Cologne Germany Guide

Visit one of Germany's oldest cities and see Germany's most visited landmark

Cologne skyline with cathedral and main station
••• Cologne Skyline: Cathedral, Bridge and Main Station. Tom Bonaventure/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Cologne is located in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia along the Rhine river between Dusseldorf and Bonn. Founded by Romans, it's one of Germany's oldest cities.

The Gothic Cathedral of Cologne started construction in 1248 and wasn't finished until 1880; it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and Germany's most visited landmark. Adjacent to the cathedral is the modern Römisch-Germanisches Museum, its vast collections reflecting the Roman underpinnings of ancient Cologne, called by the Romans Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium.

While these two attractions are enough for a full day if you're really interested in the ancient culture and religious structures, Cologne has much more to offer the visitor, as noted below.

Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city with a population of 1.8 million people. The historic center is easily walkable, however.

The Tourist Office

The Tourist Office is located at Unter Fettenhennen 19, just southwest of the train station. It's open 9 am to 10 pm in summer, and 9 am to 9 pm in winter, except for Sundays and public holidays, when it's open 10 am to 6 pm. They will help you make same-day hotel reservations. Phone: +49(0)221-30400.

The Airport

Called the "Köln Bonn Airport" both Cologne and Bonn are served from the airport that sits between the two cities. A taxi ride at the time of writing (see the airport site for current rates) to Central Cologne costs around 25 Euros. The distance is 17 kms and it should take around 15 minutes. There is bus service to the main train station in Cologne every 15 minutes.

Central Station - Köln Hbf

The huge central train station is one of the key rail hubs in Europe. It is centrally located near pedestrian shopping streets and the Cathedral. For travelers using Germany's excellent rail system, Germany Rail Passes (buy direct) offer discounted travel around Germany and to neighboring countries.

When to Go

Cologne has moderate, mild winters. It seldom snows. Summers can be humid (but seldom blazingly hot). Fall is considered idea; hotels lower prices in September-October and raise them when the carnival season starts in November.

Library and Internet Access

Free internet access is available at the Cologne Public Library (StadtBibliothek Köln), one of the biggest in Germany. There is a wireless LAN there, as well as international newspapers.

Major Attractions

The Cologne Cathedral

Cologne's Gothic Cathedral is one of its top attractions. It took over 600 years to build and is a UNESCO world heritage site. Conveniently located right next to the train station. In 2000, the Cathedral treasures were placed in a historic vaulted chamber so folks could view them easier. If you can climb 509 steps you'll get a good view of Cologne on the observation platform. Open 6 am to 7:30 pm for viewing, except during mass. Bring a wide-angle lens if you want to get it all in the picture, or you'll end up with an impressionistic shot like this picture of the Cologne Cathedral and its soaring spires.

Rhine Boat Trips

Day trips and longer excursions are available. Ask at the tourist office.

Visit the House of 4711, the Original Eau-De-cologne

Wilhelm Mulhens marketed a concoction called Aqua Mirabilis on the basis of its stimulating and refreshing effect (splash it on or drink it, it didn't matter). It later got to be known as the first Eau de Cologne when French Revolutionary troops sent it home for gifts to the family. Glockengasse, in the city center between the cathedral and Neumarkt, opposite the opera house.

Have a Brew and a Bite to Eat in the Altstadt (Old Town)  

Cologne is definitely a beer city with their own beer style called Kölcsh, a pale top-fermented beer that must be brewed in the Cologne metropolitan area. While most of the breweries in the city center are gone, you can still enjoy a beer with other tourists at a pub in the Altstadt.

Visit the Roman-German Museum (Romisch-Germanisches Museum)

See Roman antiquities from the first through fourth centuries--and the 230-foot long mosaic showing Dionysus, the Roman god of wine. Highly recommended.

Cologne for Free

Vacation budget stretched to the limit? Like most cities, Cologne has many things to see and do that don't cost money at all: Cologne's Best Free Attractions.

Take a Tour

Viator offers a variety of tours of Cologne Attractions, including river cruises.

Cologne Pictures

Take a virtual tour with our Cologne Germany Pictures.

Around Cologne

Strasbourg and Colmar, France, and Baden-Baden are interesting nearby destinations. A fast drive around the Nurburgring should get your blood flowing nicely.

Plan a Trip: The Travel Planning Toolbox

Learn German - It's always a good idea to learn a bit of the local language in the places you're going, especially the "polite" expressions and a few words pertaining to food and drink.

German Rail Passes - You can save money on longer rail journeys, but Railpasses aren't guaranteed to save you money, you'll have to plan your trip to use the pass on longer journeys, and pay in cash (or by credit card) for the short runs.

Should you rent or lease a car? If you're going to Germany for three weeks or more, leasing may make more sense.

Book accommodations with Cologne Hotels.

How big is Europe? - Use our interactive map to compare western Europe (or Germany) to the US or an individual state.