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Cologne Starter Guide

Planning to visit Cologne (Köln in German) and surrounding region? Start your trip planning here!

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This city guide is an introduction to Cologne and will help you start planning your visit to this city on the beautiful Rhine (Rhein in German).

Cologne is in western Germany in what’s called the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region of the Bundesland Nordrhein-Westfalen (state of North Rhine-Westphalia). 

I’ve visited Cologne (and the Rhine/Mosel area) several times and have even spent a couple months living in Cologne and later in a smaller town in the region. It’s a beautiful area with so much to do, see, and experience!

Near the Rhine and Mosel rivers, Cologne (Köln) is a must-see for many visitors to Germany. Home of the magnificent Cologne cathedral (Kölner Dom), a chocolate museum, the famous Kölsch beer, river cruises, and hip neighborhoods, you’ll find plenty to do, see, and experience in Cologne.

Ready to plan your dream trip to Cologne? Let’s get started!


What to Do and See in Cologne

Whether you’re into food, history, architecture, nature, art, or spontaneous adventures, you’ll find plenty to see, see, and experience in and around Cologne! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Cologne Cathedral
  • Chocolate museum
  • Boat trip on the Rhine
  • Cologne Zoo
  • Christmas markets
  • Ludwig Museum
  • Cologne’s Old Town
  • Botanical Garden
  • Romano-Germanic Museum
  • Belgian Quarter
  • NS Documentation Center

Cologne Accommodation Guide

Cologne offers a ton of comfortable places to lay your head at the end of a busy day of sightseeing!

READ our Cologne (Köln) hotel guide!


Cologne Tours & Tickets

Cologne has so many tours and special tickets to make your visit extra special, not to mention extra easy by booking in advance.


Cologne Day Trips

One of the best things about making Cologne your home base is that you have countless day trip options! Here are a few ideas:

  • Linz am Rhein
  • Düsseldorf
  • Bonn
  • Ahr Valley
  • Carolus Thermen Bad (Aachen)
  • Monschau
  • Aachen
  • Liege, Belgium

Best Cologne Travel Guides

These are our two favorite travel guides. We typically buy a Rick Steves guide whenever there’s one available. And I highly recommend the Culture Smart books – I always read one before visiting a new country because they have so much useful cultural information (I usually read it on the plane). You can get a hard copy or Kindle version.


Getting to Cologne

Cologne is easy to reach via train, bus, car or plane. If arriving from the US, consider flying into Düsseldorf International Airport. You can take public transportation to Cologne (it takes about an hour) or arrange an easy airport transfer here.


Getting Around Cologne

The city center is very walkable and you should be able to easily walk to many hotels and tourist sites. For the ones that are further away you can hop on a tram, bus, U-bahn or S-bahn.


Cologne Basics

Population
1 million

Cologne is the largest city on the Rhine river and in North Rhine-Westphalia. It’s the 4th largest and one of the oldest cities in Germany.

Airport

Düsseldorf International Airport (DUS) & Cologne/ Bonn Airport (CGN)

Bundesland
North Rhine-Westphalia
(Nordrhein-Westfalen)

Train Travel Times to Cologne
Berlin > Cologne = 4 hrs 20 min
Frankfurt > Cologne = 1 hr – 2 hrs 20 min
Hamburg > Cologne = 4 hours
Salzburg > Cologne = 6 – 8 hours
Paris > Cologne = 3.5 hrs – 5 hrs
Rome > Cologne = 12 hrs 45 min – 14 hrs 45 min
Prague > Cologne = 7.5 hrs – 8.5 hrs

Fun Facts
Cologne’s airport has the only runway in Germany that is also an emergency landing site for NASA shuttles!