Cologne Cathedral has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. It’s also one of the most visited tourist spots in Germany. So what else is there to see in Cologne?
As Cologne was heavily bombed during WWII it isn’t the prettiest city, but there are lots of beer drinking sites to explore! Here is an overview of what not to miss and tips for your own trip!
What to See in Cologne
The Cathedral is Cologne’s stand out monument. It was begun in 1248 and not completed until 1880. Despite taking 632 years to complete, the building looks completely uniform as the various builders over the years have stuck to the master plan design.
Shrine of the Magi (AKA The Three Wise Men)
The largest reliquary shrine in Europe. A reliquary is the terms of for a container which holds the relics of Christian saints. The dazzling gold box within the Cathedral’s altar reputedly contains the bones of The Three Wise Men. In 1164 the charismatic Emperor, Barbarossa, offered the Archbishop of Cologne the relics of the Magi in return for his support during the Siege of Milan. The figures engraved in the golden box depict scenes from the Old Testament.
The floor mosaics are not as old as you might think. Layed in 1885 by Villeroy & Boch, the first mosaic shows an image of the Archbishop Hildebold in 818 holding an image of the ‘old cathedral.’
The Stained Glass Windows
The windows are the largest set of early 14th century windows in Europe.
Dotted around the choir are the tombs of twelve archbishops who existed between 976 and 1612.
This crucifix is over 1000 years old. It was donated by the Archbishop Gero in 976 and depicts Christ at the very moment of his death. The crucifix is considered miraculous and therefore carefully looked after throughout the centuries.
The cathedral is free to enter but you can leave a donation in the various collection boxes.
Cologne Chocolate Museum
This museum contains example of real working machinery that is used in chocolate factories today. It has some interesting displays on the history of chocolate. For €11 you were given one tiny Lindt chocolate. It would be a great place to take children as it probably takes around 90 minutes to explore all the exhibits.
Explore Cologne by Bike
Cologne is a small city which is relatively flat, so it’s great for cycling! You can do a 3 hour city bike tour in English of Cologne. This tour has 4.8star reviews and I would recommend completing it on your first day so you can get your bearings.
Kathe Kollwitz Museum
This little museum at the very top of a shopping centre in Neumarkt. It is €5 to enter and regularly holds small exhibitions alongside the permanent Kollwitz collection.
Fischmarkt / Fish Market
This colourful square features some of the oldest buildings in Cologne. The buildings are painted in different colours. There are many places to enjoy a drink or something to eat on the square. We enjoyed having a Gugwein with Amaretto (it was November) under the heaters whilst watching the boats pass on the river.
Take a Boat Tour
Being situated on the Rhine river, Cologne is the perfect place to explore the Rhine. You can take a 1 hour city boat tour or if you want to go further afield you can take the 4 hour boat tour. The 4 hour tour comes with an audio guide.
Make sure you do this when visiting Cologne
Take cash. Get cash out as soon as you can. Finding anywhere that takes card in Cologne is rare. It’s surprising that such a large European city doesn’t take card but most of the vendors do not. It’a almost unbelievable, but trust me, cash is a must. Make sure you have plenty of Euros for the trip!
Where to Stay
NH Hotel Collection
We had a twin room at the NH Hotel Cologne, Mediapark. This one was recently built/ refurbished and it was clean with all the modern cons. It had a luxurious feel to it with a great range of toiletries in the room. I didn’t eat breakfast at the hotel. The hotel offer late check out until 5pm on Sunday completely for free! Excellent after a night out. I stayed at the NH hotel in Berlin and it wasn’t as nice this one. So i’m not necessarily recommending all NH hotels.
How To Get There
After checking which European cities had the cheapest flights on a Friday to Sunday evening (no need to use any holiday), Cologne came out a snip at £35 return with Ryanair. Turns out the first day of the Christmas markets was the day after we left… which would explain why the flights were so cheap! However getting to tick a UNESCO site off my list is not an opportunity I ever miss!
£35 return from London to Cologne with Ryanair, including a carry on wheelie.