Cologne Travel Guide
With a history that dates back to Roman times, Cologne is one of Germany’s most significant cities. Sadly, World War II blasted much of its history away. Thankfully, the iconic Cologne Cathedral, one of the world’s most significant churches, was among the survivors.
Combine that with its diverse collection of museums, and you have a prime travel destination in Germany.
Come check out our Cologne travel guide as we cover the best things to do in Cologne, Germany.
Any trip to this iconic German city should start with a visit to the Cologne Cathedral. This Gothic cathedral is a stunning example of this style of architecture. Combined with its storied history, it was easy for UNESCO to make it a World Heritage Site in 1996.
This church is massive. Standing at an imposing 515 feet, or 157 metres high, it is the second-tallest church in Europe. The Cologne Cathedral is a twin-spired structure. At its height, it is the tallest church of its kind in the world. Inside, its choir has a width/height ratio of more than 3 1/2 to 1. That makes it the biggest in any medieval church in Europe.
This masterpiece took many centuries to construct fully. Religious authorities began building it in the 13th century. However, due to countless interruptions (wars, plagues, funding shortfalls, etc.), its finishing touches weren’t complete until 1880.
The Second World War exacted a massive toll on Cologne. Countless Allied air raids destroyed much of the city. The Cologne Cathedral was not immune, as it got hit by a total of 14 bombs. Despite suffering considerable damage, the structure remained viable. Authorities completed repairs on the church by 1956.
Within, highlights include the High Altar, the Shrine of the Three Kings, and the Gero-Kreuz. The latter treasure is an oak crucifix which dates from the 10th century. As such, plan to spend at least a few hours exploring this attraction of global significance.
Fans of modern art will not want to miss a visit to Museum Ludwig. This attraction takes its name from Peter Ludwig, the owner of a chocolate company in Cologne. He started this art gallery started back in the 1970s with a donation fo 350 pieces.
Within the walls of Museum Ludwig, you’ll find a collection of works that range in style from Surrealism to Pop Art. The focus of this museum is on modern art pieces created during the 20th century.
As such, this institution is proud to boast one of the most significant collections of Picasso works in Europe. However, as you walk through its galleries, you’ll also spot pieces by Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol.
Your tour of Cologne will take a darker turn when you stop by the NS Documentation Centre. This unassuming stone building was a horrifying place, as it once served as the regional Gestapo headquarters.
This museum focuses on honouring the victims of the Nazi regime, as well as the Gestapo’s role regionally. Within, exhibits detail how targeted groups (e.g., Jews, Romas, LGBT+, etc.) were systematically oppressed, profiled, and exterminated. Most horrifying of all is the courtyard, where Gestapo officers executed targeted individuals.
While exhibits do a great job of explaining what went on, get the audio guide as well. This companion will relay stories that will bring home how terrible this place truly was.
Afterwards, cheer yourself up by swinging by the Cologne Chocolate Museum. This institution takes you back to the time of the Olmecs. It was in this era where humans started using cocoa beans to create sweet treats. From there, the museum guides to straight through to the present day.
At the start and end, you’ll get to sample chocolate as well. You’ll get a sample at the entrance, and you’ll get a wafer dipped in a three-metre high chocolate fondue fountain.
If you have an afternoon to kill, walk through the Old Town of Cologne. Here, you’ll find remnants that date back as far as Roman times. Back then, the Romans built sewers in this frontier city, which archaeologists have excavated in the modern era. After checking out this place, rest along the river with a local brew and watch boats go by.
Lovers of all things floral will want to check out Cologne’s Flora Botanical Garden. This glorious five-hectare park dates back to the 1860s and contains English, French, and Italian design elements. In all, you’ll find 10,000 different types of flora here. Bring water before entering, as park officials sell none inside.
Get a killer view of Cologne from above by heading up the KolnTriangle. This skyscraper stands 339 feet above the pavement, and most importantly, offers an observation deck. Here, you can enjoy panoramic views of the city in all directions.
What To Eat
Cologne is a great place to sample a variety of regional German dishes. Halver Hahn stands out in its simplicity, as it’s merely a roll served with a slice of Gouda cheese. Those looking for heartier fare should try Himmel und Ad. It consists of fried black pudding, mashed potatoes, fried onions, and applesauce. Lastly, try some Apple Strudel. This pastry’s mix of apple, cinnamon, lemon, sugar and nuts will be the perfect end to any meal.