List of Places to Visit in Cologne

This venerable cathedral city on the Rhine River stands as one of the foremost commercial and cultural hubs in western Germany. Cologne (Köln in German) is renowned for its 12 magnificent Romanesque churches, particularly the splendid Cologne Cathedral. For visitors, the city’s highlights, including these churches, are conveniently accessible from the historic Old Town.

Cologne’s origins date back to the first century CE, founded as a Roman provincial capital and fortress. Its allure for tourists lies in the remnants from its extensive history, spanning various eras.

1- Visit Majestic Cologne Cathedral

Positioned near the Rhine’s left bank, Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) is a landmark of the city. This High Gothic architectural masterpiece, officially named the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Mary (Hohe Domkirche Sankt Petrus), is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

One of Europe’s largest cathedrals, its construction began in 1248, marking it as the Middle Ages’ most ambitious project. Notable for its 157-meter-tall twin towers, the cathedral’s interior, covering an area of 6,166 square meters and supported by 56 pillars, is filled with treasures like the 12th-century Reliquary of the Three Kings, the Adoration of the Kings relief from 1440, and a Treasure Chamber housing ancient relics and manuscripts.

The south tower provides panoramic views, accessible by over 500 steps, and offers a close-up view of the cathedral’s famous bells. English-language guided tours are available, covering both the interior and roof.

Visitors can also attend various events, including concerts and services; check the cathedral’s website for any closures before visiting.

2- Explore Historic Old Town Cologne

Venturing through Cologne’s city center, you’ll encounter the charming Old Town (Altstadt), home to historic churches like Great St. Martin and alleys lined with traditional houses now hosting boutique shops, galleries, cafés, and restaurants.

The Old Town also offers scenic paths along the Rhine, adorned with numerous monuments and fountains, and an Archaeological Zone showcasing Roman-era ruins, including the Praetorium and a section of a nearly 2,000-year-old Roman sewage system.

3- Cologne City Hall (Town Hall)

Cologne’s historic City Hall, in the Old Town area, stands as Germany’s oldest public building, constructed in 1573. It reflects various architectural influences, including the 14th-century main building, the 15th-century tower, and a Renaissance-style loggia and cloister.

Highlights include the Hansasaal, or Hanseatic Hall, featuring Gothic figures of eight prophets and nine “good heroes,” and a carillon that plays three times daily.

4- Hop Aboard a Rhine River Cruise

Experiencing Cologne from the Rhine provides unparalleled views of key landmarks, including Cologne Cathedral’s twin spires and the picturesque Old Town. Evening and dinner cruises offer views of the city illuminated at night.

5- The Wallraf-Richartz & Ludwig Museums

Art enthusiasts should visit both the Wallraf-Richartz Museum and the Ludwig Museum, showcasing a broad range of European paintings, including works by Rembrandt, Manet, and Renoir. The Wallraf-Richartz Museum focuses on the Cologne school, while the Ludwig Museum specializes in modern and contemporary painting.

6- NS Documentation Center of the City of Cologne

This center offers a detailed account of life under the Nazi regime, set in the actual building where the Gestapo held prisoners. It aims to humanize the effects of the police state, focusing on individual stories and the long aftermath of the Nazi era.

7- Monkey Around at Cologne Zoological Gardens

One of Germany’s oldest zoos, Cologne Zoo features historic menagerie buildings and modern facilities, offering a unique look into the evolution of zoological gardens.

8- Get a Bird’s-Eye View of Cologne from a Cable Car

The first European cable car to cross a river, the Cologne cable car, offers spectacular views of the Old Town and Cologne Cathedral. Additional panoramic views are available from Cologne Telecommunications Tower and KölnTriangle.

9- Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth at the Cologne Chocolate Museum

Founded in 1972 by Hans Imhoff, the museum explores chocolate’s journey from bean to bar, with interactive displays, antique chocolate boxes, and live production line demonstrations.

10- Flora and Botanical Garden

Established in the 19th century, this garden spans 11.5 hectares and houses over 10,000 plant species, providing a beautiful setting for learning about plants or enjoying the arranged flower beds throughout the growing season.

11- The Roman-Germanic Museum

A short stroll from Cologne Cathedral, the Roman-Germanic Museum (Römisch-Germanisches Museum) presents an intriguing exploration of the city’s extensive archaeological history from the Paleolithic era to the early Middle Ages.

Key exhibits include the Dionysus Mosaic from the 2nd century and the towering funerary monument of Poblicius from the 1st century, both uncovered during city excavations. The museum also houses additional mosaics, Roman glassware, household pottery, sculptures, and Roman and Germanic jewelry.

12- Visit Brühl’s Augustusburg and Falkenlust Palaces

Located in the scenic town of Brühl, just 15 kilometers south of Cologne, is Augustusburg Castle. This 18th-century palace, once the residence of the Archbishop of Cologne, stands out for its extravagant Late Baroque/Rococo style, particularly its splendid staircase hall. The palace, alongside the Falkenlust Palace built in 1740 within the same park, forms part of a World Heritage site. The park also hosts outdoor concerts and festivals.

Brühl additionally features museums and historic sites like the one dedicated to surrealist artist Max Ernst, as well as the theme park Phantasialand, offering attractions such as a cable car, Viking boat trip, monorail, and a replica of old Berlin, enjoyable for children.

13- St. Gereon’s Basilica

St. Gereon’s Basilica (Basilika Sankt Gereon), a Romanesque structure, stands out as Cologne’s most distinctive church. Constructed atop a 7th-century church foundation, the current building from the 12th century includes a decagonal domed section from Roman times. Named after Saint Gereon, this Roman Catholic church features a notably elongated choir, medieval murals, mosaics, and ancient relics.

14- Altenberg Cathedral

Altenberg Cathedral (Altenberger Dom), situated six kilometers from Cologne, exemplifies Early Gothic architecture in the Rhineland. Despite its colloquial title of “cathedral,” it never served as a bishop’s seat but gained the designation due to its grand scale. Shared by Protestant and Catholic congregations, this church, built in 1259, is adorned with Gothic stained glass and houses the tombs of princes and abbots.

15- Discover Design at the Museum of Applied Art

The Museum of Applied Art (Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln), located southwest of Cologne Cathedral, was established in 1888. It’s celebrated for its expansive collection of over 100,000 items of applied and decorative arts from the medieval period to the present. The museum’s diverse exhibits include jewelry, furniture, porcelain, weaponry, and armor, alongside architectural displays.

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