Cologne Travel Guide: Planning Your Trip

Cologne Sunset from Above
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Cologne, which lies on the banks of the river Rhine, was founded by Romans in 38 BC and is one of Germany’s oldest cities.

Köln, as it is called in German, is famous for the Cologne Cathedral and one of Europe’s oldest universities, as well as its vibrant contemporary art scene. The city is proud to have more than 30 museums and 100 galleries with world-class collections.

Cologne was heavily damaged in World War II; Allied bombings wiped out 90 percent of the city center, reducing its number of inhabitants from 800,000 to 40,000. Today, Cologne is again the fourth biggest city in Germany with over a million inhabitants and an interesting mix of restored historic buildings and modern post-war architecture.

Cologne Transportation

Cologne shares an international airport with the neighboring city Bonn, the Köln-Bonn Airport. By local train, the airport is approximately 15 minutes away from Cologne’s city center.

Cologne’s main train station (“Köln Hauptbahnhof") is conveniently located in the heart of the city center, just a stone’s throw away from the Cologne Cathedral; you will see the impressive building right away when you leave the station.

Cologne's main train station is a busy railway hub in Germany, connecting you easily with many German and European cities and offering plenty of fast ICE trains.

The best way to get to know Cologne and its attractions is by foot. Many interesting sights are within 30-minute walking distance in the city center; make the Cologne Cathedral your point of orientation and explore the city from there.

The Cologne tourism office, which is located right across the Cathedral, offers guidebooks and free city maps.

People sitting on the grass along the Deutzer bridge waterfront
Christopher Larson / TripSavvy

Sights and Attractions

The Cologne Cathedral, a UNESCO world heritage site, is the city's famous landmark and one of the most important architectural monuments in Germany.

Cologne's long history lends itself to a vast array of other impressive and interesting sights. The medieval gates and walls are a must see; with many destroyed during World War II, the few remaining are impressive. The Rhine is a defining geographical feature of the area and the Duetzer Bridge is a great way to observe the river and the city.

Where to Stay

The Statthaus, built in 1860, offers furnished apartments and vacation rentals within walking distance of the Cologne Cathedral. The former monastery is a charming and unique place to stay, and the prices are unbeatable.


Cologne is home to one of Germany’s most popular shopping streets, the Schildergasse. This pedestrian street, which dates back to ancient Roman times, offers international department stores, cafes, and modern architecture. The adjacent pedestrian street called Hohe Straße leads you back to the Cathedral.

Looking for a unique souvenir from Cologne? How about getting a bottle of the famous Eau De Cologne 4711; you can buy the perfume in the original house on Glockengasse, where it was invented over 200 years ago.

People hanging out around one of the medieval walls in Cologne
 Christopher Larson / TripSavvy

Going Out

Cologne is famous for its beer culture; try the local Kölsch, which is only brewed in and around Cologne. Hit Cologne’s Old Town, where you’ll find plenty of traditional pubs selling the straw-yellow Kölsch beer in long, thin glasses called Stangen ("poles").

Cologne Events

The colorful highlight on Cologne’s festival calendar is carnival (mardi gras), celebrated in late winter.

A must-see is Cologne's traditional street parade on Rose Monday, which draws over one million carnival revelers and is broadcasted live on German TV.

Cologne is home to one of the oldest and most vital gay communities in Germany, and its annual celebration, the Cologne Gay Pride, is one of the largest gay and lesbian events in the country. A highlight of the festivities is the colorful gay pride parade with more than 120 floats and over a million participants and spectators.

Cologne celebrates the holiday season with seven Christmas markets that make up the largest market in Germany, but the fair in front of the Cologne Cathedral is the most charming.

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