If you’re looking for a fun city to visit in Germany, look no further than Cologne! Right on the River Rhine, tourists can walk around ancient ruin or explore modern art galleries all within a few blocks of each other. Cologne is a really fun city for any age group to enjoy on your next family trip!
Located directly on the Rhine River, the Cologne Cathedral is an iconic structure and a beautiful representation of gothic architecture. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the cathedral is one of the largest in Europe and was built in 1248 as one of the most impressive and grand structures from the Middle Ages. With two looming towers measuring 157 meters high, it’s hard to miss as you look out over Cologne. You can even walk up the 500 steps to the top of the south tower to see amazing views of the city—just be sure to wear ear protection on Sundays you the bells aren’t too loud! In addition to Catholic masses, you can also attend concerts, events, and tours at the cathedral.
Old Town Cologne
You can easily spend a whole weekend walking through the streets of Old Town Cologne. See alleyways lined with old houses turned boutiques and cafes. Walk along the Rhine River and marvel at the ancient ruins and artifacts found in this classic Germanic city. You can just sit on the edge of the riverbank and look around enjoying the views and smells of the city with a nice cup of coffee and good company for hours.
Rhine River Cruise
The best way to visit any new city and get the lay of the land is by boat. With the Rhine running through the city, a boat cruise any time of day is a wonderful experience. See the city’s top sights from the water, like the Cologne Cathedral or the entrance into Old Town. Or perhaps you want to wine and dine on your cruise? Take one of the very popular evening cruises on the Rhine and eat traditional views while the sun sets over the city. There is evening hop on and off passes for river boats, so you never have to walk the streets to see the historical sites!
While you’re in Old Town, walk over to City Hall, or the Kolner Rathaus. This is the oldest public building in the country, dating back over 900 years. Having gone through many refurbishments and architectural iterations, you will notice the 14th century main building, the tower added on in the 15th century, and the Renaissance loggia and cloister. Keep looking to see the atrium built in the 20th century. You can walk around and see the Gothic prophets, the statues of the nine “good heroes” from the Bible, Torah, and Paganism, and the singing carillon.
Nazi Socialist Documentation Centre of the City of Cologne
Unfortunately, like most of Germany, the Nazi stronghold in the 1930s and 1940s existed in Cologne. You are able to walk through the Nazi Social Documentation Centre and hear of the atrocities and horrors that occurred under the Nazi regime. This particular site, a former prison for the Gestapo, is a memorial, museum, and research facility. If you wish, you can walk into the prison cells in the basement and see the etched in writing on the walls. The centre wants to show visitors the human side and implications the Nazi police state had on individuals and countries. There are also exhibits on the aftermath of the Nazis and how the international community brought those people to trial and justice.
Wallraf-Richartz and Ludwig Museums
With exhibits in one of Cologne’s newest architectural wonders, the Wallraf-Richartz and Ludwig Museums exhibit a range of European art and artists. See art from some of Cologne’s best, and view a Rembrandt, Manet, Liebermann and more! There are also contemporary and modern exhibits, as well as a whole building dedicated to photography since the 1840s and the museum showcasing the art and artifacts of the Archdiocese of Cologne. Walking around both museums is truly a wonderful way to spend an afternoon in Cologne.
Cable Car Ride
Europe’s first cable car that runs across a river, Cologne cable cars have carried millions of people since the 1950s. See the Cologne Cathedral and Old Town with a birds eye view and pick out where you want to visit in the city next!
Cologne Chocolate Museum
Slowly established since the 1970s, visiting the Cologne Chocolate Museum is a deliciously sweet experience! See the journey a cocoa plant goes on from bean all the way to silky smooth chocolate packaged in a store. You and your kids will love the interactive displays and the antique molds and packaging displays. Not only can you read about chocolate being made, but there’s also a chocolate factory line so you can see the process right before your eyes! And if you’re looking for a sweet souvenir, make your own chocolate bar to take home.
Cologne’s history goes way farther back then you may expect, back to the Paleolithic era. Learn about the ancient city and its history through displays on the 2nd century Dionysus Mosaic and the 1st century monument of Poblicius. You can also see Roman and German jewelry, pottery, and mosaics that have all been excavated from archaeological digs around the city.
Augustusburg and Falkenlust Palaces
South of the city, only a short drive away, are Schloss Augustusburg and Falkenlust in the town of Bruhl. These 18th century palaces were beautifully decorated and furnished in the late Baroque fashion and can be toured today. They share a large park that is nowadays host to many open-air concerts and festivals. To make your visit to Bruhl even more special, spend the afternoon at one of Europe’s largest amusement parks, Phantasiaisland. You will have guaranteed fun all day!
So, what are you waiting for? A trip to Cologne is a great time if you’re looking for a history yet modern city!