of chocolate in this interactive museum, where you can also indulge in chocolatey delights.

  8. Karsten Greve Gallery: This contemporary art gallery showcases exhibitions by established and emerging international artists, covering a variety of artistic mediums including painting, sculpture, and photography.

Whether you're passionate about modern art, ancient history, or perfumery, there's a museum or art gallery in Cologne that will captivate your interest.

4 - The Belgian Quarter (Belgisches Viertel)

The Belgian Quarter (Belgisches Viertel), Cologne, Germany

The Belgian Quarter (Belgisches Viertel) in Cologne is a vibrant and trendy neighborhood known for its eclectic mix of boutiques, cafes, restaurants, and nightlife. Here's what you can expect when visiting this lively district:

  1. Shopping: The Belgian Quarter is a haven for shoppers, offering a wide range of boutiques, vintage shops, and design stores. You'll find everything from fashion and accessories to home decor and specialty goods. Explore the side streets to discover hidden gems and unique finds.

  2. Cafes and Restaurants: The area is dotted with charming cafes, cozy bistros, and stylish restaurants serving a variety of cuisines. Whether you're craving traditional German fare, international dishes, or artisanal coffee and pastries, you'll find plenty of options to satisfy your taste buds.

  3. Street Art and Murals: The Belgian Quarter is known for its vibrant street art scene, with colorful murals adorning many buildings and walls throughout the neighborhood. Take a stroll and admire the creative artworks created by local and international artists.

  4. Nightlife: As the sun sets, the Belgian Quarter comes alive with its bustling nightlife. From hip bars and trendy cocktail lounges to live music venues and clubs, there's no shortage of entertainment options for those looking to enjoy a night out on the town.

  5. Events and Festivals: The neighborhood hosts various events and festivals throughout the year, including street fairs, art exhibitions, and cultural celebrations. Keep an eye out for special happenings happening during your visit to experience the local culture and community spirit.

  6. Relaxing in Parks and Squares: Despite its lively atmosphere, the Belgian Quarter also offers peaceful green spaces where you can relax and unwind. Head to nearby parks such as Stadtgarten or Brüsseler Platz to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy some tranquility.

Whether you're shopping for unique souvenirs, sampling delicious cuisine, or soaking up the vibrant atmosphere, the Belgian Quarter is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring Cologne.

5 - Christmas market

Christmas market, Cologne, Germany

The Christmas market in Cologne is one of the most famous in Germany and even in Europe. Located in the heart of the city, it attracts visitors from around the world every year during the Advent season. Here are some features of this market:

  1. Festive Atmosphere: The Cologne Christmas market offers a magical atmosphere with its twinkling lights, traditional decorations, and Christmas carols.

  2. Handcrafted Products: You'll find a wide variety of handcrafted products such as Christmas decorations, wooden toys, scented candles, handmade jewelry, and much more.

  3. Traditional Cuisine: Visitors can indulge in a variety of seasonal culinary specialties such as bratwursts (grilled sausages), glühwein (spiced mulled wine), pretzels, and lebkuchen (gingerbread).

  4. Entertainment: The Christmas market often features shows, concerts, parades, and other entertainment to delight visitors of all ages.

  5. Themed Markets: In addition to the main market, there are also special themed markets such as the Angel's Market, the Old Market Christmas Market, and the Harbour Christmas Market.

  6. Cologne Cathedral: The majestic Cologne Cathedral, one of Europe's largest Gothic churches, provides a stunning backdrop to the Christmas market.

  7. Local Traditions: The Cologne Christmas market highlights local traditions, such as showcasing regional craftsmanship and presenting theatrical performances of German Christmas tales.

In summary, the Cologne Christmas market is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the magic of Christmas in a traditional and festive atmosphere.

6 - The botanical gardens (Flora und Botanischer Garten)

The botanical gardens (Flora und Botanischer Garten), Cologne, Germany

The Flora und Botanischer Garten in Cologne, also known as the Cologne Botanical Garden, is one of the oldest botanical gardens in Germany. Established in 1863, it is located in the Riehl district of Cologne, in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Covering an area of approximately 11 hectares, this botanical garden houses an extensive collection of plants, including local, exotic, and rare species. It features greenhouses, themed gardens, ponds, and resting areas. Notable attractions include a rose garden, a Japanese garden, and a collection of alpine plants.

The Cologne Botanical Garden serves several functions, including biodiversity conservation, scientific research, public education, and tourism. It regularly hosts exhibitions, educational events, and guided tours for visitors of all ages.

As one of Cologne's main tourist attractions, the botanical garden attracts local and international visitors throughout the year, providing a tranquil oasis in the heart of the city and an opportunity to explore the richness of the world's flora.

7 - The Phantasialand leisure park

The Phantasialand leisure park, Cologne, Germany

Phantasialand is actually located in Brühl, Germany, near Cologne and Bonn. It's a popular amusement park that attracts visitors from all over Europe. The park features a variety of rides, shows, and themed areas including roller coasters, water rides, stunt shows, and themed zones inspired by different cultures and eras. It's a popular destination for families and thrill-seekers alike.

8 - Cologne Zoo

Cologne Zoo, Cologne, Germany

The Cologne Zoo, also known as the Cologne Zoological Garden or Kölner Zoo in German, is located in the city of Cologne, Germany. Founded in 1860, it is one of the oldest zoos in Germany and is home to a wide variety of animals from around the world.

Here are some key points to know about the Cologne Zoo:

  1. Diverse Animal Collection: The Cologne Zoo houses over 10,000 animals from more than 700 different species, ranging from mammals to reptiles, birds, and fish.

  2. Modern Facilities: The zoo continually strives to improve its facilities to provide animals with environments closely resembling their natural habitats. It features spacious outdoor enclosures and themed houses to offer animals living spaces tailored to their needs.

  3. Conservation and Education: In addition to its role in entertainment, the Cologne Zoo is committed to species conservation programs and educating the public about biodiversity and wildlife protection.

  4. Visitor Activities: Besides animal watching, the zoo also offers interactive and educational activities such as guided tours, animal presentations, and workshops for children.

  5. Convenient Location: Located just a few kilometers from Cologne's city center, the zoo is easily accessible by public transport or car. It provides a pleasant getaway for city residents as well as tourists.

Whether for a family day out, an educational excursion, or simply to marvel at the diversity of animal life, the Cologne Zoo offers a rewarding experience for visitors of all ages.

Cologne - Where to Stay?

When choosing where to stay in Cologne, it's helpful to consider your personal preferences regarding budget, proximity to tourist attractions, and type of accommodation. Here are some suggestions for different types of travelers:

  1. City Center (Innenstadt): If you want to be in the heart of the action and close to major attractions such as Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom), museums, and shopping areas, the city center is an excellent choice. You'll find a range of accommodation options, from luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels.

  2. Historic Old Town (Altstadt): If you're looking for a more picturesque and authentic atmosphere, the historic Old Town is ideal. Its cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and charming cafes make it a beautiful place to stay. You'll also be close to many tourist attractions.

  3. Belgian Quarter (Belgisches Viertel): For a trendier and more artistic vibe, consider the Belgian Quarter. Here you'll find a plethora of trendy cafes, vintage shops, art galleries, and lively bars. It's a great choice for travelers looking for a more alternative experience.

  4. Deutz: Located on the other side of the Rhine, the Deutz district offers stunning views of Cologne's Old Town. It's a great choice if you prefer a quieter environment while still being close to major attractions. Deutz is well-connected to the city center by public transportation.

  5. Residential Neighborhoods: If you prefer a more local atmosphere and want to live like a resident of Cologne, you might consider staying in one of the residential neighborhoods outside the city center. Neighborhoods like Ehrenfeld, Nippes, or Südstadt offer an authentic vibe with a variety of local restaurants, bars, and shops.

Wherever you choose to stay, be sure to check customer reviews, compare prices, and book in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons.

Cologne - How to get around?

To get around and explore Cologne, you have several transportation options available:

  1. Public Transportation: Cologne has an excellent public transportation network, including trams, buses, and trains. The network is well-organized and allows for easy travel throughout the city and its surroundings. You can purchase individual tickets or day passes, depending on your needs.

  2. Bicycles: Cologne is very bike-friendly, with numerous bike paths and safe routes. You can rent a bike from one of the many rental stations in the city or use the bike-sharing system (Nextbike). It's a great way to explore the city at your own pace while enjoying the fresh air.

  3. Walking: Cologne's city center is relatively compact, and many tourist attractions are easily accessible on foot. Walking through the cobblestone streets and historic neighborhoods can be a great way to soak in the vibrant atmosphere of the city.

  4. Car: While a car may be useful for exploring the surrounding areas of Cologne, it is generally not necessary for getting around within the city itself due to traffic congestion and limited parking spaces. If you need to rent a car, it's recommended for excursions outside the city.

  5. Rhine River Cruises: For a unique experience, you may also consider taking a cruise on the Rhine River. Several companies offer guided boat tours that provide panoramic views of Cologne's major tourist sights from the water.

In summary, getting around Cologne is easy thanks to its efficient public transportation network, well-maintained bike paths, and pedestrian-friendly layout. Choose the option that best suits your preferences and schedule to make the most of your visit to this charming German city.

Cologne - Best period

The best time to visit Cologne depends on your personal preferences regarding weather, local events, and tourist crowds. Here's an overview of the seasons in Cologne:

  1. Spring (March to May): Spring in Cologne offers pleasant temperatures, with blossoms blooming and longer days. It's an ideal time for exploring the city on foot, enjoying the green parks, and attending cultural events.

  2. Summer (June to August): Summer in Cologne is warm and sunny, with generally pleasant temperatures. It's the season for festivals and outdoor events, including the famous Cologne Carnival in summer. The streets and squares of the city are lively, but there may be more tourists.

  3. Autumn (September to November): Autumn in Cologne offers mild temperatures and beautiful fall colors. It's an ideal time to experience local Christmas markets and sample seasonal specialties such as mulled wine.

  4. Winter (December to February): Winters in Cologne are generally cold, with occasional snowfall. It's the time for Christmas markets, which add a magical atmosphere to the city with their twinkling lights, festive decorations, and winter culinary delights.

In summary, each season has its own charms in Cologne. If you prefer mild temperatures and a lively summer atmosphere, then summer might be the best time to visit. If you enjoy Christmas festivities and traditional Christmas markets, then winter could be more suited to your preferences. To avoid tourist crowds, spring and autumn months can be good compromises.

Last update : 26/05/2024 15:41

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