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10 Best Things to See and Do in Cologne, Germany

Boasting more than 2,000 years of history, Cologne sits on the river Rhine and is known for its Roman remains, medieval churches, cosy pubs and fascinating museums. From strolling its picturesque Old Town to taking a cruise on the river or snapping a photo of its iconic cathedral, this vibrant cultural center offers plenty of attractions to keep you busy throughout your stay. Read on to discover the best things to see and do in Cologne, Germany.

Climb to the top of Cologne Cathedral Gothic Cathedral in Cologne
Credit: Gothic Cathedral in Cologne by Bigstock.com

Climb to the top of Cologne Cathedral

The first stop on most itineraries of Cologne, the Cologne Cathedral is one of the most visited landmarks in the country. Sitting near the left bank of the Rhine, this towering beauty boasts twin spires that dominate the city’s skyline. Take a trip to the top for panoramic views from its top, where you’ll be glad you made the effort after its 509 steps. After seeing the views, explore its interior to discover the intricate features of this UNESCO-listed site that dates back to 1248, including stained glass windows from the 1500s.

Explore Old Town

A lovely part of the city, Cologne’s Old Town offers you the chance to wander down cobblestone alleys as you reach plazas like Heumarkt and Altermarkt. Stop on Am Hof to see its fountain that dates back to 1899, then admire old churches like Great St. Martin or pop into the array of boutique shops, galleries, cafes and restaurants that are now housed in the traditional shops. Snap a photo of Cologne’s Old Town Hall, the Kolner Rathaus, as it is the dates back more than 900 years.

Take a Rhine River Cruise

One of the best ways to get acquainted with the city is on a scenic river cruise. Capture views of the city’s most iconic landmarks on a boat, where you’ll get unparalleled views of the Cologne Cathedral, the stunning buildings that line the Old Town, the new Rheinauhaufen district and the famed Hohenzollern Bridge. You can also enjoy a night cruise to see the city illuminated by lights, while river dinner cruises offer you a chance to enjoy a memorable buffet while soaking up the views.

Marvel at art in Ludwig Museum Ludwig Museum
Credit: Ludwig Museum by facebook.com

Marvel at art in Ludwig Museum

A must for any art enthusiasts, the Ludwig Museum houses a number of Picasso’s paintings in its galleries, as its known for its works from Pop Art, Abstract and Surrealism. Step inside the metal-glass building to find the biggest pop-art array outside of the United States, including big-name artists like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and surrealist Salvador Dali. Make sure to see Warhol’s “Brillo Boxes” and Roy Lichtenstein’s “Maybe”, then visit the Sammlung Haubrich collection that covers Expressionist art.

Sample treats in the Chocolate Museum

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, Cologne’s Chocolate Museum will be a real treat. This fun yet educational attraction appeals to the entire family, where you can learn how chocolate is made, then be rewarded with a few samples to try. You’ll be able to follow the journey of cocoa beans from tropical greenhouses to the factory and marvel at the chocolate fountains and shelves of truffles. Kids will love the interactive displays, a collection of molds and antique chocolate boxes and wrappers in addition to the chance to design their own chocolate bar to take home.

See exotic animals at Cologne Zoological Garden Cologne Zoological Garden
Credit: Cologne Zoological Garden by facebook.com

See exotic animals at Cologne Zoological Garden

Take a break from the city’s bustle with a trip to Cologne Zoological Garden, a 50-acre oasis that features over 7,000 animals of more than 700 species. Founded in 1860, it is one of Germany’s oldest zoological gardens, which can be seen in its collection of 19th-century Moorish-style elephant house and a historic birdhouse that resembles a traditional Russian church. Make sure to see the mock rainforest in Ape Island, marvel at the aquarium and say hello to the big cats.

Admire colorful displays at the Botanical Garden

Sitting north of the city, the Botanical Garden is next to the zoo and is one of the prettiest parks in Cologne. Established in the 19th century, the garden is home to more than 10,000 species of plants. It’s a perfect excursion in spring or when the sun is shining, where you can wander around the perfectly landscaped gardens to admire its colorful flowers, greenhouses and lawns. Don’t miss the Mediterranean garden that sits next to a tranquil pond and the Italian Renaissance garden, Subtropical House and Cactus House.

Ride roller coasters at Phantasialand Phantasialand
Credit: Phantasialand by facebook.com

Ride roller coasters at Phantasialand

If you’ve got a need for speed or just want to escape the city for some adrenaline-pumping fun, head to Phantasialand for a day of rides. The variety of rides and attractions will entertain you for an entire day, as it showcases different parts of the world on its themed rides. It’s one of the largest theme parks in Europe, known for its cable car, Viking boat trip, monorail and reproduction of old Berlin. Get ready for headfirst loops, rapid drops and vertical falls, and in summer you’ll even find refreshing splashes included.

Follow your nose to the Fragrance Museum

Did you know that Cologne is where Eau de Cologne was invented? You can learn all about its history at the Fragrance Museum, where scents and perfumes were perfected back in the 18th century. Take a tour to get a behind-the-scenes look at the process in the oldest intact perfume factory in the world, where you can enter the vaults and see the laboratory equipment. Afterwards, head to the 4711 shop nearby and try your hand at creating your own scent.

Time your visit for one of its annual events Cologne
Credit: Cologne by GaleriBundaNayLa

Time your visit for one of its annual events

One of the most delightful times of the year, Christmas in Cologne means you can wander through traditional markets. Shop at the stands that line the streets and admire the strings of light that illuminate the area, including the densely-packed market held under the looming cathedral each year, where you can sip on Gluhwein and sample traditional treats. Of course, Oktoberfest is another beloved time of year, where you can dress up in your favorite Dirndl and Lederhosen, drink pints of local beer and sample regional specialties.

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