23 Best Things to do in Cologne (Köln) in 2021

Köln (Cologne) is a city in Germany with rich cultural and historical significance. It is the largest city in the North Rhine-Westphalia state of Germany. This city is one of the most important inland ports of Europe. What makes it a commercial hub is its location, as it is located on the banks of the river Rhine. Cologne is 22 miles southeast of Düsseldorf (capital of North Rhine-Westphalia) and 16 miles northwest of Bonn. The Romans built this city approximately 2000 years ago, making it one of the oldest cities in Germany. 

Cologne is widely famous for Roman cathedrals, museums, and palaces. This city is the center of Germany’s countless cultural events and entertainment. The city hosts a carnival every February called – Karneval that attracts millions of tourists. All the locals of Köln come out in costumes for parades and celebrations during the Karneval. Köln is also popular for the refreshing summer beer Kölsch. There is no doubt that the historical and cultural treasures of Cologne will amaze you when you visit this ancient city. 

With many appealing tourist spots to explore, Köln has to be the next place to visit on your bucket list. Wondering what you can do there?

Here are the 23 best things you can do in the city of Cologne:

23. Have fun and get pampered at AQUALAND Freizeitbad

Aqualands Köln
AQUALAND Freizeitbad (Kölscher Jung/Wikipedia)

The Aqualand Freizeitbad is a water park complex with extensive water activities for kids and adults. This water park is located north of Cologne city. The Aqualand has many bathing and swimming options to offer. There is a bathing world, sauna world, spa world, and physical therapy world all inside the complex. 

The bathing world has slides, swimming pools, pool bar, Himalayan salt cave, adventure grotto, laser show, and restaurants. The sauna world has indoor and outdoor saunas with a large range of infusions. It also has a restaurant. The spa world offers massage, body peeling, and pampering services. There is a fitness studio that offers membership for gym and exercise. The physical therapy section of the Aqualand provides medical wellness facilities and prevention courses. 

The next time you’re in Cologne, don’t miss out on enjoying a weekend retreat to the AQUALAND Freizeitbad!

Price: from €15,90 for adults (buy tickets)

22. Stop by the Colonius Broadcasting Tower

Colonius Broadcasting Tower
Colonius tower (Emilio García/Wikipedia)

A famous attraction in Cologne, Colonius is a broadcasting and telecommunication tower. The construction of this tower finished in 1981 with a restaurant, cafeteria, and viewing platform in its building. The Colonius tower is also known as Colonius Fernsehturm in German.

It is located around 2 miles away from the river Rhine, on the western bank. The tower is 266 meters high, consisting of antennas for radio services within the reach of the VHF range. Although one can watch stunning views from the tower, the general public cannot enter it. You can stop by the area around Colonius and enjoy the tower before heading out to another location. 

21. Board a train at Kölnmesse

Köln Messe
South entrance of the Köln Messe (Raimond Spekking/Wikipedia)

The Köln Messe is a famous station in the Deutz district of Cologne, which is why it is also known as Deutz Station. The station lies on the eastern bank of the Rhine river.

First built in 1845, this station has lived through several predecessors from different companies who built it. The reception building, which has a three-wing structure and a circular dome, is a design of the German architect Hugo Röttcher. 

This station is a railway junction that serves long route rail services in Cologne. The Messe in Köln Messe comes from the Koelnmesse (Cologne Trade Fair) since the station is located exactly south of the trade fair.

While in Cologne, take a two-way ticket from the Köln Messe and enjoy the rail services of Cologne.

 

20. Watch football matches at RheinEnergieStadion

RheinEnergieStadion
RheinEnergieStadion (Wikipedia Commons)

The RheinEnergieStadion is a football stadium, also widely known as the home of the team Bundesliga of the Cologne Football Club. This German football stadium is a renovation of the old stadium Müngersdorfer Stadion. The old stadium existed as a home to the Cologne Football Club for five decades since its formation in 1948. The stadium, on the other hand, has existed since its inception in 1923. It was one of the biggest sports facilities in Europe during that time. 

There are many sports facilities surrounding the football stadium even today. Around the vicinity of the stadium lies some swimming pools and running tracks and the German Sports University of Cologne. The stadium has a current sitting capacity of 50,000 people. It is made of steel, glass and concrete, enclosed by green fields.

The RheinEnergieStadion was one of the few stadiums in Germany that hosted the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2006 FIFA World Cup. 

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Price: Stadium tours from €11.50 (buy tickets)

19. Explore modern antiques at Kölnisches Stadtmuseum

Kölnisches Stadtmuseum
Kölnisches Stadtmuseum (Raimond Spekking/Wikipedia)

The Kölnisches Stadtmuseum, a museum built on an old armory around 130 years ago, lies close to the Cologne Cathedral. The Kölnisches Stadtmuseum translates to Cologne City Museum in English. This museum shows exhibitions of life from the middle ages to the modern ages.  

It has a collection of over 350,000 items from the middle age period to the present day. The museum displays furniture, coins, textile, military armor, graphics and paintings of the current and past socio-economic life of the people of Cologne.

With annual visits of thousands of people, the City Museum of Cologne is a famous tourist attraction in the city. 

Price: from €5 for adults (buy tickets)

18. Discover the science of everything at Odysseum

Odysseum
Odysseum (Wolfram.eberius/Wikimedia)

Odysseum is a science museum lying on the right side of the Rhine river in Cologne. This museum boasts of high-tech exhibitions that let you interact with science and technology. The complexity of science or everyday problems that you’ve wanted to ask can all be answered in this museum. The Odysseum offers an array of creative and logical knowledge, entertaining and interactive sessions at its complex. 

The museum has mainly two themes – “earth” and “life.” These two themes make the visitors dive deep into the history of mankind. It enables you to learn the vastness of space through technical discoveries and inventions. For students and young minds, this museum is an integral place for learning science and technology.

If you’re a curious person headed to Cologne, the Odysseum is a must-visit point of attraction in your itinerary. 

Price: Check current pricing

17. Take a dip at Claudius Therme

Claudius Therme
Claudius Therme (Maksym Kozlenko/Wikipedia)

The Claudius Therme is a public bath facility in the urban district of Cologne, situated close to the Rhine and Rheinpark. It is designed in an ancient style of Roman Thermae, which used to be large bathing facilities in Roman cities. Although Claudius Therme has an ancient resemblance, it is a modern-day thermal complex that offers multiple types of saunas and brine pools.

The complex also provides a huge centrally-heated jacuzzi and pool. The water at the spa and swimming pools of this complex is certified thermal water.

If you want to take a dip for relaxation, Claudius Therme is the perfect oasis for you to let all the stress flow out. After your relaxing swim, you can climb to the terrace of the complex and enjoy the view of the scenic Rheinpark. 

Price: 14,50 for two hours

16. Admire the old Cologne City Hall (Rathaus)

Cologne City Hall
The beautiful City Hall (Arminia/Wikipedia)

The Cologne City Hall is a 900-year-old home of the local government, located in the Innenstadt district of Cologne. The structure is built near the square of Alter Markt. The city hall is the residence of the city government, Lord Mayor and the city council. Standing with remarkable architecture that represents Cologne’s historical significance, the City Hall is an artistic complex. 

This Town Hall has two important structures surrounding it – the Loggia and the City Hall Tower. The Loggia is a Renaissance style of architecture designed by Wilhelm Vernukken during the 1500s. The structure has a 2-story arcade that provides entrance to the main council hall. The Tower embodies a Gothic-styled architecture dating back to the 14th century, with a height of 200 feet.

There are 130 statues lined on the ridges of the floors of this tower. The general public is not allowed to enter the insides of the complex. As you walk around admiring the external complex, check out the numerous sculptures on the walls.

15. Take a stroll at the Flora und Botanischer Garten Köln

 Flora Cologne
Flora Cologne (Ladislaus Hoffner/Wikipedia)

The Cologne Botanical Garden or Flora Cologne (Flora und Botanischer Garten) is a massive house of 10,000 species of flowers. This is the city’s oldest garden dating back to the 1860s. It is located close to the zoological park in Cologne’s Riehl district. With an area spreading across 11.5 hectares, this garden transports you to the world of flowers and plants. 

Apart from being a magnificent garden, it is also the venue for the biannual German Flora event. Other events like weddings, exhibitions, galas, and conferences are also held at the Flora building.

The Botanical garden has an Italian Renaissance style of garden, a fragrance garden, fern garden and heather garden. While you appreciate the beauty of these gardens, you also come across some exotic tropical plants at the various greenhouses. The Cologne Botanical Garden is a one-stop place for all flower and plant enthusiasts. 

14. Shop your heart away at Köln Old Market

Köln Old Market
Alter Markt, Köln (Raimond Spekking/Wikipedia)

The Köln Old Market, aka Alter Markt, or the Old Market, lies in the heart of Cologne’s Old Town. As the name suggests, this used to be a large square during medieval times and a place for jousting tournaments. Now, the market has been replaced by modern shopping centers, cafes and a place for live musical performances. The architecture around the market represents traditional German buildings and gives the market a rustic façade. 

The square has an upbeat and warm atmosphere during carnivals and Christmas. Thousands of tourists flock to the Christmas market every December for the décor, lights, food stalls, and skating rink. At the center of the old market lies a fountain in commemoration of Jan von Werth, a famous German army general. At Köln Old Market, you can spend your lazy afternoon sipping a cold Kölsch beer at a pub or restaurant. 

13. Chill evenings at the Rheinpark

Rheinpark
Rheinpark (HOWI/Wikipedia)

Voted as Germany’s best park in 2007, the Rheinpark is a relaxing parkland for the locals and tourists of Cologne. This park is spread across an enormous land of 40 hectares. It lies in the middle of the two districts of Cologne, Mülheim and Deutz. The park is known to have opened in 1912 for an exhibition purpose. After it was completely ruined in the war, the park was extended to the present size during the occasion of a horticulture show. 

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The Rheinpark includes the Claudius-Therme, a public bath built in the Roman Thermae style. It also has miniature golf, children’s playgrounds, an open theater and a beach club. After a hectic day touring the city, you can chill at the park and enjoy the view of the river Rhine.

12. Scent the world-famous fragrance at Duftmuseum

Duftmuseum Köln
Duftmuseum Köln

The Duftmuseum im Farina Haus translates to “Frangrance Museum in Farina House.” This museum is part of the factory where perfumer Johann Marina Farina gave birth to ‘cologne’ 300 years ago. The factory was founded in 1706 near the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum and a few blocks away from the Cologne Cathedral. 

You will find details of Farina’s eight generations’ involvement in scent-making at the upstairs of the building. On the downstairs, you will find the Essence Room where Farina invented his eau de cologne and all of his other delicious scents. Apart from that, you can also visit the perfume shop available there. It is said that royalties like Napoleon, King Louis XV, Ludwig II, and King Frederick the Great were fans of eau de cologne.  

Price: You can buy tickets to this museum online and visit it on a guided tour of about 45 minutes. 

11. Enjoy a ride in the Cologne Cable Car (Rheinseilbahn)

Cologne Cable Car
Cologne Cable Car

When in Cologne, you must not miss taking a ride in the Cologne Cable Car. The Cologne Cable Car runs above the Rhine river and connects the eastern bank to the western bank. This cable car service was made available in 1957 for a biannual horticulture show in Germany. You can take a trip on the Cologne Cable Car from the northern suburbs of Riehl’s district in Cologne. 

Soaring high in the cable car gives you a breathtaking aerial view of the zoo and the botanical garden. If you are a photographer, this could be a great chance for you to take some wonderful shots of the city. If you hop on to the carriage in the evening, you can experience a romantic sunset with your partner.

Price: 4,80 for adults and 2.70 for children (more info)

10. Spot the ancient Roman artifacts at Roman-Germanic Museum

Roman-Germanic Museum
Roman-Germanic Museum (Raimond Spekking/Wikipedia)

The Roman-Germanic Museum is an archaeological museum built on an excavation site. The archaeologists found a Dionysus mosaic and 3rd-century villa artifacts during this excavation. Because the mosaic was immovable, the architects Klaus Renner and Heinz Röcke built this museum around it. Since then, this museum has been exhibiting Roman artifacts found in the ancient city of Cologne, called Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium. Established in 1974, the museum is located on the exact opposite side of the Cologne Cathedral. 

The museum has an inner courtyard built as a replica of the original villa found during the excavation. The museum building, with a three-storied exhibition area, displays some of the oldest heritage of the Roman Rhineland. At the museum, you will come across an exquisite collection of Roman glassware. Also, don’t forget to look out for the intricate mosaics when you visit the museum. 

9. Marvel at Great St. Martin Church

Great St. Martin Church Cologne
Great St. Martin Chruch (Hpschaefer/Wikipedia)

The Great St. Martin Church is a beautiful piece of Romanesque architecture built during the 10th century. This church is a popular point of attraction in the heart of the Old Town district of Cologne. The builders erected the Great St. Martin on the remains of warehouses located on an island. Today the site is surrounded by multicolored buildings and a spacious courtyard. A unique feature of this church is the crossing tower. 

The church is an important relic of the Roman Catholics and the city’s history. Besides the beauty of the church’s external architecture, the large courtyard welcomes you with all its grace. Its restored interiors give you an example of the fine Rhenish architecture and impress you with its minimalistic furnishing. 

8. Contemplate the arts of Wallraf-Richartz-Museum

Wallraf-Richartz-Museum
Wallraf-Richartz-Museum (Laurens Lamberty/Wikipedia)

Wallraf-Richartz Museum is one of the oldest museums in Cologne, whose existence can be traced back to the year 1824. This museum is centrally located in Cologne, at a distance of less than a mile from the Cathedral.

The museum houses paintings from the medieval period to the early 20th century. Some of the arts in the museum’s art gallery are as old as 700 years. The museum has some of the most valuable collections from the Baroque period, French Realism, to the Renaissance period. 

Apart from that, there are impressionists’ collections and other German collections from the modern era. If you are a fine art buff, by default, this museum gets added to your must-see list. 

7. Commit to your partner at the Hohenzollern Bridge

Hohenzollern Bridge
Hohenzollern Bridge (Thomas Wolf/Wikipedia)

The Hohenzollern Bridge is the famous railway and pedestrian bridge of Cologne. It is situated very close to the Cathedral and connects the central station of Cologne to many European cities. Built between 1907 and 1911, the Hohenzollern Bridge crosses the Rhine at the length of 427 miles. The bridge was blown up in 1945 during the war and had to be reconstructed. Now the bridge consists of 6 railway tracks with 1200 trains crossing it every day. 

Apart from its architectural significance, the Hohenzollern Bridge also has a romantic essence. As a sign of locking their commitment, lovers attach locks to the railings of this bridge. After doing that, they flick the key of the lock into the river Rhine. The next time you’re visiting Cologne with your significant other, make sure to indulge in this sweet romantic activity!

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6. Look at Köln city from the top of Köln Triangle

 Köln Triangle
Köln Triangle (ThomasKohler/Flickr)

A significant landmark in Cologne, the Köln Triangle is a 339 ft high-rise building. This building provides a public observation deck on its top floor with panoramic views of the city. Visitors of Cologne especially come to the deck to get the best views of the Cologne Cathedral and river Rhine. 

A German architect based in Cologne built and completed this building in 2006. With nine stories, this building is actually the headquarters of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The building is not only famous for tourists but also famous among locals who love the Mongolian restaurant Mongo’s here. Visiting the Köln Triangle will be a great way to start your Cologne city tour. 

5. Discover the finest pop arts at Museum Ludwig

Museum Ludwig
Museum Ludwig (Politikaner/Wikipedia)

Placed at a prime location in the city of Cologne, the Ludwig Museum is a major tourist attraction. It is the first museum to start exhibiting modern art in Köln. Peter Ludwig and his wife gifted 350 pieces of modern art to start the exhibition of this museum in the year 1976. 

The primary attraction of this museum is the collection of art donated to Cologne city by lawyer Josef Haubrich. Some of the most famous works of Russian Avantgarde, Picasso and Roy Lichtenstein form the other integral part of this museum. After Barcelona and Paris, Museum Ludwig houses the third highest collection of Picasso’s arts in the world with 900 pieces. If you are a pop art or an abstract art fanatic, you can’t miss this museum on your visit to Cologne!

4. Meet the rarest animals in Cologne Zoo

Köln Zoo
Köln Zoo (wuestenigel/Flickr)

Founded in 1860, the Köln Zoo is one of the oldest yet very modern style of zoo in Cologne. The zoological garden is located very close to the river Rhine and 1.8 miles northeast of the Cologne Cathedral. If you’re an animal enthusiast, you should visit the Köln Zoo for its 10,000 animals and 820 species spread over a 20-hectare land. 

The zoo is most famous for its elephant park, which is also the largest park among the rest. The Hippodum (adventure park) has an African type of river landscape. It houses the Nile crocodiles, hippopotamus, sitatunga antelopes and many other reptiles and mammals. A rainforest showing the animals and plants from the endangered rainforests of Southeast Asia is also very popular among visitors.

The zoo has been active in preserving and breeding endangered animals through continuous efforts. 

Price: €19.50 for adults, €9 for children (buy tickets)

3. Indulge in the delicious treats of Schokoladenmuseum

Schokoladenmuseum
Schokoladenmuseum (I, Noebse/Wikipedia)

Living your chocolate fantasy will become a reality when you visit Schokoladenmuseum because this is the Chocolate Museum of Cologne! The Schokoladenmuseum is a place to discover the history of chocolates and experience the glory of this sweet treat. The museum is actually named Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum after Hans Imhoff, who opened it in 1993. It is 1.3 miles south of the Kölner Dom. 

The museum houses many historical art and tools related to chocolate of the 18th and 19th centuries. It has exhibitions of chocolate from the early civilizations of Aztec, Olmecs and Maya. It also has a glass house consisting of Theobroma cocoa trees. The Chocolate Museum has miniature designs of machines used in chocolate production.

Another interesting attraction of this museum is the 3 meters high fountain of drizzling chocolate. Employees of the museum dip wafers into the fountain and give them to you when you walk past by it!

2. Experience the thrills of Phantasialand

Phantasialand
Phantasialand

Phantasialand is a theme park and a fun weekend getaway for families and friends. Located in Brühl, it is 16 miles away from Cologne. It is one of the best theme parks in Germany, with almost 2 million visitors every year. Richard Schmidt and Gottlieb Löffelhardt opened the park in 1967. The park consists of some of the most thrilling rides in the world. 

The world’s fastest multi-launch coaster called Taron exists in this adventurous park! If you call yourself a roller coaster expert, the inverted coaster Black Mamba is going to test your expertise at Phantasialand. When you’re here, the only suspended top-spin ride in Europe, Talocan Top Spin, is a must-try. The 65-meter-high free-fall called the Mystery Castle bungee ride could also be your favorite ride. 

You will find many themed hotels and accommodation to suit different budgets in this park. 

1. Visit the magnificent Kölner Dom

Kölner Dom
Kölner Dom from the south (Velvet/Wikipedia)

While visiting Köln, the first thing that every tourist ideally visits is the Kölner Dom, aka Cologne Cathedral. The city is known for this giant Gothic structure, situated in the center of Cologne. The Cathedral of Cologne is the fourth tallest cathedral in the world. The construction of this massive cathedral took 600 years to complete, from 1248 to 1880. The only structure that survived during the bombings of World War II in Cologne was this cathedral. 

This Gothic Cathedral was mainly built to protect the relics of “Shrine of the Three Holy Kings”. It is a golden sarcophagus dotted with precious jewels. Today you will find many other treasures here. The Sacrament Chapel houses the Milan Madonna, a beautiful wooden sculpture of Mary from the 13th century. The marvelous modern mosaic glass windows and South Tower are two other gripping features of this cathedral.