A day in Cologne
Updated: Aug 29
A day in Cologne is all I had, and I feel that’s all I needed to see and experience what Cologne is in a nutshell. I liked my day in Cologne, especially because I did not have an itinerary planned. I walked around town a lot, ate at a nice restaurant, had the best hot chocolate at a cute cafe, and was able to relax and enjoy the city.
It isn’t often that I let myself roam freely without a million things to do on my list, but when I do, I do it so well, that I wonder whether the itineraries should ever be followed!
I guess I’ll have to leave that up to my mood for the day, but check out how you can spend a relaxing day in beautiful Cologne!
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1. Cologne Cathedral
The first place I visited in Cologne was obviously the infamous Cologne Cathedral.
Did you know that the Cologne cathedral is the most visited site in all of Germany! And why wouldn’t it be- it is absolutely stunning! The gothic architecture of the cathedral makes it similar in appearance to the Barcelona Cathedral, and others around the world (to me). It is the tallest twin spired church in the world (the spires reach a height of 157m)
Interestingly, the work for the cathedral had begun in 1240, but was paused in 1473, and finished only in 1880!
I spent a while admiring the architecture from the outside, ( I love beautiful architecture-be it of a 13th century Indian temple, or that of a European cathedral!), and wandered indoors for a quiet moment. It is never crowded inside a church (unless it is Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia), and I love stepping into what seems like a vacuum, as I suddenly am in a space where it is calm and quiet, just a few steps away from the chaos of the most visited landmark in the country!
When all you have is a day in Cologne, I feel making the cathedral your point of orientation, and then just walking everywhere from there is the best thing to do.
I always walk a lot whenever I’m in a new town, not only does it help me see more of the place than if I were in a cab or a for of public transport, it also saves me a lot of money!
I also end up finding cute cafes, and great restaurants while I walk about (until recently, I never looked to google to tell me where to eat when I’m in a new city).
2. Explore the Old Town
Walk through the old town admiring the old buildings, many of which are now restaurants, shops, & pubs. The cobblestone narrow alleyways that lead you to one pastel building after the other are my favourites (and there are so many similar alleys in Europe). It is so much fun to walk around streets that have so much character with a camera in hand!
Dusseldorf is a stone's throw away from Cologne-check out my guide to Dusseldorf!
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3. Search for the best flavoured hot chocolate
I don’t remember which cafe I went to, but they had the best flavoured hot chocolate! When I say flavoured, it doesn’t stop at one or two variations- they had MANY! They had white, milk, and dark hot chocolate with a range of flavourings in each (orange, cinnamon, caramel, hazelnut, and so much more!) I had found a cafe in Dusseldorf in the Klemensplatz, Kaiserwerth area, but I do not remember the name of that cafe either. So, if you find it, get ready to be spoilt for choice-and YES, it is really really good!
4. Sit down for a pint of Kolsch
If hot chocolate isn’t what you want, give the local beer, the Kolsch, a try. It is everywhere, so you won’t have to work hard to find it. After the Kolsch, try the range of German lagers & ales, that every pub will have a stock of, and make a day of it!
5. Try the Halve Hahn sandwich
A sandwich that originated in the 1870s in Cologne- it is made of a split rye roll, that is buttered and topped with a medium ripe gouda cheese, pickles, onions, and mustard. It’s easily available everywhere, so it won’t be difficult to find it.
6. Walk down the Rhine Promenade
The Rhine is the star of all the cities that it flows through, and Cologne is no different. Walk along the Rhine in Cologne and see how the city changes from its historic old town to the modern city that it is now. The banks of the Rhine are home to restaurants, bars, and shops, that make for great spots to take a break during the walk.
Stop for a quick visit at the Church of Great St. Martin
The Church of St. Martin may not be as famous as the Cologne Cathedral, but it was constructed between 1150-1250, so it is historically significant. It is located along the Rhine, so you don’t have to go out of the way for a quick visit to this church.
7. Spot the statues of Tunnes & Schal
Right opposite the Church of Great St. Martin are the bronze statues of two characters from Hanneschen Theatre ( Cologne’s puppet theatre)-Tunnes & Schal. The character of Tunnes was introduced in 1803 as a good natured rural man, while the Schal was introduced in 1847, as a two faced, iniquitous man in a tailcoat. The two characters are still part of the culture of Cologne, and are referenced in jokes. Apparently rubbing Tunnes’ thick nose is said to bring good luck to all who give it a go!
8. Learn about the intriguing legend of the Pixies at the Pixies’ fountain
This is a popular landmark in Cologne, and you will most likely pass by it when you walk through the Old Town. (But, I did not know the significance of it until much later). As per the legend, pixies would come to the homes and workspaces of the people of Cologne every night and help them with their work, until one night, a tailor’s wife who wanted to see the pixies spilt peas on the floor, and hid to see them in action. The pixies tripped & fell, and were so infuriated by this act, that they left Cologne, never to return. From that day on, the people of Cologne had to do all their work on their own.
The fountain is to commemorate this legend.
9. Check out the view from Hohenzollern Bridge or leave a padlock on the bridge as a mark of your love!
I don’t believe in leaving a lover’s lock or anything of that sort anywhere, but, if that’s something you want to do with your partner, there are souvenir shops selling the padlocks. All the padlocks left by couples on the bridge make for a beautiful sight- and so is the view, so come here even if you don’t want to leave a lock on it.
10. Watch a sunset with panoramic views of Cologne from Koln Triangle
The Koln Triangle is across the bridge; it has an observation deck to which you can enter for a fee (€3). Come here to end your day.Watch the sun set over the Rhine, and wait a while to see the city being illuminated. The view from here is of the bridge below, the Rhine, the Cologne Cathedral, and the buildings of Old Town that are on the banks of the Rhine.
11. Soak up some history at one of the museums
If museums are your idea of a relaxing day, Cologne has plenty of them in town too! The Roman-Germanic museum, or better yet- the Cologne Chocolate museum!