A city with a deep cultural impact and beautiful attractions, Cologne is a great destination throughout the whole year. It is the largest city in Germany’s federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the fourth most populous in the country. From museums, parks sites and street markets these are the 10 top things to do in Cologne.

Admire the architecture of the Cologne Cathedral

One of the top things to do in Cologne is to visit the Cologne Cathedral. This magnificent building started to be constructed in 1248 but was not finished until 1880. The people that built this cathedral over hundreds of years stayed loyal to the original plans. Though finished in the 19th century, it was built in the medieval Gothic style of the original blueprint.

This amazing building is 86111.28 square feet (8,000 square meters) and can fit up to 20,000 people. It was originally built because the former building in that location was seen as no longer fit to house the remains of the Three Wise Men. The Cologne Cathedral, therefore, has a Three Wise Men shrine which makes it an important spot for pilgrimages in Europe. It also has beautiful and detailed stained glass windows throughout the cathedral. Because of all of these incredible attributes, UNESCO declared the cathedral a World Heritage site in 1996.

Why to visit Cologne
© Eric Weber / Unsplash

Take a stroll in the Botanical Gardens

Are you looking for a peaceful place in the heart of the city? At the Botanical Gardens, you can walk through an area of over 10,000 species of plants. Go inside the tropical greenhouse to see exotic plants and take a walk through the Palm house. The Flora building in the middle of the Botanical Garden reopened in 2014. Established in the 19th century and originally separated by a wall, the Flora and Botanical Gardens have been in unity since 1920. This building historically held many important social events and gatherings and it is today open for tours.

Cologne Botanical garden
© CEphoto / Wikimedia Commons

Explore Cologne Old Town

The Cologne Old Town is an area of great historical and cultural significance. During the Second World War, the Old Town was destroyed to rubble. Because of this, it had to be rebuilt carefully and with much detail. Nowadays, you can still walk down small alleys, visit restaurants, go shopping and explore many museums. In the Old town, you can look at the remains of buildings not fully destroyed and learn about the history of the area. Finally, don’t forget to visit breweries and maybe drink a famous Kölsch German beer to get the full Cologne experience.

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© Kai Pilger / Unsplash

Learn about art in the Ludwig Museum

If you are an art lover or a history buff make sure to add the Ludwig Museum to your to-do list while visiting Cologne. Home to Europe’s largest collection of pop art as well as artworks from the German expressionism and the Rus­sian avant-garde, Ludwig Museum is considered one of the most prominent museums worldwide. Its great collection of important artworks of the 20th and the 21st century includes numerous Picasso paintings as well as European art and American Pop art. It also features a vast collection that presents the history of photography with over 70,000 works.

Learn about Eau de Cologne

The Fragrance Museum covers 300 years of the history of scents, fragrance, and culture. Its exhibition consists of flacons, paintings, photos and art objects that bear testimony to the Farina dynasty and the success story of Eau de Cologne. The designated perfume category was named after the beloved place of residence of the perfumer Johann Maria Farina.

Give Your Sweet Tooth a Treat at Cologne Chocolate Museum

Exploring this Chocolate Museum is absolutely one of the best things to do in Cologne. You can start your journey by walking through a rainforest exhibit and seeing all the cocoa plants. As you make your way through the exhibit, you’ll learn all about the 5,000-year history of cocoa. After walking through the greenhouse, you’ll find information about the historical uses for cocoa in Central America and the European aristocracy. You’ll also be able to see advertisements for chocolate from past decades and find out the various promoting methods of the past. Finally, you will be able to read about the history of the museum and its founder. You’re probably thinking “what about chocolate tasting”? Well, there is an entire Chocolate Cafe with extraordinary and creative chocolate desserts. This museum is a treat both for the mind and your tastebuds.

The Chocolate Museum is one of top things to do in Cologne
© Dronepicr / Flickr

Lock your love on Hohenzollern Bridge

If you’re visiting Cologne with your other half you should definitely add the Hohenzollern Bridge to your bucket list. And make sure to have bought a locker beforehand. It is a very popular custom -and certainly a very romantic one- to put a lock on the bridge and throw the key into the Rhine River below. This is meant to symbolize the eternity of the love between the two people. Friends can also do this to show loyalty to each other and their friendship. Some paint their locks or decorate them with different items while others use the old-time favorite bicycle chains and padlocks. Be creative and make your own special lock which will always symbolize your love.

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Enjoy a boat tour on the Rhine River

Take a boat cruise on the Rhine River and see the city from the water. One of the cruises is known as the Cologne Sightseeing Round Trip Cruise. On this cruise, you can see the Hohenzollern bridge, Cologne Cathedral, the Old town. You’ll also learn about Cologne’s rich history while floating along the beautiful river. Looking for a relaxing, less historical cruise instead? Try the Cologne All-Inclusive Evening Cruise. This 3-hour cruise includes a delicious buffet, exquisite drinks, and music from a live DJ. You can see the attractions of the city lit up in the evening sky while eating a delectable meal.

Rhine river boat tour
©Sergey Ashmarin / Wikimedia Commons

Explore the scenic Alter Markt

Alter Markt translates to the “old market” and is a scenic town square near the Rhine River and the shopping areas. Once the site of jousting tournaments in the medieval days, it is now the location of little cafes with outdoor seating and concerts on open-air stages. In December there is a huge Christmas market with an ice skating rink, fairy lights, and a carousel. Whether you’re visiting Cologne with your family, friends or your sweetheart, Alter Markt offers fairy tale scenery in the heart of the German city. Extra trip: Take some photos of the 19th-century fountain that lies in the center of the square.

Enjoy nature in Cologne in the Stadtwald Forest

Stadtwald Forest is located in the outer green belt of Cologne. The forest was first planted in 1895 but over the years it got expanded with many other parks. Today it is a wonderful green oasis that attracts travelers and locals. Due to its great size and beautiful surroundings, the forest is ideal for several outdoor activities such as jogging or for a picnic.

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© dronepicr / Flickr