30 Best Places to Visit in Cologne, Germany in 2023

Embark on an unforgettable journey through the captivating city of Cologne, as I unveil the ultimate list of the top 30 places to visit in Cologne, Germany and a handful of bonus tips. Nestled among Germany’s largest cities and boasting a rich historical heritage, Cologne stands as a testament to time.

Prepare to be enthralled by a myriad of remarkable landmarks and attractions that define the essence of this ancient metropolis. Immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring Cologne Cathedral, wander through the enchanting old town, and marvel at the majestic Rhine River. Brace yourself for a wealth of unparalleled sights that will leave you spellbound, as Cologne unveils its unique treasures in abundance.

Cologne is not only the fourth largest city in Germany, but also one of the oldest. It’s no wonder, then, that there are a ton of sights to see in Cologne. From Cologne Cathedral to the old town to the Rhine – the sights in Cologne are unique and, above all, numerous.

In a nutshell: Cologne Highlights

  • Experience the captivating allure of Cologne’s charming old town, exuding flair and rich history, making it an ideal destination for a memorable short trip.
  • Immerse yourself in the cultural tapestry of Cologne with its plethora of captivating museums and embrace the vibrant brewery culture that defines the city’s identity.
  • Uncover the essence of Cologne’s top attractions, including the bustling Old Market, the trendy and eclectic Belgian Quarter, and the iconic Cologne Cathedral that reigns supreme.
  • Step beyond the realms of conventional sightseeing and embark on a mesmerizing journey through the ages with Time Ride, immersing yourself in the captivating history of old Cologne.
  • Indulge in the exuberant traditions that pulsate through the city’s veins, particularly during the lively Cologne Carnival, where the entire city transforms into an exhilarating celebration that demands to be experienced firsthand.

These are my top highlights in Cologne. Would you like to find out more? Then read on, because in this article we will tell you which 30 sights in Cologne you should not miss.

1. Cologne Cathedral

Address: Domkloster 4, 50667 Cologne 
Opening Hours: 6 am to 8 pm – Outside of liturgical hours, it is possible for tourist visitors to visit the cathedral between 10 am and 5 pm on weekdays, 1 pm and 4 pm until 8 pm on Sundays
Admission:  free of charge, ascent to the tower €4 (regular), €2 (reduced) 

Step into the heart of Cologne, Germany, where the iconic Cologne Cathedral stands tall as Europe’s second tallest church. This magnificent landmark, affectionately known as “Mer losse d’r Dom en Kölle” (We leave the cathedral in Cologne), is inseparable from the city’s identity, just like Kölsch beer.

The awe-inspiring Cologne Cathedral, with its harmonious architecture and weathered façade, may surprise you with its completion date of 1880. Its age-defying presence exudes an aura of antiquity, surpassing the actual age of some of its components.

Embark on a journey through history as you learn that construction began in 1248, triggered by the arrival of the Three Wise Men’s relics from Milan. This influx of sacred treasures transformed Cologne into a bustling pilgrimage site, outgrowing the existing cathedral that had stood since 870.

Inspired by French Gothic style, the vision for the new cathedral took shape, drawing inspiration from architectural marvels like Amiens, Paris, and Strasbourg.

Wander back in time as you discover that the early 14th century saw the consecration of the choir and groundwork laid for the west and south facades, as well as the south tower. The construction of the south tower extended throughout the century, progressing at a sluggish pace.

Pause for a moment as you learn that construction came to a halt in 1560, due to financial constraints, leaving the cathedral as a magnificent ruin adorned with a wooden construction crane, standing proudly in the heart of Cologne.

The late 18th century brought brief damage when Napoleon’s troops used the cathedral as a stable. However, amidst the Napoleonic Wars and a growing desire for a unified German nation-state, the resumption of cathedral construction became a symbol of national unity and strength.

Rejoice in the revival as construction recommenced in 1842, with funding from the Central Cathedral Construction Association in Cologne and the Kingdom of Prussia.

Marvel at its resilience during World War II when the cathedral suffered severe damage but managed to avoid complete destruction, leading to a relatively swift restoration.

Take in the architectural marvels as you explore the Cologne Cathedral’s remarkable consistency, blending Gothic elements from its initial phase with neo-Gothic features from subsequent stages. Don’t miss the Shrine of the Three Wise Men, the largest surviving medieval reliquary in Europe, or the Gerokreuz, an ancient Christian artwork crafted from partially gilded wood.

Make the Cologne Cathedral a top priority on your visit to the city, as it stands as the premier attraction in Cologne, captivating visitors with its rich history and spiritual significance.

2. Museum Ludwig

Address: Heinrich-Böll-Platz, 50667 Cologne, Germany
Opening Hours: 10 AM–6 PM, closed on Monday
Admission: Free

Discover the cultural treasures of Cologne’s Old Town, where the Museum Ludwig and the Römisch-Germanisches Museum await your eager gaze.

Step into the world of modern art at the Museum Ludwig, celebrating the creativity of the 20th and 21st centuries. With a focus on pop art, this museum proudly houses the world’s third largest collection of Picasso paintings. But that’s not all – immerse yourself in the diverse works of Expressionism, Neue Sachlichkeit, and Russian Avant-Garde, showcasing the artistic brilliance of the era. As one of the most significant art museums globally, it’s a must-visit attraction for both art enthusiasts and curious tourists.

3. Roman-Germanic Museum

Address: Am Hof 23, 50667 Cologne, Germany
The Romano-Germanic Museum is currently closed due to general renovation work. Important exhibits will be shown in an interim exhibition in the Belgian House (Cäcilienstraße 46).
Opening Hours: daily except Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday of every month 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Admission: Free

Step into the cultural treasures of Cologne, where the Museum Ludwig and the Römisch-Germanisches Museum await, offering a mesmerizing journey through art and archaeology.

Prepare to be enchanted by the Museum Ludwig, a masterpiece in itself. It embraces the vibrant world of 20th and 21st-century art, showcasing a diverse collection of pop art and renowned artists. Be amazed by the world’s third largest collection of Picasso paintings, a true delight for art aficionados. Expressionism, Neue Sachlichkeit, and Russian Avant-Garde movements come to life in this unparalleled space, leaving visitors in awe of the artistic legacy they present. As one of the most significant art museums worldwide, the Museum Ludwig stands tall as a cultural beacon in Cologne’s Old Town, beckoning travelers and art enthusiasts from all corners of the globe.

On the other hand, the Römisch-Germanisches Museum invites you to unravel the mysteries of Cologne’s past. Step into a sprawling exhibition space, spanning over 4,500 square meters, where history unfolds before your eyes. This archaeological treasure trove takes you on a captivating journey through the city’s Roman history, immersing you in the ancient remnants of a bygone era. Stand in awe of the mesmerizing Dionysos Mosaic and the awe-inspiring 15-meter-high Poblicius tomb, both remarkable Roman relics that grace the museum. Through panoramic glass windows, you can freely admire their majesty, a rare opportunity to connect with the past in such a profound way.

Whether you’re drawn to the vibrant world of modern art or the allure of ancient history, these museums offer an unforgettable experience in Cologne. Indulge your senses and explore the rich cultural tapestry of this magnificent city, where art and archaeology entwine to tell a story of human creativity and heritage. Unearth the past at the Römisch-Germanisches Museum and embrace the artistic wonders of the Museum Ludwig, for in their hallowed halls, the essence of Cologne’s soul comes alive.

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4. Cologne Old Town

Admission: Free

Welcome to the vibrant heart of Cologne – the Old Town, a treasure trove of diverse attractions that promises an unforgettable experience. Step into a world of wonders, where history, culture, and modernity coalesce in perfect harmony.

Immerse yourself in the captivating charm of the Cologne Old Town, where the city’s best attractions come to life. Stroll at your leisure, for almost all the delights await you on foot, making exploration a joyous adventure. The Old Town is more than just a collection of landmarks; it’s a tapestry of unique houses, each telling its own story of the city’s rich past.

As you wander the cobbled streets, you’ll encounter the enigmatic “shame masks” gracing the walls of houses. The legend of Archbishop Anno adds an air of mystery to their eerie appearance, recounting tales of retribution and justice. Though these masks are devices for a pulley system, let the allure of the legend captivate your imagination.

Perched in the middle of the majestic Rhine, the Old Town offers a myriad of beautiful viewpoints and tranquil spots to unwind. Find solace by the river’s edge, savoring a refreshing Kölsch beer as the world passes by. As the sun sets, the Old Town comes alive with the bustling energy of life, drawing both locals and visitors to its numerous breweries. Experience Rhenish cheerfulness, laughter, and camaraderie, as you become part of the vibrant tapestry that weaves the heart of the city.

But the Old Town is not just for young souls; it’s for every soul that seeks the true essence of Cologne. Embrace the spirit of this lively district, where history mingles with modernity, and where every turn reveals a new facet of the city’s soul. With a rich blend of gastronomy, culture, and shopping, the Old Town will leave you with a tapestry of memories that will linger in your heart long after you bid adieu to this captivating city.

5. Groß St. Martin

Address: An Groß St. Martin, 50667 Cologne, Germany
Opening Hours: Monday closed
Tuesday – Thursday – 13:00 to 17:00
Friday, Saturday: 10:00 to 12:0013:00 to 17:00
Sunday: 13:00 to 18:00
Admission: Free

A mesmerizing jewel nestled within the Cologne city center is the majestic Groß St. Martin church. This Romanesque masterpiece predates the iconic Cologne Cathedral, standing tall on the banks of the Rhine since the 10th century.

A testament to resilience, Groß St. Martin has endured the ravages of time. It faced destruction in the mid-12th century but was lovingly rebuilt into its grand form over the subsequent century. Even the tumultuous Second World War could not diminish its allure, for the spirit of restoration prevailed, and the church emerged once again, gracing the city with its magnificence.

The soul of St. Martin lies in its unique cloverleaf-shaped choir stall, an architectural marvel that sets it apart. Its four characteristic towers majestically pierce the Cologne skyline, defining its silhouette and beckoning visitors from afar.

Venturing inside, you’ll find yourself immersed in history as remnants of historical paintings adorn its sacred walls. The brushstrokes of the past echo through time, inviting you to discover the narratives etched in the church’s very foundation.

As you stand in awe of Groß St. Martin, you’ll feel a profound connection to the city’s past and present. It is a place where the spirit of Cologne comes alive, where centuries of stories intertwine with the vibrant energy of modern life.

Discover the soulful sanctuary that is Groß St. Martin, a church that defies the ages and stands as a living testament to the timeless allure of Cologne. Let its beauty and history enchant your senses as you embrace the spirit of this remarkable city.

6. The Rhine

Admission: Free

For the people of Cologne, the Rhine – their beloved “Rhing” – is an integral part of their identity, rivaling the significance of the iconic cathedral. This majestic river gracefully divides the city into the left bank, affectionately known as the “right” side, and the right bank, humorously referred to as the “wrong” side by the locals.

On the “right” side, you’ll discover a treasure trove of renowned Cologne attractions, including the cathedral, the enchanting Old Town, and a myriad of fascinating museums. Embrace the beauty of the Rheingarten, a scenic park and promenade that stretches from the Hohenzollern Bridge to the Deutzer Bridge, where locals and tourists alike bask in its tranquil ambiance. From here, embark on a leisurely Rhine round trip by boat, allowing you to soak in the city’s most famous landmarks with ease.

Cologne’s charms are abundant, making it nearly impossible to explore all its attractions in a single day. However, a Rhine round trip offers a delightful glimpse into the city’s highlights, providing you with an unforgettable experience.

In recent years, the Rheinboulevard on the “wrong” side has emerged as a captivating destination. With well-designed stairs and a spacious promenade, it beckons visitors to savor the summer breeze and revel in breathtaking vistas of the left bank, the Old Town, and the city’s many delights. The panoramic view from the Deutzer promenade is simply mesmerizing, leaving an indelible mark on all who visit.

The Rhine is a beloved playground for both humans and their furry companions. It’s one of the best Cologne attractions to experience with a dog, where your four-legged friend can frolic to their heart’s content. Whether you walk hand in paw or simply stroll alongside the river’s gentle currents, the Rhine offers an idyllic setting for creating cherished memories with your loyal companion.

So, embrace the heartwarming spirit of the Rhine and delve into the soul of Cologne. Let its enchanting waters carry you on a journey through the city’s past and present, where the timeless allure of this beloved river intertwines with the vibrant energy of modern life.

Tip: At the so-called “Rhodenkirchen Riviera,” you can experience pure vacation feeling. There is a fine sandy beach directly on the Rhine River. Numerous cozy spots invite you to relax and have a picnic. No longer a secret tip, but still one of the most beautiful sights in Cologne and its surroundings.

7. The Love Locks at the Hohenzollern Bridge

Address: Cannot be missed from Cologne Cathedral.
Admission: Free.

The Hohenzollern Bridge, the most renowned among the seven Rhine bridges, stands as a timeless testament to Cologne’s rich history. Constructed between 1907 and 1911 to alleviate the strain on the Cathedral Bridge, the Hohenzollern Bridge holds a unique distinction – it miraculously survived World War II, escaping the fate of destruction that befell its sister bridges.

During the war, the Wehrmacht chose to demolish the bridge themselves, a strategic move aimed at impeding the advancement of Allied troops. After the war’s end, the bridge underwent a transformation, emerging as a dedicated railway and pedestrian bridge, barring cars from crossing its grand expanse. However, the true allure of the Hohenzollern Bridge lies in a romantic tradition that has captured the hearts of countless couples.

With over 500,000 love locks adorning its railings, the Hohenzollern Bridge has become an emblem of everlasting love for couples from all corners of the world. Since around 2008, enamored pairs have made it a cherished tradition to fasten a padlock engraved with their names onto the bridge’s railings, symbolizing the eternal bond of their affection. In keeping with the custom’s origin in Italy, where young lovers attach locks to the Milvian Bridge, the key is ceremoniously tossed into the Rhine, signifying the permanence of their love.

While the sheer number of love locks once raised concerns about the bridge’s structural integrity, the locks continue to adorn the Hohenzollern Bridge, enhancing its reputation as one of the most romantic attractions in Cologne – especially for young couples who dream of eternal love.

For an enchanting experience, set forth on a leisurely walk across the bridge from the right bank of the Rhine. As you traverse its expanse, the panorama of the Old Town and the majestic Cologne Cathedral gradually unfolds before your eyes. This captivating view serves as an enduring reminder of the city’s splendor, evoking feelings of awe and wonder as you embrace the timeless beauty of Cologne.

8. The Cologne Carnival

Address: Throughout the city center of Cologne.
Admission: Free.

The heart of the Rhineland beats to the lively rhythm of the Cologne Carnival, a joyous celebration that embodies the spirit of the region like nothing else. With origins dating back to the Middle Ages, Carnival, or “Fastnacht,” has evolved into a cherished tradition that ignites the city with infectious energy and vibrant merriment.

As the “fifth season” commences each year on November 11th at 11:11 am in the old town, the revelry begins with the jubilant arrival of the “Cologne Dreigestirn.” Carnival music fills the air, setting the stage for the grand revelry that awaits. However, the real festivities erupt on Weiberfastnacht, the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, when the streets come alive with a colorful sea of “Jecken” (merrymakers) and revelers.

Caution is advised for men on Weiberfastnacht, as it is customary for women to playfully sever men’s ties, a lighthearted tradition symbolizing women’s temporary rule over the city.

The pinnacle of the Carnival extravaganza unfolds on Rose Monday, a spectacle that captivates young and old alike. The dazzling parade weaves its way from Chlodwigplatz to the old town, showcasing lavishly decorated floats that carry both political messages and satirical humor. The streets transform into a joyous haven, filled with singing, dancing, and the exuberant spirit of the “Jecken.”

For children, the Rose Monday parade holds a special allure, as the generous “Jecken” shower the crowd with sweets known as “Kamelle,” adding an extra sprinkle of delight to the festivities.

As Ash Wednesday dawns, the Carnival frenzy comes to a close, ushering in a period of fasting and reflection. But the memories of this vibrant celebration linger, leaving an indelible mark on the city and its people.

The Cologne Carnival is a time-honored tradition that celebrates the essence of the Rhineland – a spirit of joy, togetherness, and exuberant celebration. So, join in the revelry, don your most colorful attire, and embrace the magic of the Cologne Carnival – an unparalleled experience that will leave you enchanted and yearning for more. Alaaf!

9. Kölsch

What wheat beer is to the Bavarians and Alt is to the Düsseldorfers, Kölsch is to the people of Cologne.

Ah, Kölsch! This delightful beer defines the essence of Cologne’s beer culture. Served in slender, 0.2-liter glasses known as “Stange,” Kölsch boasts a mild and refreshing taste that locals and visitors alike savor.

When you order a Kölsch, you’ll be in the company of a friendly server called the “Köbes.” Keep an eye out for their circular tray, affectionately known as the “Kölschkranz,” adroitly carrying up to 18 glasses. These Köbes ensure your glass is always filled, encouraging a convivial and sociable atmosphere.

In Cologne’s beer halls and pubs, there’s a charming tradition associated with Kölsch. Once you finish a glass, the Köbes will promptly bring you another without the need for a new order. To signal that you’ve had your fill, simply place a coaster atop your glass, and the flow of Kölsch will gently subside.

As you savor this unique brew, you’ll be immersed in the warm camaraderie that defines Cologne’s beer culture. Prost! Raise your glass to the delightful tradition of Kölsch and the lively spirit of Cologne.

10. Südstadt

Address: the streets around Chlodwigplatz
Admission: free

Welcome to the Südstadt, Cologne’s Quintessential Neighborhood! A feeling rather than a defined area, the Südstadt is lovingly referred to as “Veedel” by the locals, akin to “neighborhood” in standard German, akin to Berlin’s “Kiez.” This vibrant urban blend embraces “Ur-Kölners,” newcomers, and global residents, creating a lively tapestry of cultures and stories.

In the summertime, the Südstadt truly comes alive as locals gather outdoors, savoring a refreshing glass of the iconic Kölsch beer and engaging in animated conversations. The neighborhood exudes a dynamic charm, adorned with small shops, cozy cafes, inviting pubs, and diverse restaurants.

Around Chlodwigplatz and its surroundings, a delightful array of vintage boutiques, traditional taverns, artisanal stores, and beer gardens beckon. As Carnival season approaches, the Südstadt transforms into a pulsating epicenter of revelry, radiating joy and festivity.

One of the Südstadt’s intriguing aspects lies in its preservation from World War II bombings, boasting historical facades that harken back to its founding era. This esteemed residential locale has captured the hearts of renowned figures like Anke Engelke, Gaby Köster, and Wolfgang Niedecken, who proudly call this vibrant Veedel their home. Explore the Südstadt and immerse yourself in the charm and character that embody the essence of Cologne.

11. Rheinauhafen

Address: Altstadt Süd
Admission: free

Just a stone’s throw away from the Südstadt, nestled along the scenic Rhine River, lies the vibrant Rheinauhafen. Once a bustling port, the Rheinauhafen found itself inadequate for the ever-growing Rhine ships. Consequently, in the 1980s, the decision was made to transform this industrial space into a visionary architectural marvel. Today, the Rheinauhafen showcases a contemporary, almost futuristic ambiance that captivates visitors with its unique allure.

Standing out among the architectural gems of the Rheinauhafen are the remarkable crane houses, resembling colorful Tetris blocks brought to life. These distinctive structures serve as home to luxury apartments and office spaces, bestowing upon the Rheinauhafen the well-deserved reputation of being Cologne’s most upscale district. Adding to its allure, the Rheinauhafen also boasts a marina, which further enhances its allure as a premier destination.

However, what truly sets the Rheinauhafen apart is its perfect harmony between old and new. Alongside the avant-garde constructions, historical buildings have been lovingly restored, creating a captivating blend of past and present. Embarking on a leisurely stroll along the Rheinauhafen unveils a world of delights. Galleries showcase breathtaking works of art, bars offer a cozy respite for a refreshing beverage, and restaurants entice visitors with tantalizing culinary creations.

The Rheinauhafen stands as a testament to Cologne’s ability to blend tradition and innovation, captivating visitors with its visionary architecture, lively atmosphere, and enticing culinary offerings.

Don’t miss the opportunity to savor a true Cologne experience while at the Rheinauhafen. Head to the Südkai, where the iconic currywurst stand from the beloved Cologne crime series, known as the “Wurstbraterei,” awaits. This local hotspot is a must-visit, providing a delicious taste of the city’s culinary traditions.

12. Chocolate Museum

Address: Am Schokoladenmuseum 1A, 50678 Cologne
Opening hours: 10 AM–6 PM
Admission: €11.50 (regular), €9 or €7.50 (reduced), children under 6 free

Indulgence awaits at Cologne’s most enchanting museum, the Chocolate Museum, drawing in approximately 650,000 visitors each year.

Nestled on a picturesque peninsula within the Rheinauhafen district, this delectable destination is not only a beloved haven for children but also a delight for visitors of all ages. Spanning across three floors and approximately 4,000 square meters of exhibition space, the Chocolate Museum is a captivating exploration of the world of chocolate, from its humble origins to its luscious finished form.

Embark on a fascinating journey as you delve into the secrets of chocolate, tracing its origins back to the cocoa tree and the cherished cocoa bean. The museum’s immersive exhibition takes you on a cultural voyage through time, unraveling the rich history of chocolate, from its revered place in the traditions of the Aztecs and Maya to its status as an everyday indulgence in our modern lives.

One of the museum’s highlights lies within its glass dome—a mesmerizing 3-meter high chocolate fountain. Behold the enchanting sight as cascades of velvety chocolate flow enticingly, and if you so desire, take the opportunity to taste its delectable offerings. For an even more immersive experience, guided tours and specially curated packages offer visitors the chance to create their own chocolate delights, becoming part of the chocolate-making process firsthand.

The Chocolate Museum stands as a veritable paradise for children, captivating their imaginations with its whimsical displays and interactive exhibits. It is undeniably one of Cologne’s premier attractions for families, promising moments of sheer joy and delight.

Discover the world of chocolate at the Chocolate Museum, where tantalizing aromas, mouthwatering samples, and captivating displays blend together to create an unforgettable experience.

13. Historic Town Hall Cologne

Address: Rathausplatz 2, 50667 Cologne
Admission: free (guided tours are chargeable)

Situated in the heart of Cologne’s city center, the historic Cologne Town Hall proudly stands as the oldest town hall in all of Germany. With its roots tracing back to the 12th century, this impressive structure has witnessed centuries of history and remains a cherished symbol of civic pride.

Originally constructed in the Gothic style during the 14th century, the Cologne Town Hall underwent transformations over time. Its crowning glory is the magnificent Renaissance arcade adorning the western facade—a true testament to the architectural brilliance of the era.

This distinctive feature is considered one of the most exemplary Renaissance artworks, capturing the imagination of both locals and visitors alike.

During the tumultuous period of World War II, the town hall endured severe damage, leaving the tower nearly destroyed. However, the resilient spirit of the Cologne residents prevailed, and the town hall underwent extensive restoration efforts, a testament to their commitment to preserving their cultural heritage. By the 1980s, the town hall stood once again in its full grandeur, with the tower now adorned with an array of 124 intricate figures.

A visit to the historic Cologne Town Hall unveils its captivating interior, including the Hansa Hall—a lavishly decorated space that once served as the council’s representation hall and the meeting place of the Hanseatic League. It stands as a testament to the city’s prosperous past and offers a glimpse into the opulence of bygone eras.

Just a stone’s throw away from the town hall lies another gem of Cologne’s cultural landscape—the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud. As the oldest museum in the city, it boasts an impressive collection that encompasses centuries of artistic mastery. Immerse yourself in the captivating world of medieval art, as the museum proudly houses the world’s largest collection of medieval paintings. From the Baroque to Romanticism, Realism to Impressionism, the museum spans a rich tapestry of artistic styles and periods.

Together with the Fondation Corboud, the museum complex is home to one of Germany’s largest and most significant painting galleries. Prepare to be enchanted by the masterpieces of renowned artists such as Rubens, Rembrandt, Manet, Monet, van Gogh, Renoir, and Gauguin, among others. The Graphical Cabinet is an unmissable highlight, showcasing exquisite drawings by the likes of Da Vinci, Dürer, Rubens, Liebermann, and Rodin.

For art enthusiasts and culture aficionados, the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud is a treasure trove that beckons exploration. Its vast collection of artistic treasures is a testament to Cologne’s commitment to preserving and celebrating the beauty of the visual arts.

Immerse yourself in the storied past of the Cologne Town Hall and discover the artistic wonders of the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud. These extraordinary cultural landmarks are undeniably among the most captivating attractions that Cologne has to offer.

14. Rheinpark

Address: on the right bank of the Rhine between Zoo and Hohenzollern bridges
Admission: free

Perched gracefully on the right bank of the majestic Rhine River, the Rheinpark emerges as one of Germany’s most enchanting green spaces. Steeped in a rich history that traces back to its creation during Prussian rule in the early 20th century, this picturesque park has evolved into a true haven of natural beauty and tranquility.

While the Rheinpark underwent significant transformation during the Federal Garden Show of 1957, its current splendor is a testament to the restorative efforts that have taken place over the years. Once a landscape scarred by past challenges, the park now boasts a stunning floodplain design that captivates visitors with its harmonious blend of serene meadows, expansive open spaces, and grand avenues of towering trees.

Glimmers of the garden show’s legacy still grace the park, with graceful fountains and vibrant flower beds serving as delightful reminders of its horticultural heritage.

A delightful feature of the Rheinpark is its beloved park railway, a charming attraction that has been encircling the park’s perimeter since the 1957 garden show. Embarking on a 2-kilometer journey, the park railway invites both young and old to embark on a whimsical adventure through this idyllic setting.

Today, the Rheinpark beckons locals and visitors alike to indulge in moments of relaxation, take leisurely strolls along its serene pathways, and partake in various sporting activities. For younger visitors, two playgrounds and a thrilling skateboard park provide endless entertainment and joy.

Undoubtedly, the Rheinpark has cemented its status as one of Cologne’s most beloved attractions. Its tranquil ambiance, verdant landscapes, and recreational offerings make it an oasis of serenity amidst the bustling cityscape. However, a visit to the Rheinpark would not be complete without experiencing its crowning jewel—the Cologne Cable Car.

Embarking on a breathtaking journey that spans a remarkable distance of 935 meters and reaches an impressive height of approximately 26 meters, the gondolas of the cable car effortlessly transport passengers from the left bank of the Rhine to the right bank, and vice versa. With each gentle sway and panoramic view, visitors are treated to a truly unforgettable experience that showcases the awe-inspiring beauty of the river and its surroundings.

Immerse yourself in the captivating allure of the Rheinpark, where nature’s splendor and human ingenuity intertwine harmoniously. Whether you seek moments of respite, exhilarating adventures, or simply a breath of fresh air, this beloved park promises an enchanting escape from the rigors of daily life.

15. The 12 Romanesque Churches

Admission free

Cologne, renowned as the city of carnival, holds another impressive title as the city of churches. While the Cathedral stands as the most renowned and grandest of them all, it is not the oldest. Within the historical city walls, Cologne proudly boasts 12 Romanesque churches, including the revered St. Gereon.

St. Gereon holds a significant place in history, with parts of the church dating back to the 4th century, making it one of the oldest churches in all of Germany. Another notable Romanesque gem is St. Andreas, a Dominican church located just a stone’s throw away from the Cathedral.

Following the ravages of the Second World War, St. Andreas served as a “replacement church” for the Cologne Cathedral during its extensive post-war repairs. Today, visitors have the opportunity to explore St. Andreas Church and its underground crypt, which are open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., free of charge.

16. Hahnentorburg – Hahnen Gate

Address: Rudolfpl. 1, 50674 Köln, Germany
Admission: free

One of the remnants from the Middle Ages is the Hahnentorburg. In the 13th century, the Hahnentor was part of the eight-kilometer-long city wall of Cologne at the time. The Hahnentor served as a gate to the city and a defensive castle at the same time.

For centuries, kings and emperors entered the city through this gate. Unfortunately, you cannot visit the interior, but if you want to celebrate your birthday or wedding in Cologne, you can rent the Hahnentorburg as an event location.

You can find the Hahnentor in the middle of Rudolfplatz. From here, the Hohenzollernring runs north, where you’ll find plenty of options to turn night into day on the weekends.

My tip: One of the most beautiful Christmas markets takes place every year at Rudolfplatz. So, if you’re in Cologne in December, you should definitely stop for a mulled wine at Rudolfplatz.

17. Eigelstein Torburg

Address: Eigelstein 135, 50668 Köln, Germany
Opening hours: Monday – 9 AM–12 PM, Tuesday – 2–7 PM
Admission: free

Another city gate from the Middle Ages is the Eigelstein Torburg in the northern part of the city center. The street running under the gate still dates back to Roman times.

Napoleon Bonaparte marched into the city through this gate under cannon fire and ringing bells in 1804. So you are walking on super-historic pavement here.

Unfortunately, you can’t visit the interior of this monument, but even from the outside, the city gate castle is pretty impressive.

My tip: Just a few meters from the Eigelstein Torburg is the oldest Cologne brewery: Em Kölsche Boor.

18. Alter Markt

Address: Alter Markt 18, 50667 Köln, Germany
Admission: free

The Alter Markt is probably the oldest of Cologne’s squares. “Probably” because it is not clear how old it actually is. The earliest records, however, date back to 922.

Just a few meters south of the cathedral, the Alter Markt is the center of the tourist old town. Around it, you can find shops, cafes, restaurants, breweries, and Cologne City Hall, whose origins date back to the 12th century.

The Alter Markt is really very touristy, but you should at least take a short stroll through it. While strolling through the old town alleys, pay attention to passages on the left and right. If you discover one, go in! Often you end up in idyllic courtyards with nice restaurants or even more idyllic mini lanes.

19. Belgian Quarter & Hohenzollernring

The trendy Belgian Quarter has been located in the western part of the city center for years. Around the Brüsseler Platz, you can find numerous cafes, pubs, galleries, and small fashion boutiques. The Belgian Quarter was largely spared during World War II.

Therefore, you can stroll through streets with a lot of old building charm here. It is not without reason that it is now one of the most popular and expensive residential areas in Cologne. On the Brüsseler Platz in front of the Romanesque St. Michael’s Church, you can also relax in the shade of the trees, even in the height of summer.

For street art fans, the Belgian Quarter has a lot to offer. You can find small and larger treasures on many corners of the house walls. Sometimes just smeared first attempts, sometimes simply beautiful, and sometimes political and critical.

My tip: Since they have become increasingly rare, I would also like to introduce you to a record store in the Belgian Quarter. At “Parallel” on Brabanter Straße, you will find a large selection, much of it at bargain prices. All music genres are represented here, and the selection is huge. Personally, as a vinyl enthusiast with a turntable in my living room, I can browse here for hours.

If you want to have a relaxed Kölsch, the Belgian Quarter is the right place for you. If you are looking for a little nightlife action, you should take a look around the Hohenzollernring. Between Friesenplatz and Rudolfplatz, you will find cocktail bars and small clubs where you can dance until dawn. You can find many other opportunities to go out around Friesenplatz.

20. Melaten Cemetery

Address: Aachener Str. 204, 50931 Köln, Germany
Opening Hours: 7 AM–8 PM

Just a short stroll west of the vibrant Belgian Quarter, you’ll stumble upon an intriguing place – the grandest and most ancient cemetery in Cologne.

Melaten Cemetery is not only a final resting place for numerous Cologne luminaries but also harbors a unique landmark: The Grim Reaper himself! This life-sized sculpture of the Grim Reaper, with his scythe and hourglass, casts an eerie yet captivating presence over the cemetery grounds.

As you wander through the protected graves and serene avenues, keep an eye out for the playful inhabitants of Melaten – squirrels and foxes who have made this cemetery their home.

For a deeper understanding of the cemetery’s history and the notable figures who find eternal repose here, I highly recommend joining a guided tour of Melaten Cemetery. Let the knowledgeable guides unveil the secrets and stories that lie beneath the tombstones, adding a fascinating layer to your visit.

21. Cologne Zoo

Address: Riehler Str. 173, 50735 Köln, Germany
Opening Hours: 9 AM–6 PM
Admission: 23 Euro

Cologne Zoo was opened as early as 1860 and is one of the oldest zoos in Germany. In addition to the actual zoo inhabitants such as elephants, monkeys, and hippos, there are often wild animals such as grey herons and foxes that have made the zoo their home.

With over one million visitors annually, there is always a lot going on at the Cologne Zoo. Especially on weekends, countless families with children flock to the zoo.

The main entrance is located at Riehler Straße 173, and the side entrance can be found on the north side of the zoo on Riehler Gürtel. There are ticket counters at both entrances where you can buy your ticket. To avoid waiting times, you can also purchase your ticket online.

With the Cologne Card, you get a 15% discount.

22. Flora Botanical Garden & Sculpture Park

Address: Alter Stammheimer Weg, 50735 Köln, Germany
Opening Hours: 8 AM–9 PM
Admission: free

For botanists or simply for a break in between, the Flora Botanical Garden with its plant show houses is perfect. Although the latter are currently being renovated and will not be accessible until around 2023, a visit is still worthwhile.

You can stroll around excellently among the 12,000 plant species from all over the world. In the middle, in the “Palais im Park” building, you will also find a beer garden that opens in summer from 11:30 am. The Flora itself is open daily from 8:00 am until dusk.

In summer, the park closes no later than 9:00 pm. Just a few meters from the Flora is the sculpture park. Here, numerous sculptures in the form of cacti, animals, fried eggs, and other bizarre constructions are scattered around.

There is no permanent exhibition, most of the exhibits are exchanged after a maximum of two years. So, as a repeat visitor, you can always discover something new.

23. Dufthaus 4711

Address: Glockengasse 4, 50667 Köln, Germany
Opening Hours: weekdays 9:30 AM–6:30 PM
Saturday – 9:30 AM–6 PM
Sunday – Closed

Since 1792, the world-famous Eau de Cologne has been produced here. The most famous brand among the original Eau de Cologne is 4711, which has been one of the bestsellers in the perfume world for over 200 years.

In the fragrance house, you can discover the many different facets of the brand and also learn a lot about the rollercoaster history of the real Eau de Cologne.

In the fragrance house shop, you can get a 10 percent discount with the Köln Card on a purchase of 25 euros or more.

If you are in the vicinity on a Saturday, take part in the guided tour of the fragrance house. The one-hour tour starts at 1:00 p.m. in the shop. It costs 7.50 euros and you need to register beforehand with the fragrance house. You can do that here:

Guided tour of the fragrance house

Every Saturday at 2:30 p.m., you have the opportunity to create your own Eau de Cologne as part of a fragrance seminar. Participation costs 40 euros per person, and you also need to register beforehand.

Fragrance seminar

Once a month, there is the Fragrance Menu. In the middle of the fragrance house museum, you can enjoy your 4-course menu while the flavors are supported in various ways by scent. Unfortunately, it is not cheap, but for 95 euros plus drinks, you can expect a truly extraordinary evening.

24. Sport and Olympia Museum

Address: Im Zollhafen 1, 50678 Köln, Germany
Opening hours: 10 AM–6 PM (closed on Mondays)
Admission: 8 euros.

Next to the Chocolate Museum in the Rheinauhafen, you can find the German Sports and Olympic Museum. An amusing combination, indeed.

The museum opened in 1999 in a listed former customs hall and is dedicated to the almost 3000-year-old history of sports. Great athletes, outstanding victories, and bitter defeats are staged and constantly updated.

You can get a 20 percent discount with the Köln Card.

25. Cologne Triangle

Address: Ottopl. 1, 50679 Köln, Germany
Opening Hours: 11 AM–8 PM
Admission: 5 euros

Since 2006, the high-rise building on the right bank of the Rhine, opposite the cathedral, has been open and offers a bird’s eye view of the city from the rooftop terrace at a height of 103 meters.

My tip: Go up for sunset. This way, you’ll get the best view and the best photos.

Unfortunately, there are no online tickets available for the viewing platform of the Köln Triangle. You can only buy tickets at the entrance for direct access.

26. Time Ride Alter Markt

Address: Alter Markt 36-42, 50667 Köln, Germany
Opening Hours: 9 AM–6:15 PM, Friday, Saturday & Sunday 10:15 AM–6:15 PM
Admission: 14.50 euros

Right on the Alter Markt, you can take a journey through old Cologne. At Time Ride, you’ll first see some photos that compare different places in Cologne over several centuries. After a short introduction, you’ll watch a film about Cologne’s history, including how badly it was destroyed after World War II. The highlight comes at the end: you’ll ride in a historic tram with a virtual reality headset through a Cologne from another time.

Attention, glasses wearers: wider frames unfortunately do not fit under the virtual reality headset. If you also wear contact lenses, it’s better to wear them for your visit to Time Ride. Overall, you should plan about 45 minutes for your visit to Time Ride.

You can buy tickets online in advance at Get your Guide or directly at the box office. With the Cologne Card, you’ll get a few euros off at the box office.

27. Cable car

Address: Riehler Str. 180, 50735 Köln, Germany
Admission Single ride: 5 euros Round trip: 8 euros

From April to October, you can float over the Rhine between the zoo and Rheinpark with the cable car. The ride is very short at just under 7 minutes, but it offers a great view of the city. Due to high demand, there is now a golden wedding gondola where you can tie the knot.

With the Köln Card, the round trip ticket costs 7 euros.

28. River cruise on the Rhine

A boat trip is always a good idea! I highly recommend the three-hour boat tour on a beautiful day. On the tour, you will learn more about the history of the Rheinauhafen. Additionally, the excursion boats will take you to the Deutzer Hafen, Hafen Mühlheim, and one of the largest inland ports in Germany, the Containerhafen Niehl.

The ships only operate in summer, from May to September. It is best to order tickets online in advance, especially on weekends, as the boat tour is often very busy.

29. The Cologne Breweries

“Hopfen und Malz, Gott erhalts” (“Hops and malt, God preserve them”) is written above the entrance to Peters Brauhaus. A quite appropriate request, given the Kölsch beer tradition.

Only beer brewed in Cologne may be called Kölsch. This has enabled numerous small breweries to survive in the fiercely competitive beer market to this day.

A visit to a brewery should definitely be part of your visit to Cologne. You shouldn’t miss out on the rustic ambiance and the traditionally grumpy Köbes (waiter).

The breweries are also an excellent place to eat. Home-style cooking and classics like the Halve Hahn (rye bread roll with cheese and onions) are offered all day in many breweries.

My personal favorites are Sünner im Walfisch near the Alter Markt, Hellers Brauhaus at Zülpicher Platz and Früh em Veedel located in southern Cologne. Various brewery tours are also offered in Cologne, where you can visit different breweries in a small group with a guide, taste the beers, and learn a lot about the traditions.

30. Tünnes & Schäl

Address: Lintgasse 9, 50667 Köln, Germany
Admission: Free

The quick-witted and usually irreverent Kölsch cult figures Tünnes and Schäl are known beyond the city limits. And that even though they never actually existed.

Tünnes was introduced by the Cologne native Johann Christian Winter as early as 1803. In 1850, Franz Millowitsch, the grandfather of Willi Millowitch, introduced the character of Schäl.

Tünnes, the crafty and rustic farmer with the snub nose, and the elegant Schäl in tails make for a strange duo. Whenever it comes to humorous, Cologne-specific characteristics, the two are still integrated into speeches and jokes today.

Just around the corner from the Alter Markt, in Lintgasse, the life-size bronze figures of Tünnes and Schäl stand.

This concludes my list of the Top Places to Visit in Cologne: Best Landmarks and Attractions. See you in Cologne!