Best Free Things to Do in Cologne

Traveling to Cologne? While there are plenty of museums and attractions that cost money, we picked great things to do in Cologne that won't cost you a single euro. These attractions are not only free of charge, but also a must-see for every visitor to Cologne.

01 of 07

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral
Jorg Greuel / Getty Images
Domkloster 4, 50667 Köln, Germany
+49 221 17940555
Free Attractions

The Cologne Cathedral or Kölner Dom is one of Germany's most important architectural monuments and one of our top ten sights in Germany. This UNESCO World Heritage Site attracts an average of 20,000 people a day and is among the most visited sites in Germany.

This Gothic masterpiece, situated in the heart of Cologne, is the tallest twin-spired church and the fourth tallest cathedral in the world at 157 meters (515 ft) tall. The unique spires give it its iconic look and create the largest façade of any church in the world.

Visitors can climb the over 500 steps to a viewing platform about 98 meter (322 ft) over the city, providing an unparalleled view over the Rhine.

02 of 07

Historic City Hall of Cologne

The City Hall (Kölner Rathaus) is a historical building in Cologne, western Germany.
 Ventura Carmona / Getty Images
Rathaus, 50667 Köln, Germany
+49 221 2210

Visit the oldest Rathaus (city hall) in Germany at the Alter Markt (old square) in Cologne. This is a prime people-watching spot as city life takes place in this central meeting point.

The building dates back to 1150 and over 130 statues adorn its elaborately decorated façade. The loggia is a quintessential example of the Renaissance era. Don't miss the grotesque wood-carved Platzjabbeck; when the clock strikes the hour, it opens its mouth and rudely sticks out its wooden tongue.

03 of 07

Rhine Promenade and Deutzer Bridge

Cologne Cathedral and Skyline
Robert Harding/Getty Images
Rheinufer, 53179 Bonn, Germany

The Rhine river is a defining geographic feature of the area. For a spectacular view of the cathedral and the cityscape, leave the Altstadt (Old Town) of Cologne and cross the Rhine to the other side of the river. Young people gather on basketball courts, musicians busk and strollers stroll. Walk down the Rheinuferpromenade, then cross back over the Deutzer Bridge which offers stunning views of the city, especially at sunset.

04 of 07

Window-Shop Cologne's Schildergasse

Cologne shopping street
GettyImages / Walter Bibikow
Schildergasse, 50667 Köln, Germany

Go window-shopping on Schildergasse, one of the busiest shopping streets in Europe. This bustling car-free pedestrian zone boasts international department stores and modern architecture. An estimated 13,000 people pass through every hour, admiring the high-priced designer brands and landmarks like Antoniterkirche, the oldest Protestant church in Cologne, and the impressive Peek & Cloppenburg's Weltstadthaus designed by Renzo Piano.

It is not all modern shopping, however. This is the second oldest street in Cologne, dating back to ancient Roman times. Once known as Decumanus Maximus, Roman soldiers marched along it as an important trade route to Gaul.

It was also home to artists painting coats of arms in the Middle Ages. Their work gave the street its current name of "shield street".

Along with Hohe Straße (High Street), these two streets create the main pedestrian area in Cologne.

Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07

4711 Cologne House

4711 Cologne House
Maurer and Wirtz House of Perfume
Zweifaller Str. 120, 52224 Stolberg, Germany
+49 2402 8901

What better to do in a city called "cologne" than follow your nose to the birthplace of the modern perfume? Eau De Cologne 4711 on Glockengasse was named when Cologne was occupied by the French. Napoleon ordered his soldiers to count all the houses and the Eau de Cologne building was number 4711, giving the famed perfume its name.

Every hour the French anthem is played and inside there is a shop (of course), a small historic exhibition with fragrance workshop and even a fountain where you can dip your hands in pure Eau de Cologne.

06 of 07

Flora and Botanical Garden

Flora und Botanischer Garten Köln
Aniket Mone  / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Alter Stammheimer Weg, 50735 Köln, Germany
+49 221 560890

Cologne’s Flora und Botanischer Garten is the oldest public park in the city. Located on the left bank of the Rhine, the site covers 11.5 hectares and more than 10,000 species of plants like magnolias, rhododendrons, coniferous trees and maples. It is visited by more than a million people every year.

07 of 07

Medieval Gates and Walls

Hahnentorburg in Cologne
Von Hpschaefer / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0, 
Rudolfpl. 1, 50674 Köln, Germany
+49 221 9131049

The city once boasted up to twelve gates from 50 AD, but only a few remain today. Luckily, the few that remain are well- preserved and decorated in natural materials like limestone, sandstone, greywacke and trachyte.

Visit the massive 13th-century Hahnentorburg at Rudolfplatz. More impressive examples include Severinstorburg, Ulrepforte and Eigelsteintorburg.

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7 Free Things To Do in Cologne