The Sweet Smell of Cologne (the German Kind)

The Sweet Smell of Cologne

I just realised it’s about time I started talking about more of my German adventures; I’ve travelled much of the country (yes, it is yet another favourite) and I have all of these secrets to myself.  One of the best places for tourists to visit is Cologne, sightseeing capital and one of the best places to live as well.  Here are a few of the sights and sounds you’ll find on your visit to Cologne.


The one thing that sets Cologne apart from the rest of Europe is its distinctive cathedral, the Dom.  It is utterly and absolutely enormous – pictures do not describe this beast.  A classic Cologne sightseeing tip is to walk the stairs to the top, and I really would recommend it.  The windows do not allow for the best of views, but it’s just the sheer height of these towers and the fact that when I went, the bell towers started to go off (I had to plug my ears, but the vibration in my bones as the whole building reverberated was the uncomfortable bit).

Cologne also has several lovely bridges over the Rhine, including the railway bridge pictured.  I recommend a stroll along the river – by day for the sightseeing, and by night for these gorgeous photo opportunities.  Other hot architectural stops include the Weltstadthaus (by the shopping area) – check it out while stocking up on souvenirs and German fashion.


After you’ve gawked and gazed at the architecture, have a look at some art.  My arty Cologne sightseeing tour always starts at the Museum Ludwig, a modern art museum just next to the Dom.  It’s a wonderful space (nicer from the inside than from its somewhat drab looks on the outside) and they have a phenomenal collection, from famous folk like Andy Warhol to less-known but talented German artists.

Kolumba is another weird stop – it’s a museum dedicated to religious art.  It’s more interesting than it sounds – the building itself is quite unique.

Last but not least is the Chocolate Museum, on the banks of the Rhine, definitely one for our chocolate travel lovers.  It is touch more touristy than I would like, but to be fair the exhibits are interesting and the building itself is fun to wander around in.

I’d advise skipping the museum about cologne (the smelly stuff that we wear).  It is, frankly, a little weird, not very tourist friendly, and you learn more from a quick google search than you do in their museum.

Food and Drink

If you like German food, then you’re love Cologne.  Sightseeing can be hard work, so relax at the end of the day with a drink and some comfort food.  Kölsch is a local beer, served in skinny, cylindrical glasses and is a light, crisp and refreshing beer.  Perfect for the start, middle, or end of an evening.

For a change of pace, check out the Unsicht Bar, where you’ll drink and dine blind.  Yes, in the dark, blind. Otherwise, stick to safer choices like Früh am Dom (brewery food and drink), Weißbräu (known for their speciality beer), or Bei Oma Kleinmann (this translates as to grandmother’s place, and a real grandmother is the chef, so you definitely get quality home cooking).


A lot of people don’t know but another Cologne sightseeing tip is to enjoy the spa baths – there are a number of them in the city, all good quality and cleanliness.  Note: Germany baths forbid any bathing costumes, so be brave and bear it. That little towel they give you is for you to sit on, not for your privacy :)   I’ve only been to the Claudius Therme, but there are other gorgeous facilities worth checking out in the city, including Neptunebad (which also has a fitness centre, should your hotel/accommodation not have one).

When To Go

The Cologne sightseeing circuit runs year-round; it has excellent rail services as well as a busy airport, so it’s quite easy to get in and out.  Some of the bigger events throughout the year:

  • February: People flood the streets for Karneval, Cologne’s winter festival.  It’s pretty crazy event featuring what is called ‘the mad trio’: the prince, farmer, and virgin.  Yeah, you have to be there to explain it.
  • July:  Cologne is often called Germany’s gay capital, so it isn’t surprising that Cologne’s gay pride festival is a popular one.
  • December:  The Cologne Christmas markets are my personal favourites (and I have been to many).  There are multiple – included a boat market (that is, a market on a boat), a children’s market, a food market, amongst others.  It’s cold, it might snow, and it all seems perfect with a steaming mug and the market ambience.

Don’t feel restricted to these three months; Cologne is fantastic every month of the year!

Photos by Rich, craigcullum, Joe Marinaro, esserts, maleika2006

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