Fall is a wonderful time to explore Germany because the weather is typically cool, just comfortable enough for walking around old cities. I took a day trip to Cologne, the fourth largest city in Germany, to see all that it had to offer and I wasn’t disappointed! This is a charming, residential city with a few great highlights. Check out how I spent the day exploring Cologne.
The first stop of the day is to the famous Cathedral. This is by far the most iconic landmark in Cologne. It’s construction began in 1248 but took centuries to be completed. It was also badly bombed during WWII and had to be reconstructed in the 1950’s. It was restored beautiful and stands tall today.
The architecture itself is gorgeous, but it’s the view from up top that draws people to this sight every day. It’s free to enter the cathedral itself, but €4 to enter the side entrance into the steeple.
Travel Tip: Head to the cathedral in the morning. It’ll be cooler and less crowded, which is important when you’re trying to pass people in a narrow, stone, spiral staircase.
It’s 509 steps to the top! However, it’s completely worth it when you make it to the top and look out over the rest of the Cathedral and the Rhine River.
Next up is a stop to the famous 4711 store. It’s located in the same square as the Cathedral and houses many different scents of this famous cologne. The 4711 brand began selling cologne in the 18th Century and is considered to be the first cologne on the market. Eau de Cologne gets its name from its original location: Cologne, Germany. The brand 4711 actually comes from the house number of its founder, Johann Maria Farina.
Eau de Cologne = Water from Cologne
It’s fun to walk through the store and sample the different perfumes. The company has expanded far beyond its original scent, but still proudly sells it to this day. You can buy full size bottles or small sample bottles for only a few euros to take with you.
A trip to the old market, Alter Markt, is a must. This pretty square is lined with restaurants, chocolate shops and gelaterias. Go in and buy a few pieces of chocolate, and definitely stop for an ice cream cone.
When in Cologne you have to pair lunch with a Kolsch Beer. This is a beer only brewed right here in Cologne. It is unusual in the way that it is made because it is warm fermented with ale yeast, but after it is conditioned at cold temperatures like a lager. It is a delicious, light beer and pairs well with a lot of traditional German foods!
If you’re a chocolate lover like I am then you won’t want to miss the Chocolate Museum here in Cologne. This museum is €11.50 and includes about as much chocolate as you can eat in an hour. You get free samples just for entering!
The museum starts with the history of chocolate and how cocoa farms around the world grow and harvest chocolate. There is an indoor greenhouse you can walk through to experience the climate of cocoa farms.
The second floor demonstrates how chocolate is made. You can follow the machinery around the assembly line and even sample some chocolate. One highlight is the chocolate fountain! Dip a wafer into the chocolate fountain and enjoy it while you’re overlooking the Rhine River.
The last stop is the gift shop. They have tons of chocolate bars and other fun chocolate items. I bought a chocolate beer to try and was pleasantly surprised!
Historic Old Town
End the day with a walk along the Rhine heading towards historic old town. The grassy areas will be filled with people lounging and enjoying the warm weather along the river. There are great restaurants here for dinner, street musicians and most importantly a row of iconic buildings.
These colorful houses are postcard worthy (literally!) and a perfect photo-op to capture your time here in Cologne.
Other Things To Do In Cologne
If you have more time, make a trip to the fragrance museum. You can learn all about the history of making perfumes and colognes. This city has other art galleries and museums, so find one that interests you and start there!
You can also take a Rhine River Cruise. If you’re here for more than one day in the spring, summer or fall this is a great option.
There are numerous old churches and squares to explore as well as shopping districts (Primark!). It’s hard to be bored in this city and is a perfect day trip for anyone touring Germany.
If you’ve been to Cologne, what was your favorite part?