Cologne old town is a cultural hub with lots of historic sites and some renowned museums. This makes it a perfect destination to be explored on foot. Here is a relaxed itinerary to explore Cologne in 2 days. Keep reading to know how to spend a family weekend in Cologne.
If you arrive in Cologne by train, the first thing, outside the main station which you absolutely cannot miss is the Cologne cathedral. It is so huge and prominent that you just have to take a moment to admire the first sight of this cathedral. We will start our day at this same place.
First thing first. Let’s have a breakfast. There are lots of cafes and restaurants which serve breakfast menu to perfectly break the over-night fasting or simple bakery items for a quick fill up.
I suggest Café Reichard for its location and food. This café is exactly in front of the 2 tall towers of the Cologne Cathedral. One can sit outside or inside and enjoy the morning coffee looking at the historic, dark massive structure- the Cathedral. The Café Reichard is mainly popular for their cakes and coffee.
On the way, you will pass many landmarks of the old town. Mark them for a later visit. The train will pass the Maritim hotel, Chocolate Museum, Tower crane houses, some old churches, and Hay-market. In the end, train drops us in front of the Cologne Cathedral where we started our tour. This45 min tour gives us the first taste of the place.
Do you think that we are relaxing too much? Ok, then let’s do some exercise. We will climb the cathedral tower. The entrance to the steps is on the right-hand side if you are facing the 2 tall towers of the Cathedral. A few facts before we start. There are about 500 steps to climb. The staircase is spiral, narrow and steep. There is no place to stop for a while until you climb about 400 steps. The same staircase is used to go up and then again to come down. That means you have to keep going to avoid blocking people behind you. Are you ready? Purchase a ticket and start climbing. Admire the beautiful view of the Cologne city and far away. Take a breath and climb down.
That was a bit more of exercise, isn’t it? But it was definitely worth for the views. Let’s go inside the Cathedral now. If you wish, you can go inside the cathedral before climbing the tower. It’s totally up to you. The interior of the Cathedral is also grand like it is from outside.
This is a perfect time to give a rest to our souring feet and take a lunch. There are lots of restaurants around the Cathedral from cheap eats to decent dine in type. Choose whichever you like and enjoy the food.
This afternoon can be used to enjoy the shopping spree in Neumarkt area. If you are visiting Cologne on weekend, remember that shops will be closed on Sunday. The Neumarkt area has lots of branded shops and shopping complexes in the pedestrian zone.
We will visit the Fragrance museum in the evening. You know the Eau De Cologne and as the name suggests, Cologne is its birthplace. Thus, a visit to Farina fragrance museum will accomplish our day. They have a guided tour in different languages which is quite informative. Check for the timings before going. A small bottle of Eau De Cologne comes complimentary with the tour ticket.They have a wide variety of fragrances at a reasonable price in their shop. Explore your type.
Cologne is also popular for its beer called Kolsch. There are lots of popular breweries in the city. I suggest going to Peter’s Brauhaus near old town hall. You can reach there in 10 min by walking from the Farina Fragrance museum. They serve tasty food and characteristic delicately fruity, smooth beer. If you are with kids and want to avoid the brewery, there are lots of other options in the town hall square.
Start your day with typical kolschner breakfast like Himmel un Ääd (mashed potato and applesauce) or Halver Hahn (rye roll filled with cheese and mustard). With a full stomach, we will walk around the city to see some Roman ruins, museums and some landmarks. Let’s start on ‘Komodienstarsse’. On this road, our first stop is Cologne city museum. This building has the characteristic white and red window doors. There is one golden car with wings on the roof of the building. Photo point!
Walk ahead and turn right on ‘Steinfelder Gasse’. At the end of this lane, there is St. Gereon Church. This is a medieval church with a distinct dome which has 10 sides. Go inside and see the stain glass paintings on windows.
If you like walking around, then continue further till you reach large public garden (about 15 min walk). There are lots of hotels, a small lake and modern glass-paneled buildings around it. One can easily spend about an hour here.
By the time you walk around, it might be a lunchtime. There are few good restaurants in this area. Burgers from Hans im Gluck will be a fun experience for families. Italian restaurant Vapiano is another restaurant, popular for their fresh kinds of pasta.
After lunch, we can visit some museum if you have already shortlisted. I would recommend Chocolate museum. We all like Chocolates and it is an interesting tour inside to know about origin and evolution of the chocolate industry. Children enjoy it with a huge interest.
As we are already at the chocolate museum, why not visit the mustard museum. This is an old popular mustard mill in operation from 1810. They offer a small tour explaining the production of mustard sauce. Though it is revealing, I think it is little boring for kids. They also sell a wide variety of mustard sauce. One can taste several flavors before buying. Some varieties are flavored with an unimaginable combination. I liked most of their assortments. The Christmas flavor and the classic type are most popular.
Besides the Chocolate museum, is a ‘German sports and Olympic museum’. This is also worth visiting site and needs about 2 hours to walk around. Next, to this museum, there are 3 ‘Crane buildings’ looking over the Rhine river. As the name suggests, these buildings are crane shaped huge structures.
Later, turn around and walk towards Rhine park. That means keep walking towards the iconic Hohenzollern bridge, leaving the Chocolate museum on the right-hand side.
At the start of this riverside park, mark the white robust column. This is water gauge column showing the actual level of Rhine river. This place makes the best place for an evening stroll. There are lots of street activities and shows going on. Children can play freely.
Around in the middle of this Rhine park, you will see a fountain and a massive church building behind. This is Great St. Martin Church. It is built on the ruins of Roman temple.
The Rhine park is lined by colorful houses on one side and the river on the other side. There are tons of river-side cafes and restaurants along this road. Actually, from here, inside up to the old town hall, there are numerous restaurants serving all the possible cuisines in the world. They serve typical Kolsch cuisine, German cuisine and also Asian and other popular cuisines. Around the evening, the entire area converts into the food hub. It will be really challenging to select one place to settle for dinner. Delicious family dinner on the banks of Rhine river will be a memorable experience.
- This is a relaxed itinerary and it does not include all the attractions in Cologne. There are still many more things to do or to visit nearby. I have designed this kids-friendly program with some leisureliness.
- The Cologne zoo, though not included here, is worth visiting. One can include it instead of some museum.