Exploring Europe: Cologne, Germany

For the first time in years, we went on a summer trip! From Thursday 31st of July till Sunday 3rd we went traipsing through Cologne (or Köln in German).

The city

Cologne is very easy to reach by train (our choice of transport), but I believe it also has an airport and is pretty decently reachable by car. If you go by train, the moment you get out of the station you’ll be confronted with the most dominating feature of the city: the Dom. This cathedral is built smack-dab in the middle of the city, and it’s huge. When you first see it, your gaze will be pulled up… and up… and up… until it reaches the insanely tall spires on top. Making a Dom-selfie is an obligatory part of any Cologne trip.

What I love about the city centre of Cologne is that it’s so compact. You can visit the cathedral, several museums, have a drink at Starbucks, go shopping, chill at the grass near the Rhine, and then have dinner in a nice restaurant, without ever having to walk more than five minutes. There is almost no need to use public transport, unless you really want to see something specific.

The sights

sights1The Dom cathedral: It’s definitely worth it to take a look inside the cathedral (which is completely free) and be impressed with the extremely high ceilings and lovely stained glass windows. If you like seeing lots of catholic bling, the treasury is also worth checking out (5 for adults, 2.50 for students).

Romano-Germanic museum (Romisch-Germanisches museum): Built directly next to the Dom, this museum is easy to find. They have a nice collection of archeological finds from in and around Cologne. I especially liked the grave stones they found. It’s not the best Roman museum I’ve seen, but for the low price it’s still good value (9 for grown ups, 5 for students).

Museum Ludwig: Also built next to the Dom, Museum Ludwig houses an impressive collection of Picasso’s and other pieces of modern art. I love how the museum doesn’t just focus on post-1960 art (which I find hard to make sense of) but also has many paintings from around 1920-1940. When we were there it also had a lovely temporary exposition on the development of photography through the ages. It’s the most enjoyable modern art museum I’ve been to so far. Entry is 9 for adults and 6.50 for students and worth every cent.

sights2Cologne Zoological Garden (Kölner Zoo): The zoo is somewhat outside of the center, but is easy to reach with the tube (called the U-bahn). The enclosures were all incredibly neat and well-cared for, and the animals seemed very relaxed. We went on a week-day, and it was busy but not too much. I especially liked their tigers, cappibaras and camels. The zoo is big enough that you can easily spend three to four hours in it. Entry is 14.50 for adults and 12 for students. The entry fee also includes access to their aquarium, but by the time we saw all of the zoo I was too tired to really check that one out.

Cologne City museum (Kölnisches Stadtmuseum): This is the cutest museum I’ve ever seen. It has everything Cologne, from knight harnesses and swords to items from both World Wars to paintings of important people from Cologne. It’s incredibly diverse yet small, and no one seems to go there. I heartily recommend it. Entrance is 5 for adults and 2.50 for students.

The Rhine: Next to the Rhine are endless cafes and restaurants, and for hot summer days there are long stretches of grass where people sit in groups or lay down on blankets. Apart from some cigarette buds the grass is clean, but you have to be careful when sitting on the stones. Many Germans drink beer here, and glass splinters have gotten between the pavement tiles. There are also some trees to provide some shade if necessary. It’s a great place to sit down and enjoy the weather.

The verdict

Cologne is a great city to visit when you’re interested in a weekend away, or if you happen to be in the neighbourhood. It was pretty crowded, especially on Saturday, but inside the museums it was quite manageable. The food is very good and not too expensive, and service in restaurants is amazing (in the four restaurants we visited, we never had to wait longer than 15 minutes for our main dish). Although Germans aren’t exactly known for their proficiency in foreign languages, it happened many times that although I started a conversation in German, they would still talk English back because they knew I wasn’t from there.


Although I’m not someone that’s very big on shopping, Cologne has quite a lot to offer for the shopping-lover. The main streets are brim-full with the usual brands, but they also have some fun other stores in between. I managed to find a nice red summer dress, a skirt, three books, some Lush stuffs, and a couple of pens and a notebook from Muji. Not pictured here are my Pylones goodies, which I’ll show in a separate post. It took us by surprise that all shops are closed on Sundays (even though we should have known), so that’s something to take into consideration.

DSCN9886Cologne isn’t exactly book-shopping heaven for the English reader, but it is possible. The Mayersche at Neumarkt has a small though diverse English selection that I loved browsing through.

Good weather, great food, low prices for museums, and a friendly atmosphere made our Cologne trip a big success.

For more travel, also check out my post on Stockholm, Sweden.

12 thoughts on “Exploring Europe: Cologne, Germany

  1. Sounds like you had a great trip :). We prefer to travel by train as well, we once went passed Cologne on your way to another city in germany on vacation, but never actually visited the city.
    We where actually planning to go this year, but eventually decided to take a midweek vacation here in the Netherlands, close to the Veluwe.
    That zoo sounds great, will have to make sure we visit that if we ever visit the city. In which hotel did you stay? I reserached some possible hotels before we decided to go the Netherlands instead for our vacation, so I am curious to hear in which hotel you stayed and how it was.

    • That sounds lovely too! We stayed at the Marriott. Kras, the budget travel site, had a great deal on it, so we had breakfast included (and the breakfast was DELICIOUS). It’s a super fancy hotel just a 3 minute walk from the main station. Without a deal it’s probably way too expensive. But I think any hotel close to a subway/train station would be fine 😀

  2. Awesome photos! The Cologne City museum sounds fun – I’ll definitely visit it if/when I’m going to Cologne 🙂

    And you found the Girl With All the Gifts!! I’m super curious about that book (btw, I have a love/hate relationship with Murakami too 😉

    • Do! It’s such a shame no one seems to visit it. It’s so cute (:

      Yes! I was really surprised they had such a recent release. Really looking forward to it. It’s going to be my first dive into Murakami, so we’ll see how it goes ^_^

  3. Reason 389085 why I wish I lived ANYWHERE in Europe: all the awesomness that is withing driving/train distance. Cologne sounds and looks like it was absolutely brilliant! The Dom is so iconic even in pictures, I can’t imagine what it’s like to behold the real thing! The compactness of the city is something I didn’t realize but man that sounds cool, I love the idea of everything you want to see being so close together 😀 The museums and Zoological gardens seem incredible too…and I’m glad you got to do some shopping too! Thanks for sharing your experience with us!! x

    • It’s THE BEST. I live in the most convenient place ever, to be honest. Cologne was just a 1,5 hour ride, London is 4 hours and Paris 2 hours with high speed trains. I love how accessible all these amazing destinations are.

      It’s awesome how the entire city seems to revolve around the Dom. You see it peek from behind buildings so often!

      Thanks for stopping by Micheline 😀

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