Get ready to raise a glass of the local Kolsch beer. Not only is Cologne known as one of the friendliest, most easy-going cities in Germany, but you can also live the high life here without taking a hammer to your piggy bank.
Read on and check out our guide to ten great things to do in Cologne on a budget...
Café Rico is a firm favourite among everyone who appreciates a decent breakfast – and people who appreciate decent breakfasts are sensible and should be listened to.
There’s a fantastic selection of local breads (including traditional rye bread rolls) as well as excellent cappuccinos and lattes and just about every type of eggs you could imagine.
The location is also easy to reach from anywhere in town. You’ll have change of a tenner.
Putting Cologne Cathedral on this list is probably quite redundant, but obviously we’re putting it on the list anyway.
It’s not just Cologne’s biggest attraction, but it actually gets more visitors than any other attraction in the whole of Germany. It’s difficult to even describe the size and scale of it, or to fathom the amount of work that went into it.
It’s just colossal, and when the bells ring at sundown it’s pure magic. If you can avoid visiting on the weekend, do; it gets really busy.
It’s totally free to go inside but splash out and climb the bell tower for some cool 100m high views of Cologne, that’ll only set you back €4 and many calories (there are over 500 steps).
So you’ve just seen the view of the city from the cathedral, now go to the best spot in the city for a view of the cathedral.
Head for the Hohenzollern Bridge. The bridge itself isn’t particularly beautiful, but what is beautiful are the thousands of little locks left there by lovers; it’s whimsical and romantic and lovely.
Once you get to the other side of the bridge, look back and enjoy some beautiful views of the city, and the Dom in particular.
Standing in front of the Dom really hammers home how big it is compared to you, but when you see it from this vantage point, you see how big it is compared to the whole city.
Follow your nose to Farina House, the birthplace of Eau de Cologne. You can tour the fragrance museum for a fiver. It takes around an hour, and it’s well worth it even if you’re not really into perfume.
The guides are funny and engaging, often in full costume, and they’ll give you a genuinely interesting insight into the history of Germany’s famous perfumery.
Make sure you book online in advance, because there are a limited number of places on the English tours every day and as one of the great things to do in Cologne on a budget, it can full up quickly. You even get a little bottle of Eau de Cologne to take with you at the end of the tour.
Ehrenfeld is a residential area just outside the city centre, and it’s one of those little parts of a city that makes you dream of packing up and moving – it’s full of awesome little independent designer shops, cafés, restaurants, clubs, pubs ad theatres.
It’s also full of really cool street art, so take yourself on a little tour of the neighbourhood and don’t forget your camera.
You’ll find art everywhere, but it’s also worthwhile heading to the semi-legal halls of fame (there’s one on Vogelsanger Strasse) to see some work by more famous writers and artists.
It’s totally free, it’s really beautiful, and it’s ephemeral – a perfect thing to do in Cologne on a budget. So for up-to-date tips, check out the Ehrenfeld Street Art Facebook page.
Traditional food. Traditional beer. Massive portions. Great prices. What else could you possibly ask for?
Weinhaus Vogel on Eigelstein 74 is a lovely little place that serves up local specialties and it’s something you definitely shouldn’t leave Cologne without trying.
You can get a huge schnitzel meal here, served with chips and salad, for €9.90. Bratwurst meals are even cheaper, so you can use some of your leftover money to buy a few glasses of Kolsch!
A whole museum dedicated to sweet, sweet chocolate. Who could resist a lesson in the history of cocoa and a sneak peek behind the scenes in a real-life chocolate factory? Then there’s the 3-metre high chocolate fountain.
Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum really is the stuff of dreams, all that’s missing is Willy Wonka. Entrance costs €9 per adult, including samples.
The Cologne Cable Car, at Cologne’s Zoo Bridge, costs just €4.50 one way or €6.50 return. It’s a fairly short trip, but it takes you high into the air and across the Rhine, and gives you an awesome aerial view of the city while it does it.
If you can time your trip well, try to get on the Gondola when dusk just starts to hit, it’s a really cool way to watch the sunset over the city. This one is good for couples, families… anyone really, as long as you’re ok with heights. Do it.
Cologne has loads of really great flea markets where you can find all sorts of curios, antiques, and weird stuff that nobody else wants.
You can get lost for ages wandering around them, talking to vendors, and looking at the mad array of everything that’s on sale. It’s just a lovely little snapshot of local life. Best of all, you can do this without actually buying anything.
But chances are you will come across that pink glass flamingo candle holder you’ve always wanted, so be prepared to (politely) haggle your way down to a tenner or less, if you simply can’t leave Cologne without it.
The Nachtkonsum flohmarkt (Night Flea Market) in Ehrenfeld is particularly cool – it’s on from 5pm-12am and there’s music and beer. So maybe forget the flamingo and spend your tenner on booze…
Kolsch is Cologne’s signature beer, and having at least a few glasses of it should be on any itinerary for people looking for great things to do in Cologne on a budget.
There are loads of places where you can indulge, but Peters Brauhaus is a particularly good bet. It’s old school, traditional, and loads of fun.
Here’s the deal: you go there, sit down, and get a beer. After that we’re afraid you’re going to have to manage your own money – the waiters will continue to replace empty glasses until you tell them not to.
Cologne is full of exciting activites and sights, check out Try Somewhere New to discover more great things to do in Cologne on a budget.
Flights to Cologne
- Dee Murray