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Cologne Germany Guide

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


Cologne skyline with cathedral and main station
Tom Bonaventure/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images
cologne cathedral picture

Cologne: the Cathedral

James Martin
cologne pictures, fishmarket

Cologne Picture - Buildings near the old Fishmarket

James Martin

Cologne is located in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, along the Rhine river between Dusseldorf and Bonn. Founded by Romans, Cologne is 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; the city holds over 1.8 million people. The historic center is easily walkable, however, and you'd have a hard time thinking of it as a huge city while visiting.

Cologne 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.

Cologne 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.

Cologne 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.

Cologne Map:

Lonely Planet has offers an interactive map that you can use to find your way around Cologne, see the links below.

Cologne - 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. See Cologne weather and climate information.

Cologne - 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.

Cologne Carnival:

Although carnival season in Cologne starts on November 11, the main event called the "three mad days" is held around Easter time (opens the Thursday before the beginning of Lent) and attracts over a million revelers. See our links on the upper right for more.

Cologne: 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 6am 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 - lots of 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 know 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.

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 some 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.

Rent or Lease a Car? If you're going to Germany for three weeks or more, leasing may make more sense.

Cologne Hotels (book direct)

Cologne Vacation Rentals (book direct)

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

Driving Distances in Germany - Find the distances between major cities in Germany

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