Cologne is hardly your first choice when it comes to a quick getaway or a long layover. It isn’t the most touristy city around, but it does have its 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, a one-way flight from Cologne to Phuket, but we had to stay 24 hours in Cologne… Whatever is your reason, in this post you’ll find the best things to do in Cologne in one day.
Cologne is the 4th biggest city in Germany and the biggest of 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…
5 Fun Things to do in Cologne in one day
Cologne walking tour
If you only have one day in Cologne, the best option is to start your itinerary with a walking tour. It’s the best way to quickly explore a new place! The tour we did starts 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 it. We went to the Belgian quarter (the most expensive neighborhood in Cologne), the Roman wall, the defensive tower, city hall, the Rhine margin, the Eau de Cologne original store and its first “copy”.
Eau de Cologne
If there’s one thing that Cologne is famous about is the Eau de Cologne or the Water of Cologne. We don’t think we need to explain what it is :), but 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.
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 only 3 Euros and definitely worth the visit.
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 lead the city to go bankrupt. Inside the Dom supposedly there are the “remains” of the 3 kings in a golden box.
Take a cruise in the Rhein
The Rhein is certainly very important in Cologne and even Germany. The river flows through some of some important cities and populated areas in Germany. In cologne, you can take a cruise to enjoy the beautiful and romantic views. There are longer cruises that go along the middle rhein which is 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, there are plenty of other shorter cruises, that 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 in transportation. Luckily for you (and us), the transports are fantastic! If you get the S13 or S19 trains at the Airport it will take about 15 minutes to get to the central station. And it costs only 2,8 Euros per person. The central station is perfectly located, next to the Dom and with many hotels and hostels nearby. From there you can walk everywhere and thus you won’t need to worry about any other transports.
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 kitchen and luggage room and it’s 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 transports inside the city. Everything we described was within walking distance.
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 nice and engaging, we don’t know why Germans have the reputation of not being friendly and helpful.
If you have the opportunity to spend one day in Cologne, don’t miss it!