Two Days in Cologne, Germany: The Best Things To Do

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Cologne, Germany is a bustling historic city along the banks of the Rhine River, with a lot of fun and unique things to do. It’s Germany’s 4th largest city by population, with over 1,000,000 people living within the city limits. It’s also one of Germany’s oldest cities, known for its iconic landmarks like the Cologne Cathedral, the Love Lock Bridge, the Cologne Christmas Markets, and its annual Carnival celebration. It’s got a good mix of historic and modern buildings, with friendly locals known for their helpfulness, making visitors feel right at home. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, nightlife, or simply soaking up the city’s unique vibe, Cologne has something unique in store for you!

I wasn’t sure if I was going to like Cologne, as I am not much of a city girl, but after two days in Cologne, I warmed up to it. I visited Cologne as a jumping-off point for a 2-week road trip through Germany that took me down the Rhine River, through many romantic villages and some of the country’s best castles. Prior to Germany, I was in the Netherlands for tulip season, and Cologne was an easy 3-hour train ride away. Cologne’s train station is easily connected to many major cities and scenic villages, making it a great base for a lot of fun day trips to places such as Bonn, Heidelberg, or Düsseldorf. 

With two days in Cologne, you’ll be able to walk around the historic Old Town, enjoy some museums, stroll down the iconic river promenade, and watch the sunset from Hohenzollern Bridge. It’s the perfect amount of time to experience the highlights of the city while also enjoying its picturesque waterfront views and relaxing with Cologne’s local brew, Kölsch. 

Tips for Visiting Cologne

I stayed three nights in Cologne, which meant I had two full days to explore. I think this was a good amount of time to see the highlights and get a feel of the city at a slower pace. I visited Cologne in April and the weather was all over the place. In three days, I had sunny temps in the 70s and then freezing wind and rain in the 40s. April is known for its unpredictable weather, but it’s also a good time to visit to avoid heavier tourist crowds that pop up in July and August. The holiday season is another great time to visit the city if you are looking for a festive Christmas celebration. Expect large crowds and higher prices, but if European holiday markets are on your list it may be worth it.

There is a large train station in Cologne city center with trains from many international destinations. You can also fly into the Cologne Bonn Airport (CGN), which is about 30 minutes away from the center of town by car or 15 mins by train. 

Cologne is known for its well connected public transportation but is also a very walkable city with most of the main tourist attractions in the same area. Parking is tough in the city so skip a rental car and plan to walk a lot during your two days in Cologne. 

Where to Stay in Cologne

I arrived in Cologne in the evening around 5 p.m. at the central train station, which was an easy walk to my hotel. I chose to stay at the Hilton Cologne because of its proximity to the train station and the Old Town, which I knew I’d want to stroll around in the morning before the crowds. It had everything I needed and a generous breakfast in the morning, but it was a little outdated.

The Hyatt Regency Hotel, located at the east end of Hohenzollern Bridge, is one of the most popular hotels in the area. It has stunning views of the Cathedral and the Rhine River. You can walk over the Hohenzollern Bridge from the central train station to the hotel in about 20 minutes, take a train from Central Station, or grab a taxi. There are a lot of taxis out front of the train station for easy transportation to anywhere in the city. 

I definitely recommend staying close to the Old Town or within walking distance of the sights you want to see. While the city does have a good public transportation system, walking is still the easiest way to get around the city.

Two Day Cologne Itinerary

I’ve added a lot of additional things to do in this two day itinerary so you can pick and choose what activities best suit you. 

After two previous weeks of constant travel through Norway and Holland, I was looking forward to exploring Cologne at a slower pace, so you can definitely add more activities in one day to this more relaxed Cologne itinerary if you want to.

Day 1


On my first full day, I woke up early (7 a.m.) and walked around the Old Town and the Cathedral before the crowds to take photos. The Old Town area is not that big, so it doesn’t take long to see the best of the cobblestone streets.

The morning is also a great time to walk into the Cologne Cathedral (kolner dom). It is one of the top tourist attractions in Cologne so entry lines can get long later in the day. It’s free to enter, but donations are encouraged. The inside is just how I expected a Gothic cathedral to look, with huge stained-glass windows depicting stories of Christ, towering vaulted ceilings, and a stunning altar. Even if you have visited Gothic cathedrals and basilicas before, the Cologne Cathedral is a gem and is the largest Cathedral in northern Europe. Its also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and worth a look inside!

If you are into photography, here are some of the best photo spots and scenic areas in Cologne. I walked to almost all of these spots and took photos within an hour, so they are all pretty close together in the Old Town area.

  1. Old Town Alley– this photogenic alley has a whale sign and a view of Great St. Martin Church. Located next to, Brauhaus Sunner im Walfisch (a brewpub). At the intersection of Auf dem Rothenberg and Salzgasse Street. 
  2. The Orange building along Salzgasse Street (60 Salzgasse, next to Toro Negro)
  3. The colorful Fish market buildings are located behind the Fischweiber-Brunnen fountain, along the promenade in Old Town. During my visit to Cologne, there was a lot of construction, and unfortunately, two of the five colorful fish market houses had crumbled. I am not sure if they are rebuilding them, but this is one of the most photogenic spots in Cologne, so I was disappointed to see it was not as charming with the loss of some of the buildings. 
  4. Breite Straße– a cobblestone shopping street in Old Town
  5. The Cologne Cathedral – you can’t miss it, it’s huge and in the center of town.

In the mornings, you may encounter delivery trucks, but after 9 a.m., the streets get busy with tourists, so it’s best to get an early start for photos. 

After my photo session, I headed back to the Hilton Hotel Cologne for breakfast. They had a big spread with meats, cheeses, fruits, plenty of hot food options, smoothies, fresh juices, yogurt, and more! I took my time and filled up on a late breakfast so I wouldn’t be hungry until later in the day.


Above: The Fish Market under construction


After a filling breakfast, it’s time to sightsee. If you are not into photography (or into taking selfies and photos without people in them), you don’t need to wake up early to walk around. You can start your day after breakfast and head to the cathedral first thing after breakfast. I still recommend walking to all of the photography spots I listed above. They are some of the best scenic areas in the city. 

Since I was visiting in April, I knew there was a possibility the cherry blossoms were in bloom near the State Library (Stadtbibliothek Köln), so I headed there after breakfast. If you are not visiting in April, they won’t be in bloom, so I’d skip the library for a museum, shopping, or visiting more iconic landmarks before lunch or, in my case, linner.

Below are some of the top tourist attractions in the city. Pick one or two to enjoy in the afternoon. 

The Cherry Blossoms

These trees surround the courtyard at the State Library (Stadtbibliothek Köln) and only bloom in April. Full bloom is tricky to predict, but I was there in the middle of April, and they were full.

You can take public transportation to get closer to the library from the city center but I decided to walk since it was a beautiful day. It took a little bit longer than I planned and the route from the Old Town was not very scenic, so I would recommend public transportation to get there quicker. There are a few tram stops nearby (Mauritiuskirche & Poststr), but it does require an additional 5 minutes or so of walking. 

Once I made it to Cherry Blossom Plaza, I enjoyed a stroll through the trees and took a few photos. Honestly, the area felt a little seedy as there was a lot of curious action in the courtyard. I didn’t feel unsafe, but at night, that might change. People were coming and going, with a few admiring the cherry blossoms, but it was relatively empty (aside from the groups of men congregating in the courtyard), which was perfect for photos. It is definitely worth a stop if you love flowers or want a pretty backdrop for a few photos, but it is outside of the city center and might not be worth visiting if you are not already in the area. 

The Most Visited Landmarks in Cologne: 

  • Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom): While not exclusively medieval (construction spanned centuries), it is undoubtedly the most famous and iconic church in Cologne. 
  • Cologne Chocolate Museum (Schokoladenmuseum): Located on the banks of the Rhine, this museum is dedicated to the history of chocolate. Visitors can learn about the production process, see chocolate-making demonstrations, and, of course, sample some delicious treats.
  • Farina Fragrance Museum (Duftmuseum im Farina Haus)– Visitors to the Farina Fragrance Museum can explore various exhibits and displays that tell the story of Eau de Cologne and its significance in the world of perfumery.
  • Ludwig Museum- Known for its exceptional collection of modern and contemporary art, with a large focus on Pop Art and Picasso.
  • Cologne City Hall (Kölner Rathaus): This historic building in the Old Town dates back to the Middle Ages and is known for its impressive Renaissance-style facade and ornate interiors. Guided tours are available for those interested in learning more about its history.
  • Wallraf-richartz museumThis art museum houses a significant collection of European art, spanning from the medieval period to the early 20th century. The museum’s collection includes works by renowned artists such as Rembrandt, Rubens, and van Dyck, as well as German masters like Dürer and Cranach.  
  • NS Documentation Center of the City of Cologne (NS-Dokumentationszentrum der Stadt Köln): This museum focuses on the history of Cologne during the Nazi era. It provides a comprehensive overview of the city’s involvement in the Nazi regime, as well as the resistance movement and the persecution of minorities. Most of the information is is German so 

Cologne is also known for its 12 Romanesque churches that surround the city center. These architectural marvels were all built between 1150 and 1250 and are collectively known as the “Romanesque Churches of Cologne” recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Of the 12, there are a few that really stand out. If you want to get a bit more history and tour these architectural marvels in-depth, book a private guided tour of Cologne’s Medieval Churches. 

Top Medieval Churches to Visit:

  • Great St. Martin Church (Groß St. Martin): This Romanesque church is known for its distinctive twin towers. It’s located in the heart of the Old Town. Its tower is a lovely addition to the city’s skyline.
  • St. Andreas Church (Dominican Church of St. Andrew): St. Andreas Church features a striking facade and impressive interior. It’s located near Cologne’s historic center and is known for its medieval art and crypt.
  • St. Ursula’s Church (Basilika St. Ursula): Possibly the most unique of the 12 Romanesque churches, and not for its architecture but for the famous Golden Chamber (Goldene Kammer or bone room), which contains the relics of St. Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins. It’s an important pilgrimage site and a beautiful example of medieval church architecture located only about a 5-minute walk from Cologne Cathedral.
  • St. Gereon’s Basilica (Basilika St. Gereon): This Romanesque basilica is renowned for its unique design, including its circular shape and impressive dome. It houses relics and is a fascinating example of medieval architecture. It’s about a 25-minute walk from the Old Town.

The Love Lock Bridge where couples write their name on padlocks they attach to the bridge and throw away the key to symbolize their love locked together forever.

The Best Shopping Streets

If you want to do some shopping, there are plenty of shopping streets in Cologne lined with fast fashion and discount stores to higher end, luxury boutiques. Here are some of the best streets for shopping for all budgets.

  • Schildergasse is a pedestrian-friendly street and one of the busiest shopping streets in Europe. It’s lined with a wide variety of shops, including international brands, department stores, and boutiques, best for budget shoppers. 
  • Hohe Straße runs parallel to Schildergasse, and is another major shopping street in Cologne with a lively atmosphere and historic buildings. 
  • Ehrenstraße is an upscale and trendy street in a quieter neighborhood known for its independent boutiques, designer shops, and hip cafes.
  • The Belgian quarter has more unique boutiques with a hip vibe. I walked through the Belgian quarter and enjoyed the quiet streets and neighborhood ambiance. There were some good finds, from fashion boutiques with retro frocks to specialty shops like Hennes’ Finest (Moltkestraße 125), a spice boutique, and Postkartenladen (Breite Str. 93) perfect for a unique gift.

Once you have explored a bit and worked up an appetite, grab lunch along the Promenade or in one of the town’s squares.

Heumarkt is one of the famous cobblestone plazas lined with restaurants and beer houses. I ended up eating at a Thai place (outside of the plaza) but can’t recommend it, they were friendly but the meal was not very flavorful or spicy. If you love Tapas, Rosendorn is a good option. While I ran out of time to eat here myself, it came recommended and has pretty good reviews.

If you like beer, you’ll want to try the city’s famous local brew: Kölsch (Kölschkneipen). It is light and crisp, brewed exclusively in the city, and served in small, cylindrical glasses. The most popular beer houses for a kölsch beer experience is, The Brauhaus FRÜH am Dom (FRÜH brewery at the cathedral), Päffgen and Gaffel. One thing to note, if you do not want another glass of beer, put your coaster on top of your glass to signal you are done, otherwise, they may keep refilling your glass whether you verbally ask for it or not!


After photos with the cherry blossoms, I stopped for a little rest at Cafe de Paris Cologne, near Ehrenstraße, only about a 15 minute walk from the library.

This area is really cute with trendy boutiques and less touristy shops. I stopped at a few shops and landmarks along Ehrenstraße as I walked back towards my hotel. From Ehrenstraße I weaved along the streets through, Sankt-Apern-Sstraße and along Burgmauer and saw a few historic landmarks, and ancient city ruins along the way. Nothing worth a special trip but it made the walk back much more interesting.  

I made my way back to my hotel to charge my phone and camera and then headed out an hour before sunset. 

I wanted to catch the sunset overlooking the Cathedral from the famous Love Lock Bridge. Its a great way to end your first day in Cologne!

It takes about 20 mins to walk across the Hohenzollern Bridge, known for the thousands, if not millions of “love locks”. 

There are a few other ways to enjoy your first evening in Cologne. You can take a sunset cruise down the Rhine, or walk to Triangle Tower for panoramic views of Cologne from the observation deck. I planned to walk to the tower, but once I got over Hohenzollern Bridge, I enjoyed relaxing on the steps of the promenade and before I knew it, it was almost past 8, the tower’s closing time. I ended up walking in a circle back to my hotel over Deutzer Bruke, (the bridge next to Hohenzollern Bridge). I took my time and walked through the Old Town and along the water front back to my hotel, taking time to enjoy the views. I was pretty to see the city transform under lights right past dusk.

Day 2 Cologne Itinerary

With two days in Cologne, you’ll have time to visit the attractions you missed on day 1 or explore outside of the city center.

My plan for the day was to get an early start and visit a few of the cathedrals, enjoy the pop art in Ludwig Museum, walk around the Ehrenfeld neighborhood, known for its unique murals and vibrant street art, and enjoy a few hours at the botanical Gardens.

Unfortunately, when I woke up, the weather had changed drastically and it was in the 40s, raining with constant wind. After walking a few blocks towards the cathedral, I said forget it and spent most of the day inside working on my travel blog. 

Side Note: In an effort to pack less for the two-month Europe trip I was on, I didn’t bring enough warm or waterproof layers with me. I did have a rain jacket, but it did not fit over the only warm jacket I packed (it was an oversized style) which made it hard to stay warm AND dry. That was an oversight on my part and something I won’t do again!


In the morning, I recommend visiting some of the landmarks, or a museum you missed on day one. If you are staying in the city center,  Consider Museum Ludwig, it is in a central location so even if it is raining, you should be able to get there quickly and enjoy the galleries.

Museum Ludwig has the largest collection of American Pop Art outside the United States, showcasing works from some of the most iconic Pop Art names, like Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol which, instantly makes for a more exciting museum experience for those who think museums are boring.

In retrospect, I wish I would have ventured here in the rain. I love pop art and think it would have been a great experience but, at the time I didn’t realize Ludwig was known for pop art. I only found out after reading more about the museum while heading to my next destination-oops!


If its good weather, head to Cologne’s Flora and botanical garden (Flora und Botanischer Garten Köln in German) to relax and enjoy lovely green spaces with over 12,000 plant species from all over the world. The botanical garden is about a 30 minute walk from the Cologne Train station or a 15 minute tram ride on 16 tram. You can also hire a taxi and get there in about 5 minutes from central Cologne. The photos look beautiful and its free, so definitely worth a visit if you would like a quiet break from the city.

If you have more time in the afternoon and want to explore another neighborhood in Cologne, consider Ehrenfeld. Its on the outskirts of the city with coffee shops, bohemian vibes and indie boutiques- or so I read. I read that this district has an intriguing history, is full of electric streets with a buzzing arts community, hip cafes and buildings with vivid murals. It sounded like a fun neighborhood to explore with plenty of photo ops. Since it was raining all day on my 2nd day in Cologne I decided to drive here the day I left, after picking up my rental car, before heading out on my 2 week Germany road trip

I drove around the neighborhood looking for murals and artsy streets but didn’t see much of anything. The streets in the heart of the neighborhood were narrow and tight and could have been pedestrian only areas. On top of that, parking was impossible. I could not find anywhere to leave my car to walk around the area for a closer look. I saw plenty of graffiti, but not artistic graffiti, just basic tags on buildings and walls. There were maybe two murals I saw I would have taken a photo of but the area was under a lot of construction so pulling over just to take a quick photo was near impossible.  

These are the streets and areas in Ehrenfeld that are supposed to have murals and paintings and a fun boho vibe: 

  • Koernerstrasse
  • Vogelsanger Str.
  • Stammstraße
  • Bartholomäus-Schink-Straße (this should be painted arches near the Ehrenfeld Train Station) 

Wether the murals and artsy vibes have diminished or I just didn’t look in the right areas, I am not sure. I asked the hotel staff and they said yes, this was the correct neighborhood but it didn’t look or feel the way I expected so I can not be sure. I was expecting more of a Wynwood, Miami Vibe.

You can take a train from Cologne Central station and be at Ehrenfeld Train Station in 5 minutes. It is outside of the city center so walking there would take over an hour depending on how far into the area you walk.


My plan was to walk back to the city from the Botanical Gardens to enjoy the views and city scapes along the way. Because it really never stopped raining on my 2nd day in Cologne, I stayed close to the hotel and since the sky was grey there as no pretty sunset or golden hour.

Hopefully you will have better weather and can enjoy an evening boat ride along the Rhine River or a tasty dinner overlooking the water during your last day in Cologne.

Many of the Rhine River boat cruises leave from the docking areas right under the Hohenzollern Bridge around 8 p.m. and many have a cash bar for beer, wine and refreshments.


If you are in Germany for more than a few days, consider heading down the Rhine to some of the small villages and towns, perfect for anyone looking for that classic German village vibe. You’ll get half timbered houses and romantic castles galore!

I hope you enjoyed your time in Cologne! If you discovered anything unique and fun to see and do that is not on this itinerary, please let me know in the comments below, I’d love to add it to my list for next time!

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Sam wearing backpack and hat walking through town.

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