Cologne Old Town Guide (Things to Do, Hotels, Restaurants & Shops)

Updated on November 10, 2023  


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Planning a trip to the charming Cologne Old Town and overwhelmed by what to see first? I've been there too! After exploring every quirky nook in this beautiful old town, learning about its unique antique vibe combined with modern culture, I'm now equipped with insights galore.

In my post, you'll find everything from must-visit attractions historic spots like the majestic Cologne Cathedral in Cologne's Old Town. Stick around – your ultimate guide to experiencing enchanting Cologne Old Town awaits!

History and Significance of Cologne Old Town

Cologne's Old Town, the historic heart of the city, whispers tales of a time that dates back almost two millennia. Roman influence left an indelible mark when Cologne gained status as a city under their laws in 50 AD. [1]

Over centuries from thereon, it nurtured into a place reverberating with architectural glory and cultural richness.

World War II brought unprecedented destruction to this vibrant hub, toppling 72% edifices into rubble.


But Cologne rose like a phoenix from its ashes; determined locals painstakingly rebuilt the shattered town keeping as much historical accuracy intact as possible.

Its crown jewel - The colossal Gothic cathedral known as Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral) commands awe; constructed between 1248 to1880, it has become synonymous with Cologne's identity today and even enjoys recognition by UNESCO World Heritage site for its contribution in art and history. [2]

Top Attractions in Cologne Old Town

Cologne Cathedral

Standing proudly among the top attractions in Cologne Old Town, the grand Cologne Cathedral dominates the skyline with its extraordinary twin towers.

This architectural marvel represents Gothic architecture at its finest and is recognized as one of Europe's largest Gothic churches.

I can vouch for its surreal beauty that leaves an everlasting impact on anyone lucky enough to visit.


The cathedral brims with an enriching history which enhances its significance multifold. During the 19th century it surfaced as a national symbol of Germany and earned prestigious recognition from UNESCO by being deemed a World Heritage site.

As I learned during my travels, it also serves as an administrative site hosting seats for Archbishop of Cologne & Archdiocese of Cologne administration. When you're exploring this part of old town cologne, missing out on this spectacle could be regrettable.

Roman-Germanic Museum

As I meandered through the well-preserved alleyways of Cologne's Old Town, I stumbled upon the Roman-Germanic Museum.

Also known as Römisch-Germanisches Museum in German, it is distinctly famous for its vast collection of artifacts from ancient Rome.

To say that this museum is a treasure trove would be an understatement! Here, you can find various pieces like statues and mosaics that shed light on daily life during the period of Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium (CCAA). [3]


For fans of architecture, there are intricately detailed models showcasing sublime Roman structures. Not to mention relics comprising everyday objects which offer insight into cultural elements during their reign.

As someone deeply interested in history and culture or simply looking for unique experiences while hitting the cobblestone streets of Cologne’s Old Town, immersing yourself in this remarkable hub celebrating our rich shared heritage could indeed create lifelong memories!

Farina Perfume Shop

Stepping into the Farina Perfume Shop is like walking back in time. Not just any perfume store, this historic shop links closely with the Fragrance Museum, situated right within Cologne's Old Town.

This isn't surprising since it surrounds by centuries of fragrance and cultural history dating from the Rococo era. Visiting here feels amusing as I gain insights into how they've influenced both Cologne's development and the worldwide fragrance industry.


Can you believe it all began with John Maria Farina? The museum nestles inside the iconic Farina House where he first developed Eau de Cologne – possibly one of greatest milestones in scent creation!

Now that's what I call a cornerstone for perfumes around the globe! Every shelf teems with fragrant echoes of yesteryears: chance to delve deep into history through a delightful olfactory journey unmatched anywhere else on earth.

From historical artifacts to old world charm, stepping foot in here just made my trip much more unforgettable!

Wallraf-Richartz Museum

The Wallraf-Richartz Museum, situated in the heart of Cologne Old Town, is home to an impressive collection of medieval art. It showcases intricate paintings and graphic arts that reflect the local history and cultural heritage.

Among its many exhibits, one standout piece is Stefan Lochner's "Madonna of the Rose Bower." [4] This renowned world-class museum focuses on fine arts with a particular emphasis on medieval religious artworks.


Its high-quality offerings continue to enthrall travelers who appreciate visual arts steeped in historical significance.

Looking for more museums? Here are the 16 best museums in Cologne.

Cologne's Rathaus: A Historic Landmark

Cologne's Rathaus, also known as the Town Hall, packs more than 800 years of architectural history within its walls.

This awe-inspiring landmark sits proudly in Cologne’s old town, a stone's throw away from the magnificent Cologne Cathedral.

The building stands as a testament to numerous artistic eras and architectural styles that have swept across Europe over centuries.


The historic square around Rathausplatz bubbles with activity regularly and is undoubtedly one of the cultural hubs in this part of town. V

isitors can't help but marvel at intricate designs etched into every brick and archway of this urban landmark.

Recognized by UNESCO World Heritage for its immense historical value, Cologne's Rathaus has become an unmissable tourist attraction amidst other cultural sites in Old Town.

Museum Ludwig

Nestled in the heart of Cologne's old town, Museum Ludwig is a must-visit for any lover of modern art. This architectural marvel was brought to life by celebrated architects Peter Busmann and Godfrid Haberer.

museum-ludwig cologne things to do

Upon entering the museum, you'll be treated to an impressive collection of Pop Art, Abstract and Surrealism works. It proudly stands as the City of Cologne's tribute to 20th Century and contemporary art.

Delight in witnessing some mesmerizing pieces through past eras on your tour around this captivating fortress of Culture!

Groß St. Martin

Groß St. Martin is a striking landmark in the heart of Cologne's Old Town. It was constructed between the years 1150 and 1250, standing as an emblem of history signifying the medieval times this city has seen.


The church is readily accessible, located at An Groß St. Martin, just waiting to welcome visitors keen on absorbing its unique architecture and compelling ambiance.

When exploring through walking tours in Cologne's Old Town, I can't help but be drawn by this brilliant tourist attraction.

From afar or up close, it stands along with other iconic buildings like the cathedral and council tower adding an undeniably distinctive allure to our town scape? 

With every step closer to it, I find myself increasingly engrossed in its structural elegance that defines much about Germany's architectural evolution over centuries.

Chocolate Museum

The Chocolate Museum is an unmissable stop on the Old Town tour of Cologne. Right off the bat, you're immersed in a world that combines history with deliciousness.

This museum not only lays out the journey and timeline of cocoa beans but also houses interactive screens for hands-on learning - it's a treat both intellectually and gastronomically!


A real cocoa tree nestled inside a terrarium brings you closer to understanding chocolate at its roots.

With its doors first opened to keen visitors in 1993, this popular attraction continues to enchant those looking to delve into the fascinating process behind crafting chocolates from scratch.

Best part? You get more than just knowledge here – tasting some exquisite chocolate tops off your enriching visit perfectly!

Hohenzollern Bridge

I visited the Hohenzollern Bridge in Cologne’s old town, Germany. The bridge touts three wave-like arches and is high-traffic - bustling with both pedestrians and trains all at once! On my stroll, I was wowed by the breathtaking backdrop of Cologne Cathedral.


The true charm of this structure lies within its railings cluster with love locks. Couples from far and wide attach padlocks as a symbol of their eternal bond – much to my delight, I even saw several couples actively participating in this romantic tradition during my walk!

Don't miss amazing views from the bridge that includes intricate architecture of Cologne's old town!

Cologne's Romanesque Churches

Strolling through the cobbled streets of Cologne, you'll encounter a ring of 12 ancient Romanesque churches.

These beautiful structures form an architectural heritage that spans centuries, beautifully telling stories of Cologne's historical richness.

st-gereon-cathedrals in -cologne

Among these esoteric churches is the Great St. Martin Church, known for its close association with the Benedictine abbey and intriguing history.

These stunning Romanesque landmarks lend unique character to the cityscape - their tall towers seen from afar serve as reminders of Old Town's prominence in medieval times.

Most tourists-particularly architecture aficionados-notice how they add depth and interest to Cologne’s urban tableau!

Exploring Cologne Old Town

Cologne Old Town One-day itinerary

My one-day itinerary to explore Cologne Old Town starts off early with a visit to the magnificent Cologne Cathedral. From there, it's onto Farina Perfume Shop, an olfactory treat for all.

Next on the list is a short trip across Rhine River and up to Hohenzollern Bridge for stunning views of the Old Town. Lunch takes me back towards Old Town where I savor local cuisine at Gaffel am Dom.


With my stomach full, an afternoon of exploring awaits as I tour fascinating landmarks like Wallraf-Richartz Museum and Groß St. Martin church before paying a mouthwatering visit to the Chocolate Museum in Rheinauhafen district.

If time allows, you will find me sipping some Kölsch beer or shopping in Neumarkt Galerie as my day comes to an end with dinner at Ludwig im Museum Restaurant & Café—a perfect way to wrap up this exploration into Cologne history and culture.

Walking Tours of Old Town

Walking tours through Cologne Old Town offer an intimate look into the city's ancient history and gothic architecture.

With routes winding pass landmarks such as the iconic Cologne Cathedral and Hohenzollern Bridge, each step takes you deeper into the city’s historical narrative.


The Roman-Germanic Museum displays breath-taking artifacts that include a meticulously maintained Roman mosaic. It is just one of several highlights along these self-guided trails.

If structured sightseeing sounds more appealing, there are organized options as well. For example, "Cologne Old City Guided Walking Tour” offers guided walks unveiling dense layers of local culture and history.

Cultural Experiences (breweries, Carnival, Christmas markets)

Immersing myself into Cologne's cultural experiences was an adventure like no other. I feasted my senses in revered breweries, sipping traditional German beer while engaging with the locals.

The city pulsated with life during the Carnival - a vibrant spectacle of colorful parades and flamboyant costumes that should not be missed by any traveler! As the season turned to winter, every street corner began to glisten under holiday cheer.


Christmas Markets sprung up everywhere; bustling hubs filled with festive decorations, live music enhancing the warm atmosphere, and wooden booths offering everything from mulled wine and local delicacies to charming handmade crafts.

My favorite was by far at the iconic Cologne Cathedral - amidst around 150 decorated stalls is where I experienced a true taste of this city's unique cultural traditions.

Best Restaurants in Cologne Old Town


Haxenhaus is not your ordinary eatery in Cologne's bustling Old Town. It exudes the charm of a 13th-century establishment, complete with an intriguing medieval framework program that elevates your dining experience.

Once a haven for sailors looking for work and a rest stop for pilgrims on their spiritual journey, Haxenhaus has always been deeply rooted in cologne’s history.

Today, it's renowned for dishing out traditional German cuisine like grilled pork hock and hearty homemade sausage – a testament to its culinary heritage.

rheinischer-sauerbraten food in cologne

The ambiance transports you back in time while indulging in local specialties, ensuring an authentic dining encounter every visit.

Address: Frankenwerft 19, 50667 Köln, Germany

Sion am Bahnhof

Tucked away in the heart of Altstadt-Nord, Cologne city center, Sion am Bahnhof brings an authentic experience to all food-loving travelers. This is where I enjoy German local specialties enveloped by quintessential Old Town charm.

If you're looking for a historic location filled with atmosphere and history, you don't want to miss this spot.

Their selection ranges from traditional German cuisine to classic pub food that pairs perfectly with their beer list.

The restaurant's reputation hinges on its traditional approach; they take pride in serving fresh and delicious meals complementing the range of beers sourced locally.

Address: Dompropst-Ketzer-Straße 1-9, 50667 Köln, Germany

Gaffel am Dom

Gaffel am Dom serves as a welcoming beacon in the heart of Cologne's Old Town.

It boasts its presence within an imposing seven-story neoclassical building dating back to history - the famous Deichmannhaus, enchanting visitors with its traditional yet modern pub atmosphere since 2008.

A visit to Gaffel am Dom involves indulging in their specialties such as the native Kolsch beer and immersing myself into their authentic brewing culture.


The place perfectly blends old and new making me part of Cologne’s incredible story every time I step inside this historic brewery.

Without a doubt, Gaffel am Dom is where heritage meets hospitality offering an unforgettable experience worth carrying home.

Address: Bahnhofsvorpl. 1, 50667 Köln, Germany

Früh am Dom

Nestled in the heart of Cologne's old town, just steps away from the magnificent cathedral, lies Früh am Dom. This vibrant eatery presents a fusion of tradition and comfort with its delightful both indoor and outdoor seating arrangements.

A quick peek at TripAdvisor will tell you why locals and tourists flock to Früh am Dom - it boasts a solid 4 out of 5-star rating!

No doubt, if good food served in an enchanting ambiance is your thing, then Früh am Dom pretty much ticks all boxes.

Address: Am Hof 12-18, 50667 Köln, Germany

Hänneschen und die Pfeffermühle

Hänneschen und die Pfeffermühle, nestled in the heart of Cologne's Old Town, provides a culinary experience that brings classic German dishes to life. 

The historic area surrounding this illustrious eatery offers loads of attractions and serves as the perfect contrast for this modern yet authentic German food hub.

Every bite I take mirrors decades of perfected recipes, evoking an unending love affair with traditional flavors.


 As I peruse through their menu - each dish packed with rich textures and vibrant notes, it unveils why this spot has become popular among city explorers like me looking for local dining options.

Settling in amidst a bustling crowd paints an vivid image about its significant role in shaping Cologne's culinary identity.

This is not just merely a restaurant; it encapsulates the soulful journey of tradition infused with innovation - an embodiment fitting perfectly into Cologne's charming landscape!

Address: Heumarkt 54, 50667 Köln, Germany

Unique Shopping Experiences in Cologne Old Town

Buy Cologne from Cologne

A trip to Cologne isn't complete without stopping by some of the city's unique shopping destinations.

Sure, you could buy a typical souvenir, but why not go for something that truly captures the essence of this magnificent old town?

Nestled amongst narrow cobblestone streets and charming architecture are numerous perfume shops where visitors can buy authentic cologne from Cologne.

One such haven is the Farina Perfume Shop - home to the world’s first Eau de Cologne.

This iconic fragrance was born here over 300 years ago! Enjoy perusing through an array of scents and immersing yourself in vivid olfactory experiences before selecting your favorite one as a lasting keepsake of your visit.


Schildergasse stands as one of Cologne's most renowned shopping avenues, drawing a crowd of eager shoppers and sightseers alike.

This pedestrian-only street boasts a remarkable array of stores, encompassing well-known brands, charming boutiques, and quaint local souvenir shops.


Within its confines, you'll discover expansive department stores such as Galeria Kaufhof and distinctive German fashion boutiques like Peek & Cloppenburg.

Schildergasse beckons you to immerse yourself in a delightful blend of retail therapy and Cologne's scenic charm. Notably, the street is also home to some of the city's most iconic landmarks, including the impressive Weltstadthaus.

Hohe Straße

Hohe Strasse, often dubbed Cologne's shopping haven, enjoys a prominent reputation.

Situated a short stroll west of the serene Rhine River, this thoroughfare stretches from the bustling Schildergasse in the south to the picturesque Wallrafplatz near the magnificent Cologne Cathedral in the north. It's a prominent landmark that's hard to overlook, especially for those exploring the city center.


The illustrious Hohe Strasse is renowned for its collection of luxury brands, including the likes of Michael Kors, Bvlgari, and Yves Rocher. Consequently, it stands out as one of the premier destinations for high-end shopping in Cologne.

Rhine River Cruises from Cologne

Embarking on a Rhine River cruise from Cologne provides an enchanting perspective of the city's Old Town. These riverboat tours glide past iconic landmarks, mixing historic charm with modern scenery.

I watched spellbound as the Gothic spires of the UNESCO-listed Cologne Cathedral towered above me against an urban skyline.

The adventure continued as we passed under Hohenzollern Bridge, bustling with love lock-laden foot traffic overhead while affording spectacular views along both banks.

We also sailed by Rheinauhafen - a mix of contemporary architecture and industrial heritage revitalized into a vibrant cultural hub.


Cruises generally last for about an hour which was perfect for my tight schedule, and despite being popular among tourists, they never felt overcrowded thanks to a maximum group size of 300 people!

Every age can delight in this waterway journey offering scenic views and contrasting impressions between antiquity and progress; trust me when I say it’s a sightseeing cruise you don’t want to miss on your visit to Cologne!

I highly recommend the Top Sights Rhine River Cruise to experience Cologne's beauty from the water.

Colgone Christmas Market

I make my way to the enchanting Cologne Christmas Market, set in the heart of the Old Town. The market streets are lined with traditional half-timber houses, imbuing an overwhelming sense of charming holiday spirit that reflects a genuine Christmas town ambiance.

It's hard not to feel awe-struck by this epicenter of seasonal festivity and German tradition.

Around me is a plethora of shopping options each more exciting than the other; handmade crafts, unique trinkets, delectable street food - you name it!


Amidst all these captivating sights lies the grand Cologne Cathedral market standing tall as it attracts thousands from across continents.

With over 200 vendors showcasing their wares every winter season, it's undoubtedly one of our city’s most popular markets!

If you fancy extending your stay at this Yuletide wonderland, there are plenty nearby hotels providing accommodation for visitors seeking complete immersion into this world-famous festive cheer.

Conclusion: Old Town of Cologne

Experiencing Cologne Old Town offers a blend of historical insight and contemporary pleasure. The narrow, cobblestone alleys come alive with cultural festivities, restaurants offering traditional food, and unique shopping experiences that make the visit memorable.

Don’t miss the pulse-quickening experience of stepping back in time when you stroll through this fascinating district!

Key Takeaways

  • Cologne Old Town is a historic city in Germany. It has many attractions like the Cologne Cathedral, Roman-Germanic Museum and Farina Perfume Shop.
  • The Wallraf - Richartz Museum displays art from medieval times to the 20th century. Groß St. Martin shows off German architecture while Rathaus shares 800 years of history.
  • For chocolate lovers, there's the Chocolate Museum where you can learn about cocoa beans and taste delicious treats!


1. What is the Cologne Old Town?

Cologne Old Town is a historic area located in the city of Cologne, Germany, known for its traditional buildings and charming streets.

2. What famous landmarks can I see in Cologne Old Town?

In Cologne Old Town, one can see iconic landmarks like Great St. Martin Church, Romanesque churches, and Historic Rathaus.

3. Are there good places to eat in Cologne old town?

Yes, there are many delightful restaurants and cafés offering both local and international cuisine throughout the old town of Cologne.

4. Is it possible to get guided tours around Cologne’s old town?

Absolutely! There are plenty of guided group or individual tours available that explore the historical areas of this German gem.


1: LatLon-Cologne: History of Cologne, retrieved from,was%20conquered%20by%20the%20Franks.
2: From the archives: Cologne Cathedral’s topping out ceremony, 1880 | Features | Buildin, retrieved from
3: Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium (Köln) - Livius, retrieved from
4: The Highlight: Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, retrieved from

About the Author

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