Cologne is a charming city in West Germany famous for it’s Gothic architecture, a reconstructed old town and introducing the world to wearable fragrances. Although it may not be as big as Berlin or Munich, it’s charm lies in the details. From the Medieval spires to the well preserved Roman streets, there’s something so beautiful about this intricate city.
1. Visit Cologne Cathedral It’s impossible to visit Cologne and not see the cathedral. The twin spires loom over the city, you can spot them from almost everywhere. Although it’s striking from the outside, seeing it from inside is impressive, too. You can view the Medieval gilded reliquary and climb to the top for magnificent views of the city.
2. Ride a cable car over the RhineAnother way to see Cologne from above is getting a cable car ride above the river Rhine. The journey starts near the zoological stadtbahn station and finishes on the other side of the river. It’s a good way to get to the other side of the river if you’re short for time, or enjoy birds eye views of the city.
3. See the locks on the Hohenzollern BridgeThe easiest way to get across the river Rhine is by crossing the Hohenzollern Bridge. This bridge is not like most, as it is home to over 40,000 love locks. An outstanding number considering the tradition started in 2008, weighing 2 tons more than it used to. This makes it one of the fastest growing love lock bridges in the world.
4. Stroll through the botanical gardensLocated next to the zoo, the botanical gardens is one of the most beautiful green spaces in Cologne and the oldest park in the city. It is home to over 10,000 species of plants and as you’re walking through one of the tropical greenhouses or the palm houses, it’s easy to forget you are in Germany.
5. See the views from the Köln Triangle(Picture taken from Wikicommons) If the cable cars and cathedral aren’t enough, you can catch a city view from the top of Köln Triange. Unlike the cathedral, there are clear glass walls to look out of instead of safety bars that disturb your pictures. The view has often been described as better than the one from the cathedral, simply because this view includes the magnificent medieval church.
6. Look for the naughty man on the Old Town HallThe Old Town Hall is a magnificent building with many statues lining the walls. Some of the statues represent politicians and religious figures of the past and if you look closely you might see one statue significantly more X-rated than the others.
7. Visit the National Socialism Documentation Centre
The National Socialism Documentation Centre is a combination of both a museum and a memorial. As well as learning about Cologne’s role in National Socialist Germany, the basement of the house is one of the best kept prisons of the time. You can walk around the spaces where over 400 people were tortured and murdered, see their messages and drawings on the walls and read about their stories.
8. Look out for bananasArtist Thomas Baumgaertel, otherwise known as the ‘banana sprayer’, is a Cologne-based graffiti artist who is rumoured to spray bananas on places he likes in Cologne. Think of them as Baumgaertel’s stamp of approval. Before you visit a museum or eat at a restaurant, look for the banana to see if it’s worth it.
9. Visit the Fragrance Museum(Picture taken from wikicommons) Cologne is the centre of the fragrance world, hence the name, so it makes sense to visit a museum on said subject. At the Fragrance Museum, you can learn about cologne’s history over three centuries whilst situated in the oldest fragrance factory still standing today.
10. Wander around Old Town(Picture taken from wikicommons) Old Town in Germany rarely has the same meaning as in other countries. Over 72% of Cologne was destroyed in WWII, so the majority of the Old Town today has been rebuilt to replicate the narrow, cobble-stoned streets and colourful houses. Despite being a newer Old Town, it’s still a beautiful place and a lovely part of the city to escape to if you want to experience what it must have been like in Cologne before the war. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting during November and December, don’t miss out on the Christmas markets in the centre of Old Town.
11. Visit Museum Ludwig(Picture taken from wikicommons) Museum Ludwig is less of a museum and more of a modern art gallery with styles ranging from surrealist, abstract and pop art and is famously known as carrying the largest Picasso collection in Europe.
12. Visit Cologne’s gayborhood
Cologne is widely known as the gay capital of west Germany and is home to one of the six gay villages (otherwise known as gayborhoods) in Germany. Schaafenstraße is the place to be if you’re a member of the LGBTQ community, and you’re never too far from someone similar in one of the most liberal cities in the world.
13. Shop in the Belgian Quarter(Picture taken from wikicommons) One of the most famous shopping areas of Cologne is the Belgian Quarter, home to small boutiques with unique, handmade items that have affordable prices. By night, the Belgian Quarter is a place to drink and dance. It’s certainly one of the most hip areas of Cologne and the first place Thomas Baumgaertel sprayed a banana – that’s how you know it’s good!
14. Walk in the Forstbotanischer Garten(Picture taken from wikicommons) Nature lovers might enjoy a walk in the Forstbotanischer Garten, a woodland botanical garden and arboretum that spaces over 25 hectares. The garden contains both native and exotic trees, many of which are symbolic of Germany’s diplomatic relations.
15. Day trip to Dusseldorf(Picture taken from wikicommons) If you’re staying in Cologne for long enough, it is worth day tripping to Dusseldorf, a nearby city famous for fashion and art. The trendy, modern city is different enough from Cologne to experience a whole other side of Germany without straying too far afield.