9+ Secret Things to Do in Cologne Gems

Unveil the enigmatic allure of the Schnütgen Museum's medieval art. But one artifact, whispered in legends, might just change everything...
Date Published
March 8, 2024

Table of Contents

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Ever been to a city that wraps centuries within its streets and whispers them through its iconic skyline? That's Cologne for you, a treasure trove that pivots from medieval marvels to uber-modern vibes faster than you can say "Schnütgen Museum." But let’s be real, Cologne is not just your run-of-the-mill stop on the tourist trail. Oh no, it’s the eccentric aunt in the family of German cities – you know, the one who’s lived through the `70s and still throws the most talked-about shindigs?

Imagine strolling down the cobbled lanes where the air is a fragrant mix of traditional Kölsch beer and the zesty Kölnisch Wasser 4711. The Belgian Quarter beckons with its quirky haunts, while the Cologne Triangle plays coy with its sky-high panoramic views. You've got Ehrenfeld district's indie vibes batting their lashes at you while Rheinauhafen's sleek architecture plays hard to get. So lace up your most comfortable pair of walkin' shoes, because Cologne is about to take you on an urban adventure peppered with cultural pit stops, gastronomic exploits, and views that’ll have your phone’s camera working overtime.

From delving into a workshop that lets you play perfumer for a day to sipping on a frothy pint in a Brauhaus that feels frozen in time, this city is an Instagram story waiting to happen

Discover the Schnütgen Museum's Medieval Treasures

Imagine stepping into a realm where the grand tales of knights and the delicacy of bygone artistry spring to life. That's what you get at Schnütgen Museum, a quiet haven of medieval art nestled in the vibrant city. Picture this: sculptures that whisper the secrets of the middle ages, stained glass that splays rainbows across ancient stone, and wood carvings so intricate, they could only be the work of time-traveling craftsmen.

At the Schnütgen Museum, the magic is real. Whether you're a die-hard history buff or just someone who can appreciate the sheer coolness of stuff that's been around for centuries, this spot is a must-see. Particularly enchanting is their collection of textiles – some of the delicate fabrics and needlework here are so well-preserved it's like someone just finished them up yesterday.

And it's not just the art – the museum itself is a gem, with architecture that tells its own tale of the past. Visitors often spend anywhere from one to three hours exploring the medieval wonders here. Solo adventurers, couples, and even families find themselves captivated by the museum's ancient allure.

If you find yourself thinking, "Okay, but will there be anything I haven't seen before?" The answer is a resounding yes. With a collection that spans from the early Middle Ages to the Gothic period, there's bound to be at least one piece that'll have you saying, "Holy Grail, look at that!"

Naturally, you've got to wrap up your medieval journey with a gift shop visit – because nothing says "I've time-traveled" like a fridge magnet or a shirt with a knight on it, right? So, grab a little memento, and be that person who came back from Cologne with the coolest stories to tell.

Why settle for the usual when you can roam through centuries of art and history? Next stop, Schnütgen Museum – where every corner holds a story, and every artifact is a conversation waiting to happen.

Savor a Taste Tour of the Belgian Quarter

Picture this: you're weaving through vibrant streets dotted with indie boutiques, art galleries, and street art that captures the soul of the urban bohemia. Welcome to the Belgian Quarter, your ultimate destination for a taste tour you won't soon forget. Think of it as your gourmet passport to the most delectable international cuisine, right in the heart of Cologne.

Start your taste bud adventure at one of the quirky cafes that sprinkle the area. Whether you crave a steamy cappuccino or a creamy latte, these cozy spots are perfect for people-watching and soaking up the local vibe. But hey, don’t just park yourself at a café all day – there's a world of flavors waiting out there!

For lunch, grab a bite at a charming bistro serving up traditional German dishes with a modern twist. This is where you can chow down on a hearty schnitzel or go for something lighter like a fresh, zesty salad. Local tip: ask for the chef's special. Trust me, your taste buds will send you a thank you note.

But hold onto your hats, folks, because the Belgian Quarter is not just about food. It's an exploration! Stumble upon small galleries featuring pieces by emerging artists, or check out the whimsical shops offering everything from handmade jewelry to vintage records.

Now, when the sun starts to dip, that's your cue. Find a cozy corner in a hip bar, where the beer and conversation flow as smoothly as the Rhine itself. Reflect on the day’s discoveries and plan your next move because the Belgian Quarter whispers a siren call that’s tough to resist.

So, how long should you devote to this district? Give it at least half a day, better yet, a full one. It's a hit for singles, couples, and foodies who are after an authentic Cologne experience. As the evening draws near, congratulations, you’ve just had a day brimming with delectable tastes, laughter, and memories. Now, wasn’t that a slice of the sweet life?

Capture the Cologne Triangle's Breathtaking Views

Picture this: You're soaring high above Cologne, with a 360-degree panoramic view that sweeps across the city, right up to the awe-inspiring Cologne Cathedral and beyond. That's exactly what you're in for at the Cologne Triangle. Not just any viewpoint, this is THE spot for spectacular sights you definitely won't want to miss.

Here's the scoop – Cologne Triangle's observation deck offers the kind of views that leave you spellbound. So grab your camera because the golden hour up here? Nothing short of magical. The sunlight dances across the Rhine, touching everything with a warm, amber glow that's pure Instagram gold.

But breathtaking views aren't the only thing on the menu. The Cologne Triangle is smack dab in the midst of Cologne's bustling energy, so you've got culture, history, and modern city life all wrapped up in one visit. Now, who's it good for? Everyone. Seriously. Whether you're a solo explorer, here on a romantic getaway, or wrangling a gaggle of eager kiddos, everyone gets a slice of the pie – or should I say, panoramic delight!

How long should you spend here? Give it at least an hour, maybe two if you're a real photo fanatic. It’s more than enough time to soak in the Cologne skyline and maybe even plot your next move in the city. Plus, with the Rhine River flowing right below, it's a great kick-start to a leisurely riverside stroll or a hop onto a scenic boat tour.

So come on, adventurers and dreamers alike, get your heads in the clouds at the Cologne Triangle. Trust me, Cologne's never looked this good.

Partake in Kölnisch Wasser 4711 Workshop

Imagine yourself breezing by quaint streets, a whiff of something crisp and citrusy tickling your nose – that's the magic of Kölnisch Wasser, folks! Dive nose-first into a Kölnisch Wasser 4711 workshop. You get to mix your own signature scent, and let me tell you, it's downright sniff-worthy.

Why is this workshop so cool? It’s your backstage pass to concoct a personal fragrance at the original birthplace of eau de cologne. We're talking about a tradition that's been kicking since 1792, and guess what? You're next in line to be the perfumer!

Pop into the workshop and they'll set you up with a smorgasbord of scents. Floral, fruity, herby – it’s all there. With every drop, you’re crafting history. And it's not just smelling nice, it’s a hands-on history lesson. You're in there for about an hour, but the memories? They'll linger way longer than that.

Who should breeze through this workshop? If you're all about that unique, unforgettable souvenir, this is your jackpot. Solo explorers, love-struck duos, and even families find this mix-your-own-adventure a hit. In fact, kiddos aged 12 and up can join in, too!

From fresh to spicy, your creation is a Cologne exclusive. So, roll up your sleeves, because this isn't just any old tourist trap; it’s a fragrant fairytale come to life. Admire your handiwork, bottle it up, and voila – you’ve just made scent-sational history. Now go on, strut down the streets of Cologne like the cologne connoisseur you never knew you were!

And remember, the best stories are the ones you can smell. Get ready to add a fragrant chapter to your Cologne story with the Kölnisch Wasser 4711 workshop.

Revel in Cologne's Unique Beer Culture

So, you think you know beer? Let's put that to the test in Cologne, where the beer culture isn't just unique—it's practically a way of life. Imagine a place where every sip is a toast to history and camaraderie, where the clink of glasses rings out like a welcoming chorus. That's Cologne, baby!

Here in Cologne, beer is more than a beverage; it's a bond, a sacred tradition crafted over centuries. The star of the show is Kölsch, that delightful, crisp beer distinctive to the region. Locally produced, protected by law, and served in slender glasses known as "Stangen," it's a symbol of Cologne's brewing pride.

Want the authentic experience? Dive into a "Brauhaus" and order a Kölsch. Notice how the waiters, affectionately known as "Köbes," keep the golden nectar flowing until you admit defeat by placing your coaster on top of your glass. It's a game, a challenge, and a testament to the city’s jovial spirit.

Here's the deal—you can't just swing by and expect to grasp the full essence of Cologne's beer culture. You need to engage, converse with the locals and appreciate the meticulous art of brewing that defines this city. Whether it's the earthy tones in the beer or the laughter bouncing off the walls, you're in for more than a drink; you're in for an experience.

The best part? This beer culture thrives across Cologne. From lively pubs in the Old Town to laid-back breweries by the Rhine, there's a spot that'll match your mood and maybe even elevate it. Expect to spend a good few hours soaking it all in, and who knows, you might even find your new favorite brew.

This joyous beer phenomenon is not just a treat for the solo traveler—it's perfect for groups of friends and family looking to bond. While toddlers may be better off at a local playground, the true aficionado will find the convivial atmosphere a perfect setting for making memories.

So, pack your enthusiasm and ready your taste buds, because in Cologne, every sip comes with a story, and every beer is a cheerful invitation to join the party. Cheers to that!

Stroll and Shop the Ehrenfeld District

Picture yourself wandering through the vibrant streets of Ehrenfeld District, where each corner buzzes with artistic energy and an edgy vibe. This is where the cool kids of Cologne come to play, and you're about to join the party! It's the perfect spot for both locals looking for that unique item to add to their collection and tourists seeking an authentic slice of Cologne life.

Let's talk cafes, because in Ehrenfeld, they come with their own personality. What's your coffee style? Artsy, traditional, modern chic? Ehrenfeld has you covered from 1 to 10. Between sips, pop into boutique stores that showcase local designers who are just waiting for you to discover their genius. And trust me, your friends back home will turn greener than the recycled fashion you'll find here.

You're not just strolling; you're shopping with a story in every purchase. Solo adventurers, grab your latte to go and enjoy the street art that turns this district into a walkable gallery. Families, cozy up in a corner at a family-friendly café where sweet treats steal the show. And for the lovebirds out there, nothing says 'romantic' like hand-picked artisan gifts and a shared slice of cake in a quaint eatery.

Hang out here for the afternoon, or even a full day if you're feeling leisurely. Every turn offers a treat, from vintage vinyl shops to contemporary art spaces.

Got your walking shoes on? Good. Because Ehrenfeld isn't just another shopping destination; it’s a slice of Cologne that’ll stick with you, with stories for days and finds that you can’t just get anywhere. You’ll find the spirit of Cologne’s future, all while soaking in the now. Now, let's go make those memories!

Enjoy Rheinauhafen's Architectural Marvels

Picture yourself taking a casual stroll along the river, the sun shimmers off the water, boats gently bobbing by, and before you, the Rheinauhafen - a piece of architectural genius that’s evolved over time. It's the perfect spot for an urban explorer like you, looking to feast your eyes on modern marvels such as 'The Crane Houses' (Kranhäuser). These are not your grandma's cranes, they're swooping buildings that seem to defy the laws of physics!

Here's where you get to strut for about a 3-10 minute walk, camera in hand, because you're going to want to snap every angle of this harmoniously blended historical and contemporary district.

But what makes Rheinauhafen a secret gem worth visiting?

  • The blend of old docks and new, sleek architecture tells a story of Cologne's progress.
  • It's slightly off the beaten path, so you can enjoy a break from the crowds.
  • Chic cafes and venues dot the area, offering a place to relax and soak in the vibe.

While you're admiring the skyline, consider that Rheinauhafen is not just for the solo architecture aficionado. It's for romantic duos, the family pack, and even the adrenaline junkies who can enjoy a zippy Segway tour nearby.

Spend an hour or two here; there's no rush. Let the unique buildings inspire you, take a breath of fresh, river air, and watch the locals living their best life around you. And before you leave, check out the nearby historical hotspot, the German Sports and Olympic Museum, because why not toss a little sports history into your day?

Rheinauhafen is like that cool, quiet classmate in school who turned out to be the most interesting person at the reunion. It's the understated blend of Cologne's past and future, all in one stroll. Your stories from here? Definitely not your everyday travel tales.

Sample Mediterranean Flavors at the Local Market

Cologne might not sit on the coast of the Mediterranean, but it sure knows how to throw a food market that bursts with flavors from that region. Imagine a bustling bazaar, where spices and laughter mingle in the air and stalls are piled high with sun-kissed fruits, gleaming olives, and an array of cheeses that would make a Parisian chef weep with joy. Welcome to the local market, a hidden gem where Mediterranean food meets Cologne charm.

Stroll down the aisles, and you'll find third-born cheeses and olives with personal stories to tell. With each bite of freshly baked bread dipped in golden olive oil, you're not just tasting; you're embarking on a flavor pilgrimage. And the best part? You can fill your canvas bag with enough goodies to picnic by the Rhine or power a hearty chat with a new friend.

This isn’t your run-of-the-mill farmer's market—it’s a slice of the Mediterranean tucked into Cologne’s dynamic heart. As a savvy explorer, whether you're craving zesty dolmas or piquant hummus, this market serves up an authentic experience that's fresh out of the oven.

Singles, families, even curious toddlers—everyone finds something to love here. Singles can savor exotic dates (the fruit, not the romantic encounter), while families can discover the magic of falafel-making.

From the foodie looking to cook up a storm in an Airbnb kitchen to the couple seeking that perfect artisanal cheese for their picnic, this market’s got you. Immerse yourself, and who knows? The Mediterranean might just whisper its secrets through the colorful mosaics of olive oil bottles.

Spend a leisurely morning or a bustling early afternoon here, and let your senses be your guide. Trust us, by the time you're trying your tenth sample of tapenade, you'll practically hear the Mediterranean waves lapping at your feet. And hey, isn't that what being an explorer is all about?

Get Creative at Cologne's Improv Theatre

Imagine a place where the plot twists every minute, the characters shift faster than you can blink, and the story is built right before your very eyes—welcome to the vibrant world of Cologne's improv theatre. It's a laughter-inducing, risk-taking, creative gem that you've just got to see to believe.

Cologne’s improv scene is all about chuckles and challenges. Just picture it: you're nestled snugly in your seat, the lights dim, and the stage comes alive with the energy of performers who craft a one-of-a-kind experience from audience suggestions. Yeah, that's right, you get to throw in your two cents and then watch the magic unfold. It’s the kind of interactive entertainment where no two nights are the same.

Whether you're a solo adventurist or rolling with your squad, everyone fits right in here. Spend an evening at the theatre, and you'll merge with locals and travelers alike, all gathered for a healthy dose of spontaneity. The vibe? Oh, it's buzzing with anticipation, because nobody knows what’s next—and isn’t that just the thrill of it?

You don't need a full day here; just a few hours will fill you up on laughter and leave your creativity tank on high. It's an adrenaline boost of a different sort—one that comes from watching talented artists think on their feet and make you part of their art.

Here, in the buzz of Cologne’s improvisational playground, you’ll find a unique connection with the performers and your fellow audience members. It’s kind of like being in on an inside joke with a whole room of soon-to-be friends.

Anyone from enthusiastic singles to giggling families, from first dates to fun-seekers, finds their groove in this enclave of improv. And when you step out, energized and grinning ear to ear, the lively streets of Cologne will be there to continue the merriment. So, go ahead, let your hair down and get your dose of unexpected adventure at Cologne's improv theatre. Your inner artist will thank you.

Seek Out Cologne's Best Sunset Spots

Picture this: you're standing in a spot where the sky's ablaze with hues of orange, pink, and purple, the sun's making its majestic exit, and you're just soaking in the beauty of Cologne's skyline at twilight. You got it, buddy – it's sunset time, and Cologne's got some top-notch spots to witness this daily spectacle.

First, hustle over to the Cologne Triangle Panoramic View. With your own eyes, you'll want to catch the sun dipping down behind the iconic Cologne Cathedral, that massive Gothic wonder that's overseen countless sunsets since the Middle Ages. Yeah, you could say it's seen a thing or two.

Next up, you'll definitely want to meander along the Rheinauhafen. This area not just ticks the box for architecture lovers with its crane houses and sleek modern buildings, but as the sun falls, the reflections on the Rhine can pretty much steal your breath away, and no, I'm not exaggerating.

You're the sort who likes to end your day on a high note, right? Then swing by one of the local bars or cafes here and toast to the splendid view. Whether you're flying solo, tagging along with friends, or towing the whole family – everyone's in for a treat as the city shifts from day to night.

But hey, don't just stop there. Jog to a grassy spot or plop down at a riverside bench – Cologne has bundles of places from where the sunset looks unreal. Go on, make time stand still for a moment as you witness the sun saying "Later, gators!" before it snoozes off.

Spend an hour or so; as the twilight deepens, you'll watch as the city lights begin to twinkle on, gently nudging you back into the cool Cologne night, ready for whatever escapade comes next. This isn't just any sunset – it's Cologne's show, free of charge every evening, and it's all yours to savor.

Dive into Local History at Roman-Germanic Museum

Picture this: You're stepping into the Roman-Germanic Museum, a treasure trove where each artifact whispers secrets of ancient Cologne. Your mission? To uncover the tales of a city frozen in time, beneath your feet. The museum, sitting snugly right next to the towering Cologne Cathedral, isn't just a building; it's a gateway to the past.

You won't need a time machine when you've got the Roman-Germanic Museum. This place is more than just dusty old relics; it's home to the world-class Dionysus mosaic, which has been chilling right here since the 3rd century. And guess what? That's not all. The museum is also guarding a tomb from Roman times – like a real-deal Roman noble was laid to rest here, and now you can pay your respects.

But hold your horses – you might be thinking, “Is it all just ancient history?” Nope, this spot is perfect for anyone who loves a good story, whether you're a solo history buff, dragging your kids into understanding the past, or just someone looking for the cool heart of Cologne. It serves up a magnificent collection of Roman glassware that'll have you wondering why your drinking glasses at home are so boring!

You'll want to carve out a good hour or two here, and not just for the artifacts. The museum sits in the beating heart of Cologne, with the city's life swirling around it. Wrap up your historical deep dive and step right back into the buzz of modern Cologne. Or take a breather by the Rhine; it's just a stroll away, perfect for a moment's peace after your museum adventure.

So, are you ready to touch time? To feel the pulse of ancient Cologne beneath your fingers? Then step into the Roman-Germanic Museum. Trust me – it's a time-travel journey perfectly crafted for culture vultures, history nerds, and anyone who's got a hint of curiosity tickling their brain. And for more excitement, check this out – Cologne's not done wowing you yet!

Indulge in a Cologne Farm-to-Table Dining Experience

Imagine sitting down to a meal where every bite oozes freshness, a symphony of flavors you can trace back to the very land you’re visiting. That's what it's like diving into Cologne's farm-to-table dining scene.

Picture this – you're sipping on a glass of locally-sourced Riesling, your plate a vibrant canvas of organic greens, heirloom vegetables, and succulent meats sourced from the farms just a stone's throw away from the city. This isn't just eating; it's an experience that tantalizes your taste buds while ingraining you deeper into the local culture.

The whole ordeal is not just a treat for your palate. It's a jamboree that supports local farmers, encourages sustainable practices, and fosters a close-knit food community that you now get to be a part of. And don't get me started on the storytelling – each dish comes with its own tale, narrated by passionate chefs proud of Cologne's bounty.

Families, foodie friends, or that date you want to impress? They're all going to adore this scene. From rustic countryside vibes to chic urban eateries, the settings vary but the ethos remains the same: pure, delicious, conscientious eating.

You might want to set aside an entire evening for this. Stroll through a local market beforehand, and you'll appreciate your dinner even more. Knowing where your food comes from and witnessing the journey from farm to fork is as enriching as it is delicious.

Curious where to start? Tuck into one such gastronomic hidden gem right here. It's where locals escape the ordinary and visitors discover the authentic pulse of Cologne's culinary heart. Just don't forget to make a reservation; these spots are hot on any gourmand's map!

Let me tell you, a Cologne farm-to-table dining experience is not just a meal. It’s a connection. It’s the taste of Cologne. And it's one secret gem you won’t want to miss.


Q: What are some things to do in Cologne for young adults?

A: Hit the trendy Belgian Quarter for cool cafes, shop for vintage treasures, and finish the day with a party on Ring Streets.

Q: What are unique things to do in Cologne?

A: Tour the Cologne Cathedral, stroll along the Rhine, and savor a Kölsch beer in a traditional brauhaus.

Q: What are free things to do in Cologne?

A: Visit the Cologne Cathedral, relax in the city's green spaces, and explore the charming Old Town.

Q: What do people on Reddit suggest for things to do in Cologne?

A: They rave about local breweries, recommend the Cologne Zoo, and urge a walk across the Hohenzollern Bridge.

Q: What can I do in Cologne with family?

A: Enjoy the Cologne Zoo, get interactive at the Odysseum, and cruise the Rhine for fun views.

Q: What are some activities to do in Cologne at night?

A: Check out live music venues, join a pub crawl in the Altstadt, or attend a performance at the opera.

Q: How do I spend my day in Cologne?

A: Explore the Cologne Cathedral, visit museums, shop in Schildergasse, and unwind in the Belgian Quarter.

Q: Is Cologne a fun city?

A: Absolutely! With its vibrant culture, historic landmarks, and lively nightlife, Cologne is a blast.

Q: Is 2 days enough in Cologne?

A: It's quick but doable. Prioritize top sights like the Cathedral, museums, and a Rhine cruise.

Q: Is Cologne worth visiting?

A: Definitely! From historical to gastronomical delights, Cologne impresses every type of traveler.

Final Words

Well, you've just scrolled through one heck of an adventure in this blog post, right? From the ancient allure of the Schnütgen Museum to the vibrant beats of the Belgian Quarter, we've journeyed through Cologne's awesome offerings. Topped off with stellar beers, quirky theatres, and sunsets that'd make your Instagram pop, you're now stuffed with knowledge on things to do in Cologne.

So, go out there, taste every flavor, snap every scene, and live every experience. Remember, the Roman-Germanic Museum is waiting with its history tales, and those farm-to-table spots? They're ready to serve you a slice of Cologne on a plate. Enjoy every moment!

Meet the Author
Aria Ohlsson
Aria Ohlsson, the Instagram storyteller extraordinaire, takes you on adventures through her enchanting narratives. An avid hiker, she scales peaks and weaves tales of mountaintop triumphs. When she's not conquering trails, you'll find her immersed in classic novels, finding inspiration for her next tale.
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