Top Things to do in Cologne Germany - A Day Trip from Brussels

Top Things to do in Cologne Germany – A Day Trip from Brussels

(Last Updated On: May 28, 2019)

The main reason for us to plan a trip to Cologne was the majestic Cologne Cathedral and its grandeur architecture. A day trip to Cologne was easy for it is well connected with Brussels, the capital city of Belgium just two hours train ride away. Cologne is one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in Germany with 2000 years of history. Cologne has some of the best museums and gorgeous Romanesque churches, a dozen of them which makes the trip to Cologne a perfect Gothic tour for the history buffs.

The first thing we wanted to do once in Cologne was to visit the remarkable Cologne Cathedral. Maps showed that it is next to the train station, but we weren’t sure, so we inquired for the directions to a person in tourist office who pointed us towards the exit. Confused we walked towards the station exit only to be awestruck by the sight of the imposing cathedral. The colossal cathedral was ubiquitous with its spires towering high in front of us.

Cologne Cathedral – Top Things to do in Cologne

The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cologne Cathedral or Kolner Dom is Gothic architectural masterpiece located in the heart of the city of Cologne. The striking exterior of the cathedral featuring statues, pinnacles, tracery, flying buttresses, gargoyles, and intricate carvings is awe-inspiring to behold. The cathedral has a lofty nave with one of the highest Gothic vaults and can hold an astounding number of 20,000 people.

The most amazing feature in the interior is the stained glass window which is an amazing artwork made up of 11,500 identically sized pieces of colored glass.

The magnificent cathedral is said to have suffered fourteen hits during the World War II bombings, nevertheless, it stood majestically amidst the destructed city and still stands high enough to marvel visitors.

We were really surprised to learn that the black color of the exterior which was symbolic of the cathedral was due to the deterioration of the sandstone by the polluted air. And that the cathedral is under constant maintenance and restoration work to prevent further deterioration.

Shrine of Three Kings

The other significant and awe-inspiring work of art in the cathedral is the Shrine of the Three Kings made of wood and decorated with gold and silver. The reliquary in the shape of a basilica church is believed to hold the remains of the Biblical Magi or the Three Wise Men which makes Cologne cathedral a major pilgrimage destination in Europe.

Visitors can climb the 533 steps to a viewing platform located in the south tower for wonderful views of the city and the Rhine.  Admission to the Cologne Cathedral is free but you will have to pay to access the Treasury Chamber and to climb the tower. The guided tours of the cathedral interior, excavations and the Cathedral Treasury are available in German and English. More information on open times and tickets here.


Heinzelmannchenbrunnen is a beautiful fountain located on Am Hof. The fountain built in 1899 features characters from a legend associated with the city of Cologne. Heinzelmannchen, little gnomes who are said to have done all the work of the citizens of Cologne which made the citizens lazy. Another statue of is of a Tailor’s wife who drove away from the gnomes from the city of Cologne. More here.

Ludwig Museum

Ludwig Museum located right next to the Cologne Cathedral is the most popular museum in the city opened in 1986. The Ludwig museum houses a collection of paintings and sculptures representing the mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary art. Interestingly the Pi­cas­so col­lec­tion in Lud­wig Mu­se­um is said to be the third largest in the world only af­ter Barcelo­na and Paris. The Art and Mu­se­um Li­brary located in the museum is one of the largest public li­braries for mod­ern art and holds artifacts from the mid­dle ages to the pre­sent. Guided tour of the ex­hi­bi­tions and the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion of the Mu­se­um Lud­wig is also available.
Check the schedule and entrance tickets here.

Romano-Germanic Museum

The Romano-Germanic Museum is another museum not to miss when visiting Cologne. The Romano-Germanic Museum exhibits artifacts on the rich history of the Roman settlement along the Rhine from the Paleolithic period to the early medieval times. The museum is located on the original site of the site of a 3rd-century Roman villa. Amongst the museum exhibits is a large Dionysus mosaic which is displayed on the original site it was found in the basement of the museum and a large collection of Roman glassware and other items dating from the Middle Ages.

Schokoladenmuseum or Chocolate Museum

If you are a chocolate lover you wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity to visit the Lindt Chocolate Museum in Cologne. The tour of the museum walks you through the history of the chocolates and the chocolate manufacturing process from cultivation to the final product of delicious chocolates and of course the tasting session. The museum also offers a first-hand experience on preparing chocolate which you can take back home as a souvenir. More on open times and tickets here.

Also Read: A Visit to the Cailler Chocolate Factory in Gruyeres, Switzerland

Fragrance Museum

The Farina Fragrance Museum founded in 1709 offers its visitors with information and insight into the production methods of perfume and various stages. The pictures and documents at display offer details of the history of the perfume industry and its production. You can design your own personal fragrance in their workshops hosted in German or English upon request.

Cologne City Hall

The bustling quaint narrow alleys and houses of old town beckon tourists with its historic charm and vibrancy. Most of these ancient houses have now been occupied by galleries, shops, cafes, and restaurants. Stroll along the Rhine or spend some time around several pubs, restaurants, museums, and monuments.

Kolner Rathaus or the historical Cologne City Hall is one of the oldest building located in the Altermarkt. The oldest part of the building is a 14th-century hall built on the site of a 12th-century Romanesque building. The 15th-century five-story gothic tower is an impressive building with elaborate decoration adorned with 130 stone statues. The 16th century Renaissance style loggia is an example of remarkable architecture. When the City Hall clock strikes every hour the ‘Platz-Jabbeck’ a wooden carved face, sticks out its tongue.

The City Hall is located on the site of an ancient Roman Praetorium which was a residence of the city’s Roman governor. The archaeological findings consist of pottery, paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and mosaics. The Roman Praetorium was destroyed in an earthquake in the 8th century.

Another highlight in the Altermarkt is the remarkable 19-century fountain with the Jan-von-Werth monument atop a Gothic fountain. The fountain features figures representing valor and purity of the city of Cologne. The reliefs on the column illustrate the story of Jan and Griet.

The Altermarkt Square is the largest square in Cologne’s old town and is surrounded by historic Renaissance buildings and trendy cafes and numerous restaurants. It’s amazing to know that this very square was once the site of public executions and venue for tournaments.

The Cologne Cathedral is the epitome of glorious gothic architecture but a trip to cologne does not end here. Definitely worth visiting are the 12 Romanesque churches in the city at a walking distance from the cologne cathedral.


Hohenzollern Bridge and the Love Locks

We walked through a park behind the Cologne Cathedral, which had a long promenade along the Rhine River where many tourists and locals relaxed and enjoying their leisure time.

The most interesting was a stone sculpture fountain also known to be Paolozzi fountain. We shot some pictures of the fountain and walked towards the bridge through the enchanting hues of the fall.

The four equestrian statues of Prussian kings and German emperors of the Hohenzollern dynasty stand along the bridge which gives the bridge its name.

The rail bridge has six tracks and around 1200 trains pass every day. There is a pedestrian walkway for visitors to enjoy the beautiful vistas over the Rhine and the city of Cologne. The most breathtaking sight is the colorful spectrum of the Love Locks from one end of the bridge to other. It is believed that there are more than 40,000 padlocks on the bridge weighing over 2 tons in total. We had seen them before in Paris and then later in Ljubljana but one we saw in Cologne was undoubtedly the most spectacular of all.

Cologne is not only about churches and museums. The city has a vibrant nightlife with an abundance of clubs. A wide variety of branded shops like fascinate tourists on a shopping spree.

Visiting Cologne is a walk through the gothic architecture through dozens of cathedrals but the city’s famous Cologne Cathedral is a must visit for the art lovers.

Cologne Zoo – Top Things to do in Cologne with Kids

If you are visiting Cologne with kids you may not want to miss a visit to the Cologne Zoo. Set up in 1860 Cologne Zoo is home to over 700 species. The zoo also houses an aquarium, Rainforest House and Terranium. There is also a conservation center for the breeding of endangered animals. Check for open times and ticket here.

Cologne City Map

Romanesque Churches of Cologne

The city of Cologne is said to be home to over 250 churches which includes 12 Romanesque Churches and many churches from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

St. Gereon Basilica

St. Gereon’s is a Romanesque church built on the site of a former 7th-century church. The 13th century St. Gereon dedicated to Saint Gereon has a very unusual plan with ten-sided domed structure. The inside of the church is decorated with artwork, beautiful stained glass windows, mosaics, and ancient relics.

St. Andreas

St Andreas is a 10th-century Romanesque church features a remarkable mix of Romanic and Gothic styles. The major highlight of the church is Mary’s Chapel which houses Gothic wall paintings depicting scenes from the life of the Mother of God.

Basilica of St. Ursula, Cologne

The Basilica church of St. Ursula is yet another important Romanesque church in Cologne. The church featuring Romanesque and Gothic architectural elements style was built upon the ruins of a Roman cemetery. The basilica interior holds the relics of Ursula and her 11,000 companions from the legend of St Ursula. The remains have been arranged in unique patterns forming the walls of a massive reliquary called ‘Golden Chamber’ in the church.

Also Read: Catacombs of Paris Holds Remains of Over 6 million Dead Parisians

Great St. Martin

The Great Saint Martin Church is one of the most popular Romanesque Church in Cologne dating from the 12th century. The Church an exemplary Rhenish architectural building dominates the Cologne’s historic Old Town skyline with its marvelous crossing tower.

St. Maria Im Kapitol

The Romanesque church of St. Maria Im Kapitol is built on the site of an ancient Roman Temple which can be visited in the church’s crypt. St. Maria Im Kapitol is one of the largest Romanesque churches and dates back to the 11th century. The original 11th-century wooden doors adorned with reliefs depicting the life of Christ are displayed for the visitors at the church. One of the important highlights of the church is the explicit pietà (Christ on the cross) which dates from the 14th century.

Basilica of the Holy Apostles

The Basilica of the Holy Apostles is a former collegiate church is dedicated to the twelve Apostles.

St. Cecilia’s Church

The 12th century St. Cecilia Church houses the Schnutgen Museum for medieval art in Europe.

During our trip to Cologne, we could not visit all the 12 churches Romanesque Churches of Cologne. Other churches are St. Kunibert, St. Georg, St. Maria Lyskirchen, St. Pantaleon and St. Severin. You can read about them here.

Cologne Romanesque Churches Map

Cologne City Tours

Have you been to Cologne and amazed by the magnificent Cologne Cathedral? Share your experience with us in comments.

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29 thoughts on “Top Things to do in Cologne Germany – A Day Trip from Brussels

  • October 5, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    I spent only some hours on Cologne because of a long connection between two flights, but I found it to be quite uninteresting. Sure, the cathedral is magnificent, despite its black tone is basically filth, but for the rest, considering what I saw, there are more interesting cities in Germany for sure. At least I had a sumptuous Teutonic meal! 😀

  • October 5, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    I unfortunately never made it to Cologne and the west side of Germany, but your description made it feel like I was there. Part of the reason for not visiting was that I didn’t only want to go just to see a church. Good to read about the other attractions besides the church.

  • October 5, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    Cologne comes across as a very intriguing, yet intimate city. The cathedral is spectacular, and I have a soft spot for the gothic styles as they are so ornate. And I love that it has a lock bridge! So very European 🙂

  • October 5, 2016 at 8:39 pm

    Even if I live in Germany, I never made it to Cologne so far. But nevertheless I´d like to visit that city very soon and your pictures and post about the sights gave me a good insight what I can visit and expect! Awesome, thank you!! All the best, Ella (Ella Happylicious)

  • October 6, 2016 at 8:29 am

    I was lucky enough to visit Cologne last year and I have to say the Cathedral really is spectacular beyond anything I’d imagined. And although I usually stay away from organised tours, the hop-on hop-off tour of Cologne is really great and does take you to some otherwise overlooked parts of the city. Totally agree with you that it isn’t just about the churches however as a night out in Cologne is really A LOT of fun. Thoroughly enjoyable post.

  • October 6, 2016 at 10:58 am

    Great post! I haven’t been to Germany yet (although I’m from France so I really have no excuse!), but it’s definitely on my list… The architecture looks amazing – and OMG the bridge with all those padlocks is impressive! 🙂 x

  • October 6, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    My first real “Eurotrip” was Frankfurt-Cologne-Brussels-Paris so this post brings back memories. I regret not seeing the chocolate museum, but I only had a day in Cologne. The cathedral certainly stood out the most.

  • October 7, 2016 at 5:26 am

    Cologne has that unique and endearing charm that many European cities have. The buildings, streets, parks, and fountains have this unmistakable stamp of elegance. I am particularly fascinated by the colourful Love Locks.

  • October 8, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    Yes, cologne. My best friend lives there so I definitely enjoyed your post. It’s a city with a great vibe and energy. Love that you captured it’s magic in your write up.

  • October 8, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    I did Cologne trip but only the cathedral. I missed the love locks! What a splendid sight! Your pictures freshened my memories of the interiors of the grand cathedral.

  • October 8, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    I love the Gothic architecture of Cologne and the beautiful spectacular cathedral. I did read before about the locks on that bridge, that’s quite an impressive sight. It’s amazing how the bridge can hold the 2 tons of extra weight.

  • October 8, 2016 at 10:37 pm

    Havent been outside Asia so seeing these kind of pictures makes me more eager to expand my horizons.
    Lovely church architectures. Very intricate

  • October 10, 2016 at 11:06 am

    Wow, Cologne looks so amazing! I’m truly a fan of museums – so that’s something to look forward to if ever I visit. I also want to see the Cologne Cathedral for its glorious architecture. 🙂

  • October 10, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    Great to see some sights from the town as I have heard so much about Cologne. The cathedral looks colossal and ts amazing to know how it survved the war. Surely modern day buildings are not that sturdy.

  • October 10, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    I must say, Gothic is my favorite style of architecture. So unique and a bit eery. I love any city where I’m able to scope it out. Hope to make it to Cologne one day!

  • November 2, 2016 at 12:54 am

    I have been to Cologne. It was only an hour or so from where I lived for three years. And it felt like all the 20,000 people you say visit there were there every single time I did. We went for the cathedral, which is so tall and wide, its quite difficult to get the entire thing in your camera lens. We also loved going for the restaurants, beer halls and museum nights along the river. We are all so fortunate it was just about the only thing NOT bombed during the war.

  • November 27, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    I’ve always been dreaming of visiting countries in Europe because of this magnificent structures. I’d like to see its facade in front of me. I adore the people who have kept its historical beauty and for sure it will last for more decades and will be forever part of the history.

  • November 29, 2016 at 9:10 pm

    It was hit 7x and it’s still standing today? Now that one’s resilient cathedral. It withstood the test of time, literally.

    And it’s amazing that the bridge can take all of those padlocks. I wonder if one can still see the lock he/she put there with all those when he/she returns. Good lord there’s too many of them. Did you leave a lock in there?

  • November 29, 2016 at 9:51 pm

    Cologne Church probably is one of the most beautiful churches I ever saw atleast online. At first I thought its the sagrada familia. It’s really impressive. The architectural design of the churches and museums here are really amazing!

  • November 30, 2016 at 11:16 am

    This place is dear to my heart! It was a very short tour in Cologne, just the cathedral but it was worth the time. I love visiting the UNESCO sites.

  • November 30, 2016 at 11:48 am

    Good that you also enjoyed the romanesque churches, they are so beautiful! And some tourists just visit the cathedral and go . . . By the way, people in Cologne are protestants or catholics? The cathedral is catholic but I am not sure about people

  • November 30, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    Wow! How beautiful is this place. I love looking at the architecture of buildings in new places I visit. Definitely need to add this place to my bucketlist.

  • November 30, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    Autumn looks like a beautiful time to visit Cologne. The churches are stunning; I love gothic architecture. The padlocks on the bridge are so sweet! I’ve never hears of them. Did you add to them?

  • December 1, 2016 at 4:44 am

    Looks like you made the best possible use of your time here. The churches are simply stunning. One off the track question – how old was your toddler when you visited here? I am planning a trip to Europe, with my 3 years old, wondering how she will take it

    • mm
      December 2, 2016 at 2:45 am

      We have been exploring Europe since our daughter was 6 months old. The transport and facilities in Europe are kid friendly so you don have to worry much. So now is the right time Just pack your bags and go 😉

  • December 5, 2016 at 6:58 am

    Never made it to cologne.. though it definitely looks like something we shouldn’t have missed when we were in Germany. Maybe.. skip that .. deifnitely in our next trip!

  • January 5, 2018 at 5:05 am

    What a wonderful travel blog! Very detailed and very helpful! My husband’s family is originally from Germany, so we’re planning a trip for when the kids get older.


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