Tips for Things to Do in Cologne

Cologne, or Köln, as the locals call it, is one of my favourite German cities – not too big, not too small, lots of interesting stuff to see and do. It also has its own unique culture within German, being famous (or sometimes infamous) for its strong dialect – although I can speak German fluently, “Kölsch” sounds almost like another language to me! This list of things to do in Cologne should enable you to get a taste for this special city in Germany.

Things to do Cologne

Cologne at Night by James Cridland

Sightseeing in Cologne

Easily the most impressive landmark in Cologne is the Cologne Cathedral or Kölner Dom. It’s a UNESCO-listed building dating back to the thirteenth century and it’s one of the largest gothic churches in Europe. Just looking around inside is impressive enough but if you’re feeling fit you can also climb the tower for views over the Rhine River and the city of Cologne.

Things to do Cologne
Cologne Cathedral by Amanda Kendle

Dating back to the times of a Roman governor in Cologne, the Praetorium is an amazing array of Roman ruins found underneath the city – in fact, just under the Town Hall. You can also see parts of the old sewer system and archaeological finds.

Things to do Cologne

Cologne Praetorium by Jen Guttman

Of course, you also can’t forget the fact that Cologne lies on the Rhine River. If you cross the main bridge across the Rhine, you’ll find many thousands of padlocks have been attached to the bridge by couples hoping for good luck for their relationship. You can also cruise the Rhine to various destinations from Cologne using KD boats.

Things to do Cologne

Padlocks on the bridge by Amanda Kendle

Museums in Cologne

In light of Cologne’s deep Roman ties, it’s no surprise that the Roman-Germanic Museum (Römisch-Germanisches Museum) is an impressive one, with numerous Roman artefacts from the Cologne area and along the Rhine River on display. The Praetorium mentioned above is adjacent to this museum.

Things to do Cologne

Roman-Germanic Museum in Cologne by Eoghan OLionnain

For art lovers, the Museum Ludwig, easily found in central Cologne, is a must visit. It’s most famous for its postmodern art collection but it’s actually got a bit of everything from the 20th century. For those who like their art a bit older, the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum features art from between the 1200s and 1800s; both of these museums feature both local German artists and numerous famous international artists, too.

Things to do Cologne

Museum Ludwig by mueritz

And finally, one museum which I’ve often been told of (given my well-known sweet tooth!) but never had the chance to visit, the Chocolate Museum (Schokolade Museum) in Cologne is trying to document the “cultural history of chocolate”. You can also see some great examples of how chocolate is made and importantly, there is a cafe offering (naturally enough) plenty of chocolate-based treats.

Culture in Cologne

Cologne is famous not only for its historical past but for its modern day culture too, and it’s well known as the gay capital of Germany. Every year, the Cologne Gay Pride parade takes place with up to a million people attending (in 2011, the parade will take place 1-3 July).

Things to do Cologne

Gay Pride Parade by norbert_blech

However, the biggest parade of the year comes with Karneval. Usually held in February, Karneval can attract almost two million people with a very colorful street carnival, plenty of wild costumes, and all kinds of related celebrations.

And in late November and December, Cologne is one of the best places to come to in Europe for Christmas markets. With no less than half a dozen separate markets, you can easily spend a long weekend there and still not enjoy the Gluhwein from every Christmas market!

Things to do Cologne

Traditional gifts at Cologne Christmas Markets by timo_beil

Last but not least, it’s important that you try the local German beer, named (like the dialect) Kölsch (and sometimes seen as Koelsch). There are several varieties of it, available everywhere and you’ll be well-respected if you drink the local beer rather than some other kind of German beer while in Cologne!

Things to do Cologne

Kölsch beer by sights set

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