Cologne has one of the most active nightlife in Germany, and you'd be sorely missing out if you only stay home after dark. The majestic Cologne Cathedral lights up in full splendor, and spaces like Rheinboulevard and the Belgian Quarter come to life. Read on for the best things to do when the sun goes down!
Nightlife Activities In Cologne
Visit The Coolest Cocktail Bars
No other German city parties as hard as Cologne (except maybe Berlin) and the top cocktail bars here are known for creative and exotic drinks that'll knock your socks off.
You'll find majority of bars located in the city center, and hip districts like Belgian Quarter, Friesen Quarter and Ehrenfeld.
For the most original cocktails in town, many agree you have to stop by Seiberts. Ring the bell at the entrance, tell the bartender what you like, and be prepared to be "wow-ed" by their quality ingredients, craftsmanship and art-like presentation.
Another hotspot is Toddy Tapper. You'll find their cocktails are infused with exotic spices you won't find in other bars. Despite the long lines outside, you'll feel like you're the only customer there - thanks to their warm & attentive service.
While exploring these bars, take the chance to wander around. Because districts like Belgian Quarter and Friesen Quarter are fitted with unique shops as well as live music venues hosting DJ sets and after-hours parties.
Sing Your Heart Out at Karaoke Night
Karaoke hasn't taken off quite yet in Germany, but if you're looking to unwind and belt out a few tunes, Cologne has a decent karaoke scene to warm up your throats! 
Look no further than Jameson Irish Pub, located in the city center, for the 'Number 1 Karaoke Party in Cologne' every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 
Another karaoke bar worth stopping by is MUSEUM, if you're around the student district on a Wednesday or Thursday. With 386 pages of songs (German & English) to choose from, you don't have to worry about nothing to sing!
Dance The Night Away At Clubs
Believe it or not, Cologne has a lively club scene. From large dance clubs perfect for electronic music, techno and house, to small underground venues tucked away in hidden buildings, there'll be something you'll like.
The Friesen Quarter is widely regarded as a hub for nightlife activities in Cologne, filled with late-night restaurants, bars, and renowned clubs like Bootshaus, Sixpack, and Odonien. 
Just know the nightlight starts late in Cologne. So you and your friends can kick off the night by picking up a drink at a nearby Büdchen or bar, and head to your club of choice around midnight or later.
If you're new to Cologne, many clubs here have a relaxed smart-casual dress code. This typically means avoiding overly casual attire like shorts, flip-flops, or sporting clothes.
Dress up a bit for more upscale clubs, but avoid anything too revealing or formal.
Meet New Friends At A Pub Crawl
There's nothing like joining a pub crawl to make new friends, soak in Cologne's lively pub scene... AND enjoy free entry and shots!
The one I recommend is Pub Crawl Cologne. They are managed by a company that has specialized in this for years, and know where are the most interesting pubs here.
Popular among young people, they kickstart the crawl with a 10 liter (2.6 gallon) barrel of Kölsch - so you know the night will be a blast!
Hunt Ghosts On A Self-Guided Tour
Cologne is over 2,000 years old, and has witnessed its fair share of gruesome tragedies; bombings, executions, plagues, witch trials, and horrific crimes...
So if you're brave, exploring Cologne's most haunted sights should be at the top of your list of things to do in Cologne at night.
Witch Hunt is a mysterious escape game in Cologne, and comes highly raved by spook-seekers.
This self-guided game requires you to visit haunted locations - from eerie cemeteries to bombing sites. You'll also make your way to iconic attractions like the Cologne Cathedral, to learn about mysterious accidents and unexplained events.
These places are said to be haunted by restless spirits, and this spine-chilling escape game isn't for the faint-hearted!
See Cologne's Famous Landmarks In A New Light
The Cologne City Hall, with its Gothic architecture and soaring spires, also looks real impressive against the darkened sky.
Overall, visiting iconic landmarks and tourist spots after dark provides a whole new perspective on this charming German town.
Declare Your Love on Hohenzollern Bridge
Attaching a padlock on Hohenzollern Bridge with your significant other is a tradition for many couples in Cologne.
Lovers often inscribe their names or initials on the lock before securing it to the railing, then tossing the key into the Rhine River below. It sounds a little cheesy... but it's a symbol of "locking away" their love, keeping it secure.
And trust me, the setting is extra romantic at night. Just imagine sealing your love against the backdrop of Cologne's glittering skyline and the majestic Rhine...
Stroll Down Rheinboulevard With A Cold Beer
The star attraction at Rheinboulevard, a 1,640 foot-long riverside walkway, is undoubtably on the other side of the river:
A breathtaking view of Old Town and the gorgeous Cologne Cathedral set against a setting sun. After dark, it's even more beautiful. You can't stop yourself from taking many photos as a souvenir.
On Rheinboulevard, you'll notice many local couples, friends and families sitting on the steps, and just chilling and enjoying the light breeze. There's plenty of space to relax without feeling crowded at all.
If you happen to pass by a kiosk (Büdchen) on your way to the boulevard, grab a chilled bottle of beer and some snacks. It enhances the overall atmosphere and completes the Rheinboulevard experience!
Chill Out With Locals at Le Kiosk
Le Kiosk is the place to be. Located in Brüsseler Platz, the kiosk has been dubbed the "coolest place in Köln" and "the place to go if you’re out in Cologne on a Friday or Saturday night".
Basically, it's where young folks buy kölsch to hang out with their friends at the square. It's common to strike up a chat with strangers, and make a new friend or two.
If you're around the Belgian Quarter, feel free to pop by Le Kiosk for a chill night out!
Visit Local Breweries & Sample Kölsch Beer
A brewery or Brauhäuser, is a local pub that brews their own Kölsch beer, and Cologne has several worth exploring.
Many guided brewery tours take place in the evening, which makes them the perfect activity for a night out. You'll typically also have the opportunity to taste fresh Kölsch beer straight from the tap. This beer is typically served in small glasses called 'stanges'. 
Their waiters, often referred to as 'Köbes', are known for a specific Kölsch serving ritual (hint: that your glass should never be empty)!
A good brewery tour brings you to a few different pubs, so you can taste the contrast between different breweries. And your guide should be well-versed in Cologne's unique Brauhäuser culture, to teach you all you need to know about hanging out at breweries like a local!
Recommended: We're in love with this guided tour, which covers 3 excellent Cologne breweries and includes Kölsch beer tastings. Our guide was top-notch too! Tickets sell out fast, so book your slots early.
Find Treasures at an Evening Flea Market
Located in the trendy Ehrenfeld district, Nachtkonsum offers much more than your typical flea market.
Opening its doors from 5 - 11 pm once or twice a month, this evening flea market is accompanied with live music and a bar, making it an lively place to hang out with friends and browse for vintage treasure. 
There's a small entrance fee collected by the Nachtkonsum organizers, and you may have to check their website for where the latest flea market is held, because they change frequently.
My wife loves scooping up pretty second-hand apparel, unique accessories, antique furniture, décor, artwork and more - all for just a few euros. After all, the charm of flea markets is the element of surprise—you never know what hidden bargains you might come across!
Hang Out At The Trendy Belgian Quarter
The trendy Belgian Quarter is a must-visit for travelers exploring Cologne, and it comes alive at night. This young and artsy neighborhood is covered with funky street art, and dotted with independent specialty shops and boutique art galleries.
Brüsseler Platz, a square in the center of the quarter, is also a popular spot for locals to hang out and people watch - especially on the weekends and evenings. It often hosts festivals, markets, and events throughout the year, so it feels like there's always something going on!
But this cool and laidback district isn't just about sights; it's also one of Cologne's popular nightlife spots with countless bars and restaurants opening late into the evening.
The Belgian Quarter is well-connected to public transportation, making it easily accessible by train and bus. Unfortunately, the popularity of the area means that it can get crowded sometimes.
Cheers to Good Times in a Biergarten
A German beer garden, known as "Biergarten", is a traditional open-air establishment where locals enjoy beer, food, and socializing in a relaxed, outdoor setting.
These beer gardens are an integral part of German culture, including Cologne. They often feature long communal tables and benches, to encourage social interactions!
Hellers Am Volksgarten is by far my favorite to have a good time with friends. It's no frills, casual biergarten with a great view of the big Volksgarten lake. You can even take a pedal boat tour of the river for a couple euros.
Many beer gardens in Cologne extend their hours, especially during the warmer months, making them a perfect place to spend an evening with friends or family!
Attend A Lively Music Concert
If you're a music fan, Cologne's nightlife caters to a wide range of genres. From classical orchestras to rock bands, there's something for everyone.
One of the biggest event venues, LANXESS arena, hosts concerts by international artists, such as Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran or Depeche Mode.
The annual c/o pop festival also takes place each summer with exciting line-ups spanning electronic dance, hip-hop and indie pop-rock music around town. 
The city's strong classical music tradition prominently features the Gürzenich Orchestra and the WDR Symphony Orchestra. The Kölner Philharmonie is a premier venue for classical concerts too.
Don't forget its thriving local music scene. You can often catch emerging talent at smaller venues like Sonic Ballroom and Blue Shell!
Visit The Cologne Zoo At Night
A nocturnal visit to the Cologne Zoo is a unique and exciting way to spend an evening with loved ones. As one of the oldest zoos in the world, with over 800 different animal species, visitors can experience a rare opportunity to observe nocturnal creatures up close during their nighttime activities. 
From animals like tigers and owls to playful lemurs swinging from branch to branch, these animals don't usually appear around Cologne Zoo before dark, so it's a totally different experience.
To get to the zoo conveniently via public transport, you can take the train line 18 from Cologne main station or by using bus line 140 from Ebertplatz.
Take An Evening Rhine River Boat Cruise
Nothing beats viewing Cologne's stunning cityscape from a leisurely Rhine River evening cruise, making it one of the best things to do in Cologne at night.
Bathed in the soft glow of streetlights and historic buildings lit up like a museum display, Cologne at night is a feast for the eyes.
Chill Out at a Literal Ice Bar
Yes, we mentioned bars before, but we thought this deserved its own section. First of all, how would you like to visit a bar made from ice?
At Icebar Cologne, everything is ice, from the walls and our serving glasses, to the counter where we made payment! There are many lovely ice sculptures related to Cologne on display here, such as the Cologne Cathedral, perfect for photos!
Don't worry, they have gloves and coats for customers who don't have their own, so you can keep warm and cozy in this icy bar.
Turns out bachelor and bachelorette parties love to book out this place, and customize their own sculptures!
So if you want to book a slot, better reserve early!
Laugh Out Loud At A Comedy Club
Germans are sometimes stereotyped as being serious people, and not at all funny. But the truth is we do have a sense of humor, and we enjoy it very much. Perhaps not as easily susceptible as in other cultures.
That being said, wherever you're from, I'm sure you'll have a hilariously good time at BOING! Comedy Club Night in Cologne.
The comedy club hosts many international comedians and is well-known for German and English stand-up comedy. The atmosphere is very relaxed, like sitting in someone's home with delicious food and drinks, watching a comedy show.
I've been to Boing at least twice, and each time we (the audience) were roaring with laughter from start to finish. AND the price is unbeatable for a great Saturday night. Totally worth it!
(Nov- Dec) Enjoy Traditional German Holiday Culture
The Christmas markets in Cologne are considered one of the most beautiful in Germany. To catch it, you'll need to be in Cologne sometime late November through December.
The most well-known Christmas market, is situated in front of the Cologne Cathedral, and is a total treat for the eyes. Upon entering, you'll be greeted by dozens of wooden stalls wrapped with twinkling lights & festive decor.
Strolling through the market, sipping Glühwein (a spiced wine), it's literally impossible not to have a silly grin on my face as the festive music fills the air.
As expected, Cologne's Christmas markets are a paradise for children (and the young at heart) too. There's typically merry-go-round rides, cute puppet shows, and even a charming ice-skating rink right in the middle!
Recommended: Experience even more of Cologne's holiday magic on this cycling tour! You'll cover iconic city landmarks & visit multiple Christmas markets, some hidden from tourists! You'll also get to sample local holiday snacks & drinks.
Safety Tips For Nighttime In Cologne
Stick To Well-Lit Areas
Most parts of Cologne are safe, and as a German, I've never felt worried about walking around at night. However, it always good to have common sense and stick to well-lit areas and avoid dark alleys or dimly lit streets - especially if you are walking alone late at night.
It's always best to choose walking on the main streets, rather than taking shortcuts through quiet back alleys or secluded parks.
Travel In Groups And Avoid Walking Alone
If you are new to Cologne and unfamiliar with the area, it is best to walk with a group, or where there are many pedestrians around.
Choose the city center or districts with higher traffic at night, such as the Old Town, Ehrenfeld, and the Belgian Quarter. The same goes for where your hotel is located. If you have no choice but to walk "home" alone, make sure the entrance to your accommodation isn't in a secluded area.
Opting for public transportation like buses or trains will help you move around safely, rather than walking back to your hotel late in the evening after a long day out.
While pricier, taking a taxi can also give you peace of mind as drivers can get you where you want safely without worries about being lured into unsafe spots while on foot. Cologne may be lively after dark, but that doesn't mean it's immune to isolated dangers.
If you plan on hitting the bars or clubs at night, make sure you have a designated driver or arrange for a taxi service ahead of time.
Watch Your Belongings At All Times
Pickpocketing is famous in Cologne's touristy areas. I once had someone steal my wallet while I was browsing a kiosk, and I realized nothing until I was about to pay.
It's important to watch your belongings while exploring Cologne at night, as pickpocketing can happen anywhere.
Avoid carrying large amounts of cash or flashy items (fancy watches and jewelry) that may attract attention. And stay alert when walking in crowded places such as public transportation hubs, train stations, or busy tourist attractions like the Cathedral. Try not to leave your belongings on the table or out of sight.
Make Use Of Public Transportation
Cologne has an excellent public transportation network with a tight network of train, tram and bus lines, so getting around safely is easy and convenient. You may not even need to walk very much.
At night, a special tram service runs every 30 minutes from midnight until 1:15 am daily and until 9 am on Sundays. On weekends, it runs every 30 minutes after 1:15 am within the city, and every 60 minutes outside the city.
Know Emergency Numbers
It's always a good idea to be prepared for any emergency situation, especially when you're traveling. When exploring Cologne at night, make sure you know the emergency numbers in case of any health or safety concerns.
The German emergency number is 112, and it should be used for serious medical emergencies, fires, or other life-threatening situations.
It's important to keep these numbers on hand in case of an emergency. You never know what may happen while exploring a new city at night. It's also worth taking note of the location where you are staying and knowing its exact address so that first responders can quickly locate you if needed.
When it comes to dressing for your night out in Cologne, there's no official dress code to follow. Most people opt for smart casual when heading for a night out.
However, you should consider what type of activity you will be doing when choosing your attire. For example, if you're planning on exploring the Old Town on foot, comfortable walking shoes are a must-have.
It's also essential to ensure that your clothing keeps up with the weather conditions during your visit to Cologne.
Finally, keep safety in mind when choosing what to wear at night if you're a female traveling alone,
In short, although there isn't an official dress code for visiting Cologne at night, having a pair of jeans and a nice blouse comes in handy towards making sure you blend in seamlessly among locals here!
Conclusion: Things to Do in Cologne At Night
Even when the heavens open up and the city is raining with a drizzle of mystique, there's no shortage of indoor activities to enjoy. From strolling along the luminous banks of the Rhine to cozying up in a traditional brewery, the city has something for everyone.
Cologne's nocturnal charm extends beyond its famous historical sites, as the nightlife and contemporary culture thrive well into the late hours.
Whether you're visiting the illuminated Cologne Cathedral, immersing yourself in the arts at museums and galleries, or dancing the night away in trendy clubs, this city never fails to impress.
1. Are there any popular nightclubs or bars in Cologne?
Yes, Cologne is known for its hip nightlife and has endless great nightclubs and bars to choose from like Bootshaus, Seiberts, and Toddy Tapper.
2. What are some other activities to do in Cologne at night aside from drinking?
Aside from drinking, you can sing at a karaoke bar, admire the city's evening skyline at Rheinboulevard, and discover vintage treasure at Nachtkonsum flea market.
3. Is it safe to walk around Cologne at night?
Cologne is generally considered a safe city for travelers but as with all cities around the world, it’s always good practice to remain aware of your surroundings especially when venturing out late at night.
4. Does Cologne have any nighttime sightseeing tours available?
Yes, there are several companies offering guided nighttime walking tours throughout the city. We particularly enjoyed this exciting haunted guided tour of Cologne and this affordable interactive escape game around the city
1: Karaoke Bars in Germany, retrieved from https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g187275-Activities-c20-t105-Germany.html
2: Monster Ronsons Ichiban Karaoke, retrieved from https://www.karaokemonster.de/
3: Laid-Back Fun Comes Easily in Cologne, retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/17/travel/laidback-fun-comes-easily-in-cologne.html
4: Museum Ludwig: Tickets + Opening Hours, retrieved from https://www.museum-ludwig.de/en/visit/information/tickets-opening-hours.html
5: WHAT IS A STANGE GLASS? (AND WHY DO I CARE??), retrieved from https://beerswithmandy.com/beer-everything-blog/what-is-a-stange-glass-and-why-do-i-care
6: Köln Ehrenfeld – NACHTKONSUM, retrieved from https://nachtkonsum.com/standort/koeln-ehrenfeld/
7: c/pop Festival, retrieved from https://c-o-pop.de/festival
8: Kolner Zoo, retrieved from https://www.koelnerzoo.de/en/home-en
9: Nighttime public transport in Cologne, retrieved from https://www.kvb.koeln/en/service/night.html