5 Fun Things to do in one day in Cologne

Cologne is hardly your first choice when it comes to a quick getaway or a long layover. It isn’t the most touristy city, but it has charm and some very interesting things to do. It definitely deserves 24 hours of your time, particularly if you have a long layover… In our case, we found an incredibly cheap, one-way flight from Cologne to Thailand, but we had to stay 24 hours in Cologne… Whatever your reason, in this post, you’ll find the best things to do in one day in Cologne.

Cologne is the 4th biggest city in Germany and the biggest in North Rhine-Westphalia state. The Rhine crosses the city and connects it to the sea and further inland. The river is what made Cologne (and the region) so important. Very close to Cologne, you have other big cities like Leverkusen, Gelsenkirchen, Aachen, Dusseldorf, Bonn…

Fun things to do in one day in cologne
The banks of the rhine river in Cologne, things to do in Cologne in one day

5 Fun Things to do in Cologne in one day

#1 Cologne walking tour

If you only have one day in Cologne, starting your itinerary with a walking tour is best. It’s the best way to explore a new place quickly! Our tour started in the Rudolph Platz and ended next to the Dom.

It was a good way of going directly to some of the best places in Cologne with someone who knew those places and talked a bit about them. We went to the Belgian quarter (the most expensive neighborhood in Cologne), the Roman wall, the defensive tower, the city hall, the Rhine margin, the Eau de Cologne original store, and its first “copy.”

You can book a walking tour here

what to do for 24 hours in Cologne?
Cologne historical center

#2 Eau de Cologne

If there’s one thing that Cologne is famous for is the Eau de Cologne or the Water of Cologne. We don’t think we need to explain what it is 🙂

In Cologne, you can go to the original store (by Giovanni Maria Farina) that invented it and to the ones that first copied it (the 4711 Cologne). Curiously, the copy is now more famous than the original, and we actually liked the 4711 Cologne better.

Furthermore, in the 4711 shop, there’s a fountain of Eau the cologne! And you can try it 🙂 It was cool and definitely something different to do in Cologne.

Top things to do in Cologne in 24 hours
Fountain of Eau, the cologne in 4711 shop, is a must while visiting Cologne

#3 Cologne Triangle

The Cologne triangle is a massive triangular building with apparently nothing all that special about it. However, you can go to the rooftop and get the most beautiful view of Cologne.

It’s definitely worth the visit.

Top activities to do in Cologne in one day
The Cologne triangle is a massive triangular building with breathtaking views

#4 The Dom – Cologne’s Cathedral

This is obviously the pinnacle of Cologne. It’s the biggest attraction and certainly the most striking. It’s also the most visited monument in Germany and one of the most beautiful churches in Europe.

The Dom is a Gothic church with 157,4 meters high, and it was the world’s tallest building between 1880 and 1884. It took more than 600 years to be built and almost bankrupted the city. Inside the Dom, supposedly, there are the “remains” of the 3 kings in a golden box.

What to do in Cologne in one day
The Dom – Cologne’s Cathedral, the most visited monument in Germany

#5 Take a cruise in the Rhein

The Rhein is undoubtedly very important in Cologne and even Germany. The river flows through some of Germany’s important cities and populated areas.

In cologne, you can take a cruise to enjoy the beautiful and romantic views. There are longer cruises that go along the middle rhein, considered a UNESCO heritage site. If you have time, this is a great option to see one of the most wonderful parts of Germany.

If you don’t, plenty of other shorter cruises take 1 to 3 hours and include lunch or dinner.

How to get to Cologne from the Airport?

If you only have 24 hours in Cologne, you can’t lose much time on transportation. Luckily for you (and us), the transports are fantastic!

Getting the S13 or S19 trains at the Airport will take about 15 minutes to get to the central station. The central station is perfectly located, next to the Dom, with many hotels and hostels nearby. From there you can walk everywhere and thus you won’t need to worry about any other transport.

Where to stay for one day in Cologne?

We stayed in “Pathpoint Cologne – Backpacker Hostel“, and we definitely recommend it if you are doing 24 hours in Cologne. It’s cheap (for German standards), huge, with a kitchen and luggage room, and 5/10 minutes from the station. This means you can go from the airport to your room in 30 minutes! Check the actualized prices here!

If this hostel is booked, have a look at the list below!


In Conclusion, 24 hours in Cologne is enough for the basics and a perfect stopover. We were able to go almost everywhere we wanted and never felt rushed. We didn’t even have the necessity of taking public transport inside the city. Everything we described was within walking distance.

Activities to do in Cologne in one day
Memorial to the jew victims in Cologne’s cable stones- Things to do in Cologne in one day

On the downside, it was very cold, so we didn’t get out at night. Nonetheless, the city has a huge student community, which brings a great vibe and nightlife. Again, as in almost every other German city, we found the people very friendly and engaging. We don’t know why Germans have a reputation for not being friendly and helpful.

If you have the opportunity to spend one day in Cologne, don’t miss it!

If you want to explore other interesting German cities, check out:

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6 thoughts on “5 Fun Things to do in one day in Cologne”

  1. Thank you for your tips. Always love posts on how to have the most of a city in the shortest of time.

  2. Ha it actually hadn’t occurred to me that cologne comes from Cologne 😀 I thought it was France for some reason lol – now I know better!! It would be cool to have a fountain of cologne, at least it would smell nice!

  3. Looks like a great town . I am actually planning a trip to Germany and I want to cover beautiful towns and villages exactly like Cologne. Will bookmark your post for future reference

  4. I was in Cologne on my way somewhere else for about the same time as you on one of my very first trips abroad as a teenager. Very fond memories, although I am pretty sure we didn’t do half as much as you. I remember being awed at the size of the river though. Thanks for the memories!

  5. Cool! Some very loaded 24hours – I remember my half day in Cologne – it was super freezing and the Chocolate museum was closed 🙁

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