Köln, huh? Nice choice because this 2000-years-old city is so much more than just a connecting destination. It’s fabulous. And we are about to reveal what are those fun and quirky things to do in Cologne, Germany.
If you only have a weekend to spare, Cologne (aka Köln) is perfect for a quick city break. It’s so compact and neat that you will only need a day or two to explore it. A lot of the attractions in the Old Town are within walking distance of each other.
It’s easy to get to Cologne
Plus, the city centre is only fifteen minutes away from Cologne Bonn Airport, the 4th largest international airport in Germany. So hop on the super-efficient S-Bahn train for a comfortable ride to the city and you are ready to explore.
Explore the Heart of the City on Foot or Water
Grab some breakfast at your hotel and start your day early, with a morning walk along the river Rhine. Take time to admire the narrow streets and beautiful German architecture in Cologne’s Old Town.
While walking along the river bank, check out the Kölner Pegel, the Cologne water level meter, installed in 1951. It displays the current water level in the river Rhine to warn of floods.
Pop into the Old Marketplace near Cologne City Hall. Maybe have that second cup of coffee while admiring the Renaissance buildings, the elegant City Hall tower and the Jan von Werth Fountain.
To us, one of the best ways to see this enchanting city is either on foot or water, and you can do both at the same time. There’s this perfect 3-hour boat and Cologne Old Town tour that could work nicely if you are on a short break and don’t have much time to spare. Plus you can skip the ticket queue.
This convenient combination will see you gliding underneath the fabulous Cologne bridges and exploring the fantastic sites on foot with a friendly and knowledgable guide.
Climb the Church Tower for Panoramic Views
One such site is Cologne Cathedral know as Kölner Dom by the locals. It’s home to the shrine of the Three Wise Men and is the second tallest church in Germany. And the third in the world.
Considered to be one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic and Neo-Gothic architecture in the world, it can be seen from anywhere in the city. No wonder this grandiose five-aisle basilica draws people to this very spot from all over the world.
The interior of this cathedral adorned with stained glass windows, artwork and ornate architectural details is enchanting. Cologne in Germany is worth visiting for this UNESCO World Heritage Site alone.
You must also climb to the top for panoramic views across the city. The tower is open all year round. And if you wish to hear the ringing of the bells, get in touch with the cathedral staff who offer guided tours to the belfry well in advance before your trip.
Stop at the Sweetest Museum in Cologne
Another super fun thing to do in Cologne is to pay a visit to the mouthwatering Chocolate Museum. If you take the tour we mentioned earlier, you’ll have the opportunity to hop off the boat right next to this attraction.
Located literally in the river Rhine, this modern museum/factory is a wonderful source of information about chocolate and its history. It’s like the TARDIS, bigger from the inside, cleverly designed to take you on a chocolatey journey.
The biggest attraction, of course, is the silky chocolate itself. The “production room” is full of machinery and action so you can see the making of a chocolate bar.
In the centre of the room, there is a golden imitation of a cacao bean plant. Come closer to see the stream of soft milk chocolate rushing into the pool of sweet goodness. A staff member will dip a piece of waffle into this chocolate river for the visitors. Don’t hesitate, it’s divine!
Here you will also be able to customise your own chocolate and stuff it with any ingredients you want. Definitely better than a regular souvenir if you are thinking of bringing something back for your friends and family.
As you walk out of the museum, look to your left. You will be hard pushed to resist the cafe for a slice of that freshly baked chocolate cake paired with a cup of coffee or tea.
Spot Street Art on a Bike
One of the more unusual things to do in Cologne or quirky activities as we like to call them is to get cycling in the city. We were so impressed with cycling lanes everywhere. Cologne’s cycling culture could almost rival Amsterdam. Just watch out for cyclists if you are walking on foot, they are fast.
Besides the good infrastructure, there’s so much cool street art in the trendy Belgian quarter and especially Ehrenfeld. Grafitti and mural spotting in these two hip districts is so much fun, they are everywhere you look, on the brick walls, streets, and even lampshades.
You can either get a tram or a taxi to get there and explore the art scene by yourself, or join a very cool guided bike tour. You’ll enjoy it either way.
Wander through the Eerie “Yard of the Sick”
We promised you a list of fun and quirky things to do in Cologne, so here it is, another exciting site. The “yard of the sick” or “the yard of the malades” is the original name of the Melaten Cemetery.
For two centuries this atmospheric graveyard has been a resting place to many rich and noble people of Cologne, historical figures and celebrities such as the founders of Eau de Cologne – the Farina family. And it is still in use to this day. New graves replace the old but in a respectful way.
Considering the location, it houses an impressive amount of graves – 55,000. You’ll see some remarkable tombstones and sculpture here when you visit.
This park-like graveyard due to its fauna and flora has become a popular spot for locals to escape the bustle of the city. And you too can join them for a peaceful stroll. It’s well worth visiting especially in autumn.
The Melaten Cemetery is free to enter and is open all year round from 7am/8am in the morning till 7pm/8pm depending on the season.
Indulge in German Cuisine
What’s next? You will be hungry after all the explorations.
Pub culture is big in Cologne and they don’t mess around with food either. We were so impressed with the service. Everywhere we went, the staff was friendly and attentive.
There are many places where you can experience good and honest food in Cologne. One of them is Fruh am Dom (Am Hof 12-18) – an unpretentious restaurant with atmospheric brewery rooms, massive wooden tables, medieval chandeliers and cathedral-like stained glass windows.
Be sure to try their speciality – potato mash with applesauce. It’s topped with fried shallots and is absolutely mouthwatering. If you are a vegetarian though, you might want to check if you can skip the two massive pieces of black pudding on your plate.
Another must-try is a place affectionately called “Lommi” by the locals. It’s a no-fuss restaurant if you want to try the traditional Koteletten – a pork dish served with fries or potato salad.
Lommerzheim is located on the other side of the river Rhine, Siegesstraße 18.
Things to Do in Cologne at Night
If you are wondering what there is to do in Cologne at night, you have several options. You can either wander the Old Town and admire the lit up architecture, dance your night away in a club or join a ghost walk.
There are quite a few interesting walks around the city with a night watchman, but the majority of them are in German only. If you, however, can understand the language, join one of the tours for an authentic experience in Cologne.
Also, you have to try the legendary Kölsch while you are in Cologne. The beer is pleasant and easy to drink so you might quickly lose count of how many you’ve just had! Luckily, it comes in small glasses, to keep it cold at all times.
Also, pay attention to the Kranz or the “wreath of Kölsch”. It’s quite cool the way it’s made with the holes for the small glasses.
One way to experience the pub culture in Cologne is to draft a list of all the pubs you’d like to visit in Cologne. Pin them on your Google maps and check the easiest way to get there.
But watch your glass if you venture into the local pubs, it can get refilled before you even blink!
The lovely local chap told us to place a beer mat on top of the glass to avoid the refill. So keep your eyes peeled. And be sure to get a cab on the way back if you had one too many glasses of Kölsch.
Or let the locals do the hard work for you. Book a guided pub crawl and trust your guide to take you to the most iconic pubs in Colone’s south side. With this tour, you’ll stay safe, eat well, hear quirky stories and have fun.
Count the Love Locks on the Iconic Hohenzollern Bridge
Cologne is one of those cities that has it all. It’s beautiful, quirky, amusing, historic and very romantic. Especially when the sun goes down. It all depends on what romance means to you.
You can go for long walks along the river, sit on the steps of one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world, or go on a cycle ride.
Or, you can count a mega 2 tons of love locks on the beautiful Hohenzollern Bridge. But make sure to stop for a second to admire the solid construction stretching across the river, it’s lovely.
For a more dramatic experience, visit the “Love Locks Bridge” in the evening. The lighting will provide great picture opportunities for that perfect bridge and the cathedral night shot.
How about a personalised experience? You could take a 1-hour sightseeing flight in a private plane if you have the budget for it. Otherwise, for a more down-to-earth romantic activity, head to Hohe Street. Here, hidden in alleyways and backstreets, live some of the cosiest cafes in Cologne.
Awaken Your Senses at the House of Fragrances
Just a short stroll away from the cathedral, you’ll find the empire of eu de colognes. The House of Fragrances 4711 is a must-see site in Cologne for anyone.
As you find your way through intoxicating scents in the flagship store, you’ll hear stories of “aqua mirabilis” and where it came from. And just like in the chocolate factory you can make your own chocolate bar, here you can create your own personalised cologne. Good fun.
Enjoy Ludwig Museum
Cologne is the cultural capital of Germany for a reason. There are countless museums and galleries that will suit every traveller’s taste. For a chilled evening, we highly recommend popping into one of them.
If you only have time for one museum, then Ludwig Museum could be a good choice. The museum is great not only because of its fantastic exhibitions, but also the location. As we said, Cologne is very compact, nothing is too far away to visit.
If you have more time on your hands, you could also check out Roman-Germanic Museum, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Foundation Corboud, Museum of Applied Arts, Cologne City Museum, Museum of East Asian Art, Cologne City Museum, and Museum Schnütgen. and of course.
You can check out this website for more information about museums and galleries in Cologne.
Watch the Train Traffic Atop Köln Triangle
For some lovely panoramic views, head to the top of the Köln Triangle building. The platform opens up to lovely panoramic views of the river. If you are a train geek like Charlie, you will love the view from above onto the busy railway tracks.
Stretch Out Your Visit at Yoga House
Don’t you feel like having a good long stretch sometimes after a day of explorations? Or maybe you love a good yoga session before you hit the road? It’s too easy to forget about yourself when there’s so much to see and do. But we want to show you Cologne in a different light.
Have yourself an energising morning or a soulful afternoon at Yoga House, the bilingual yoga studio in Cologne. The ladies here are extra lovely and run classes for locals and visitors of all ages.
The studio is beautiful, welcoming and well equipped to make the most of your quick yoga class. That’s why we love Cologne. It offers so many different things. So give yourself a mindful break before you return to the hustle and bustle of the city.
Stay in the Funky Belgian Quarter
Great food options, parks, beautiful architecture, street art, boutique shopping, cafes, bars, and the local vibe made us fall in love with this area of Cologne.
The city centre is within walkable distance too. However, if you don’t feel like walking, it’s just a ride away via the efficient tram system. So don’t forget to get your KölnCard here before your trip for your free local travel.
Foodwise, check out Herr Pimock bar. Lunch here is huge and tasty. Another fabulous place to eat delicious homemade quiches is Salon Schmitz, a little further along the street. It might be a little challenging to find a table as it is always packed with locals. But do try.
Have Tea and Cake at Hiroshima-Nagasaki Park
For a break from the traffic, walk west for a few minutes to the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Park to relax by the Aachener Weiher lake.
The Salon Schmitz crew also run the cafe at the Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst if you fancy some coffee and cake with lake views or just soak up the East Asian Art here.
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Check out our Cologne City walk on gpsmycity.com
Where to Stay in Cologne. Cool and Quirky Places.
If you, like us, are on a lookout for friendly and unique places to stay while travelling, we might just have the two best places for you.
Stern am Rathaus – Wonderful Boutique Hotel in Cologne
If you are looking for a centrally located hotel, check out the fabulous Stern am Rathaus Hostel on Bürgerstraße 6, Altstadt-Nord. The hotel sits on a quiet street, round the corner from the wonderful Cologne Cathedral.
During our visit, the owners were away, but the staff was very friendly and helpful. We even picked up some local tips while chatting away, always a bonus!
With only 8 rooms and splendid reviews, the hotel gets booked up pretty quickly so make sure you reserve your room well in advance.
Die Wohngemeinschaft – the Coolest Hostel in Cologne
If you are looking for a quirky and extremely friendly hostel to crash, we highly recommend our top choice in Cologne, Die Wohngemeinschaft Hostel in the hip Belgian Quarter.
This is some truly unique accommodation in the city with caring staff and a really tasty breakfast.
All the rooms are themed and fun to stay in. If you like unusual places on your travels, this hostel is definitely for you. We really enjoyed our stay here and found the hostel clean and comfortable. You can read our full review of Cologne’s funkiest rooms.
The location of the Die Wohngemeinschaft Hostel is another bonus. You will not be disappointed with the opportunity to discover the delights of the Belgian Quarter.
What are your favourite things to do in Cologne? Let us know in the comments below…