Coming to Cologne and having no particular interests and just a short amount of time?
This is part two of my Cologne Guide. I will give you itinerary for what to do in Cologne if you just have one day.
Due to the fact that I sometimes host couchsurfers, I get asked often, what should I see/do in Cologne if I have just one day. I usually ask what if they have any hobbies or if they are particularly interested in art or history or what so ever. Usually they are not. The standard answer is:
“I just want to see the real Cologne.”
Now this is post is for people like that. Those of you, not interested in museums, tourist sights and still want to get a feeling what Cologne is all about.
There are quite many people using Cologne as a stop in between their actual travel destinations, so they tend to have just a short amount of time. But in my opinion, 1-Day is enough to see the major things and have a good time.
This is due to the fact that cologne is not really a sightseeing city. It’s more a city to live in with great bars, restaurants, parks and lots of concerts. There are not many major sights, but there is one, which is simply obligatory if you visit Cologne.
This is where our journey starts. The “Kölner Dom”, the huge Cathedral. People are proud of this church, it is THE sight to see. The church is standing right next to the main train station, so it’s impossible to miss.
History: The constructions started 1248, it was built to replace the former church, which became too small. It took more than 600 years to finish the church, because of financial problems and people just stopped working on it for over 300 years. The church was officially finished 1880. But till today there are people working on the church. It’s rare to have a picture without any construction work going on.
I got asked a couple of times, why nobody cleans the church, why is it so dirty? (for some reason it was mostly asian people asking this) This is actually quite easy to answer: because otherwise it would look pretty patchy. There have been many different types of stones used over the last 600 years, so it’s better to leave it dirty and black, instead of cleaning it and having random white, yellowish and brown parts all over.
Another interesting information is that Cologne was bombed during the second world war and pretty much destroyed, but for some reason the Cathedral was left standing, surrounded by ruins. If this was pure luck or the allied forces didn’t want to destroy the grand church, who knows. People in Cologne have seen it as a sign of proving, how sacred the church is.
Opening Times: Daily (Winter: 6-19.30 o'clock/ Summer: 6-21 o'clock ) The tower is open daily from 9 to sundown Price: To climb the tower you have to pay 3 Euro (1.50 reduced for students)
Why you should visit the Cathedral: Here I was earlier saying this guide is for people not interested in museums and sights and now I am suggesting something so touristy. The thing is, like every city, there is just this one sight which you can’t leave out. In Paris it’s the Eifeltower, in Berlin the TV-Tower, in Rom the Colosseum and in Cologne it is the Cathedral.
If you are up for a challenge, I would definitely climb the tower. Up there you will have the best view over the city and the atmosphere of climbing up this small staircase, with this old, different sized stairs is like going for an adventure. And when you reach the top you burned enough calories to reward yourself with a beer or a yummy meal afterwards 😉
I climbed up there already three times, I love the view and the challenge 😉
Take your time at the Cathedral, enjoy being touristy…
From there you should head over to the next thing, which I think you should see, because it is simply a part of Cologne Culture. When you walk around the dom you will get to some stairs.
First some information to this building there. It is the music hall of Cologne. They decided (for some stupid reason) to build the music hall under the huge front place. During concerts there are people standing around the place to stop tourist from walking on it, because you can hear every footstep in the music hall.Yeah that’s what I call a huge fail. Maybe they did it on purpose, to create new work, for those poor guys stopping the tourist from wandering over the huge empty place 😉
From this place you can get up to the bridge across the Rhine.
The Cologne’s Love-Lock Bridge. Like many cities, Cologne has one too. There are thousands of locks, all different sizes and colours. The closer to the Cathedral the better, after putting the lock on the bridge the key gets thrown into the Rhine. Rumour says the city wants to get rid of those locks, because they fear the bridge might won’t be able to carry the weight anymore, but lot’s of locals got so angry, that the city gave in.
Well understandable, at some point every couple in Cologne ends up on the bridge. They say there are some Cologne heartbreaker having more than 10 locks with their names on the bridge (well it’s hard to get rid of the lock, when you break up, because the key is somewhere on the ground of the river 😉 )
After you had a good look at the craziness, you can go back. Now you head down to the Rhine. This view is the reason why I chose to live in Cologne. It is the place where you go to relax, to enjoy the sun or to hang out in the evenings (be careful not to do so alone, at least not around the cathedral, there are lots of weird people hanging out there too, not really a safe area)
Depending on how much you had for breakfast you could pick one of the restaurants along the Rhine for lunch. The prices are sometimes a bit high,but still reasonable and you are paying for the atmosphere too. And trust me if you go for a traditional german restaurant, your portions are going to be huge, you will get what you pay for =)
If you are not hungry yet, keep strolling. You will get into a part with lots of tiny roads, loads of restaurants and bars and some fancy shops. During day time it is usually empty here, during night-time the streets are full. There are some treasures to look at, if you are interested in German Crafts or Candies.
Take your time to discover, Cologne is for me all about walking and taking in the atmosphere.
I would say you have three options from there.
One is you head towards the Rhine again and go on one of the boat tours offered there. The area around Cologne, is quite beautiful and it maybe would be really worth seeing, if you are not in the mood for walking anymore and want to relax a bit. I actually like boat tours, because usually they have guides telling you a bit about the area. I would just ask at one of the ticket shops, if they have a guide, the usually offer english-speaking tours too.
This is the chocolate museum. If Germans are proud of something else, besides their beer, it probably is chocolate. The museum is quite nice if you are interested in how chocolate is made and if you want to order some with ingredients you pick by yourself, as a souvenir or present (I got my sister a white chocolate with gummy bears, hazelnuts and raspberry for about 4 euro. It was a nice, original present).
Otherwise if you are not interested into the museum, you could just check out the souvenir shop, where you will find lot’s of crazy stuff, like beer bottles out of chocolate or all kind of fancy flavors.
Important information: Closed on Mondays, Tuesday-Friday: 10-18/ Sat.-Sunday: 11-19 o'clock, Price: 8 Euro, reduced 6 Euro.
Also you can climb up the stairs around the museum, without having to enter the museum. From there you will have a nice view over the Rhine and the cathedral. Next to the museum, in the old tower, is a nice little coffee place. The last time I was there the coffee was quite good and the view is really nice.
Now keep on strolling along the Rhine. Here on this little “island”, was a former port. Now it is the most posh and modern area of cologne. One of the three huge buildings ahead of you has about 133 deluxe apartments, with the rent somewhere in between 3500-8000 Euro.
Lot’s of locals hated these buildings, because they where so huge and people said they destroyed the feeling of the city. But now, nobody can imagine how the city would look without them.
I love strolling around there. It is the complete contrast to the old city. There I actually have the feeling that I am for real living in one of Germany’s biggest cities. The rest of Cologne sometimes reminds me more of a town: little, old buildings, everything is spread apart, not at all like a city with one million people.
From there I would head back, across the little bridge you crossed earlier and now cross the road.
It is probably around noon now. If you are hungry, this could be a great place to stop for a fast snack. It is the oldest mustard factory in Cologne. They have all kind of different flavors, from Beer-Mustard, to Curry- or Garlic Mustard. All are according to the old traditional recipe. No weird stuff used, just all the good things from nature.
You can try the different mustards and if you want to, you can get a sausage with your favorite mustard for 2 Euro, which is a pretty good deal.
Mustard isn’t really your thing?
Well now we are heading towards the “Heumarkt” (Hey Market), it is a huge place in the city, surrounded my snack places, bars and restaurants. I am sure you will find something good to eat there.
From there we will take a tiny road, to one of the most famous shops in Cologne. If you haven’t heard about it yet, Cologne goes crazy for a whole week every year during Carnival Season. This shop is open all year round and sells basically every kind of costume you can think of.
To get an idea of how crazy it gets during Carnival, have a look inside and now imagine every second person in the city dressed up in one of those costumes.
You don’t have to check this out, it’s just a suggestion, to understand the culture in cologne better.
From there head to the “Alter Markt” (Old Market), which is right next to the “Heumarkt”. It’s probably already evening by now.
Now I would do, what many Cologne people do. Go for a pub crawl.
Most people in Cologne are very proud of their beer, which is why you should at least try it.
It is not very strong and visitors from other parts of Germany tend to make fun of it (it is more water than beer and gets served in tiny glasses. If you are used to those huge half a liter glasses, seeing a “Kölsch” makes you laugh at first, because it’s so small). But it is stays fresh because of the small glass and prices are reasonable. If you want one, just order a “Kölsch”.
To get a better idea about the Cologne Pub Culture I would suggest going to one of the many “Brauhaus”. These are the different breweries. Here you will have the waiter running around, they are called “Köbes”. Usually they are quite impolite and cheeky and tend to make jokes about people.
Don’t be offended !!!
This is part of the culture in Cologne, they have to be that way. Smile and take it the way it is meant, as a joke. By the way, there is no such thing as a free refill in those pubs. If you empty your glass and you don’t tell them, they will sometimes automatically bring you a new one, but you still will have to pay for each beer your drinking. If you are done drinking but the beer-coaster on top of your glass or just tell the waiter that you don’t want anymore.
Enjoy your evening 😉
If you don’t drink beer, they sell other stuff too 😉 but in those pubs it is just the thing to drink. If you still don’t want any beer, I would still check one of those traditional pubs out, order a coke or water and just enjoy the atmosphere.
You don’t like it?
Head to the next one, till you find one you like ;)…… or head back to the Cathedral.
Because this is where our 1-Day tour will end. During daytime the church is impressive. At night-time, all lit up it is stunning.
This is the last picture you should remember when you think back about Cologne.
I hope you enjoyed the tour =)
Next week will be for all those of you interested in museums and sightseeing and don’t just want to experience the city.