Ultimate Cologne Germany Travel Guide: All You Need to Know

Updated on October 6, 2023  


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Welcome to Cologne, Germany's vibrant fourth-largest city that brims with history, charm, and creativity.

Nestled on the banks of the Rhine River, Cologne boasts awe-inspiring landmarks such as the towering Cologne Cathedral, mouthwatering cuisine in traditional breweries and beer halls, and a lively atmosphere centered around its famous Carnival festivities.

This comprehensive travel guide will uncover hidden gems and unique activities tailored for travelers eager to explore this captivating destination.

Is Cologne Worth Visiting?

Yes! Cologne is worth visiting. With its festive beer culture and awe-inspiring historical landmarks, Cologne truly earns a spot on any traveler's list. The city is a melting pot of ancient traditions and modern architecture that seamlessly blend to create an unforgettable experience.

We'll tell you more reasons to visit Cologne in this article.

Planning Your Trip To Cologne

Plan ahead for your trip to Cologne by researching transportation options, visa requirements, and language differences.

Airport And Transportation

Cologne, a stunning city in Germany, is serviced by the Köln Bonn Airport (CGN), which connects to over 130 domestic and international destinations. A variety of airlines including Austrian Airlines, Eurowings, Lufthansa, Ryanair, SWISS, and VLM fly into Cologne for easy access from around the globe.

Navigating Cologne's transportation networks is a breeze thanks to its well-planned public transit system that includes 60 bus lines and tram routes.

Read more about Cologne's excellent public transport here.

Language And Visa Requirements

Embarking on your Cologne adventure starts with understanding the travel requirements and language essentials. For European Union citizens, all you need to enter Germany is a valid identity card or passport.

However, if you're visiting from outside the EU, it's crucial to check whether you will require a visa for short stays of up to 90 days.

Once in Cologne, navigating this beautiful city should be hassle-free thanks to many tourist information centers and English-speaking guides available at popular landmarks.

While the locals appreciate any attempt at speaking German, don't worry too much about language barriers as most people can communicate effectively in English. As for currency concerns, remember that Germany uses the Euro like many other EU countries.

Electricity Socket And SIM Cards

As you prepare for your Cologne adventure, it's crucial to consider the power voltage and electricity socket types used in Germany. The country operates at a voltage of 230V with types F and C sockets.

To keep your electronic devices charged and ready for use, invest in a Germany/Europe Adapter Plug Kit suitable for these specific sockets.


In addition to securing compatible chargers, staying connected through mobile phone service is an essential part of modern travel. Travelers have access to various network options such as CDMA, GSM, LTE Advanced, and even 5G while exploring Germany. [1]

By equipping yourself with the right power adapters and a suitable SIM card provider like Vodafone Germany or another local carrier ahead of time, you'll be able to navigate Cologne effortlessly — capturing stunning photos at Altstadt (Old Town), checking reviews on reputable local breweries during Kolsch beer tastings sessions or uploading breathtaking Rhine River Cruise landscapes onto social media—all ensuring that cherished memories are preserved forever!

Car Rentals

If you're planning a trip to Cologne, renting a car can be an excellent option for getting around. Not only is the cost of car rental in Germany competitive compared to other European countries but most pickup locations are available in Cologne.

Before renting a car, it's essential to research driving rules and regulations in Germany. For example, German drivers typically don't use their horn as they consider it rude unless there is an emergency situation.

It's also worth noting that many cities have low emission zones which require vehicles to meet specific standards before entering these areas.

Whether you want to see the beautiful countryside surrounding Cologne or head out on a road trip further into Europe, hiring a car is undoubtedly one of the best traveling options available for exploring all this region has to offer.

Best Time To Visit Cologne

The best time to visit Cologne largely depends on your preferences and what you want to experience. If you're looking for liveliness, February is the month for you.

However, if you prefer mild weather with fewer crowds, Spring (March to May) might be perfect for you. Temperatures are comfortable during these months with less rainfall than other seasons.

Summer months of June, July and August offer warm weather conditions ideal for outdoor activities such as boat tours along the Rhine River or dining al fresco at open-air cafes offering incredible viewings across town.

Things to Do In Cologne

The top attractions and activities in Cologne include the breathtaking Cologne Cathedral, indulging in delicious chocolate at the Chocolate Museum, exploring the charming Altstadt (Old Town), taking a relaxing Rhine River cruise, shopping on Schildergasse, and going on the best tours available.

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral is a towering masterpiece of Gothic architecture that dominates the skyline of Cologne, Germany. As the largest Gothic cathedral church in Germany, it has become an iconic symbol of German Catholicism and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Visitors to Cologne often make the pilgrimage to the cathedral for its historical significance and stunning beauty. The building took over six centuries to complete, with construction starting in 1248 and finishing in 1880.[2]

A visit to Cologne Cathedral should not be missed when exploring this vibrant city on the banks of the Rhine River. Take a guided tour or wander through at your own pace while taking time to appreciate all its cultural heritage sites along the way.

Chocolate Museum

If you're a chocoholic, the Chocolate Museum in Cologne is a must-visit. This unique museum takes you on an immersive tour through the history of cacao and chocolate, from its use in ancient cultures to modern-day global trade.


But it's not just about the chocolate – the museum boasts a beautiful tropical greenhouse featuring exotic plants like vanilla and cinnamon, as well as exhibits on advertising through time.

The Glass Chocolate Factory lets visitors watch as handmade products are crafted while learning about traditional methods of production.

While at the Chocolate Museum don't forget to stop at their very own café where they serve delectable treats made from all kinds of chocolate varieties.

Altstadt (Old Town)

Altstadt, also known as Old Town Cologne, is a charming area located in the heart of the city's central area. The neighborhood is famous for its Gothic architecture featuring an array of intricate details and decorations that have stood for centuries.


A visit to Altstadt wouldn't be complete without seeing the magnificent Cologne Cathedral. It's one of Germany's most popular landmarks located within walking distance from other top attractions like the Town Hall and Hohenzollern Bridge.

If you're into history or just love soaking up cultural heritage, then visiting Altstadt should definitely be part of your sightseeing tour while in Cologne.

Rhine River Cruise

Taking a Rhine River Cruise is one of the most enjoyable ways to explore Cologne, Germany. You can spot the world-famous Cologne Cathedral and cruise under five bridges during a city cruise in Cologne.


The Gothic Dom in Cologne is a highlight of any visit to Europe and can be seen during a Rhine River Cruise. Additionally, you can extend your journey beyond the Rhine River and explore the Moselle and Main Rivers as well.

If you're looking for an unforgettable way to experience Europe's rivers, consider embarking on an Adventures by Disney Rhine River Cruise itinerary which includes exploring four countries - Switzerland, France, Germany, and The Netherlands. [3]

Schildergasse For Shopping

Schildergasse is the go-to shopping destination for travelers in Cologne, Germany. As one of the most visited shopping streets in Germany, it offers everything from high-end fashion to budget-friendly stores and everything in between.


Apart from retail therapy, Schildergasse has many dining options that offer traditional German cuisine and international delicacies.

Whether you are looking for designer clothes or souvenirs to take back home with you, Schildergasse is a must-stop place on your itinerary when visiting Cologne.

Best Tours In Cologne

If you're looking for a way to make the most of your trip to Cologne, joining one of the city's best tours is an absolute must. One great option is exploring historic Old Town Cologne with a knowledgeable guide, who will take you through the picturesque streets and show you some hidden gems along the way.

For those interested in history, a visit to NS Documentation Centre of the City of Cologne is essential. [4]

Finally, if you're traveling with family or just love animals, don't miss out on visiting Koelner Zoo - it's home to over 10,000 animals representing more than 700 species! With so many fantastic tours available in Cologne, there really is something for everyone!

Hidden Gems And Local Favorites In Cologne

Discover Cologne's hidden gems and local favorites by visiting the trendy Belgian Quarter, exploring Stadtgarten Park, discovering the Kolumba Art Museum, meeting animals at Cologne Zoo and enjoying traditional German cuisine at Zum Schäfer am Dom.

Belgian Quarter

One of the most popular districts in Cologne, Germany is the Belgian Quarter. This hipster and trendy neighborhood is becoming increasingly popular among visitors, attracting those who are looking for a more laidback and local vibe.


Foodies will definitely enjoy exploring the Belgian Quarter's non-mainstream hip food options. There are plenty of unique eateries to suit every taste bud - from vegan cafes serving up delicious plant-based meals to artisanal bakeries offering freshly baked goods.

Shoppers can also delight in browsing through boutique stores selling locally made crafts, clothing items, accessories, and other vintage finds.

Stadtgarten Park

Stadtgarten Park is a hidden gem in Cologne that travelers should not miss! It's an idyllic escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, offering natural beauty and landscapes that leave tourists awestruck.


The park is known for its lovely gardens where visitors can relax while enjoying an ice-cold German beer or indulge in some outdoor dining options.

If you're looking for something to do on your trip to Cologne, make sure to check out Stadtgarten Park.

Kolumba Art Museum

Kolumba Art Museum is a hidden gem in Cologne, Germany that every traveler should visit. The museum's modern and poetic atmosphere offers a unique and immersive experience that combines contemporary with classical art exhibitions.

With its focus on religious art from the Middle Ages, especially the works of the "Cologne School," Kolumba Art Museum has become an important cultural heritage site in the city.

kolumba-museum-cologne guide

The museum is named after the Late Gothic period church of St. Kolumba where it stands today, adding to its charm and history. Visitors are transported to another world upon entering as they explore quiet spaces to absorb breathtaking displays of prints and Gothic church artifacts that take your breath away. [5]

In summary, art enthusiasts will find Kolumba Art Museum worth visiting when exploring Cologne, Germany's many attractions because it provides both historical context and artistic immersion opportunities for all visitors alike at this must-see destination in town.

Cologne Zoo

Cologne Zoo is an incredibly popular destination for travelers visiting the city, and it's not hard to see why. Home to over 10,000 animals from more than 750 different species, this zoo is one of the oldest in Germany and boasts an impressive collection of wildlife from all around the world.

One of the highlights of Cologne Zoo is its elephant park - one of the largest in northern Europe. Visitors can watch these gentle giants roam around together or observe them playing with their young ones.

Cologne Zoo has been gifted many animals over the years by supporters from countries all over the world - making this zoo truly unique.

Früh am Dom

One hidden gem in Cologne that travelers must add to their itinerary is Früh am Dom. Tucked away on a quiet street near the famous Cologne Cathedral, this cozy restaurant offers authentic German cuisine and drinks in a warm and inviting atmosphere.

The menu features regional specialties like sauerbraten (marinated beef), schnitzel (breaded pork or veal cutlet), and potato pancakes, all made with fresh ingredients sourced from local farmers. [6]

In addition to delicious food, Früh am Dom is also known for its charming ambiance. The interior decor includes antique furniture pieces, vintage photos of Cologne landmarks, and old-fashioned lamps that create a cozy atmosphere reminiscent of traditional German pubs.

During warmer months, visitors can enjoy their meals outside on the quaint terrace surrounded by colorful flowers and greenery.

Overall, Früh am Dom is one of those little-known spots that make traveling so rewarding - it captures the essence of local culture while providing comfort and hospitality to visitors from all over the world.

Where To Stay In Cologne

Best Places to Stay in Cologne

The best area to stay in Cologne depends on your style of travelling. Are you travelling with your family? 

Are you looking for the best night life?

Or are you visiting for an event?

In general, we recommend:

  • Altstadt (Old Town) - For First Timers
  • Belgian Quarter – For Nightlife
  • Friesenplatz – On A Budget
  • Deutz – With Family
  • Ehrenfeld – For A Local Experience

Budget Accommodations

Traveling to Cologne doesn't have to break the bank, thanks to a variety of budget accommodation options available throughout the city. From affordable hostels to cozy hotels and apartments, there are plenty of lodging options for travelers on a tight budget.

In fact, some areas in Cologne cater specifically to budget-minded visitors with cheap accommodations and easy access to public transportation.

For backpackers or solo travelers looking for even more savings, there are also shared dormitories available in various hostels across town where they can meet other like-minded individuals.

Hostel die Wohngemeinschaft is one popular choice among backpackers with its funky decor and social events.

In terms of pricing, expect an average daily cost ranging from €48-€75 per day for food and accommodation during your stay in Cologne as a budget-conscious traveler.

Mid-range Hotels

For budget-conscious travelers looking for a more comfortable place to stay in Cologne, the city offers plenty of mid-range hotel options. These hotels may not have all the luxuries of five-star properties, but they still offer quality amenities and services at affordable rates.

Many of these hotels are located within walking distance or a short metro ride away from some of Cologne's top attractions like the famous Cologne Cathedral, Chocolate Museum, and Altstadt (Old Town).

However, it's important to keep in mind that during peak tourist seasons or major events taking place in the city such as Gamescom or Carnaval season prices for mid-range accommodations can increase significantly.

If you're not sure where to start your search for budget-friendly accommodation options when visiting this vibrant German metropolis, then check out our guide here for the best hotels in Cologne.

Luxury Hotels

When it comes to finding luxury hotels in Cologne, travelers have plenty of options to choose from. For those looking for an upscale accommodation, the Dom Hotel Cologne is a top choice.


This classy hotel located in the heart of Cologne's historic Old City offers elegant accommodations and impeccable service that will make guests feel pampered.

For business travelers or those looking for modern accommodations, the Cologne Marriott Hotel definitely deserves consideration. It features meeting and banquet facilities that cater to corporate events or special occasions while still offering comfortable rooms with all the amenities expected by discerning guests.

What To Eat In Cologne

Indulge in traditional German cuisine, sip on local brews at breweries and beer halls or expand your palate with international food options as we guide you through the top dining spots in Cologne.

Traditional German Cuisine

No visit to Cologne is complete without exploring the local culinary traditions. German food is known for its hearty and simple fare, which can be found in restaurants all over the city.

rheinischer-sauerbraten food in cologne

One of the unique features of Cologne's traditional cuisine is its Brauhaus cooking style. This type of cooking involves slow-braising meats such as beef or pork in a mixture of beer and spices to make a savory stew-like dish that pairs perfectly with locally brewed beer.

Despite being primarily influenced by neighboring countries in Central Europe, Germany has many regional variations when it comes to its food culture – don't miss out on trying some of these staple dishes whilst visiting one of Germany's most interesting cities!

Breweries And Beer Halls

No trip to Cologne, Germany is complete without a visit to the city's many breweries and beer halls. With a rich history of brewing dating back centuries, it's no surprise that Kölsch beer is unique to Cologne and typically served in 2L glasses at the many brauhaus pubs around the city.

The traditional city centre of Cologne is home to a number of Brauhäuser, or brewery restaurants, that are steeped in tradition.


The craft beer scene in Cologne has exploded in recent years, with numerous microbreweries popping up around the city offering innovative takes on classic German beers. Whether you prefer pilsners, lagers or stouts, there's something for everyone in this bustling metropolis.

If you're looking for a truly immersive experience, consider taking one of the many brewery tours available throughout the city which offer an insider look into the brewing process and provide ample opportunities for tastings along the way.

International Cuisine Options

Cologne is a melting pot of different cultures, reflected through the diverse culinary scene in the city. For travelers looking for international cuisine options, there are plenty to choose from in Cologne.

The city boasts Indian restaurants like EatDOORI in the city center with authentic dishes such as Chicken Tikka Masala and Tandoori Fish that won't break the bank. [7]

For those who prefer a taste of Asia, visit Nagoya Sushi & Grill which offers delicious sushi rolls and fried rice bowls with fresh ingredients.

In conclusion, dining at international restaurants offers a unique cultural experience while traveling abroad that should not be missed.

Unique Cafes And Bars

Cologne is a city that never sleeps, and when it comes to cafes and bars, the options are endless. For those looking for something off the beaten path, head to the trendy neighborhoods like Belgian Quarter, Ehrenfeld or Agnesviertel where you can find unique cafes and bars with distinct atmospheres.


Meanwhile, Ehrenfeld is home to some of the hippest bars in Cologne such as Club Bahnhof Ehrenfeld which features live music performances and art installations.

If you're looking for somewhere more classic but still unique, try Zum Scheuen Reh which has been around since the 1970s and is known for its retro decor and affordable drinks.

With so many one-of-a-kind options available throughout the city center alone- from street vendors selling gluhwein during Christmas markets in Altstadt to upscale spaces like Funkhaus - travelers will certainly have no trouble finding inventive places to enjoy their nights out while exploring all that Cologne has to offer!

Getting Around Cologne

Getting around Cologne is easy with its well-connected public transportation system, bike rentals, and walkable streets.

Public Transportation

Getting around Cologne is easy with its efficient public transportation system. The city has an extensive network of trains, trams, buses, and suburban railways that are affordable and connect you to almost every part of the city.

Trams and subways in Cologne refer to the same thing - underground trains that run on tracks within tunnels or above ground on street-level rails.

They provide frequent service, about every 5-10 minutes during peak times, connecting tourists to most of the main attraction spots such as Altstadt (Old Town), Chocolate Museum, and Kolumba Art Museum swiftly.


If you plan on taking longer journeys outside central areas like traveling from Köln/Bonn airport or exploring nearby towns such as Bonn-Duisdorf or Troisdorf-Spich, using suburban railways would be ideal.

Bike Rentals

Renting a bike is the perfect way to explore Cologne and its many tourist attractions while enjoying some outdoor activities at the same time. The city of Cologne has made it easier for tourists by providing information on cycling tours and maps, highlighting the best routes to take.

In Cologne, you can rent a bike for just 1 Euro per half-hour, making it an affordable option for all budget travellers out there. One account can rent up to four bicycles at once, so a group or family of four can use this mode of transportation together.

Whether sightseeing or exploring hidden gems around town, biking offers an unparalleled experience that you won't get through other modes of transport.


Walking is a fantastic way to explore Cologne, especially if you're looking for a cost-effective and pedestrian-friendly means of transport.

The city center is compact enough that most attractions are easily accessible on foot, making it the perfect way to soak up the local atmosphere.

For those who prefer structured walks with an informative guide, there are plenty of options available too.

Several tour companies offer guided walks around popular neighborhoods like Altstadt or Belgian Quarter, sharing their knowledge of local history and pointing out hidden gems along the way.

Overall, whether you choose guided tours or go off-the-beaten-path solo adventures, walking is an excellent choice for exploring Cologne's charming streetscapes at your own pace.

Safety And Expenses In Cologne

Is Cologne Safe?

Cologne is generally considered a safe place to visit, with low crime rates for mugging and kidnapping. However, tourists should exercise caution and be aware of areas that may pose risks.

Petty crime such as pickpocketing can occur in crowded tourist areas or public transportation, so it’s essential to keep an eye on your belongings at all times.

For those traveling alone or late at night, it's best advised to stay near well-lit streets and avoid walking alone in dimly lit places.

While safety remains a top priority for any traveler visiting Cologne, don't let this discourage you from experiencing the city's rich history and attractions.

Is Cologne Expensive?

Whether you're planning a vacation or thinking of living in Cologne as an expat, one of your main concerns might be the cost of visiting. Compared to other major European cities and German cities, Cologne can be quite expensive.

For tourists visiting Cologne on vacation, a one-week trip usually costs around €1,126 for one person. This includes accommodation costs and sightseeing activities such as visiting the famous Cathedral or taking a cruise along the Rhine River.

While language barriers may pose challenges when navigating pricing information independently as an English speaker unfamiliar with German currency systems, many find that being aware of general trends among destinations abroad keeps expenses manageable throughout their international travels.

This allows them more financial freedom to enjoy local landmarks and cultural experiences unique to each region they visit within Europe!

Do you know that the Koln Card offers up to 50% off many museums, resturants, attractions in Cologne? Read more about the Cologne Card here.

You might also like: 50+ Interesting Facts about Cologne, Germany


1: The current state of 5G in Germany, retrieved from https://www.rcrwireless.com/20230103/5g/the-current-state-5g-germany
2: Cologne Cathedral - UNESCO World Heritage Centre, retrieved from https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/292/
3: Rhine River Cruise Itinerary | Adventures By Disney, retrieved from https://www.adventuresbydisney.com/europe/rhine-river-cruise/daily-itinerary/
4: museenkoeln.de | NS-Documentation Centre, retrieved from https://museenkoeln.de/portal/NS-Documentation-Centre
5: KOLUMBA :: Information, retrieved from https://www.kolumba.com/?language=eng&cat_select=1&category=22&preview=
6: More than 100 years of delicious Kölsch beer | FRÜH Gastronomie, retrieved from https://www.frueh-gastronomie.com/history-brewhouse-and-gastronomy-cologne.html
7: About us - eatDOORI, retrieved from https://eatdoori.com/

About the Author

Stephan Drescher, founder of germanytravel.blog, is a German travel expert and insider, providing trusted tips and advice for a perfect trip to Germany. Born & bred German.