12 Fun Things to Do in Cologne On Your Germany Adventure

Stretching along the Rhine River in Western Germany, 2,000-year-old Cologne (Köln) pulses with history, culture, and modern flair. From the Rhine River’s scenic banks and the city’s artistic treasures to the bustling vibe of the Altstadt (Old Town), unlock the secrets of this cultural gem with these top things to do in Cologne, Germany!

Why Treksplorer? Founded in 2011 by Ryan O’Rourke, Treksplorer provides travel recommendations and advice to millions of readers every year. Our content is rooted in our writers’ firsthand experiences, in-depth research, and/or collaborations with other experts and locals. Read more about our editorial policy.

Cologne Cathedral

Only got one day in Cologne? Make your first stop at the magnificent masterpiece of the Cologne Cathedral. Standing on the banks of the Rhine River, this beautiful old church, locally known as the Kölner Dom, is one of the city’s most significant landmarks.

Dating back to 1248, the construction of the Cologne Cathedral spanned centuries. In 1996 (far too long, if you ask me!), the magnificent Kölner Dom was finally recognized by UNESCO. Since then, it’s been one of the coolest UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Germany and, in my own opinion, one of Europe’s must-see attractions.

As you start to explore, take a moment to admire the intricate sculptures and delicate stained-glass windows. Climb the narrow spiral staircase to the observation deck for panoramic views of Cologne.

Close-up of Cologne Cathedral

Look out for hidden quirks and treasures in the Cologne Cathedral. The church houses the Shrine of the Three Kings, a magnificent gold and silver reliquary said to contain the remains of the Three Wise Men.

Attend a service or a concert inside the cathedral to witness its acoustics come to life. The soaring vaulted ceilings create a celestial atmosphere, making the spiritual experience truly transcendental.

INSIDER TIP: For spectacular city views, book the Domforum’s Roof Climbing tour. Head up the cathedral’s steep roofs and explore areas ordinarily off-limits to the public. I highly recommend this adventure if you want to see the cityscape at its best!

Old Market

This is one attraction not to be missed! The Old Market is a vibrant square steeped in history and bustling with energy. Tucked amid the winding cobblestone streets of the Altstadt (Old Town), the market is a fantastic place to get a feel for the city and a must-see if you’re visiting Germany for the first time.

The square dates back to the Middle Ages when it served as a bustling hub for trade, social gatherings, and medieval jousting tournaments. Charming, colorful buildings with intricate facades surround the Old Market, adding to the ambiance.

Spend the morning wandering around the market’s open-air stalls. You’ll find a delightful array of goods, from fresh produce to artisanal crafts.

Old Market

After exploring the Old Market, venture further into the Altstadt (Old Town). A short walk from the Old Market, the Hohenzollern Bridge (Hohenzollernbrücke) spans the Rhine River and is a canvas of love locks left by couples as a symbol of their everlasting bond.

Just a stone’s throw away, the Cologne Cathedral stands as an iconic symbol of the city. The Great St. Martin Church graces the skyline near the Old Market with its beautiful Romanesque architecture. With its central location, Altstadt is also one of the best areas to stay in Cologne.

INSIDER TIP: The cobblestone patterns beneath your feet in the Old Market are more than just a picturesque surface. Try deciphering the intricate cobblestone patterns as they subtly outline the medieval layout of streets and buildings.

Lindt Chocolate Museum

Indulge your sweet tooth at the Lindt Chocolate Museum. Overlooking the Rhine River, this delectable haven takes you on a journey through the irresistible world of chocolate.

Head down to the vibrant Rheinauhafen Peninsula, where the Lindt Chocolate Museum is housed in a former storage facility. Set against the backdrop of the iconic crane houses, it creates a picturesque setting for a chocolate-themed adventure.

Imhoff-Chocolate Museum

Discover the intricate process of chocolate-making, from bean to bar. Engage with interactive exhibits, witness the machinery in action, and marvel at the skillful craftsmanship that goes into each Lindt creation. Enjoy a sensory journey, allowing you to taste the various stages of chocolate production.

Create your own custom chocolate bar in the Lindt Chocolate Shop. Choose from various ingredients, mix-ins, and flavors to craft a personalized chocolate masterpiece.

INSIDER TIP: While exploring the museum, watch for a discreet door leading to a hidden chocolate tasting room. Accessible only to those in the know, this intimate space offers exclusive tastings of Lindt’s finest creations. It’s a chocolate connoisseur’s dream!

Cologne Zoological Garden

Embark on a wild adventure at the Cologne Zoological Garden. Spanning over 20 hectares, the zoo provides a spacious and natural environment for its diverse residents.

Located in Riehl, the zoo opened in 1860, making it one of the oldest zoos in Germany. Home to various themed habitats and lush greenery, the Cologne Zoological Garden is a spacious and natural environment for its diverse residents. From majestic big cats to playful primates and exotic birds, you’ll find them all here.

Cologne Zoological Garden

Wander through themed areas like the Elephant Park, where these gentle giants roam freely, and the Ape House, home to intelligent and charismatic primates. Don’t miss the Hippodom, where you can observe African hippos both underwater and on land.

INSIDER TIP: Book a behind-the-scenes tour for a more in-depth zoo experience. Explore areas inaccessible to the general public and gain insights into the zoo’s daily operations, animal care routines, and conservation efforts.

Museum Ludwig

Dive into the vibrant world of contemporary art at the Museum Ludwig. Set on the banks of the Rhine River, the museum is home to an extensive collection spanning the 20th and 21st centuries.

Established in 1976, Museum Ludwig boasts a dynamic kaleidoscope of artistic movements, from Pop Art to Expressionism. Explore an impressive array of works by masters like Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein.

Museum Ludwig

Wander through the galleries adorned with contemporary masterpieces. Marvel at the renowned Picasso collection, featuring the world’s third-largest collection of Picasso’s works. With over 900 pieces spanning the artist’s career, it’s a treasure trove for Picasso enthusiasts and art lovers.

Pop into the museum’s café to see the intriguing Café Wall Illusion. The tiled patterns on the café walls create a visual illusion that challenges perception. Enjoy a coffee while you ponder the illusion.

INSIDER TIP: Sometimes, the museum offers access to the roof, where you can soak up breathtaking panoramic views of Cologne’s skyline, including the majestic Cologne Cathedral.


Escape the hustle and bustle of urban life and unwind in the picturesque oasis of Rheinpark. Set on the banks of the Rhine River, this sprawling park is perfect for relaxing in nature and enjoying beautiful river views.

Dating back to the 1950s, Rheinpark was part of the International Building Exhibition, which aimed to rejuvenate the city’s post-war landscape. You’ll find well-maintained paths surrounded by lush greenery, vibrant flowerbeds, and themed gardens.


Must-see gardens include the Rhododendron Grove, which bursts into a riot of color during the blooming season. The enchanting Japanese Garden features traditional Japanese landscaping elements, a tranquil pond, winding pathways, and meticulously pruned bonsai trees. Perfect for enjoying a quiet moment!

Tap the large metal spheres suspended from trees near the Japanese Garden. They produce harmonious and soothing sounds that blend with the park’s tranquil ambiance. Bring a picnic blanket and join the locals on the grassy lawns facing the river.

INSIDER TIP: Rheinpark houses remnants of an ancient Roman villa near the Japanese Garden. The archaeological site displays fragments of Roman history, providing a fascinating contrast to the park’s modern landscape.

Brauhaus Sünner im Walfisch

Wandering around the Old Town and feel like a brew? Head to Brauhaus Sünner im Walfisch for an authentic taste of Cologne’s brewing heritage. Set within a centuries-old building, you’ll find a warm and inviting atmosphere that captures the essence of Cologne’s traditional beer culture.

Established in 1318, Brauhaus Sünner is one of the oldest family-owned breweries in Cologne. The Walfisch (Whale) tavern is an integral part of its legacy. With rustic wooden beams and cozy décor, it’s the perfect spot for sipping cold beer.

Order the brewery’s signature Kölsch beer, a pale and refreshing beer with a special place in Cologne’s heart. Enjoy your drink alfresco-style on the brewery’s outdoor terrace for a charming setting along the narrow cobblestone streets of the Old Town.

INSIDER TIP: Reserve a spot at the Brewer’s Table. Tucked away in a secluded corner, this intimate space allows you to dine amidst brewing artifacts and offers a direct view into the brewery’s operations.

Rhine River

Experience the city from a different perspective on a scenic journey along the historic Rhine River. The Rhine River has long been a lifeline for Cologne, shaping the city’s identity and fostering trade and cultural exchange.

A great way to explore the iconic waterway is with a walk along the Rhineboulevard. As you stroll along the promenade on the left bank of the river, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the cityscape, including the Cologne Cathedral and Hohenzollern Bridge.

The walkway is a popular hub for locals and visitors, with plenty of benches and open spaces to relax, soak in the atmosphere, and enjoy street performers.

Bridge over Rhine River in Cologne

An offbeat highlight along the Rheinboulevard is the floating gardens. Certain sections of the walkway feature floating platforms adorned with greenery, creating a unique urban oasis. Take a moment to relax on these platforms, surrounded by plants and flowers, and enjoy a serene escape in the heart of the city.

For the quintessential Cologne experience, take a boat tour on the Rhine River. Glide along the water and take in a unique perspective of Cologne’s skyline. Sunset or evening tours offer a magical ambiance as the city lights begin to twinkle.

INSIDER TIP: Attend the annual “Kölner Lichter” (Cologne Lights) festival for an extraordinary boat tour experience. This spectacular event showcases a breathtaking fireworks display synchronized with music; it transforms the Rhine into a dazzling spectacle!

Hiroshima-Nagasaki Park

Pay your respects to the victims of the atomic bombings during World War II at the poignant Hiroshima-Nagasaki Park. Located just north of the University of Cologne, this park is a symbolic space of remembrance and reconciliation.

Established in 2004, the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Park pays homage to the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, reminding visitors of the devastating consequences of nuclear warfare. The peaceful park is adorned with cherry blossom trees, a gift from the city of Hiroshima.

Hiroshima-Nagasaki Park

Visit the art installation called “Das Tausendfensterhaus” (The House with a Thousand Windows). This unique structure consists of a wall with thousands of windows, each representing a voice and a story.

For the most profound experience, plan your visit in spring when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. The park transforms into a picturesque haven, symbolizing renewal and the cyclical nature of life.

INSIDER TIP: Look closely around the cherry blossom trees, and you’ll spot colorful origami cranes delicately folded and hung by visitors. These paper cranes carry handwritten messages of hope and solidarity. Feel free to add your own crane with a personal message to contribute to this heartfelt tradition.

Wallraf – Richartz Museum

Art lovers will delight in the comprehensive collection of works at the Wallraf-Richartz Museum. Located on Martinstrasse, the museum has been a cornerstone of the city’s cultural landscape since 1824.

Wallraf - Richartz Museum

The Wallraf-Richartz Museum has three distinct collections — the Wallraf Collection, the Richartz Collection, and the Ludwig Collection. Admire works from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century. Marvel at masterpieces by renowned artists like Rembrandt, Rubens, and Van Gogh.

Don’t miss the impressive assembly of medieval art, including illuminated manuscripts and panel paintings. The intricate details of these lesser-known treasures promise to captivate!

INSIDER TIP: While the paintings steal the spotlight, the Prints and Drawings section features tons of hidden gems. Discover intricate sketches, preparatory drawings, and one-of-a-kind rare prints.


If it’s action you’re looking for, make your way to the bustling waterfront district of Rheinauhafen. Once an industrial port, the vibrant district is now a hot spot for wining and dining with gorgeous river views.

Just south of the Cologne Cathedral, Rheinauhafen is a testament to urban renewal. The district blends historic landmarks with sleek, modern architecture to create a trendy, hip neighborhood.


Stroll along the iconic Kranhäuser, where three striking crane-shaped buildings have become symbolic of Rheinauhafen. Wander along the waterside promenade, lined with charming cafés, boutique shops, and cultural spaces.

Visit the Schokoladenmuseum (Chocolate Museum) to witness the chocolate-making process and indulge your sweet tooth. Don’t miss the chocolate fountain – a delectable highlight that tempts visitors with cascading liquid chocolate.

During the festive season, Rheinauhafen hosts a floating Christmas market on the historic boats along the waterfront. This charming and unconventional market adds a touch of magic to the holiday season!

INSIDER TIP: Head to Rheinauhafen on Tuesday evenings when some waterfront restaurants offer special deals and promotions. Enjoy a delightful dinner with discounted prices and an intimate atmosphere.

Funkhaus Cafe-Bar-Restaurant

Celebrate Cologne’s broadcasting history over a one-of-a-kind dinner at the iconic Funkhaus Wallrafplatz. This unique café-bar-restaurant once served as the broadcasting headquarters for the West German Broadcasting Corporation.

Funkhaus Wallrafplatz boasts retro radio equipment, broadcasting memorabilia, and a vintage ambiance. The venue sprawls over multiple levels, each with its own character.

One of the highlights of this cool spot is its extensive vinyl record collection. You can choose your favorite tunes to accompany your meal. The restaurant also hosts live music events featuring local bands or acoustic performers, so keep an eye on the schedule.

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city below and book a table in the secret rooftop garden, a hidden oasis of lush greenery.

INSIDER TIP: Curate a personalized vinyl playlist for your table and set the musical tone for your dining experience, making it even more special.

Mia Russell

Mia Russell is a freelance writer based in South Africa with a passion for travel. She’s travelled to 35 countries and counting, and when she is not in the water swimming, freediving, or snorkeling in beautiful places around the world, she is writing about her experiences. Before becoming a freelance travel writer, Mia worked as Chief Copy Editor for Glamor magazine and Managing Editor for One Small Seed Magazine. She's a regular contributor to travel websites like Go City, Bookmundi, The Maldives Expert, and Heritage Safaris.

DISCLAIMER: Treksplorer is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com and its affiliated international sites.

DISCLAIMER: You'll notice that from time to time I link out to recommended hotels/tours/products/services. If you purchase anything through these links, I'll receive a commission. It won't cost you anything extra, but it will help keep me trekkin' on and delivering more free (and unsponsored!) travel information to you. Thanks :)