41 Things to Do in Cologne

River Cologne

Looking for things to do in Cologne, Germany? I’ve got you covered thanks to my recent weekend break in Cologne.

Cologne (Köln) really is a great budget weekend break; cheap, short flights from the UK, amazing affordable beer, lots of pretty sights to see without spending much, if anything at all. You can visit Cologne for two days and instantly get a flavour of the city and tick a lot off, making it ideal for a weekend break.

I ended up in Cologne without the foggiest of what there was to see and do. I visited Cologne courtesy of WowTrip, a company who organise surprise trips, taking care of the flights and accommodation, so didn’t find out where I was going until the last minute. Thanks to some on the ground research, a lot of blog searching and a fab walking guide I’ve pulled together a mega list of things to do in Cologne.

You can get a glimpse of Cologne in this 90 second video or scroll down for 41 things to do in Cologne!

41 Things to do in Cologne

Things to do in Cologne

1. Head to Fischmarkt

If you’re after a pretty Instagram shot head to this cute row of pastel coloured buildings, aptly titled because it used to be a covered fish market. Thankfully the smell is long gone! If you’re looking straight at them you’ll see a pathway to each side; roughly speaking, the right leads to restaurants and the left leads to drinking spots.

AddressAm Leystapel, 50667 Köln, Germany

Things to do in Cologne Germany - Fish Market - Instagram

2. Head to the Institution

Früh am Dom (a beer house) is split over three levels and is a very popular place for a Kölsch (beer). You’ll find both locals and tourists in here. The beer is good and it’s not that expensive.

Address: Am Hof 12-18, 50667 Köln

Things to do in Cologne - Beer

Things to do in Cologne- Beer

3. Watch the Sun Set

Join the locals sitting on the steps at the far side of Hohenzollern Bridge. You’ll have a great view of Cologne’s skyline and be able to watch the sun setting behind the bridge. Grab some pretzels and bubbles, sit back and enjoy.

Address: Hohenzollern Bridge, Kennedy-Ufer, 50679 Köln

Things to do in Cologne

Things to do in Cologne

4. Visit the Cathedral

Cologne’s Cathedral (Kölner Dom) is super, super high – in fact, it’s Germany’s largest cathedral. Admire from the outside or step inside (for free) to admire the beautiful stained glass windows. If your shoulders are exposed you’ll be given a scarf to cover them. Visit at around 2/3pm or 5pm if you want to avoid the crowds. Cruise boats usually drop guests off at around 10am.

Address: Domkloster 4, 50667 Köln

Things to do in Cologne - Cologne Germany Cathedral

Things to do in Cologne - Cologne Germany Cathedral

5. Climb the Cathedral Stairs

Enter through a cave-like tunnel, pay around 4 Euros and climb the 533 steps to reach the top of the south tower. Be warned – aside from one small section everyone has to go and up down using the same narrow staircase. The views from the top are beautiful, but if you’re claustrophobic it might not be for you. I’m not a fan of heights, but only found the last stretch of the metal stairs uncomfortable – I’d do it again!

Address: Domkloster 4, 50667 Köln

Things to do in Cologne - Cologne Germany Cathedral

Things to do in Cologne - Cologne Germany Cathedral

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6. Visit Neumarkt for the Best Shops

Skip the highstreet names and head to the side streets and Mittelstrasse in Neumarket, here you’ll discover lots of independent shops – perfect for gifts!

Address: Neumarkt

7. Indulge Your Inner Hipster

Filmforum showcases avant garde films that don’t make the big screen.

Address: Mu­se­um Lud­wig, Bis­chofs­garten­s­traße 1, 50667 Köln

8. Go Organic

The museum café serves organic food, as well as vegetarian and gluten-free dishes. It’s a beautiful space, in a central location and is a popular meeting place for journalists, artists and other creatives.

Address: Mu­se­um Lud­wig, Bis­chofs­garten­s­traße 1, 50667 Köln

Things to do in Cologne- organic cafe

Read more: 16 Easy Ways to Plastic-Free Travel

9. Stand on a Concert

Outside the museum café you’ll see some reddish bricks. Stand on those and effectively you’re standing on Cologne’s famous concert hall! It sits right below that open space.

Address: Outside Mu­se­um Lud­wig, Bis­chofs­garten­s­traße 1, 50667 Köln

10. Grab a Beer at Lommerzheim

This is a popular beer house with the locals.

Address: Siegesstraße 18, 50679 Köln

Things to do in Cologne

11. Have an Eco Splash

The splash area that overlooks the river is a bit more interesting than it looks. The bricks have been recycled from the nearby bridge and water is recycled from the nearby museums air conditioning unit!

Address: Outside Museum Ludwig facing the river – Heinrich-Böll-Platz, 50667 Köln

Koeln Germany

12. Try the Goose

As a vegetarian I probably shouldn’t encourage this, but if you’re a meat-lover head to Delfter Haus for some refined German food, in particular the speciality goose (which is popular at Christmas in Germany).

AddressButtermarkt 4250667 Cologne

Koeln Germany

13. Try all the Beer

There are lots and lots of beer houses in Cologne, all serving delicious beer. Can you tick them all off?!

14. Test the Waiters

They say a good German waiter keeps serving you beer without you having to ask for a new one. When you’ve had enough simply put your coaster on top of your glass. You’ll find that the waiter will tally each beer on your coaster, so when it’s time to pay the bill he/she will just tot them up.

15. Enjoy the Jazz

At one point in time jazz music was banned, so it’s celebrated quite a lot now. One pub is especially famous for jazz gigs, so it’s worth seeing what’s on during your visit. Either way, they serve beer…!

Address: Papa Joe’s, Buttermarkt 37, 50667 Köln

16. Make Sweets

If you like sugar head to Kamellebüdchen, where you can buy lots of sweets and have a go at making your own candy.

Address: Auf dem Rothenberg 9A, 50667 Köln

Koeln Germany

Koeln Germany

17. Eat Like a Local

Just behind the sweet shop (see number 16) you’ll find a small alleyway leading to a courtyard that’s filled with small restaurants. This is where locals often eat and you’ll find similar spots all over Cologne.

Koln Germany

18. Get Some Luck

Legend has it that if you rub the noses of the puppet statues you’ll have good luck!

19. Watch a Local Show

Visit a 200-year-old puppet playhouse, the Hänneschen-Theatre and see if you can understand what the characters are saying. They speak in their own dialect and it’s said that even a German from Munich wouldn’t be able to understand!

Address: Eisenmarkt 2 – 4, 50667 Köln

20. Visit the Smallest Beerhouse

Peter’s Brauhaus is said to be the smallest beerhouse in Cologne, seating 200 people. It’s a former cotton spinning factory and a pretty central spot if you want a beer.

Address: Mühlengasse 1, 50667 Köln

21. Make Your Own Chocolate

Visit Chocolaterie for some swoon-worthy chocolates and if you have a bit more time, have a go at making your own.

Address: Alter Markt 46-48, 50667 Köln

Things to do in Cologne

22. Visit the Chocolate Museum

If you’re really into chocolate head to the riverside museum that’s dedicated to chocolate! You can learn how its made and enjoy a few samples. Alternatively, skip the lessons and head straight to the onsite café for some chocolatey deliciousness!

Address: Am Schokoladenmuseum 1A, 50678 Köln

23. Taste Italy

In Cologne there are over 40,000 Italians, which means lots of amazing Italian restaurants and gelato spots to try! Raffaello Ice Cream is run by Sicilians, who serve some of the tastiest gelato.

Address: Am Hof 28, 50667 Köln

Things to do in Colone

24. Try the Nougat Pretzel

You’ve heard of the salty pretzel but what about a chocolate nougat one? It’s pretty famous in Cologne and common to have one as a naughty (but oh so nice) breakfast treat.

25. Go on a Walking Tour

Get your bearings, an insight into German humour and learn some quirky facts about this historical city.

Things to do in Cologne

26. Add a Padlock

Head to Hohenzollern Bridge for great views of the river. If you’re into it, add a padlock to the bridge, like all the other lovers. If you didn’t bring one with you head to the former fish market (see earlier) where you’ll find a stall selling them.

Things to do in Cologne - Hohenzollern Bridge

Things to do in Cologne - padlock bridge

27. Enjoy Views of the City

If you have another evening in the city or you just want to get a different perspective pay around 3 Euros and head up 29 floors in the lift at the KölnTriangle. If you’re visiting in the evening you may want to take some glass cleaner or a wipe to get rid of all the fingerprints that may ruin your pics!

Address: Ottopl. 1, 50679 Köln

Things to do in Cologne - kolntriangle cologne

Things to do in Cologne - sunset at kolntriangle cologne

Things to do in Cologne - sunset at kolntriangle cologne

28. Get Arty

Head to Europe’s largest art books supplier, Walther Konig.

Address: Ehrenstraße 4, 50672 Köln

29. Explore the River Rhine

Hop on one of the many boats for a tour down the river. There are lots of different sorts from sightseeing cruises to big triple decker party boats.

River Cologne

30. Enjoy a Picnic (or Schnitzel)

Head to Volksgarten on a sunny day. You’ll see locals having BBQs and picnics. It’s a really peaceful part of the city. Take a picnic or head to the onsite cafe that overlooks the lake.

Address50677 Köln

Things to do in Cologne - Picnic

31. Pedal on the Lake

Whilst you’re there hire a pedalo for an hour or two.

Address50677 Köln

Things to do in Cologne

32. Head to the Thermal Spas

Yes, really! The Claudius Therme in Rhine Park is said to be one of the most beautiful thermal spas in Europe. You’ll find a Japanese zen garden there, as well unique Asian baths and the option of lots of treatments.

Address: Sachsenbergstraße 1, 50679 Köln

33. Go Skating

Head to Kap 686 for a skate park or make the most of the relatively flat city.

Address: Agrippinaufer, 50678 Köln

34. Go to the Flea Markets

Grab a bargain at one of the many flea markets in the city; Madelsflohmarkt, Nachtflomarkt, Vintage Kilo Sale.

35. Grab a KölnCard

If you plan to cram as many attractions into your day as possible and are planning to use pubic transport you may want to consider using a KölnCard. You can travel for free and it gives you discounted entry to some museums and a reduction on food and drink at some places. Just do a quick tally before you buy one to check you’re getting good value for money.

Things to do in Cologne

36. Get your Insta Fix

If you like your cafes and restaurants to look Instagrammable head to Johann Schafer. It’s a brewery restaurant that’s dressed in pretty tiles and exposed brickwork. They serve traditional dishes with a modern twist.

37. Dine like a Vegan

The oldest vegan restaurant in the city is Signor Verde. You can also get vegan food at Café Hubiskus, Bunte Burger, Lotus and Trash Chic.

38. Enjoy the Street Art

Pick up a ‘#Urbanana’ map or ‘Urban Art Koeln’ map (both free) and track down Cologne’s best street art.

Things to do in cologne - street art

Things to do in cologne - street art

39. Ride the Seilbahn

Hop in the cable car that crosses the river to visit an area known as the Beach of Cologne.

Address: Riehler Str. 180, 50735 Köln

40. Get Your Picasso Fix

Museum Ludwig has the biggest Picasso collection in the whole of Germany.

Address: Heinrich-Böll-Platz, 50667 Köln

41. Get a 241

If you’ve got more time to play with hop on the train to visit Dusseldorf (20 minutes), Bonn (20 minutes) or Bruhl (15 minutes).

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Things to do in Cologne

Things to do in Cologne

Big thanks to The Blogger Course Weekender and Wow Trip for hosting my trip.

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