21 Best Day Trips from Cologne, Germany

Updated on November 7, 2023  

day trips from cologne

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When you're in Cologne and have a day or two to spare, why not visit other parts of Western Germany like Düsseldorf, Bonn, and Aachen?

For one, this region is known for its picturesque landscapes, medieval castles and several  UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

But that's not all, Cologne is a great home base for exploring, as many of the most popular train routes stop at Cologne - making it easy to explore nearby cities!

(By the way, most of these day trips from Cologne can be accessed by train, although a few may require a car.)

The bottom line, in this article you'll discover the best day trip from Cologne for you, that'll leave you wanting to explore more of this wonderful region!

Top 21 Day Trips From Cologne, Germany

Linz am Rhein: A Fairytale Village

🕒 1 hour travel time by train

When you conjure an image of a medieval village in your mind, Linz am Rhein comes remarkably close.

This enchanting town is known for its exceptionally well-preserved half-timbered houses that date back to the late Middle Ages.

linz-am-rhein

The town's center too, is a maze of narrow, cobblestone streets lined with colorful buildings like straight out of a fairytale.

Linz Castle (Burg Linz), perched above the town, is absolutely worth a trip.

We descended into the dungeons where the torture chambers held various torture instruments which they used on thieves and other "criminals"!

Ahr Valley: A Scenic Wine Tasting Adventure

🕒 2 hours travel time by train

Stunning green landscapes, panoramic hiking trails, wine tasting... Do we need to say more?

As Germany's largest red wine growing region, Ahr Valley is known for producing exceptional Spätburgunder (pinot noir), Portugieser, Dornfelder, and Frühburgunder wines.

If you have a few days days to spare, hike the Red Wine Trail, a 21 mile (35 km) trail that links the wine villages of the Ahr wine region in Germany along the River Ahr.

Along this trail, hikers can enjoy beautiful views of the vineyards, taste local wines, and visit small picturesque towns.

ahr-wine-valley day trip from cologne

I'd recommend popping by Altenahr, a town surrounded by vineyards, rolling hills, and the meandering Ahr River.

You can visit their medieval castle, Are Castle, and walk to the Teufelsloch, a natural attraction also known as the "Devil's Hole".

From there, you can take advantage of numerous hiking routes  along the river and through the vineyards.

The Ahr Valley promises not only delicious wines but also many nearby attractions making it one of the top day trips from Cologne.

Düsseldorf: A Modern And Vibrant City

🕒 1 hour travel time by train

If you love shopping for clothes, Düsseldorf is undoubtably Germany's fashion capital.

It boasts Königsallee, a famous shopping street lined with boutiques and high-end fashion stores.

Also known as Kö, it's considered one of the most attractive fashion shopping streets in Germany, if not all of Europe [1].

If you love contemporary art, the city is home to several world-class museums, all within walking distance, such as the renowned K20 and K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen.

After immersing yourself in culture, unwind at Pardo Bar – one of the city’s best watering holes – where you can sip on innovative cocktails amid stylish interiors.

dsseldorf-germany a city near cologne

And despite its modernity, Düsseldorf has beautifully preserved churches, palaces, traditional pubs and an Old Town.

When you're here, remember to grab a glass of Altbier, a traditional beer in Düsseldorf made with the old style of brewing!

The city also holds great significance in the arts and music scene with venues such as Tonhalle concert hall hosting top-notch performances.

Walking along the Rhine embankment promenade is a popular past-time for locals, including warm breezes and spectacular sunsets, and a staircase on which to linger, As well as beach furniture.

If you only have one day to visit Düsseldorf, then I definitely recommend the Hop-On Hop-Off bus to see all the major sights in one go!

Bonn: Birthplace Of Beethoven

🕒 30 mins travel time by train

Just a short train ride away from Cologne lies the charming city of Bonn, best known as the birthplace of Ludwig van Beethoven.

It's here where Beethoven developed his talents as a composer and pianist!

And as you wander through its picturesque streets, you'll discover museums, monuments, and cultural events dedicated to celebrating Germany's most famous composer. [2,3]

For example, the Beethoven House (Beethoven-Haus) in Bonn is a prominent museum dedicated to his life and work, housing a vast collection of his manuscripts and memorabilia.

bonn-germany

In addition to its musical heritage, Bonn is also renowned for its historical landmarks and scenic views along the River Rhine.

Spend some time exploring the 18th century Poppelsdorf Palace or taking in the quiet greenery at Kottenforst Nature Reserve – all just minutes away from bustling city life.

Interestingly, Bonn was also the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany until 1990.

If you have the time, you can visit authentic parts of Germany's political past, such as Palais Schaumburg, the Chancellor's Bungalow, and the former parliament chamber.

If you only have a short time to visit Bonn, then I definitely recommend the Hop-On Hop-Off bus to see all the major sights at one go.

Phantasialand: Award-Winning Themepark

🕒 1 hour travel time by train and bus

If you're up with children and looking for a day trip from Cologne, you'll be sorry if you miss out on Phantasialand! As a matter of fact, many fans argue it's better than Europa-Park and Disneyland 😉

The biggest pull is its thrilling roller coaster rides. The ride Taron holds multiple world records, and Winja's Fear & Force is another popular spinning coaster.

day trip from cologne phantasialand-germany

What sets Phantasialand apart from other theme parks is its attention to detail and themes that that transport visitors to different countries and mythical cultures.

Even during the winter months, when most theme parks are closed or offer limited activities, Phantasialand remains open and transforms into a magical winter wonderland that visitors can explore. [7]

Koblenz: Where The Rhine And Moselle Rivers Meet

🕒 1.5 hours travel time by train

Koblenz is an lovely town in Germany that's listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to its unique location between the Rhine and Moselle rivers - and its rich history dating back to Roman times.

Indeed, Koblenz is home to Ehrenbreitstein, which was built as a Roman fort and later served as a Prussian stronghold.

As Europe's second-largest fortress, today it's a part of the Koblenz State Museum. I highly recommend climbing to its peak to glimpse wonderful views of the Rhine River and Koblenz. 

rhine-river-cruise

A river cruise around Koblenz is, of course, unmissable. You'll float along to the backdrop of lush vineyards, forests and mountain ranges, and this top-rated cruise tour is my top choice. 

It takes you on a romantic ride through the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, a UNESCO world heritage site - perfect for soaking in German cultural heritage and some of the Rhine's most beautiful sights!

But make sure you have time to visit the German Corner (Deutsches Eck) before you head back to Cologne...

Here, you'll have a panoramic view of the intersection of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. A statue of Emperor William I has been erected here, symbolic of the unification of Germany in the late 19th century. 

Ruedesheim am Rhein: Beautiful Wine Country

🕒 2 hour travel time by train

If you can travel a little further, you'll find this picturesque town located in the Rhine Gorge, which also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site!

It is often described as the most beautiful wine region in Germany due to its stunning vineyard-covered hillsides, charming streets, and its role producing some of Germany's finest wines, especially Riesling.

When you reach, you can explore their vineyards and spend the better part of your day sampling local wines!

Just west of the landscape are the Berg Rottland, Berg Roseneck, and Berg Schlossberg vineyards, which famously produces some of the best wines in the region for centuries.

In the evening, Rüdesheim's location along the Rhine River also makes it an ideal starting point for river cruises.

This phenomenal boat tour takes you down the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Middle Rhine Valley, where you'll enjoy castle tours (such as Rheinstein Castle and Reichenstein Castle) along the way.

Aachen: A Spa Town With Ancient Roots

🕒 50 mins travel time by train

Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor, lived in Aachen a long time ago. He chose Aachen as his imperial residence, and this city became a center of power during the Carolingian Empire.

You can start your day trip at Aachen Cathedral (Aachener Dom), a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It's a great example of old-style Carolingian architecture and inside, you can even see where Charlemagne used to sit on his throne in the Palatine Chapel!

aachen-cathedral

Aachen's other claim to fame its tradition as a spa town, owing to its natural thermal springs.

These thermal springs were cherished by the Romans for their healing properties and the thermal pools at Carolus Thermen are very popular among tourists coming to Aachen.

This 24-hour Hop-On Hop-Off bus is a convenient and affordable way to curate your day trip itinerary, including top sights like the Carolus Thermen and Elisenbrunnen.

Mainz: 2000 Year-Old Wine City

🕒 2 hours travel time by train

Mainz is one of Germany's oldest cities, and definitely worth a day visit if you can make the trip!

Founded by the Romans as "Mogontiacum" around 38 BC, you can explore ruins from its ancient past. Located in the Rhineland wine region, its wine culture also originates from the Romans.

The Altstadt of Mainz is the cutest little town area dotted with period buildings and narrow cobblestone streets, ideal for photo stops. Here, don't miss the Mainz Cathedral (Mainzer Dom) and its famously beautiful blue Chagall windows.

mainz-germany-cathedral

The city is also home to the Gutenberg Museum, dedicated to Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press.

To make full use of your time in Mainz, I'll suggest taking this budget-friendly private tour. Our guide made us feel comfortable at every turn, and was flexible about accommodating the itinerary we wanted, even recommending local spots to eat. Superb for the price!

Historic Castles And Palaces

Cochem Castle: A Rhine Valley Jewel

🕒 1 hour 40 mins travel time by train

Cochem lies in the scenic Moselle Valley, and its most iconic landmark of Cochem is the Reichsburg Cochem, or Cochem Castle.

Perched on a hilltop overlooking the town, it looks exactly like it could have belonged to Rapunzel!

The fortress dates back to the 11th century medieval Europe, complete with steep roofs, turrets, and half-timbered facades.

BUT... you can't visit the Moselle Valley without enjoying its views from a dreamy cruise. I liked this Panoramic Cruise on the Moselle River - it gives you gorgeous views of the river town, castle and Moselle Valley, making it the perfect way to spend a relaxing afternoon!

It was a stunning view!! We were really happy that they had a fitting spot for everyone; those who enjoyed the sun could sunbathe at the front of the ship, but us vampires could hide in the shadows and well ventilated backside of the ship. Our dog was very happy with the shades as well! Nice fun facts about the history of the river villages you come across and you should absolutely try the wine. Highly recommended!

Hoensbroek Castle: A Medieval Fortress

🕒 1 hour 5 mins travel time by train

Located right across the border in the Netherlands, surrounded by glittering water, Hoensbroek Castle is a castle that looks like it came straight out from a Disney movie. 

hoensbroek-castle

Possible the most beautiful Dutch castles around, sadly Hoensbroek Castle is mostly unheard of by tourists - which is good news for us (explore to your heart's content with minimal crowds!)

Perfect for children, the castle has an adorable Sherlock Holmes discovery tour, to keep things fun and engaging for young ones. 

Get your entry ticket to Hoensbroek Castle here!

Burg Castle: A Picturesque Ruin

🕒 1 hour 17 mins travel time by train & bus

Burg Castle, also known as Schloss Burg, is a beautiful reconstructed ruin located in Solingen, around 30 minutes away from Cologne. It's one of the most beautiful and accessible castles near Cologne to visit on a day trip!

burg-castle quick trip from cologne

Featuring Romanesque and Gothic style architecture, Burg Castle has a long and storied history dating back to the 12th century.

Think dukes, knights on horses, suits of armor, and sword fights!

We were greeted by bird song as we walked up towards the stone castle, which kicked off our fairytale adventure.

Inside, you can explore rooms filled with weapons and armor, paintings, crafts, period furniture, and other medieval artifacts collected by the castle owners for nearly 900 years.

Why not visit two historic castles in one day? Take advantage of these skip-the-line tickets, and enjoy a Licensed Guide and private car transfers on this private tour of Burg Castle and Benrath Palace.

Benrath Palace: A Baroque Masterpiece

🕒 23 mins travel time by train & bus

A short ride from Cologne, is the pretty pink Benrath Palace in Düsseldorf, a Baroque-style "pleasure palace".

This a UNESCO World Heritage Site masterpiece features immaculate gardens full of beautiful flowers, spanning over 61 hectares (free entry!) making it a popular attraction for art and nature lovers alike. [5]

Today, it houses three museums: the Museum of Garden Art, the Museum for Natural History, and the Museum Corps de Logis ('Living quarters'). 

benrath-palace-interior

The palace's impressive architecture and exquisite details make it a hotspot for pre-wedding photoshoots, so don't be surprised to see couples posing here.

It's proximity to public transportation makes it an ideal destination for day trips from Cologne along with other historic castles and palaces in Germany's North Rhine-Westphalia region.

👉 Click here to check out this private guided tour that covers both Benrath Palace and Burg Castle!

Augustusburg And Falkenlust Palace: A UNESCO World Heritage Site

🕒 10 min travel time by train

Another day trip that shouldn't be missed is a visit to the Augustusburg and Falkenlust Palace, both situated in Brühl.

The palaces were built in the 18th century for Clemens August, who was an archbishop and worldly ruler of Cologne. [6]

augustusburg unesco site

Augustusburg Castle is regarded as one of Germany's most exquisite examples of Rococo style architecture and was completed in 1768.

The castles are surrounded by a charming garden landscape that adds to their charm, and they are linked by a unique hunting path.

Furthermore, the complex comprises not only Archbishop residences but also garden landscapes and hunting lodges; all  prime examples of architectural masterpieces from the Baroque period.

Drachenburg Castle: A Romantic Victorian Castle

🕒 30 mins travel time by train

Drachenburg Castle is a must-see for any traveler visiting Cologne, Germany! This romantic Victorian castle stands majestically on the hills of Königswinter, offering magnificent views of the Rhine River and surrounding landscapes.

schloss-drachenburg

Built in the late 19th century as a private villa but styled as a palace, the castle features Disney-esque turrets and ornate architecture that make it one of the most enchanting castles in Germany. [7]

Drachenburg Castle is easily accessible by public transportation and can be visited as part of a day trip from Cologne, making it an ideal destination for travelers looking to explore a castle steeped in German heritage.

Nature And Scenic Day Trips

Monschau: A Charming Town In The Eifel Mountains

🕒 2 hours travel time by train and bus

Monschau is a charming town hidden within the Eifel Mountains, surrounded by forests and set along the banks of the Rur River.

We visited during winter, and it literally looked like a snowy Christmas wonderland, complete with half-timbered buildings, snow-capped hills, and a frozen river running through the middle!

But that's not all - Monschau also offers over 240 km of hiking trails with varying lengths and difficulty levels, making it perfect for nature enthusiasts.

And if you're interested in something unique, don't miss the Monschau glassblowers at work, or the traditional 130-year-old mustard mill!

Moselle Valley: A Scenic Wine Region

🕒 2 hours travel time by train and bus

The Moselle Valley in Germany is a must-visit destination for wine and nature lovers. The region is known for its white wines, including the famous Riesling grape variety.

moselle-valley

The region's cool climate, slate-rich soil, and south-facing steep vineyards create the perfect conditions for producing crisp and aromatic wines.

Moselle Valley also has a long growing season, allowing the grapes to ripen gradually and develop complex flavors. The cool nights preserve the grapes' natural acidity - a hallmark of Moselle wines.

One of the best ways to experience this scenic wine region is by taking a guided tour with an experienced sommelier, so you don't waste a trip...

And of course, sample some of the finest wines produced in Germany!

Go on a sommelier-guided Vineyard Tour with Wine Tasting at Moselle Valley with this popular 5-star tour. (sells out fast)

Seven Mountains: A Hiking And Sightseeing Destination

🕒 1 hours travel time by train and bus

Merely an hour away from Cologne is Seven Mountains (Siebengebirge). 

The highlight of the area is Drachenburg Castle, which sits atop Drachenfels hill. But it's also known for rolling hills, lush forests, meandering streams, and rocky outcrops - as well as many well-worn hiking trails.

My favorite is the Rheinsteig, a long-distance hiking trail that runs through the Siebengebirge, offering breathtaking views of the Rhine River.

If you enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, picnicking amidst beautiful scenery, or exploring historic castles then Seven Mountains should be on your list of day trips from Cologne.

Eifel National Park: A Nature Oasis

 🕒 1 hour 20 mins travel time by train

I initially believed a few hours exploring Eifel National Park would be enough, but we were mistaken.

There's so much to see and do from boat rides and hiking trails, to even spotting the Milky Way (as an International Dark Sky Park)!

For me, Eifel National Park is ideal for easy forest walks, especially in the wooded area between Monschau and Eupen. From there, you can choose to poke into the neighboring villages.

eifel-national-park

If you have to travel with a stroller or pram, good news. There are many trails that are paved.

Don't miss the Wilde Weg, a "barrier-free" path with interactive stations for children to learn about the park. There's a giant tree trunk tunnel they can explore, and spots to learn about forest animals!

More Day Trips Farther from Cologne

Maastricht: A Netherlands Gem

 🕒 1 hour 50 mins travel time by train

It's relatively easy to reach Maastricht, one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, from Cologne. Just take a direct train and you're there in under two hours!

Must-see attractions here include the ancient Sint Pieter Fort, the majestic Basilica of Our Lady, and the Zonneberg Caves, a labyrinth with over 20,000 passage ways.

Because of its location, you'll notice a mix of Dutch, Belgian, and German influences in the city. For example, Dutch gabled houses alongside Baroque, Renaissance-style buildings with a Belgian touch...

...And the Limburgish dialect spoken in Maastrict, which mixes bits of Dutch, Belgian, and German languages.

Mannheim: Discover Germany's Innovation Past

🕒 1 hour 30 mins travel time by train

Unlike the others recommended on this page, Mannheim is not the most beautiful city. After all, very little of Mannheim survived the heavy bombing of WWII.

However, there's still lots to see and do in Mannheim for an exciting day trip from Cologne.

The city is best known as the home of the "Harvard of Germany", which interestingly, is housed in the luxurious Mannheim Palace.

This is the second largest Baroque palace in Germany and, complete with sculptures, fountains, and walking paths, is a delight to explore.

Another attraction not to miss is Mannheim's Technoseum, a cool museum showcasing the industrial history of south-western Germany. There's a collection of early machinery, which will impress history buffs and technology enthusiasts!

Tips For Planning A Day Trip From Cologne

Transportation Options: Train, Bus, Or Car Rental

Getting around Cologne and exploring nearby destinations is made easy with multiple transportation options available. Regional trains depart regularly from the central station to neighboring cities, making it convenient for day trips.

For example, Düsseldorf can be reached in just 30 minutes by train, while Bonn takes around 30 minutes. On the other hand, renting a car or private tour can offer extra flexibility and allow for stops along the way.

E.g. Driving to Ahr Valley or Schloss Drachenburg would take approximately 40 minutes from Cologne.

Public transportation within Cologne includes an extensive network of trains, trams, subways and buses, which are commonly used by locals and tourists alike. The city's efficient public transport system makes it easy to travel on day trips with fares reasonably priced based on travel zones.

Köl­n­Card hold­ers en­joy free public transport in Cologne. Get your KolnCard here. 

Getting hold of tickets is also straightforward as they can be purchased at vending machines or stations' counters situated throughout the city center or online beforehand.

Reservations: Ensure Tickets And Reservations Are Booked Ahead Of Time

Booking tickets and reservations ahead of time is crucial when planning a day trip from Cologne to other German cities. This ensures that you have guaranteed seats and avoids the stress of trying to secure last-minute tickets at popular attractions.

To minimize your risk, consider purchasing tickets that have free or flexible cancellations, and pay-later options.

Time Of Year: Consider The Weather And Seasonal Events

To make the most of your day trip from Cologne, it's important to consider the weather and seasonal events. The summer months of June, July, and August are generally considered the best time to visit as they offer warm temperatures for exploring and outdoor activities.

If you're visiting during winter, don't worry - there are still many things to do in Cologne! The city comes alive with Christmas markets and carnival festivities that make for an unforgettable experience.

Be sure to book early if you plan on attending any seasonal events or festivals as they tend to be very popular.

Itinerary Flexibility: Allow For Unexpected Delays Or Changes

When planning a day trip from Cologne, it's important to consider the possibility of unexpected delays or changes.

Whether it's due to traffic, weather conditions, or unforeseen circumstances at your destination, having an itinerary that allows for flexibility can make all the difference in ensuring a stress-free and enjoyable travel experience.

One tip is to avoid over-scheduling your day and leave some room in your itinerary for unexpected detours or delays.

Another option is to have a backup plan in case of changes, such as visiting a nearby attraction if one is closed or altering your route if there's heavy traffic.

Conclusion: Best Cologne Day Trips

In summary, day trips from Cologne offer diverse options for all types of travelers, be it a quick weekend getaway, a relaxing solo excursion, a memorable family adventure, or a day of exploring indoor wonders like captivating museums.

The region's proximity to charming towns like Monschau and historic gems like Aachen, as well as the beauty of the Rhine River and Eifel National Park, provides a variety of experiences.

Cologne's central location makes it the ideal starting point for unforgettable day trips, promising something for everyone seeking a refreshing escape or a quick city break.

Key Takeaways

  • Explore the beautiful Ahr Valley and indulge in some wine tasting while taking in picturesque views of vineyards or head to the vibrant city of Düsseldorf for a modern and bustling atmosphere, both easily accessible as top day trips from Cologne.
  • Explore the rich history of Germany with a visit to Hoensbroek Castle, a medieval fortress, or Burg Castle, a picturesque ruin perfect for photography enthusiasts. For those who prefer baroque architecture, Benrath Palace is a must-see site and Augustusburg and Falkenlust Palace offer a glimpse into opulent living as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • Explore the natural beauty of Monschau in the Eifel Mountains, indulge in wine-tasting at Moselle Valley, hike and sightsee at Seven Mountains, or have a thrilling adventure at Phantasialand - there's something for everyone on these scenic day trips from Cologne.
  • Consider the following tips when planning a day trip from Cologne: choose your mode of transportation wisely, reserve tickets and accommodations in advance, be aware of seasonal events and weather conditions, allow flexibility in your itinerary to accommodate unforeseen changes, and most importantly, have fun exploring the beautiful attractions near Cologne.

FAQs:

1. What are some popular day trip destinations from Cologne, Germany?

Some popular day trip destinations from Cologne, Germany include the cities of Bonn and Düsseldorf, as well as the stunning medieval town of Monschau in the Eifel National Park.

2. How can I get to these day trip destinations from Cologne?

You can take a train or bus to travel between major cities in this region easily. If you choose Monschau then we recommend renting a car since it's not possible to arrive by train or bus.

3. What should I consider when planning a day trip from Cologne?

It’s important to consider your interests, budget and time constraints when planning a day trip from Cologne. Some activities such as sightseeing tours might require advance booking while others like hiking may be more flexible if they're exploring natural parks.

4. Is it feasible to visit multiple destinations on one single day trips from Cologne?

Visiting multiple places in one day from Cologne depends on how close they are, travel time, opening hours. However it's completely possible! Many tours offer this, and even provide transport from Cologne for convenience. Plan well and consider guided tours for a smoother experience!


References:

1: Dusseldorf Is Germany’s Fashion Capital, retrieved from https://www.theepochtimes.com/dusseldorf-is-germanys-fashion-capital_5133341.html
2: Ludwig van Beethoven | Kennedy Center, retrieved from https://www.kennedy-center.org/artists/b/ba-bn/ludwig-van-beethoven/
3: Beethoven-Haus Bonn, retrieved from https://www.beethoven.de/en/museum
4: Winterly rides - Phantasialand, retrived from https://www.phantasialand.de/en/theme-park/wintertraum/winterly-rides/
5: Benrath palace - the palace of pleasure in Düsseldorf, retrieved from https://www.duesseldorf-tourismus.de/en/experience/sights/benrath-palace
6: Castles of Augustusburg and Falkenlust at Brühl, retrieved from https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/288/
7: The history of Schloss Drachenburg, retrieved from https://www.schloss-drachenburg.de/index.php/en/discovery-tour/history

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.