Exploring Cologne- Top 10 sights in Cologne (because we know you never can see everything)

Top 10 sights in Cologne

These are my personal 10+1(for the kids) things you should see in Cologne

Here we go again. I did promise a while ago to make my very own Cologne Guide (which had been put on ice for a while thanks to technical reasons and the fact that I was really dreading writing this post. Soooooo much research to be made)

I made a list of my favorite things, which you should explore when you have a bit more time at hand than just 24h. Otherwise check out my 1-Day Itinerary.

But before I start there is one little thing you should know. Most museums and sights are closed on Mondays, so keep that in mind when you plan your visit in Cologne.

1.”Kölner Dom”- The Cathedral

If you remember my last post, the absolute must see in Cologne is the Cathedral. There is just no way to get around seeing it. If you are not in the mood for climbing the tower (but the view is breathtaking) or you don’t want to go inside, at least come back in the evening.

There are lovely benches and steps where you can sit down and take in the awe-inspiring view. Every time when I am not sure why I am living in Cologne, I go there grab myself a bottle of Kölsch (local beer) and just enjoy the atmosphere. It makes me feel at home immediately.

The Cathedral takes my breath away again and again and in the evening when most tourists already left or went to one of the million bars and pubs, you can really enjoy the view.

Now some interesting facts, simply because it is fun to have rather useless knowledge 😉

1. The cathedral has over 2000 different sculptures, most with religious background, some not so much. Due to the fact that the work at the cathedral never stops (some joke it is not possible to get a picture without construction work going on) several stonemasons left their very own interpretations of art on the roof of the cathedral. So somewhere there are John F. Kennedy, Charles de Gaulle and some famous people from Cologne, f.e. a former football trainer, hidden.Go on and see if you can find them 😉

2.The Church will always be black. Heinrich Heine a famous german writer said once the Cathedral is “devilishly dark”.But don’t listen to him, he came from Düsseldorf. Düsseldorf and Cologne never were good friends, to say it politely. The Church once was white, but due to the fact that it was built in a coal mining area and that the train station was built right next to it (think about those old trains with loads of smoke 😉 ), it turned black in a very short time. There are two reasons why it will stay black. First it is to expensive, due to the many sculptures it is incredibly time-consuming to clean. Second is it is built with many different sorts of stones, so it would look quite spotted. But people in Cologne know that the black doesn’t matter, because depending on the time of the day it is able to change colours, trust me, just check it out in the evening.

3. Last funny fact. Some time ago there were big criminal syndicates at work in Cologne. But there was this code of honor, really pirate like. It was written that it was strictly forbidden to steal from the cathedral. Once an expensive piece got stolen and one of the most famous gangster in Cologne set out to find it. And he did. He brought it back to the bishop, inside of a lovely plastic bag. Yep you really can’t say that gangster don’t have any honor.

2.Archeological Area

We will stick with the historical buildings, but we will go even to an earlier time now. Sadly the whole thing is still under construction, but hopefully the complex will be finished soon.

But what you can see already today are relics from the Roman Time, one being the old Townhouse of Cologne from the 4th century. There have been many archeological things found, so a great place for every history fan.

What I love especially is the fact that you can check out one the old roman
sewer tunnel. Yeah, catacombs! Let’s be honest who doesn’t love them.

While both of these things are not even close to be as grand as the things found in Rome, they still give you a pretty good idea about life in Cologne and about how far the reach of the Roman empire was.

It’s open Tues-Sunday from 10-17 o’clock. Entry tickets cost 3.50 Euro for adults or 10 in combination with the German-Roman Museum next to the Cathedral, for all those that really want to dive into History. Kids get in for free(but not sure how much they pay for the German-Roman museum) =)

3.Museum Ludwig

Ok enough history. We need something for Art-Lovers too. No matter where I am travelling I will go to at least two Art-Museums. One is usually a modern art place and the second one is for classical art.

I love strolling through them and letting myself be inspired by the amazing work of the most famous artists.

Museum Ludwig is the place to go if you like Modern Art. You can find the largest collection of Pop-Art outside of the United States and many other great pieces, f.e. from Picasso, Lucio Fontana, Max Ernst, Paul Klee. There is something found for every taste.

Open from Tuesday-Sunday from 10-18 o’clock and the entry fees are 11 Euro for adults, 7.50 reduced and 22.00 Euro for families (I guess parents+two kids)

4.Max Ernst Museum

This place is all about Dadaist and Surrealist Max Ernst. I love it simply because I had an art major in highschool and he was one of the artist we worked with, which means I already know quite a bit about him and came to really love his art.

He is one of the most important German artist. Together with his group he was a founder of the Dada and later he was an important member of the surrealist movement. He invented and used many different painting techniques and you will find many great art pieces from him in this museum.

He is amazingly crazy and inspires me to break out of thinking in regular norms. So if you are really interested in the Surrealist era or you just love art, you should take the chance and go there.

The museum is in Brühl, which is very close to Cologne. Line 18 drives there. Open from Tuesday-Sunday from 11-18 o’clock. Adults pay 8 Euro, Kids are free. Otherwise there are two castles in the same area so you could get a combi-ticket.
I haven’t been at the castles, but hey if you are already there why not take the option. Just ask about it when you arrive at the museum. For Museum and both castles it is 14 euros for adults. Otherwise just enjoy the museum and let your inner craziness be inspired.

5.Wallraf-Richartz-Museum

Last but not least, the 3rd Art Museum (that’s the last, I promise 😉 )After diving into the world of modern art we dip our toes into the world of classic art.

The Wallraf-Richartz-Museum has a big collection with medieval, baroque (f.e. Rubens or Rembrandt) and 19th century art (Monet, Van Gogh, Munch, Cezanne, you name it you’ll find it)

Sure in the end most art museums are somehow similar, but if you enjoy strolling through them and you have some time at your hand, why not check them out.

Opening times: Tuesday-Sunday from 10-18 o’clock and entry is 9 Euro for adults, 5,50 reduced, kids free.

6.Farina-Haus

Now that we are finished with the art, we move on to another museum. Waaahhh why am i doing this to you, you ask? Well because there are not so many huge sights in Cologne. Like stated before, Cologne is a city to live in, less to do sightseeing.

But the Farina House is a bit special and might be a nice change for all those of you, who like to learn some new stuff from time to time.

Who of you heard of “Eau de Cologne” before? Now take a guess where it is from 😉 The Farina family created it, now the house is a perfume museum.You will see how the family lived and then in the basement you will dive right in the world of smells and learn everything you need to know about mixing scents and creating perfumes.

But you just can see the museum when you are taking a guided tour. These are usually 45minutes long, so if you have some free time left, ask your Hotel/Hostel if they can help you to reserve a place in on of the tours. These are offered in different languages, so you don’t have to fear, you won’t understand anything. Enjoy and learn something new 😉

7. EL-DE-Haus

No fan of smells, but of recent history? There is the so called EL-DE-House. When visiting Germany there is hardly a way around the terrifying stories from the second world war.

This house was from where the NS ruled over Cologne. It was partially a prison, which is still intact and can be visited. Some poor souls stayed there weeks and month to be interrogated. Many of them wrote on the walls of their prison cells. Over 1800 scriptures are still preserved.

Nowadays it is a history museum, telling the stories of those prisoners and how things worked in Cologne during Hitlers Regime. Here you can experience some of the terror of the second world war and get an idea on how many crimes against human rights were committed during this time.

It is a meaningful place but the atmosphere is very heavy, not to say even slightly scary. This museum is about one of the darkest times in German History and is there to remind everybody on how dark human nature can be, if we forget compassion and lose the respect for other humans.

I totally understand if you are not in the mood for something so (in my opinion) terrifying, but for me it just reminds me on how important it is to keep in mind what can happen if we stop thinking and start to simply follow.

Open from Tuesday to Friday (10-18 o’clock) and Saturday, Sunday(11-18 o’clock). Entry adults: 4.50, reduced 2 euro and kids for free+ there is the option to get an audio guide.

8.Melaten

If you are more up for a stroll, but you like it to have a mysterious and slightly scary touch, good news, just head to the graveyard.

The Melaten, wich lies pretty much directly in the city is one of Cologne’s oldest graveyards. There are some famous dead(who would have guessed) locals found, but mostly seeing the grand graves and mausoleums makes the visit already a otherworldly experience.

Entry is free, the area is huge. Just take it easy and enjoy the atmosphere. I love going for a stroll there. I know this sounds somewhat weird, but I love the little chill I feel running down my spine when ever I am in the mood for some mystery.

By the way there are sometimes tours offered, just ask at your Hostel/Hotel or in the tourist center if they know more.

9. St.Ursula

Let’s stay with otherworldly experiences. There is this little church in Cologne. You would think it is just your normal, everyday church.

Well not so much…

There is something rather unusual hidden inside. But first to a little legend, so that you have to learn something before you get to the good stuff 😉

Ursula was the daughter of a british king, way back in the ages, who went to a convent to become a nun. But then she was asked to marry a pagan prince.

Ursula requested two things, her husband had to become christian and she wanted a 3 year grace period. She took a pilgrimage and in Cologne an Angel told her she would die as a martyr and she should go to Rome.

When she came back to Cologne ,she and her 11.000(that is just what the legend says,most likely it were just 11) female companions got kidnapped by the
Huns. Because none were willing to share the bed with the Huns and to lose their virginity, they all got killed.

Because of this major sin thousand angels came to avenge the murder and the Huns had to flee. To thank her for her martyrdom the people of cologne built the church St. Ursula and made her the patron saint of cologne.

When you have a look at the crest of Cologne you will notice 11 small black flames. These symbolize the 11000 virgins. So why am I telling you this? What has it to do with the mystery hidden inside of the church?

Well the church is supposedly built upon the remains of these martyrs.

But the actual mystery is found inside of the so-called “Golden Chamber” The whole room is very impressive and beautiful, untill you take a closer look at the decorations.

The wall ornament is made out of thousands of bones. Next to these there are around 700 skulls inside the room. Many decorated with gold, silver, pearls and silk.

I think that is a pretty good reason to check out this church 😉

10. Racecourse

Imagine Lady’s in posh dresses and with big hats, the smell of horses and hay, people cheering for the race and the overwhelming feeling of winning a bet. Yeah, horse racing is fun.

Ok Cologne is not Ascot, not even close, but for everybody interested in having a look at how the rich and royals spent their free time, it is definitely worth checking out.Even if I doubt you will find any royals in Cologne 😉

I would even say, it would be ok if you leave the dress at home and to just go in jeans and t-shirt. The racecourse in cologne is more down to earth, which is the charm. No social pressure put on you, you can simply have a look and try out if you are one of these lucky fellows, when it comes to bets. (But careful this can be addicting ;).

11.Last some things you can do with your kids

This one is a little extra for the families with kids. There are several great places to go to, whenever you need something to make your kids happy. The Sport Museum is great if you want them to get really tired, there are a lot things for them to try out and keep then occupied.

Next to it is the chocolate museum I mentioned in an earlier post, where they can learn how chocolate is made.

If you’re kids need more action go to the Odysseum. A museum just for kids. I’ve been there with my sister and even though we are supposed to be all grown up, we had a blast. You could go on a Science challenge, were you had to search different stations to answer questions and fill out a questionnaire. Lot’s of crazy science stuff to try out, from driving a plane simulator to crawling through a tunnel, to find the next station hidden and a little climbing parkour. A big adventure place, if your kids don’t fall dead tired into their beds after a visit there, your kids must have an amazing endurance.

The last tip for an unforgettable experience is the ride with the cable car across the Rhine. There are gondola in police colours and I know my little cousins would go crazy if they could drive in one of them across the river.

That is all from me for now. Go out and explore Cologne. Next week will be about parcs and lakes.

Otherwise what are your favorite sights in your hometowns? Anything a potential tourist just has to visit? Share some of the favorite places with us. I am really curious about them =)

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