Sitting on the banks of the river Rhine, Germany’s fourth largest city is an undiscovered gem. More than 2,000 years old, Cologne is the cultural hub of the west and the ultimate destination to spend the weekend escaping from every day life. Dive into the metropolis and soak up the history oozing out of its picturesque cobbled streets. Indulge in a bit of romance on the Hohenzollern Bridge and marvel at the magnificent twin-spired cathedral that dominates the Gothic skyline. Here are eleven great reasons why you should pack a bag and head to Deutschland immediately!
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996, Cologne cathedral is one of Germany’s largest and most respected pieces of architecture. The iconic twin-spires can be seen from almost every point in the city and serve as the perfect orientation point for tourists navigating for the first time. If you’re feeling adventurous, hike up 533 steps to the South Tower for spectacular views over the river and city. As one of the most popular attractions in Germany, the cathedral is one of the most important sites for pilgrimages in Europe. A real treat for art lovers, the building is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. An attraction that’s virtually impossible to miss, Cologne Cathedral really is the crown jewel of the city.
Known by locals as ‘Fastelovend’, the carnival season in Cologne is unrivalled across the country. Beginning promptly every year on the 11th day of the 11th month at 11:11 am, the age old tradition lingers until the culmination of a six day party just before the start of Lent. Celebrated for the past 190 years, the highlight of the carnival are “The Crazy Days”, six days of nothing but partying, numerous balls and extravagant parades through the city. Locals dress up in whacky costumes, fill the streets and drink till they can’t possibly drink anymore. A spectacle unlike any other, Cologne is the place to be when Carnival is in session.
One of the more trendy areas in the historic city, the Belgian Quarter is spilling over with hipster bars, cafes and boutique shopping. It takes its name from the plethora of references to Belgian provinces and cities found on its street signs. This is the place to come to sit back and enjoy a drink after a long day of exploring. Head to Brusseler Platz, order a pint of Kolsch and take in the laid-back bohemian atmosphere of the area. Pose next to the expressive street art for the ultimate edgy Instagram.
Founded in 1976, the museum opposite Cologne central station features a collection of over 350 modern art pieces. Wander through the halls and be inspired by the likes of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein as you witness some of the world’s best pop-art, abstract and surrealism. The Ludwig is also home to the largest collection of Pablo Picasso pieces in Europe. Whether you’re an art lover or not, this is still a cool location to spend the afternoon.
Crossing the river Rhine, the rail and pedestrian bridge has become synonymous with loved up couples. Lovers flock to the iron railings to secure their love with an engraved padlock. Walk across the impressive monument to see the endless rows of locks attached to the railing and take in some of the best views of the cathedral and city scape. Named after the Hohenzollern dynasty when it was built in 1911, the bridge is a short walk from the central railway station and a must-see when visiting the city.
Yes, you heard it right, this city has its very own shrine to everyone’s favourite sweet treat. Spanning across nine exhibition spaces, learn the history of how chocolate came to be from its organic beginnings with the Olmecs, Mayans and Aztecs to its current state of commercial production. Located directly in front of the Old Town in the Altstadt- Sud quarter, the museum has its own chocolate café where you can gorge on the good stuff whilst looking at panoramic views of the river Rhine.
Oozing charm from every inch of its historic narrow alleyways, the Old Town is at the heart of cultural Cologne. Lined with breweries, traditional coloured houses, pubs and restaurants, this area forms part of the Rhine panorama. If you’re after a walk through time, venture in to the Archaeological Zone which houses a plethora of historical remains and visit the Stapelhaus and St. Alban Memorial. Make sure to stop by the resident craft neighbourhood, Alter Markt and Heumarkt and order a pint of Kolsch beer at one of the old-style pubs dotted around the area.
Built on the remains of a Roman cemetery, the interior of this church is a little different from what you might expect. Visit the church and prepare to come face to face with a floor to ceiling display of human bones and skulls arranged in shapes, patterns and words. Legend has it, St. Ursula and 11,000 other virgins died on their quest of martyrdom at the site and the walls of the church hold their remains. Take a tour of the Golden Chamber and the rich furnishings from an array of different cemeteries. Definitely a different experience but worth it if you want to delve deeper into the historical past of the city and you’re searching for more things to do in Cologne.
The ultimate viewing spot, KolnTriangle is a modern high-rise office block with an observation deck 103 metres from the ground. Step into the elevator and get your cameras ready for the 360 degree landscape shot awaiting you at the top. Take the ultimate city selfie from here and finish off the day with a delicious meal at Mongo’s, the Mongolian barbeque restaurant that accompanies the sky-view.
Hop on a train and travel 25 kilometres out of the city to the birthplace of the composer that gave us some of the most beautiful symphonies ever written. Visit the home of Ludwig van Beethoven and spend time in one of the multiple museums dedicated to displaying his life and influential scores of music. A welcome break from the rush of the city centre, music fans will be in paradise with this one.
End your trip with a cruise down the river to see all the sights from a new angle. Look back at the city’s shore line and admire the Romano-Germanic architecture lining the banks, held at the centre by the impressive pride of the people, the Cathedral. Choose between one or two hours either by day or night and sip on your drink while you literally watch the world sail by.
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Flights to Cologne