Cologne is a beautiful and historic place. The largest city on the Rhine, Cologne has been an important cultural and religious centre since Roman times – leaving a lot to be seen and explored. To get a taste for the city (and get some great snaps), try this Instagram walking tour of Cologne, which will acquaint you with the city’s best sights.
Time: 2.5 hours
Starting point: Köln Messe/Deutz station
The essential tour of Cologne
Starting off from Messe/Deutz station (a stop before Köln Hbf if you’re coming from Düsseldorf), take a right and head to the KölnTriangle, a skyscraper immediately in front of you. Head up to the panorama point (1) at the top for amazing views over the city. (Entry: €3 for adults). Here you can familiarise yourself with the layout of the city and appreciate the mind-boggling size of Cologne Cathedral, directly in front of you. On a clear day you can see south to the Siebengebirge mountain range and north-west to Düsseldorf.
Back on the ground, continue along the pedestrian path to the edge of the river. Here you can appreciate the most photographed view in Cologne: the Hohenzollern Bridge (2) with the Cathedral in the background. The reconstructed bridge is as much a symbol of the city as the cathedral. The original was blow up by retreating Germans at the close of WWII in an attempt to hinder the Allies progress. As you pass over, make sure to check out the thousands of love locks (3) left by Colognians and tourists.
From the bridge, it’s time to check out the city’s masterpiece: Cologne Cathedral (4). The most visited landmark in the whole of Germany, this gem speaks for itself – and its interior is just as impressive as the outside. Inside, don’t miss the south-facing pixelated stained glass window and outside, make sure to check out the photos of post-war Cologne on the church’s northern side.
Next head to Alter Markt (5) in the centre of the Altstadt (old town) to sample Cologne’s signature drink, Kölsch. Regionally protected, this pale ale is a real symbol of city pride and is served up in small 200ml cylindrical glasses. No Steins here! Top tip: head to Papa Joe’s Salon to check out their garish, kitschy interior.
From Alter Markt, it’s a short walk around the corner to the Fischmarkt (6) and another Instagram opportunity. The colourful pastel houses with St Martin’s Church in the background is also a well-recognised sight. Next up is Salzgasse (7), one of many narrow alleyways in Cologne’s old town, but arguably the prettiest – be sure to get a good shot of the traditional pub signs and cobbled streets.
Salzgasse leads on to Heumarkt (8), the epicentre of Cologne boisterous Karneval celebrations every February. Otherwise, it’s a favourite of British stag dos, thanks to its many pubs. If you’re short on time, here is a good place to end your walking tour, having covered the historic centre’s most essential sights.
If you’re keen to see more of Cologne, then take the 5-minute walk from Heumarkt to Neumarkt (9) via some of the city’s main shopping streets. The otherwise plain-looking square is home to my favourite Christmas market in the city come November.
From Neumarkt, take the U16 or the U18 North to Riehl Zoo/Flora, where you’ll find the Kölner Seilbahn (Cologne cable car) (10), which will take you back across the river. (Cost: €4.50 for adults). Here you’ll get some of the nicest vistas of Cologne, including a great view over the park to the cathedral. The journey is particularly nice in autumn when the leaves are a beautiful golden brown. The cable car come back down to earth at Claudius Therme, one of the city’s many spas. You can even sample the natural spring water of Cologne from a tap outside.
You’re now in Rheinpark (11), one of the nicest in town. Take a casual stroll around or hop on board the miniature train that does a circuit of the park, with a stop on each side. Board outside the Claudius Therme spa and alight at the Tanzbrunnen.
Walking along the Rhine, there’s now just one stop left on the tour: the Rhine steps (12). Perfect for a summer evening, the steps are a great place to chill in the fading sun with a beer as you enjoy another fantastic view of the Cologne Cathedral. The area is very popular when the sun is shining, with a lively and friendly atmosphere. The perfect end to your day in Cologne.
Hungry from all that walking? Or just fancy a drink in the sun?
Head to the Belgian Quarter (take the U-Bahn to Rudolfplatz or Friesenplatz), one of the liveliest areas in the city. For great food al fresco, head to Aachener Strasse or a glass of wine in a beer garden, go to Brüsseler Platz. Top choices: Herr Pimock, The Bird, Bali.
Alternatively, head to Südstadt (U-Bahn stop: Chlodwigplatz) or Severinstraße for some great international options, including Indian, Moroccan, Japanese or Italian.
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