This guide of top things to do in Cologne in one day will share all the things you must see, do, eat and enjoy during your 24 hours in this charming German city. Ideal destination for couples on a weekend away, backpackers on a budget or simply a day trip, we packed in everything to ensure you can too!
To prepare for your European adventure, we recommend taking a peek at our packing list post here. It covers all essentials we can’t travel without, but don’t forget comfortable shoes as making it through the top things to do in Cologne in one day will take ALOT of walking!
How to spend a Morning in Cologne
We woke up in the IBIS Budget Koeln Porz which was £45 a night for a standard room – no frills, clean and cosy. It was slightly out of the city, which required a train journey. We recommend the Köln card as it allows you see all the top things to do in Cologne in one day because it includes 24 hours of unlimited travel as well as discounts at numerous Cologne tourist attractions. At only €9 it is definitely worth the money!
As soon as we arrived off the main train station (Köln Hauptbahnhof) we were faced with the star of the show. . .
One of the top things to do in Cologne is without a doubt a visit to the Cathedral. The perfect way to spend your first hour or two as it is slap bang in the centre of the city – it is an unmissable 157m high and can host 20,000 people! When you see for yourselves the sheer size of this striking building, it is no shock it took over 600 years to complete. For a small fee of €3 you can climb the 533 steps to enjoy the impressive city views from the cathedral’s South Tower. Opening times vary depending on season, with it open 6am until 7:30pm from November until April and 6am until 9pm May to October. As it is the most visited landmark in Cologne (apparently upto 20,000 visitors a day) we recommend ticking this off your itinerary early to avoid the crowds.
After the Cathedral (and those 533 steps) you may be in need of a sweet treat to boost those energy levels – eat like a local and indulge in the kaffe & kuchen (coffee & cake). There are numerous bakeries to entice you as you head towards the Fischmarkt where you can snap that postcard perfect snap of the colourful Fischmarkt houses.
Fischmarkt – Cologne’s Old Town
Although there are numerous top things to do in Cologne in one day, Fischmarkt was definitely my favourite. There is lots to see and do here, including photographing the insta-favourite Fischmarkt houses, wander the narrow cobbled streets or enjoy lunch by the Rhine at one of the many outdoor cafes. We visited Cologne in November and missed the Christmas market by a mere day or two. If only we’d done our research! They were setting it up when we visited, but if you have plans to visit the famous Christmas market in Cologne then it is only a few minutes walk from here at Alter Markt in front of the Town Hall.
Where to eat in Cologne
As we had been to Berlin previously we had become rather obsessed with Currywurst. If you’re ticking off the top things to do in Cologne in one day, then definitely add Currywurst to your list. Nearly every restaurant we passed served it, but although beautiful by the river, the Fishmarkt cafes and restaurants are not budget friendly. Although definitely worth it for a traditional treat with a memorable view. Once you are suitably fit to burst with wurst (and hopefully you loved it as much as Darren did) it’s time for a busy afternoon.
How to spend an Afternoon in Cologne
Hohenzollern Bridge – The Love Lock Bridge
To work off the wurst we began walking along the Rhine, and came across the Hohenzollern Bridge. Little did we know just how famous this bridge is and it is definitely one of the top things to do in Cologne. This is because it is the city’s very own ‘Love lock bridge’ just as beautiful as Paris, but far less crowded. Experts believe the tens of thousands of locks weigh more than 2 tonnes, with the tradition being once your padlock is on, you throw the key in the Rhine and your love will last forever. I could have spent hours looking at all the names of the couples, but a less impressed Darren continually questioned just how many had probably since divorced or broken up. Such a romantic!
Köln Triangle – For the best views of the City
Once you are across the river, head for Köln Triangle. It is an observation deck open to the public on the roof of the European Aviation Safety Agency Head Quarters. A definite for one of the top things to do in Cologne in one day, as at over 103m high offers incredible panoramic views of the city. Most famously, a spectacular view of The Cathedral which is directly opposite the Rhine. Top tourist attractions such as this, usually are not cheap but we were pleasantly surprised – at only €3 entry fee it is one of the top things to do in Cologne if you’re on a budget!
For photographing the beautiful panoramic view, we definitely recommend the gimbal we use – it allows smooth, seamless 360 video. Capturing the best views without shaking hands, stuttering selfie sticks and even has a built in charger!
- Specially designed for all smartphones within 7 inch screen. The smooth 3 Gimbal is better than Smooth Q. Very good.
- Built-in independent IMU module, ensure the stability and fluency of your videos / Short films / recording during exercise.
- Low power consumption, portable, durable, stable and flexible, no alveolar.
Nightlife in Cologne
If visiting Cologne in Summer then the best way to end your day would be in one of the numerous beer gardens that pop up all over the city. As we visited Cologne in November, during the Winter months the Beer Halls are where to spend your evening. If you have managed to complete our list of top things to do in Cologne in one day, you have definitely earned your share of the famous Kölsch beer. Kölsch is also the name of the dialect spoken in Cologne and the beer itself is lighter than most German kinds. Don’t expect an Oktoberfest sized stein, nor even a pint as Kölsch is usually served in smaller 200ml glasses called Stangen.
After a day of bratwurst, beer and bridges it is time for your 24 hours in this charming German city to end. Hopefully you have managed to tick off these top things to do in Cologne in one day and haven’t enjoyed the Kölsch too much that you can remember it all! After our day in Cologne was over we flew to Bucharest, you can read our Bucharest city guide here.
For more photos of our adventure in Germany, please take a peek at our gallery.
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