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Cologne or as the Germans call it, Köln, is the country’s fourth most populous city and the former capital of West Germany. It doesn’t draw tourists in numbers like Munich or Berlin, but it’s a charming city with an appeal all of its own, a massive Gothic cathedral, and some fun museums.
Here are five things you can’t miss on your visit.
5. Locks on the Hohenzollern Bridge (Hohenzollernbrücke)
It’s estimated that over 40,000 locks are attached to this bridge with over 40,000 matching keys thrown into the bottom of the Rhine River below. Adding a lock to the bridge is a sign of eternal love and from the looks of it love is in the air. The bridge offers picturesque views of the Rhine, Cologne Cathedral, and city as well as a nice place to stroll.
Can’t Miss: sunset along the river is simply gorgeous.
Address: the bridge crosses the Rhine at kilometer 688.5 with the Cologne Cathedral on one side and the Hyatt Regency Cologne on the other.
4. Cologne Zoological Garden
I know zoos can be controversial for some people. I agree that in a perfect world that animals should roam free. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world and the conservation efforts provided by zoos make a substantial impact. The Cologne Zoological Garden is particularly nice with large habitats that are clean and spacious. The zoo features over 10,000 animals that represent over 850 species.
Can’t Miss: your ticket also grants access to the aquarium. It’s small but worth spending some time exploring.
Address: Riehler Str. 173, 50735 Köln, Germany
3. Cologne Chocolate Museum
The Cologne Chocolate Museum shows the history of chocolate from its ancient origins to modern production. There are samples throughout the museum and the gift shop offers a ton of treats that you’ll want to take home.
Can’t Miss: grab a chocolate-dipped wafer from the attendant manning the chocolate fountain near the huge windows overlooking the river.
Address: Am Schokoladenmuseum 1A, 50678 Köln, Germany
2. Museum Ludwig
Just behind the Cologne Cathedral you’ll find Museum Ludwig. This museum houses modern art including Pop Art, Abstract, and Surrealist works as well as one of the largest Picasso collections in Europe. Two of my favorite artists: Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein are well represented.
Can’t Miss: Edward Kienholz’ Portable War Memorial. Inspired by a photo of a group of soldiers in Iwo Jima, it’s a bit creepy with “God Bless America” playing on a loop and the singer’s head in a barrel at the far end. You’ll know when you find this odd piece.
Address: Heinrich-Böll-Platz, 50667 Köln, Germany
1. Cologne Cathedral
Construction began on Cologne Cathedral in 1248 and then stopped and started for over 600 years until it was finished in 1880. After all of that time, it now boasts the largest facade of any church in the world. The Gothic structure is massive and walking through it makes you feel small against its great stone columns and huge stained glass windows. It’s the symbol of the city and an imposing-looking church. It became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996 and attracts around 20,000 people daily.
Can’t Miss: The Shrine of the Three Kings. The reliquary is believed to hold the bones of the three Biblical Magi.
Address: Domkloster 4, 50667 Köln, Germany
Come for the relaxed pace, impressive modern art collection, and stay for the impressive cathedral. These are my can’t miss picks for Cologne.
Bonus Hotel Pick: The Hyatt Regency Cologne is a convenient and comfortable choice in Cologne. The hotel is a ten-minute walk from the Cologne Cathedral, Old Town, and Museum Ludwig. It offers an expansive breakfast, nicely appointed rooms, a decent Regency Club lounge, and amenities like an indoor pool and spa.
Address: Kennedy-Ufer 2A, 50679 Köln
Check out my full review of the hotel here.
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