Cologne travel guide

Cologne Tourism | Cologne Guide

You're Going to Love Cologne

2,000 years of history live in Cologne, from the skyline still dominated by the High Gothic twin spires of the Cologne Cathedral to the sleek post-modern architecture of its rejuvenated waterfront.

Kölsch is a local type of beer, and it's also a word that is used to describe the carefree way of life of the city; it's a place with an upbeat, fun-loving spirit. When you drink kölsch at a local beer hall or tavern, the waiters will keep serving you until you cover the top of your glass with your coaster.

Carnival season is often called the "fifth season" in Cologne, and it begins on November 11 at 11:11 am, resuming after a Christmas break and peaking with Rose Monday, two days before Ash Wednesday, with a parade.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Cologne

1. The History

There are monuments to various periods of history everywhere you turn in Cologne, including architectural features like the Roman wall monument. The Museum Schnütgen houses a renowned collection of medieval art in a former church. If you're a fan of ancient history, the Roman-Germanic Museum include exhibits of art and architecture from Roman and medieval times.

2. The Architecture

The Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the most famous of the city's collection of gorgeous High Gothic architecture buildings. Work began on the towering twin spires and ornate stonework of the cathedral in 1248 and was only completed in 1880. There are also many lovely Romanesque churches to view that also date from the Middle Ages, along with post-war buildings, and examples of avant-garde and postmodern design.

3. Rhineland Beauty

The Rhine-Ruhr area is Germany's industrial hub, but it is also a captivating area where the Rhine River winds along green banks, with a green belt of parkland that circles the city. A river cruise is one of the best ways to get stunning panoramic views of the city and the surrounding area.

4. The Arts

Cologne is home to a lively theater and performing arts scene, along with many world class galleries and museums. The Käthe Kollwitz Museum houses a unique collection of the renowned modern artist's work. The Museum Ludwig features modern art from various eras, including one of the largest Picasso collections in Europe.

5. Food and Drink

The area is part of the Middle Rhine wine growing area, known for producing wonderful Rieslings and other white wines. There is a thriving local cuisine based on meats and local produce, including specialties like Himmel und Erde, or mashed potatoes with apples, usually served with black pudding, or the many varieties of sausage.

What to do in Cologne

1. Kölner Dom: Icon of the City

Once the tallest structure in the world, the cathedral is a 13th-century wonder of construction, the jaw-dropping facade as dwarfing as the vaulted interior. This gothic marvel is also home to intriguing treasures and relics, such as the Shrine of the Three Kings. Don't forget to climb up and glance over the city from the southern spire, or take a walk around the monument to discover the Hohenzollern Bridge, smothered in love locks.

2. Altstadt: Days of Past and Present

The west bank of Medieval Cologne was defended by great wall fortifications, whose gates protect a maze of cobbled streets punctuated by romanesque churches to this day. This rich past is complimented by a bounty of museums: discover the art collections of the Ludwig, the Wallraf-Richartz, the Kolumba, or the history of the fragrance named after the city. There's even a chocolate museum!

3. Belgisches Viertel: Eat, Play, Drink

This up-and-coming studen neighborhood is a definite favorite among locals. A trip to the Belgian Quarter showcases the life of the city, teeming with hip bars, good eats and boutique shops galore. On warm nights, Brüsseler Platz, the square home to the neo-roman St. Michael's Church, transforms into a festive open-air gathering point for anyone hitting the town.

4. Kölner Zoo: Immersive Animal Kingdom

World-renowned home to over 10,000 animals, the Cologne Zoo offers one of the greatest experiences of its kind in Europe. Elephants, jungle cats, tropical birds, even the fish enjoy vast habitats with state-of-the-art viewing opportunities for visitors. Endangered species like the bonobo and snow tiger are unique sights. If time allows, make sure not to miss the nearby botanical gardens either.

5. Rheinpark: R&R by the Rhine

The 100 acres of Rheinpark deliver beautiful landscapes by the river, featuring a beach club, the Tanzbrunnen open-air theater and, most impressively, the roman-style Claudius-Therme baths. From April to October, a cable car directly connects the park to the Zoo and Flora across the river, with phenomenal views all the way.

1. Kölner Dom: Icon of the City

Once the tallest structure in the world, the cathedral is a 13th-century wonder of construction, the jaw-dropping facade as dwarfing as the vaulted interior. This gothic marvel is also home to intriguing treasures and relics, such as the Shrine of the Three Kings. Don't forget to climb up and glance over the city from the southern spire, or take a walk around the monument to discover the Hohenzollern Bridge, smothered in love locks.

2. Altstadt: Days of Past and Present

The west bank of Medieval Cologne was defended by great wall fortifications, whose gates protect a maze of cobbled streets punctuated by romanesque churches to this day. This rich past is complimented by a bounty of museums: discover the art collections of the Ludwig, the Wallraf-Richartz, the Kolumba, or the history of the fragrance named after the city. There's even a chocolate museum!

3. Belgisches Viertel: Eat, Play, Drink

This up-and-coming studen neighborhood is a definite favorite among locals. A trip to the Belgian Quarter showcases the life of the city, teeming with hip bars, good eats and boutique shops galore. On warm nights, Brüsseler Platz, the square home to the neo-roman St. Michael's Church, transforms into a festive open-air gathering point for anyone hitting the town.

4. Kölner Zoo: Immersive Animal Kingdom

World-renowned home to over 10,000 animals, the Cologne Zoo offers one of the greatest experiences of its kind in Europe. Elephants, jungle cats, tropical birds, even the fish enjoy vast habitats with state-of-the-art viewing opportunities for visitors. Endangered species like the bonobo and snow tiger are unique sights. If time allows, make sure not to miss the nearby botanical gardens either.

5. Rheinpark: R&R by the Rhine

The 100 acres of Rheinpark deliver beautiful landscapes by the river, featuring a beach club, the Tanzbrunnen open-air theater and, most impressively, the roman-style Claudius-Therme baths. From April to October, a cable car directly connects the park to the Zoo and Flora across the river, with phenomenal views all the way.

Where to Eat in Cologne

For authentic German cuisine, look to Bei Oma Kleinmann - named after the woman who ran the kitchen until age 95 - for delicious schnitzel and other dishes from EUR13. Sorgenfrei combines a casual vibe with fine-dining perfectionism in the Belgian Quarter, with a four-course dinner menu that starts at EUR35 per person. With an artistic dining room decor, Hanse Stube offers fine dining with a menu that changes daily, with portions starting at about EUR45. While the culinary offerings include the finest of upscale fare, you may just have your best meal at a pub, including specialties like sausage, potato fritters, or pork knuckle.

When to visit Cologne

Cologne in January
Estimated hotel price
£61
1 night at 3-star hotel
Cologne in January
Estimated hotel price
£61
1 night at 3-star hotel

There is pleasant weather in Cologne from early spring through late fall, with some humidity in the summer months. The fall offers the best bargains for tourists. Carnival season, which begins in November, and the many Christmas markets, draw tourists during the off season.

Data provided by weatherbase
Temperatures
Temperatures
Average
Celcius (°C)
Data provided by weatherbase

How to Get to Cologne

Plane

The Cologne Bonn Airport (CGN) lies just over nine miles from the city center. A typical taxi trip from the airport to the downtown area costs about EUR27 for a 15-minute ride. The Intercity-Express or high-speed ICE rail network leaves from a station inside the airport directly to the city center for about EUR8. You can also catch the Regional Express (RE) and urban trains (S-Bahn), and there is a subway station at the airport too.

Train

Köln Hauptbahnhof is a regional and international hub for rail travel, connecting with the national ICE high-speed network. The RegionalExpress, RegionalBahn and local S-Bahn trains, along with EuroNight and DB NachtZug night services all use the main terminal. Connections are available to Frankfurt and many other destinations in Germany and through Europe.

Car

The Cologne Beltway is a hub of highways that circle the city, including Bundesautobahn 1, Bundesautobahn 3, and Bundesautobahn 4. Cologne lies within an hour's distance of many other German cities in the industrial area, such as Düsseldorf, and Dortmund. Cologne is less than 50 miles from Belgium, and about 120 miles from Frankfurt, making it an easy stop in a multi-city vacation.

Bus

The Cologne Central Station handles local, intercity, and international bus and train services. Long distance bus travel to Cologne is a budget-priced option from many European locations, with bus trips from the UK starting at only EUR27. Companies with service to Cologne include FlixBus and Megabus.

Airlines serving Cologne

Lufthansa
Good (1,371 reviews)
United Airlines
Good (2,464 reviews)
American Airlines
Good (3,898 reviews)
KLM
Good (292 reviews)
Air France
Good (295 reviews)
Turkish Airlines
Good (1,075 reviews)
Delta
Excellent (2,657 reviews)
British Airways
Good (937 reviews)
SWISS
Excellent (357 reviews)
Qatar Airways
Good (930 reviews)
Iberia
Good (667 reviews)
Air Canada
Good (640 reviews)
Emirates
Excellent (662 reviews)
Austrian Airlines
Good (196 reviews)
TAP AIR PORTUGAL
Good (367 reviews)
Brussels Airlines
Good (74 reviews)
Ryanair
Good (1,165 reviews)
Scandinavian Airlines
Good (305 reviews)
Etihad Airways
Good (201 reviews)
Finnair
Good (449 reviews)
Show more

Where to stay in Cologne

The mid-priced Conti Hotel offers clean, comfortable rooms in a friendly, family-run atmosphere. The Hopper Hotel Et Cetera in Cologne is housed in a former monastery that was built in 1893, while the Hyatt Regency Cologne overlooks the iconic cathedral, with spacious modern rooms and upscale amenities.

Popular neighbourhoods in Cologne

Altstadt – Cologne's old town centers around the Cathedral, and includes historic sites like the Romanesque church of Groß St. Martin, the Roman Dionysus Mosaic, and the Mikveh, a Jewish ritual bath. This is where you'll be able to explore Cologne's famed beer culture first hand, from hoisting a mug in huge beer halls like Peters Brauhaus to savoring the wares in microbreweries like Braustelle.

The Belgian Quarter – this area has developed into a stylish neighborhood with Art Nouveau buildings and a relaxed, cafe culture along with multicultural food offerings. Brüsseler Platz is a favorite place for the younger generation of locals to hang out and have fun on summer evenings.

Ehrenfeld – this hip inner-city neighborhood is known for its bohemian vibe, with street art along Senefelderstrasse, and cool independent boutiques and restaurants. It's the place to relax and check out art galleries in between coffee breaks, wine tasting, and sampling the local cuisine.

Most popular hotel in Cologne by neighbourhood

Where to stay in popular areas of Cologne

Most booked hotels in Cologne

Althoff Grandhotel Schloss Bensberg
Excellent (9.2, Excellent reviews)
£162+
Steigenberger Hotel Köln
Excellent (8.3, Excellent reviews)
£81+
Novotel Köln City
Excellent (8.1, Excellent reviews)
£77+
Dorint Hotel am Heumarkt Köln
Excellent (8, Excellent reviews)
£109+
Maritim Hotel Köln
Good (7.8, Good reviews)
£92+
Leonardo Hotel Köln
Good (7.6, Good reviews)
£67+
See all hotels

How to Get Around Cologne

Public Transportation

There is an extensive network of buses and trams that cover the city. Fares are determined on a zone basis. The KölnCard is available to tourists for 24 hours' unlimited travel on the system and up to 50 percent savings at many attractions for EUR9 per person, or EUR19 for up to five people.

Taxi

Taxis are plentiful in Cologne, many of them cream-colored Mercedes sedans. A trip of five miles should cost you about EUR19.

Car

Cologne is a relatively small city where you can walk to many of its attractions, making a car rental a luxury. Companies like Enterprise and Sixt are available, with a compact rental starting at about EUR35 per day. Street parking is rare, with rates in public lots starting at EUR1.50-2.50 per hour with a daily maximum of EUR10.00-25.00 during peak weekday hours.

The Cost of Living in Cologne

Shopping Streets

From the Cathedral, Hohe Straße takes you into Schildergasse, and along that stretch you'll find major retailers along with souvenir shops and small boutiques. Breite Straße is another street lined with both chains and small businesses. For hip clothing stores and boutiques, you'll want to head to Ehrenstraße or Venloer Straße in the Belgian Quarter.

Groceries and Other

Supermarket chains in Cologne include Rewe, an all-purpose market with a good selection and convenient locations throughout the city, and Kaisers, a national chain. Standa Markt is more expensive, but features a nice deli section. A gallon of milk costs about EUR2.50, and a dozen eggs an average of EUR1.65.

Cheap meal
£9.07
A pair of jeans
£63.48
Single public transport ticket
£2.54
Cappuccino
£2.23