CologneCologne (German: Köln, Ripuarian: Kölle) is a city on the Rhine river in North Rhine-Westphalia. It is the fourth largest city in Germany with around one million residents. It is one of the nation's media, tourism and business hotspots, and is considered one of the most liberal cities in Germany.
Cologne has a rich history, reaching back to the time of the ancient Roman Empire, when it was founded. It has remained a constantly inhabited important regional centre since. Compared to other German and European cities, the ancient and medieval Cologne was relatively large, covering most of the modern-day city centre. A wealth of architectural heritage can therefore be found across the city ranging from pre-Christian times to strikingly modern buildings, with a high concentration of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, culminating in the magnificent cathedral (Dom).
Cologne is, however, not only a tourist destination, but on an equal note a major economic centre, a globally important trade fair location, a culture and media hotspot and a major transportation hub. This equal mix of roles and functions is permeable throughout the city and provides it with a constant inflow of various visitors, as well as a very diverse population mix. This all culminates during the traditional Karneval, and makes Cologne one of the most-visited destinations in Germany.
OrientationCologne lies on both sides of the river Rhine, which flows through it in a northerly direction. The left hand, or western side, is Cologne proper with the Old Town (Altstadt), the famous cathedral and most landmarks and museums. The right side, or eastern side, used to be a separate town called Deutz - now Deutz is a neighbourhood of Cologne.
Cologne is divided into 9 districts (Stadtbezirke), numbered from 1 to 9. Stadtbezirk 1, called Innenstadt ("inner city"), is probably the one most tourists will spend all of their time in, as it contains most of the city's points of interest. It is also the only district that lies on both sides of the Rhine, as it includes Deutz. Districts 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 are on the western bank of the Rhine, and districts 7, 8 and 9 on the eastern bank, surrounding the Innenstadt.
The part of Innenstadt lying on the outer side of the ring is the Neustadt, or "new town". Neustadt is further divided into Neustadt-Nord and Neustadt-Sued, also separated by L111 (Aachener Straße). Both parts of the Neustadt form a crescent embracing the Altstadt and reaching the Rhine on either side thereof. Finally, facing the Altstadt and Neustadt on the other (eastern) side of the Rhine is the Stadtteil of Deutz, which completes the Innenstadt.
HistoryCologne is one of the oldest cities in Germany, having been founded and established in the 1st century AD, as the Roman Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium. "Cologne" is the French version of the city's name, which has become standard in English as well. It has a traditional, strong rivalry with the neighbouring city of Düsseldorf, the capital of North Rhine-Westphalia, although this is mostly manifested by a number of jocular references made to one another in both cities and constant bickering as to whose local beer is best (in Cologne, it is obviously Kölsch). It was Germany's largest city at several points in history and for most of the Middle Ages it was the only place that would even register as a major city population-wise by modern standards. Today it is the fourth biggest city in Germany (after Berlin, Hamburg and Munich) and the biggest that is neither city state nor state capital. Its population is around one million people.
ClimateThe climate of North Western Germany is changeable, with seasonal changes and day-to-day weather often comparable to that of the England or Northern France. Travellers to Cologne can expect the hottest time of the year to be late July/early August, the coldest is January (temperature hovering around the freezing mark) and the month with the most rainfall is June.
German is of course the language of this city but it is very easy to find information in French and English, also sometimes in Spanish and Japanese. Due to a large number of immigrants, Persian, Turkish, Polish and Russian are also widely spoken. Announcements in the main train station (Hauptbahnhof) are in German, French and English. Like many German cities and areas, Cologne also has a local dialect, called Kölsch, however all speakers will also be familiar with German.
Away from the landmarks, workers of the Deutsche Bahn (German railways) often speak English reasonably well, and ticket machines have a language selection feature. In general, older people in Cologne tend to have little or no knowledge of English, while younger Germans and those working in the business world tend to be more proficient. Language is rarely a strong barrier, so this should not be much of a worry for the average tourist. Just approach a friendly native with a smile on your face.
# Alternatively, get bus #161 which departs from Porz Markt (main Rail station) every 30 – 60 min from 04:59 to 23:30, travel time is 15 min and costs €3.
- Düsseldorf International Airport (DUS), The Düsseldorf airport offers many intercontinental connections. A train ride from the airport train station to Cologne central station takes about 40 minutes. IC and ICE trains on this route cost €16-€23, but offer no real time savings over the humble Regional Express (RE) trains, which require only a regional transit ticket (Price zone / Preisstufe 5; €11.90 as of Oct 2019). The Deutsche Bahn journey planner will show you your options.
- Frankfurt Airport (FRA), is the largest airport in Germany, served by all major international airlines. ICE (InterCityExpress) high speed trains connect Frankfurt Airport and Cologne central station in less than one hour. Standard one-way fare is €67 by ICE. However there are many reduced fares available if you order in advance with prices starting as low as €19. If you pay full price you do not have to take a specific train, but discounted tickets are restricted to the train on your reservation. Trains via Koblenz, which use the slower, yet extremely scenic route along the Rhine Valley are also 30% cheaper. The ICE train takes about one hour, the slower more scenic route takes about two hours.
Cologne is linked with Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris by Thalys and ICE high speed trains.
The Frankfurt airport (FRA) has direct service to Cologne and is within one hour by ICE trains.
By busLong-distance buses cannot stop in the center of Cologne. The main long-distance bus stations serving Cologne are at the train station Leverkusen Mitte (20 minutes by S-Bahn from/to Cologne Hauptbahnhof, check if you need to pay a fare on top of your long-distance bus ticket) and at Köln Bonn Airport. You can compare travel time and costs for various modes of transport on various websites.
By carCologne requires all cars to have a "Low Emissions" sticker in order to drive around in the city centre Low Emission Zone ("Umweltzone"). Information on obtaining a sticker (which must be done at least several weeks in advance) is available here. There are very few exceptions and even electric cars or foreign cars have to get the sticker.
Autobahns A1, A4, A3, A57, A555 lead to Cologne. During rush hour the streets are heavily congested, also due to massive construction of a new subway tunnel Nord-Süd Stadtbahn, crossing half the city centre.
For cheap parking, with quick connections to central Cologne, use park and ride ("park und ride"). At some stations, parking is free when you present a validated transit ticket on exit.
By public transportCologne has an excellent public transport network consisting of trams, local trains and buses. Bicycles are also available for hire on the northern side of the Hauptbahnhof. Local transport systems rarely provide announcements in English, but network maps are commonly available to assist with your journey. Those wishing to explore areas away from the central city should plan their journey and potential connections before leaving. The KVB (Kölner Verkehrs-Betriebe) website is a good source of public transport information.
Cologne's subway and tram-system, or U-Bahn, is a mixture of systems: a subway line can go on street-level and end up as a tram or vice versa. There are vending machines or ticket-offices at larger stations The trains and buses also have vending-machines. See the public bus, tram and subway-company KVB for printable maps of the bus/tram/subway system and here for their official street map (also found here) of Cologne.
Regional trains are known as "S-Bahn", "Regional-Bahn" and "Regional Express". Most of them don't have ticket vending-machines so remember to buy a ticket at the station.
Student travel: Student travel (age 20 or less) can be very cheap to and from Cologne, as well as around the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia. The German rail company (DB: Deutsche Bahn) offer a 'SchöneFerienTicket NRW' during student holiday times and allows free travel throughout North Rhine-Westphalia on local buses, trams, U-Bahn, S-Bahn and regional trains. Prices range from around €54 for summer holidays to €25.50 for Easter holidays, but prices and times change from year to year.
These tickets are available to anyone with valid student identification (student union card, enrolment card, etc.) and personal identification (passport, driving licence, etc.) The ticket is only valid for the student holiday dates of North Rhine-Westphalia and the ticket is not valid for high speed express trains. Visit/contact Deutsche Bahn for more information before travelling to Germany.
By bicycleCologne has, like Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt, a Call A Bike - system. After you register for an account on-line, it will charge your credit-card a per minute fee. You can pick up or drop off one of the silver-red bikes anywhere in the city. It is also possible to rent a bike at many places; by bike is maybe the best way to go around in the city.
By footBut, on the whole, the centre of Cologne is not that big for a city of one million. It is entirely feasible to walk from one end of the centre, say, the Rudolfplatz, to the other end, say, the Cathedral, in half an hour.
Kölner DomA UNESCO World Heritage site. It took over 630 years to complete this monumental cathedral. In 1880 the cathedral was finally consecrated. Cologne's Dom is the first sight you will notice when taking the main exit from the central station. (If you don't see it, you've taken the back exit.) If you are in good shape, take the 509 stairs to the top of the south tower. It takes about an hour, so wear comfortable shoes, but it's worth the hike. Touring the cathedral is forbidden during Mass.
- 12 Romanesque Churches - Between 1150 and 1250, numerous churches were built in the Romanesque style.
Basilica of St. CunibertWonderful stained glass windows.
address: Im Ferkelum 29The oldest Christian foundation in Cologne.
St. Maria Lyskirchen
Basilica of the Holy Apostles
address: Gereonsdriesch 2The originality of this church lie in its elliptic floor plan and the addition, in 1220, of a decagon between its towers
Basilica of St. Ursula
address: Am Panteleonsberg 2
address: Marienplatz 19
address: An Groß St. Martin 9
St. George's Church
St. Cecilia's Churchaddress: Cäcilienstraße 29today Museum Schnütgen
PraetoriumAn accessible archaeological site with the ruins of the ancient Roman Praetorium of Colonia.
Gürzenich dance hallThe Gürzenich is a municipal concert hall and multi-purpose festival hall
Remains of city walls and fortifications
ruins of Roman city walls and two towers
NordtorRuins of Roman city wall gate
- Ruins of Middle Ages city walls and towers
Ruins of a small gate
Veedel - City QuartersCologne is well known for its "Veedel" or traditional neighbourhoods.
- Agnesviertel – Here, most notably in the bohemian Agnesviertel, you can find independent designers, bookshops, bars, and art galleries. There are also historical monuments, such as the North City Gate or Eigelsteintorburg in the Agnesviertel, very near to Fort X, built to protect the city from French attacks, and Agneskirche, a late neo-gothic church on the boulevardesque Neusserstraße. Neusserstraße also has a yoga school, an Aikido school, a Japanese restaurant, a well-stocked bookshop, and a range of pubs. Nearby you will find the Alte Feuerwache, where there are regular exhibitions on political topics and a surreal flea market every four weeks in summer. Opposite Alte Feuerwache is the Artclub, with regular exhibitions of contemporary art, and on Ebertplatz there is a cinema (Metropolis) which shows films in the original (mostly English, but sometimes also French or Spanish). On nearby Lübecker Straße, you will find the uncompromisingly Arty Filmpalette cinema. To round off a trip to the Agnesviertel, you might like a kölsch in the Lapidarium (right beside the North City Gate) or a coffee in Cafe Schmitz, Cologne's grooviest poser hangout (they also do a great breakfast.) All of these great places are within a short walk of Ebertplatz U-Bahn.
- Eigelstein – around the Eigelsteintorburg, U-Bahn "Ebertplatz"
- Martinsviertel / Altstadt – Old town between Rhine, Heumarkt, Alter Markt and Dom, (Cologne Cathedral), U-Bahn "Rathaus" or "Heumarkt"
- Severinsviertel and Südstadt – around the Severinstorburg, U-Bahn "Clodwigplatz"
- Kwartier Latäng – This student neighbourhood takes it name from the Parisian Quartier Latin. It is centered around the Zülpicher Straße and provides ample nightlife opportunities, ranging from a night shop with dancefloor and toilets (Späti), to grimy indie bars. Middle Eastern food is also easy to be found here, including the famous and very popular Habibi. The neighbourhood can be accessed throughStadtbahn "Zülpicher Platz"
- Belgisches Viertel – Stadtbahn "Moltkestraße"
- Ehrenfeld – U-Bahn "Körnerstraße"
Hohenzollern BridgeAlso called the Locking Bridge. If you walk to the back of the Kölner Dom along a straight path, there is a bridge on the Rhine to your right that is covered in padlocks. The locks are placed there by couples to show their loyalty to each other. Couples often have their names and a significant date inscribed on the locks. There are other places around the world that have "love padlocks".
RheinauhafenThis completely rebuilt area combines modern extravagant architecture with historical harbour buildings. The old Rheinauhafen opened in 1898 and became necessary due to increasing amount of freight traffic. The new Rheinauhafen is a mix of office buildings and apartment buildings and gastronomy. On a peninsula of the Rhine (1 km southern of Heumarkt) it is an invitation for a beautiful walk along the river or for having lunch or dinner. Also see the separate itinerary article for a walking tour.
- Parks: Cologne has two park areas (Grüngürtel) encircling the city (immediately outside the medieval city limits) and nearly the entire town, respectively, which were set aside as public recreation areas after World War I. The inner Grüngürtel is probably more easy to reach for tourists who only stay a few days. Most notably are Volksgarten, Rheinpark, Hiroshima-Nagasaki- (colloquially known as Aachener-Weiher-) and Stadtgarten parks where thousands of people come together to enjoy the sun, play and barbecue when the weather is fine. All these parks have an associated beer garden. Dispose any packaging, charcoal, etc., into the waste bins (which are few and far between), as the city has begun to employ anti-littering patrols that will levy a stiff fine on anyone seen littering. Metro: Eifelplatz for Volksgarten, Universitätsstraße for Hiroshima-Nagasaki-Park, Hans-Böckler-Platz/Bahnhof West for Stadtgarten, Bahnhof Deutz for Rheinpark.
Museums and galleriesCologne has one of the world's best collections of museums and galleries for a city of its size. As well as world class museums of art and archaeology, Cologne boasts two museums of ecclesiastical art, both housed in architecturally stunning buildings. There is also an ethnographic museum, a chocolate museum, the German Sport Museum and an abundance of Roman remains.
One can purchase a MuseumsCard from one of the municipal museums (such as the first five listed below). The single card cost €18, the family card, which costs €30, entitles 2 adults and 2 children (under 18) free admission to each of the municipal museums during two consecutive opening days. On its first day of validity, it can also be used as a ticket on all buses and trams on the Cologne transportation system VRS. Card is valid in the following museums: Museum Ludwig, Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud, Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst, Museum Schnütgen, Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum - Kulturen der Welt, Kölnisches Stadtmuseum, NS-Dokumentationszentrum.
phone: +49 221 26165address: Bischofsgartenstraße 1A museum of modern art, near the central railway station and the Cathedral hosts a worthy regular exhibition and temporary exhibitions.
phone: +49 221 23860address: An der RechtschuleThe Museum of Applied Art has a collection of popular design items, as well as temporary exhibitions. The historical collections have been closed for several years due to refurbishment and new exhibition concept.
phone: +49 221 27694address: Martinstraße 39The Wallraf-Richartz Museum is an art gallery with a collection of fine art from the medieval period through to the early 20th century.
phone: +49 221 22304address: Roncalliplatz 4Römisch-Germanisches Museum explores the history of Roman history in Cologne and the surrounding area. The permanent exhibition at the museum is closed or on tour, but the Dionysos mosaic and Poblicius tomb can be visited by guided tours Tu-Su at 10:00, 11:00, 15:00, 15:30, 16:00 and 16:30 (€3, reduced €1). Important finds on the history of the city can be seen from the late summer of 2019 in the Belgian House (Cäcilienstraße 46, near Neumarkt).
phone: +49 221 23620address: Cäcilienstraße 29-33North Rhine-Westphalia's only ethnological museum, it has a fine collection of Amerindian and Austro-Polynesian artefacts.
Museum für Ostasiatische KunstArt, music, books, films and culture from Asia. Closed for renovations until September 2017.
address: Kolumbastraße 4A Christian art museum. An architectural wonder designed by Peter Zumthor and a feast for the senses; this museum, built in concordance with the ancient foundations of the shrine of Mary in the rubble contains a selection of historical and contemporary religious art. Worth visiting just to explore the spiritually inspiring spaces and the beautiful walkway through the ruins of the past.
address: Am Schokoladenmuseum 1aChocolate museum in Cologne. It's a short visit but very interesting exhibits. Admission €9, concessions €6.50, family pass €25.
address: Appellhofplatz 23-25"NS" is short for National Socialist. Former headquarters of the Cologne Gestapo, with prison cells. Now the largest regional memorial site in Germany for the victims of the Nazis. Library, media and exhibitions. Near subway stop "Appellhofplatz".
address: Neumarkt 18-24Dedicated to the artist Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945), the first woman elected to the Prussian Academy of Arts.
phone: +49 221 - 221-22398address: Zeughausstraße 1-3Shows exhibits and works of art on the history of the city of Cologne from the Middle Ages to the present day.
OverstolzenhausOne of the oldest houses in Cologne, built between 1220 and 1225, with an impressive romaneque façade. Built as a residence for a local patrician, today it houses the Academy of Media Arts.
Kunsthaus LempertzThe famous German art merchants and auctioneers, founded in 1845 (although the building is from 1952, reconstructed after the Second World War).
Postamtaddress: Dreikönigenstraße 23The former post office built from red brick in 1906 is now used as a theatre.
WasserturmThe former water tower built in 1868-1872 is now used as a luxury boutique hotel. The 11th floor (at 35 metres) houses a terrace and glass covered dining/meeting room, which can be rented out for private functions.
WolkenburgThe baroque estate was built in 1734 for a benedictine convent, but is used today by the 190-man choir Kölner Männer-Gesang-Verein Cäcilia Wolkenburg. It is also an event centre.
SeverinsbrückeCompleted in 1959, the cable-stayed bridge provided a relief for the Deutzer Brücke. Although not outstanding visually as such, it provides a nice view of both banks of the Rhine if you care to walk it.
Churches and other religious buildings
KartäuserkircheThe church belonged to the local charterhouse (a monastery of the Carthusian order) until 1794, when the monastery was closed and the church was used variously as a warehouse or a military hospital until the 1920s, when it was restored to its religious function by a local protestant community, whom it serves as a church until today. After reconstruction, it features an impressive pipe organ array with glockenspiel.
DreikönigenpförtchenOne of the best-hidden gems of Cologne, the small yet ornate gothic gate once led to an "immunity" belonging to the convent based at the St. Maria im Kapitol.
St. Gregorius im ElendNeobaroque church from the early 19th century.
St. Johann BaptistThis Catholic church is one of the oldest in Cologne, predating even the famous romanesque churches, as it was founded in 948. It has seen many additions and reconstructions throughout the centuries, and was almost totally destroyed during the Second World War. Its current form is an eclectic reconstruction finished in the early 1960s.
Former franciscan convent with St. Marien churchNested inconspiciously between contemporary residential buildings is this impressive complex with gothic-inspired decorations
St. Peter churchaddress: Leonhard-Tietz-Straße 6The lesser-known next-door neighbour of St. Cäcilien
St. Maria vom Frieden church and conventBaroque convent complex from the 17th century.
Trinitatiskircheaddress: Filzengraben 6This 19th-century evangelical church provides both regular religious services and serves as a venue for various cultural, especially musical, events.
DeutzDominated by two very utilitarian land uses, the fairgrounds in the north and the actually functional freight harbour of Cologne in the south, Deutz is not without long history and much heritage and charm in its built environment as well. While the left Rhine bank is clearly the dominant one in Cologne, Deutz is where you can get the best views of it across the Rhine, and this is a reason alone to cross the river and get there, but by far not the only one.
phone: +49 2234 9921-555address: Ottoplatz 1The Köln-Triangle is a high rise building in Deutz, immediately by the waterfront. It is a part of a building complex fronted by the Rhine-facing Hyatt hotel and is hard to miss due to its prominence and quite easily accessible from both Deutz and the left bank of the Rhine (simply cross the Hochenzollern bridge from the Altstadt). On its 29th floor, it has a viewing terrace called Panorama, which is publicly accessible via a lift for a relatively reasonable fee. The terrace has glass all around it for both safety purposes and for exhibiting the names of various landmarks you can see from it. If you want to take really good photos, you may want to have a piece of cloth with you to clean the glass of fingerprints and such. The viewing terrace is closed during bad weather (like storm or hail).
Alt St. Heribert
Neu St. Heribert
Bahnhof Köln-DeutzThe historic building of the station now known as Köln Messe/Deutz is an interesting piece of architectural heritage many visitors to Cologne miss as they exit the station on the fairgrounds side.
St. Johannes church
ESSO Station An der KölnarenaYou may wonder what's so special about a gas station, but you will understand once you see its 1950s architecture with the unique structured roof and learn that it is the oldest gas station in Cologne in continuous operation.
Deutzer FreiheitThe main shopping street of Deutz, with not only retail opportunities but also many historic buildings along the way.
- Karneval The biggest festivity in Cologne is the Winter carnival (or Fastelovend) in February. According to the official Cologne tourism website, "Its highlight is the street carnival taking place from Weiberfastnacht (the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, traditionally the day on which women take control of the city) to Karnevalsdienstag (Shrove Tuesday). On Rosenmontag (Shrove Monday) more than one and a half million people line Cologne's streets to watch the parade with the mad triad – the prince, farmer, and virgin – every year."
Cologne Gay Pride– Cologne Pride is a large gay pride festival held in Cologne annually on the Heumarkt square. The event showcases music, a candle light vigil remembering those with HIV/AIDS, and on the final day of the festival a large parade is held. Up to a million people have attended the events.
- Kölner Philharmonie Central concert hall. Opened in 1986. Main season September to June. Special summer shows.
- Oper Köln Operas are performed in the Staatenhaus while the opera building is being renovated. Season starts in Mid-September.
address: Venloer Straße 42Concert centre for jazz and contemporary music, with a cafe and restaurant inside and a large beer garden outside which dates back to at least the 1950s. (Also the site of a great Christmas market.)
Kölner LichterA fireworks display on the Rhine lights up the sky between the Hohenzollern and Zoo bridges.
phone: +49 221 547-4183address: Riehler Straße 180Take a ride with the Aerial tramway across Rhine river.
address: Riehler Straße 173
PhantasialandBerggeiststr. 31-41 in the town of Brühl; Phantasialand is a fun place for children and has some fun rides for adults too. Even the Colorado Adventure roller coaster was sponsored by Michael Jackson. Bring passports for proof of age.
phone: +49 221 722436address: Ebertplatz 19If you want to go to the movies while visiting Cologne and you don't know German, this small cinema is for you. It shows movies in their native language, but mostly English. (However, most other cinemas will also show English versions several times a week, so check the listings.)
- Fishing in the Rhine
- Watch football, i.e. soccer, at 1. FC Köln. They were promoted in 2019 and now play in Bundesliga, the top tier of German football. Their home ground is the RheinEnergieStadion (formerly Müngersdorfer Stadion), capacity 46,000. It's 4 km west of city centre on Aachener Strasse; take a tram or bus towards Müngersdorf.
address: Frankenwerft 35Departure times: Daily: 10:30, 12:00, 14:00, 18:00; Köln-Düsseldorf offers cruises of the Rhine river around the Cologne area with an explanation of landmarks.
Stattreisen e.V.This non-profit organization offers excellent tours of Cologne, led by volunteers. The prices are moderate and there is a huge list of tours, including (besides the more regular tours) Koelsch tours (for testing the breweries) or language lessons in the local dialect (again, in a brewery). Ask for English tours, some guides are willing to conduct a normally German tour in English.
Rickshaws: environmentally friendly city toursRickshaws are exotic and environmentally friendly tricycles, that bring slowly and safely their passengers to their destination. By Rickshaw you will discover Cologne’s points of interest in a comfortable way.
Spa and massage
Beauty and spa treatments are popular in Cologne.
In typical German style, all sauna areas (referred to as Saunalandschaften, i.e. Sauna landscapes) are mixed (apart from the odd Damentag) and that bathing costumes are banned from them for hygienic reasons. Yup. Starkers, everybody.
Do take a bathrobe (to keep you from the cold outside the saunas) and a large towel (to put under you in the saunas, no sweating on the wood, please) with you, though.
Do not draw hasty conclusions either: mixed nudity does not make those places dens of sin, quite the contrary. Nudity is considered as the only appropriate outfit in saunas, and it all happens in a disciplined, wholesome, safe and respectful atmosphere. Possibly one of the highest forms of German civilisation one can experience.
Gawkers and bathing costume-wearers will be expelled by the staff without qualms, so don't even think you can get away with playing the tourist who didn't know, it won't make a difference.
That very matter-of factly, unerotic approach to mixed nudity may well turn out to be a revelation to many visitors open-minded enough to give it a try and go with the flow.
Claudius ThermeLarge spa with pool and lots of different saunas (indoors and outdoors) next to the Rhine, north of Deutz.
Mauritius ThermeDecent Saunalanschaft in a hotel south of Neumarkt.
Mediterana11 saunas and a huge pool, in Bergisch Gladbach, East of Cologne.
monte mare BedburgLarge spa in the west of Cologne.
NeptunbadIn the popular area of Ehrenfeld in an old renovated bath, to which an attractive "sauna landscape" in Japanese style on two levels has been added. Also a comprehensive fitness center.
Saunas in public swimming poolsSome of the public swimming pools managed by the Cologne city council, notably Agrippabad, do have small Saunalandschaften too, all featuring a Damentag (ladies only day).
phone: +49 221 6086585address: Frankfurter Str. 40Tantra massage, coaching and workshops, an open minded and liberal attitude essential because the massages include sexually sensitive body parts, however, no sexual services are given by the team of 30 female and male employees.
Sukon - Thai Art Of MassageTraditional Thai massage institute, in the city center. Thai native massage therapists practise in the 160m² Thai-styled studio: original royal massage, aroma oil massage and foot massage. This place does not offer any erotic massages.
Galeria KaufhofGermany's largest department store chain and direct descendant of the mighty Leonhard Tietz AG has its flagship store in Cologne, where it is headquartered (although the headquarter offices have now moved to a different, modern building in Altstadt-Sued). The original 19th-century Tietz department store on the Schildergasse has been expanded with a "modern" part in the 1950s, including a multi-storey parking, facing the Caecilienstraße and now fills the entire huge block. You can find everything there, from apparel to groceries.
KarstadtKaufhof's main competitor situated themselves in a modern shopping centre north of Neumarkt, over the Zeppelinstraße.
High-end fashionAlthough it is Duesseldorf that brands itself as the German capital of fashion, Cologne's Altstadt also features a wide range of high-end fashion stores with a selection of top German and global brands.
Franz Saueraddress: Minoritenstraße 13
Aproposaddress: Mittelstraße 3Features a Gucci brand store.
La Belle Modehausaddress: Mittelstraße 20
Modehaus Elscheidtaddress: Benesisstraße 36
Boutique 69address: Pfeilstraße 31-35
RecordsThere is an abundance of record stores in Cologne, but most are hidden in non-tourist quarters.
- For a mainstream record store, go to Saturn, which opened in 1961 and certainly has the largest CD (and DVD) collection in the region. To pre-listen a record, hold it under one of the scanners spread throughout the shop. Always worth a visit. Subway and Regional Train from central station: Hansaring. The (office) building is from 1925 and was briefly the highest house in Europe (65 meters). A smaller Saturn shop is on the top floor of Galeria Kaufhof (listed above).
- Independent record stores are spread around Saturn: Cross the street for 2nd hand and punk, follow the "Ring" (boulevard) north, and you will find Jazz, Electro and HipHop at Schallschock record store. Famous alternative music-store Normal is south of Saturn, as well as Underdog Record Store (specialized in Alternative Rock, Emo, Garage and related matters) Subway and Regional Train from central station: Hansaring
- For electronic music, get off at Friesenplatz, and go to groove attack in Maastrichter street. Also famous is Kompakt record store. Both are connected to a label sharing the name, and putting out fine German electronic music. Subway: Friesenplatz
phone: +49 221 203070address: Neumarkt 2, 50667, KölnThe largest bookstore in Cologne; they stock a huge selection of books including sections in English and other languages. Also a wide selection of postcards.
- On "Ehrenstraße", you will find cheap and arty books, take a look at "Buchhandlung König" at the eastern end, buy art books at well known "Taschen" at the corner of Ehrenstraße and the Ring. Taschen was founded in Cologne in 1980 and is headquartered here.
- Travel books are bought best at "Gleumes", between Zülpicher Platz and Rudolfplatz. They have only maps and travel books, but these from around the world.
- Books in English - "English Books and Tea", Auf dem Rothenberg 9a, in the old town, stocks a wide range of new and secondhand books in English. It also offers a choice of teas and conversation and invaluable tourist orientation - all in English.
- Honorable mention: "Cafe Goldmund" in Ehrenfeld. A very cozy corner-café with all walls lined with bookshelves. You can buy every (second hand) book after you finnished flipping through it while you enjoyed your drinks for a small tip. Also hosts small music and poetry events. Glasstraße 2, right next to the S-Bahn station "Ehrenfeld".
Traditional sceneOne can eat pretty well in most traditional-style Kölsch restaurants, and in fact as a visitor, you should try some of the local food, which is quite rustic, but tasty, hearty fare.
The brewery taps (Früh, Sion, Pfaffen, Malzmühle, etc., in the old town south of the Dom) are worth taking note of to that respect, although they tend to be expensive for what you get.
Places out of the way such as Schreckenskammer and Max Stark (north of the train station, the former being within crawling distance of the Station Backpackers Hostel), Päffgen (Friesenstraße) and both of Cologne independent brewpubs (Hellers Brauhaus on Roonstraße and Braustelle in Ehrenfeld) offer cheaper, better food that the old town tourist traps. Besides, most of these places have tons of atmosphere, which doesn't hurt!
You may also experience the deadly dry wit of the Köbes (traditional name of the blue-clad waiters) in most of those places. If it happens to you, don't get upset, just enter the game, send the Köbes packing with a dig and a smile and you'll be all right.
You'll mostly find typical Rheinland dishes in those traditional Kneipen. Classics include:
- Halver Hahn: nice big slab of Dutch gouda with a rye roll (Röggelchen)
- Himmel und Äd mit Flönz: fried black pudding with mashed potatoes ("earth"), apple sauce ("heaven") and fried onions.
- Soorbrode/Sauerbraten: joint marinated in vinegar with raisins, usually served with red cabbage and a kloss (potato dumpling). The joint may be beef or horsemeat, so you may want to ask first.
- Dicke Bunne mit Speck: boiled white beans with hefty boiled bacon slices on top.
- Schweinshaxe (grilled); Hämchen (cooked): pig's leg, usually a bit of a monster (ranges from 600 to 1400 g, including the bone)
- Rievekoochen/Reibekuchen: flat fried potato cakes usually on offer once a week, and served with a variety of sweet or savoury toppings, which may include apple sauce, Rübenkraut (the beet-sourced equivalent to black treacle) or smoked salmon with horseradish cream.
Ethnic sceneIf you are looking for a snack, you can either head for one of the Middle-Eastern or Asian places, or you can make use of the traditional fast food places like McDonald's, and Burger King. Italian restaurants in Cologne seem to attempt to aim for a higher quality than in the UK, though it is debatable whether they achieve it, and whether their prices (often 150-200% of UK prices) are justified. There are several Indian restaurants across the city, which serve a fair fare, though the visiting Brit may be slightly disappointed to find that German 'curry culture' is rather akin to that of the UK in the 1960s: menus are neither large and varied, nor regionalised and specialist, and although ingredients are fresh, the food without exception appears to be tamed-down for the conservative German palate and the cooks are rather hesitant to spice it up even if you ask for it. "Clay Oven" (Luxemburger Straße near Südbahnhof) and "Bombay" (near Eifelstraße tram station) do make a vindaloo that will satisfy the most hardy customer, though. More recently, Japanese and Thai restaurants have become more common; both are quite expensive.
- Hauptbahnhof - the ground floor of the central train station has a good number of cheap eateries, which include Pizza Hut to kiosks selling sausages.
- Falafel Habibi on Zülpicher Straße. They have two stores, which serve the same food (though sweetmeats may vary).
- There is an abundance of Döner Kebab and similar takeaways around the town. Generally a lot of Turkish snack bar-style places can be found just north of the main station at Eigelstein, around Zülpicher Platz and in the Belgisches Viertel, with some excellent Lebanese and Persian takeaways further down Zülpicher Straße towards Südbahnhof. Probably best now (though expensive) is Oruc Döner on Kyffhäuserstraße (near Barbarossaplatz); while the kebab is quite good though not outstanding, their freshly baked pide bread is famous all over town. There are lots of Turkish restaurants and takeaways within Kalk, Mülheim and (mainly restaurants) in the Belgisches Viertel.
- Borsalino, an Italian-style restaurant on Zülpicher Straße close to Zülpicher Platz. Very affordable prices.
Don Camilloaddress: Hildeboldplatz 1aA small Italian tabula calde style restaurant. Coming from Hohenzollenring, head into Breite Straße/Ehrenstraße and take the first road to the left.
El IncaGörresstraße 2, near Rathenauplatz. Latin-American restaurant, open 18:00-24:00.
Johnny Turistaaddress: RathenauplatzEasy-going pub/restaurant offering snacks, hot dishes and a daily changing selection of tapas; prices are lower than in most tapas bars.
SelamEhrenfeldgürtel 91 (tram station Venloer Straße/Gürtel) Ethiopian restaurant, opens Tu-F at 17:00 and on weekends at 16:00. Good selection of mild and spicy Ethiopian dishes served on the traditional plate of injera bread.
Farmer'sSteakhouses with several branches on the Ring (near Friesenplatz), Wallrafplatz (near the Dom, off Hohe Straße), Kreuzgasse (off Schildergasse shopping street). At lunchtime they usually have a special, that will give you a square meal for €6-7.
address: Antwerpener Straße 63Spanish style food, tapas and cocktails. Cool crowd, usually booked out after 19:00, make a reservation by phone or e-mail the day before.
phone: +49 221 4210102address: Luxemburger Straße 319a"Unsichtbar" is a play of words. Literally it means "invisible", but the suffix "bar" also refers to being a bar. You will get your private butler, who is a blind person, and you eat in total darkness. You can choose your meal in a showroom and then your personal blind butler will lead you to the dark room where you have to smell, feel, maybe touch and of course eat your meal, but you won't see it. You'll have to refer to your butler about everything, whether going to the bathroom or refilling your glass. You are not allowed to smoke, use a cellphone or do anything else that could lighten up the room. The food on your plate is explained to you by using a clock-like system (e.g. "beans are on three o'clock"). It's an excursion into the world of blind people, who are supported this way, and a really good restaurant, too. For weekends you have to book around 13 weeks in advance, but during the week you'll get a free table (with a little luck).
address: Olympiaweg 2Exquisite German, but also international meals.
address: Hohenstaufenring 53Exquisite French-like and modern food, great arrangements of wine and cheese. After noon you can get (quite) cheap 2-way dishes of the day including water or a glass of wine. You have to book (quite early) in advance and a menu will be created on your wishes.
If you buy bottled Kölsch, take either Reissdorf, Früh, Gaffel or Mühlen, which are rated highest by Cologne citizens. Those looking for a beer with a little more bitterness might like to try Küppers (there are about 30 more brands).
There are so many bars and pubs to choose from that you could spend most of the night going from one bar to the next. A really great bar is the Irish Pub, Flanagan's, in Altstadt down below a building. Almost everybody speaks English in there if that's what you are looking for, and they have a really great Karaoke night on Sundays. The clientele is very friendly.
For a comprehensive list, see this website, bars listed on the right.
- For traditional breweries, head to the Altstadt around the Dom, where the Früh Kölsch brewery is the most famous with visitors and locals. You will find a younger crowd at Hellers Brauhaus on Roonstraße, near metro station Zülpicher Platz or Brauhaus Pütz on Engelbertstraße close to Rudolfplatz. Furthermore the Päffgen, on the all-bar street Friesenstraße close to the Friesenplatz, and the Mühlen near Heumarkt are traditional brewery pubs but less touristy than the "Früh". Also recommended is Sion, which is a lesser known brand, but hailed to be very good, although some beer enthusiasts have found it lacking character since 2007. Most Altstadt pubs are somewhat scorned as "tourist traps" by locals, however: prices here are usually higher than e.g. on Zülpicher Straße.
- There are a lot of modern bars and lounges all around town. More mainstream ones are on Zülpicher Straße. For something more independent and funky on this street, try Umbruch (funky) or Stiefel (punky). The Low Budget on Aachener Straße next to Moltkestraße metro is a nice, unassuming, punky bar which features a fine selection of drinks and often hosts concerts, poetry or cabaret sessions.
- A lot of stylish places are in the so-called Belgian quarter between Aachener Straße and the Ring, e.g. famous M20 or the Hallmackenreuther.
- A secret Tip are the Bars of the alternative Szene in Cologne. Those you may find the most in Ehrenfeld, like the "Sonic Ballroom", and in the Südstadt, for instance the "Tsunami Club" and the little pub "Lotta", but also in the famous Kwartier Lateng, which is near the University of Cologne, around the Barbarossaplatz, at the Zülpicher Straße and the Kyffhäuser Straße. If you are searching for something more rough, you may find some nice places to rock and roll, on the Schäl Sick in the cityparts Kalk, east from the Kölnarena, like the little Trash Chic bar in the Wiersbergstreet, and in Mülheim, north from the Kölner Messe the little St. Pauli fanszene pub called "Limes", at the Mülheimer Freiheit street, near the Wiener Platz. But, this places are better to be known visited by the younger and not so rich people. So take care of your pockets.
Cafe Oscaraddress: Hohenstaufenring 25Awesome Italian restaurant that has a long running special of cheap cocktails after 17:00 most nights, and pizza and pasta dishes for €3-4 daily before 18:00. Great place for lunch or an early dinner, and also a good base to kick off a night out. Staff are very friendly and generally speak English, and the food is excellent, as are the cocktails.
address: Am Hof 12 – 14Früh am Dom is a great place to try the local Kölsch brew.
address: Alter Markt 20-22
address: Unter Taschenmacher 5
address: Friesenstraße 64-66
address: Heumarkt 6Visited by Bill Clinton.
Lommerzheimaddress: Siegesstraße 18
address: Heumarkt 62
phone: +49 221 17940777address: Große Neugasse 42, 50667 KölnOnly local music is played in the Jeck.
Alter WartesaalNifty bar and disco beside the central station: various events & exclusive parties.
address: Bartholomäus-Schink-Straße 65/67Club complex in Ehrenfeld. Parties and concerts. Devoted to a variety of international styles including hip-hop, jazz and Latin music.
address: Auenweg 173Serious clubbing. In an old harbor storage facility, but very modern inside. One of Germany's top clubs.
address: Deutz-Mülheimer Strasse 127Concerts. International flavor. Alternative crowd. Quite popular. Inside a defunct factory site on the right bank of the river.
Die WerkstattHouses clubs and concerts in an industrial area in Ehrenfeld.
SubwayVarious parties from Hip Hop, Electro to Indie music with a hip but laid back audience (Moltkestraße metro - next to Rudolfplatz).
address: Luxemburger Str. 32Small old dance and night club, loud and crowded. Rock concerts, music contests, poetry slams, parties, bar sounds.
address: Ehrenfeldgürtel 127Ehrenfeld club. Not a great building but the clubbing area is fine. Club books good DJs and artists. In walking distance of Club Bahnhof Ehrenfeld.
- Bar Orange - on Sudermannplatz, near Ebertplatz. Great atmosphere and great cocktails, or just a beer and a lively chat with Milan, the resident philosopher, or Rainer and Arash, experts on local goings on.
Blue Lounge PartyEvery third Saturday, at the Bürgerhaus Stollwerck in Dreikönigenstraße 23. Starts at 22:00, tickets €5. Percussion, Brazil, balearic and deep house, techno, trance. A must for people who like this kind of music.
#TAUSEND BarAachener Straße 57 (Moltkestraße metro): various events & music, nice bar styled by design students from the Köln International School of Design (KISD).
3KlangOn Ehrenfeldgürtel 127, metro station Venloer Str./Gürtel. Every third Friday, 22:00-05:00.
Blue Lounge BarOn Mathiasstraße, lesbian bar. Off-shoot of the very successful party mentioned above.
- Basswerk Session, bi-monthly, the second Saturday at Gebäude 9, Deutz-Mülheimer Straße 127-129 (tram 3 or 4, stop at KölnMesse/Osthallen), 23:00–05:00. Long-running and popular drum 'n' bass party in a defunct funky factory hall. Resident DJs often invite renowned guest DJs from the international d'n'b fringe. Alternates bi-monthly with the similar "Phonogenic" party in the same venue.
Art of House PartyOnce a month, the second or third Saturday at Stadtgarten in Venloer Straße 40 (Hans-Böckler Platz metro): nice and really crowded house party, guests around 25.
Funky Chicken ClubEvery Friday at Opernterassen next to the opera (Appellhofplatz metro): Cologne House Party in a beautiful venue, always crowded, good House and Electronic Music.
ApropoGood parties on Fridays and Saturdays with Soul, Funk, Disco and Hip Hop, a cosy venue in Im Dau 17 (Ulrepforte or Severinstraße metro) easy guests from 20 years on.
- Sixpack In the vibrant Belgisches Viertel (Aachener Straße 33 - next to Rudolfplatz) you should be aware to wait long or even get rejected especially at a late hour. Mixed music from Electro to Indie with a huge variety of bottled beer.
For accommodation services the city of Cologne charges an extra 5%-levy Kulturförderabgabe, which is included in your bills.
Non-tourists, i. e. those who did not voluntarily chose to head for Cologne, can get the taxes reimbursed.
Campingplatz der Stadt KölnRhineside camping site with a view of the Dom and city centre, the low drone of the nearby highway bridge does distract from the otherwise peaceful locality. It is right by a cycle and walking trail into the city and is an ideal family site (although there aren't many activities for children), rates are very reasonable and the owner speaks English. Getting to the site is a little difficult, take the tram/train to Rodenkirchen and walk over the bridge, when on the other side turn downriver and the campsite is on the right, there is a restaurant nearby. Adult €6.50.
Camping BergerAnother Rhine-side camping site, nearer public transport. With 125 spaces, supermarket, playground and a restaurant. Rates are reasonable (€7.50 for adult per night).
address: Marzellenstraße 40-48Basic rooms and facilities and the breakfast is extra but good value nonetheless. They also have storage lockers (deposit) if you want to keep your valuables somewhere safe.
address: Siegesstraße 5
address: Neusser Straße 404
address: Barbarossaplatz 1Creative new hostel in the middle of nightlife - small breakfast included. There are female only dormitories, but no male only dormitories.
Weltempfängeraddress: Venloer Straße 196In a relaxed and bohemian neighbourhood, the hostel has got a nice bar and friendly staff.
phone: +49 0221 98593090address: Richard-Wagner-Str. 3916 rooms. Also has a busy, comfortable bar and a small theatre. Not far from two nightlife areas to the north (around Brüsseler Platz) and south (around Zülpicher Straße). There are female only dormitories, but no male only dormitories.
phone: +49 163-6610004address: Heumarkt 5930 m² newly renovated great bright rooms, bathroom and toilet are separated. There are 7 apartments available. 10 minutes to the fair and the Cologne main station.
address: Hohenstaufenring 95-97This 4-star hotel in the city centre, not far away from the cathedral and a 5-minutes walk from the Friesen quarter.
phone: +49 221 921-5570address: Hohenstaufenring 56This privately-run, 3-star hotel is 2 km from the cathedral and a 10-minute walk from Friesenstraße.
address: Engelbertstraße 33-35 (near Zülpicher Platz)
phone: +49 221 27150address: Im Mediapark 8b
phone: +49 221 16510address: Breslauer Platz 2The hotel's building is anything but pretty and the room appointments somewhat outdated, but this is made up for with free Wi-Fi and a convenient location.
address: Marzellenstraße 58-60
address: Richartzstraße 14-163-star hotel 500 m away from the railway station and 13 km from the airport.
phone: +49 220 35610address: Waldstraße 255Within walking distance of the airport (unless you have a lot of luggage), but they run a shuttle. Park-and-fly packages also offered. Sometimes you can find a decently-priced room here when prices in town go through the roof. Nothing but the airport in walking distance.
phone: +49 221 942220address: Johannisstraße 76-80A short walk from the railway station, the Cologne Marriott is surprisingly small, modern, and personal. Rooms are not huge, but they're immaculate and well appointed. Fou, the in-house "crazy brasserie", serves great breakfasts and casual French, while the excellent Executive floor lounge with breakfast, dinner and drinks is worth paying the extra for.
Hilton Colognephone: +49 221 130710address: Marzellenstraße 13-17Modern Hilton hotel in the centre, convenient for sightseeing. Prices go through the roof during trade fairs in Deutz.
address: Kennedy-Ufer 2A5-star hotel. 306 rooms and suites with views of the River Rhine. Host to gourmet restaurant "Graugans", 13 conference rooms and a spa.
address: Kaygasse 2A luxury hotel built inside of a 130-year-old water tower. It has a designer interior and a rooftop restaurant with panoramic views. Price: €180-840 per night
Pullman CologneSome rooms feature Nespresso machines and a glass partition between bedroom and bathroom. The top-level bar George M offers sweeping vistas of Cologne from its 12th-floor location.
address: Messe Kreisel 3Restaurant, bar, gym, spa.
SavoyA family-run 5-star hotel with a huge spa area and a very nice rooftop bar. It's very close to the main station (exit Breslauer Platz, turn left, ~100 m) and has very good weekend offers. Known as the place of choice for many (German and international) celebrities.
Criminal activity in Cologne is similar to other big cities. Tourists should take normal safety precautions, particularly in the city centre, where pickpockets are known to be active. Also, be careful on the Ring, which is full of clubs and night-time crowds in the streets. Day and night be careful in outlying neighbourhoods like Chorweiler, Porz, Seeberg, Ostheim, Bocklemünd, Ossendorf, and Vingst. In general, stay away from drunk people. At street crossings, watch the trams.
hotspot.koelnSince 2014 free city Wi-Fi ("WLAN" in German) is available in many public spaces and in public buildings. To use it you must find a signal (for a map follow the link), tick a box and click past two messages.
- Free Wi-Fi is also available in many bars, restaurants and cafes.
- The free Wi-Fi on ICE trains and at the station identifies itself as "Telekom".
Telekom HotSpotCommercial (fast) Wi-Fi service. A "HotSpot Pass" costs €4.95 a day.
Religious servicesHoly mass in Catholic churches near to the central station:
- Dom, Domkloster 3 (next to the central station). Su 07:00, 08:00, 09:00, 10:00, 12:00, 17:00, 18:30; M-Sa 06:30, 07:15, 08:00, 09:00, 18:30
- St. Andreas, Komödienstr. 8. Su 09:00, 11:00, 18:00; M-F 12:05; Sa 09:00, 17:00
- St. Mariä Himmelfahrt, Marzellenstr. 26. Su 11:00; W Th 10:30; Sa 17:00, 18:30
- Minoritenkirche, Kolpingplatz 5. Su 09:00, 11:00, 16:00; Tu-F 99:00
- Bonn — the former capital of West Germany is due south and easy to reach by train or Stadtbahn (Regional Express 5; MittelRheinBahn MRB 48; U-Bahn line 16 and 18; also ICEs, ICs, and EC's ).
- Brühl — almost a suburb of Cologne, contains the Augustusburg Palace which has been placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The palace is one of the key works of Balthasar Neuman, and contains one of the finest Rococo interiors in the world, the highlight being the main staircase. Also in the grounds is the magnificent hunting Lodge of Falkenslust. Brühl can be easily reached by train in around 20 minutes from Cologne. The theme park of Phantasialand is also in Brühl.
- Königswinter — A small town reachable by train.
- Ruhr (Ruhrgebiet) — If you are interested in heavy industry this might be a worthwhile trip. It is about 100 km north of Cologne. The region, which was the center of mountain (coal and steel) industry in Germany, is going through a structural transformation and proudly presents its industrial past on the Industrial Heritage Trail undefined.
- Zülpich — a small town southwest of Cologne dating from Roman times. It has a newly opened museum centered on Roman baths and bathing culture. It is also a gateway to the forested hills of the Eifel region.
Due to Cologne's proximity to the German-Belgian-Dutch border, weekend trips to foreign destinations are easy to arrange. Thalys operates high speed trains to Paris and Brussels, and Deutsche Bahn to Amsterdam, making each city only a few hours away. You can also travel to Maastricht (a city in the Netherlands with a beautiful city centre where the Maastricht Treaty of the European Union was signed in 1992) for a low cost by taking a train to Aachen then by bus to Maastricht – See: Aachen#From The Netherlands for details. (Direct buses are available to the same destinations but will take longer.)