Cool & quirky things to do in Cologne in 2 days

A picture showing the famous Cologne Cathedral and Hohenzollern Bridge
The famous Cologne Cathedral and Hohenzollern Bridge [Photo by Miguel Ángel Sanz / Unsplash]

Cologne, or Köln, is an ideal destination for a short city break in Germany. Despite being a connecting hub, it offers much more than that.

In just two days, you can enjoy an array of fun and unique Cologne attractions, making it a good place to visit at any time of year.

The best part is that Cologne city centre is only 15 minutes away from Cologne Bonn Airport, which is the fourth-largest international airport in Germany.

From here, you can easily catch the efficient S-Bahn train for a comfortable ride to the city and start Köln sightseeing.

Let's take a closer look at some of the top-rated things to see in Cologne. Although there are many more enjoyable places to visit in the city, we want to provide you with a realistic overview of what you can do in Köln in two days. Here are some suggestions.

Bookings: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means that if you choose to make a booking, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank You!

Explore the historic old town

The picture shows a row of old colourful buildings in Cologne's Old Town
Cologne's Old Town

Start your day with a delicious breakfast at your hotel or in town, then stroll along the scenic River Rhine while admiring the stunning architecture of the Old Town.

As you walk along the riverbank, be sure to check out the Kölner Pegel, which is a water level metre. Installed in 1951, it displays the current water level in the River Rhine to help warn of potential floods.

Afterwards, make your way to the Old Marketplace near Cologne City Hall. Grab a second cup of coffee or tea and continue to admire the Renaissance buildings in the area, including the elegant City Hall Tower and the Jan von Werth Fountain.

Experience panoramic views on the Kölner Cable Car

The Kölner Seilbahn, or cable car, is a fun way to cross the Rhine River and enjoy stunning panoramic views of the cathedral city. The 930-metre-long gondola ride takes about six minutes to cross the river and is definitely worth checking out unless you are afraid of heights.

If you're looking for fun things to do at night, visit their website for more information on special night rides from June until the end of September.

The cable car is currently open daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, with the last round trip departing at 5:45 pm. The adult ticket costs €5 one way or €9 for a round trip.

Take a relaxing and scenic boat tour

If walking is not your thing, we can recommend travelling by water to make the most of Köln sightseeing.

A panoramic city cruise on the Rhine River or a harbour boat tour is an excellent option, especially if you're on a short break. We suggest pre-booking your tickets to skip the queue.

During the three-hour boat tour, you will glide under the magnificent Cologne bridges and explore the exciting sights on foot with a friendly and knowledgeable guide.

Alternatively, you can book a one-hour panoramic city cruise at a date convenient to you using the search box below.

Admire the magnificent Cologne Cathedral

Inside the Gothic Cologne Cathedral you can see an angel carved out of wood and a beautiful stained glass window
Gothic-Style Cologne Cathedral in Cologne, Germany

Cologne is home to twelve Romanesque Churches from the Middle Ages. However, the magnificent Gothic Cologne Cathedral, or Kölner Domand, is a sight not to be missed.

It’s home to the shrine of the Three Wise Men and is the second-tallest church in Germany and the third-tallest in the world. Moreover, it's considered one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic and Neo-Gothic architecture, making it one of the top places to visit in Cologne.

You will be captivated by the stunning interior of Cologne Cathedral, featuring intricate stained glass windows, beautiful artwork, and ornate architectural details. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must-visit when travelling to Cologne, Germany.

To see panoramic views of the city, climb to the top. The tower is open year-round, and you can arrange a guided tour of the belfry with the cathedral staff. But contact them well before your trip to hear the bells ringing.

Visit the sweetest museum in Cologne

Here you can see staff dipping waffles into the chocolate fountain for the museum visitors to enjoy
The Schokoladenmuseum Köln - Chocolate Museum in Cologne, Germany

If you're looking for fun and delicious things to do in Cologne, visit the Cologne Chocolate Museum - it's one of the most fun places to visit in Cologne.

It's located on the River Rhine and offers a fascinating insight into chocolate and its history. Some boat tours allow you to hop off next to this sweet attraction.

In addition to learning about chocolate, you can watch the process of making chocolate bars in the Production Room. At the Chocolate Studio, you can customise your chocolate bar with desired ingredients, making it the perfect souvenir to take home.

A beautiful golden replica of a cacao bean plant is at the museum's heart. As you approach, you'll witness a mesmerising flow of silky milk chocolate cascading into a pool of delectable sweetness. And if fortune's on your side, you may have the opportunity to savour a delicious waffle coated in chocolate for free.

Before leaving the museum, stop by the Chocolate Grand Cafe for a slice of freshly baked chocolate cake and a hot drink.

Explore the eerie 'Yard of the Sick'

As promised, we have compiled a list of fun and unique things to do in Cologne. So here's an exciting spot to visit if you enjoy eerie sightseeing.

It's the Melaten Cemetery, also known as "the yard of the sick" or "the yard of the malades." This historic graveyard has been a final resting place for affluent and notable individuals, including the famous Farina family, the creators of Eau de Cologne, for over 200 years.

Despite being in use to this day, the cemetery respectfully replaces old graves with new ones. With over 55,000 graves, the Melaten Cemetery boasts impressive tombstones and sculptures worth visiting.

As a park-like cemetery, it is a popular spot for locals to unwind and enjoy the natural surroundings, making it an ideal escape from the city's hustle and bustle. We highly recommend visiting this serene location, especially during autumn.

Top Tip: The Melaten Cemetery is free to enter and is open all year round from 7 am to around 8 pm, depending on the season.

Spot Cologne's street art on a bike

The mural shows Dalai Lama being silenced with a red scarf
Street Art in Cologne, Germany 

If you're searching for unique things to do in Cologne, consider riding a bike to spot street art. You'll find the trendiest graffiti and mural pieces in the Belgian quarter and Ehrenfeld.

While you can reach these areas by tram or taxi, joining a bike tour with a local guide will provide a fresh perspective and a chance to explore a different side of this fantastic city.

Awaken your senses at the House of Fragrances

If you take a short walk from the cathedral, you will come across the empire of eu de colognes.

The House of Fragrances 4711 is a must-visit attraction in Cologne. When you visit the flagship store, you will be surrounded by alluring scents and hear captivating tales about aqua mirabilis.

You can join public guided tours every Saturday at 1 pm. Or you can create your own personalised Eau de Cologne to take home by participating in one of the 4711 Fragrance seminars.

Count the love locks on Hohenzollern, the iconic bridge in Cologne

Hundreads of love locks sparkling in the sun on the famous Hohenzollern Bridge
Love locks on the Hohenzollern Bridge

Cologne may be small, but it offers a lot of attractions. It's a charming and historic city that's perfect for romantic getaways.

If you're looking for romantic things to do in Cologne, you can stroll along the river or sit on the steps of one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world. Or you can explore Hohe Street and discover hidden cafes tucked away in alleyways and backstreets.

Another option is to visit the Hohenzollern Bridge, where you can admire the impressive 2-ton collection of love locks while enjoying the river view.

For a more dramatic experience, visit the Love Locks Bridge in the evening when the lighting creates perfect photo opportunities of the bridge and cathedral at night.

Indulge in Cologne's traditional local cuisine

A plate full traditional German food: apple and potato mash with black pudding and shallots
Apple and Potato Mash with Black Pudding, Shallots and Ice-Cold Kölsch Beer 

After a day of exploring Cologne, you'll likely be feeling hungry. Fortunately, the city has a thriving pub culture and a serious approach to food. Fruh am Dom is just one of the many great places to go for hearty, honest dishes.

This traditional restaurant features atmospheric brewery rooms, massive wooden tables, medieval chandeliers, and stained glass windows that resemble a cathedral.

We can recommend the potato mash with applesauce. Topped with fried shallots it's our personal favourite. If you're a vegetarian, you may want to skip the black pudding, though.

Another must-try is Lommerzheim, affectionately called Lommi by the locals. This no-fuss restaurant serves traditional Koteletten, a pork dish with fries or potato salad.

Discover Picasso at Museum Ludwig

Cologne is known as the cultural capital of Germany due to its numerous museums and galleries that cater to every visitor's preference.

But if you only have time to visit one museum, the Ludwig Museum is highly recommended. It's conveniently located and boasts one of the biggest Picasso collections in Europe.

Otherwise, explore the Roman Germanic Museum, Cologne City Museum, and the Wallraf Richartz Museum.

For more information about museums and galleries in Cologne, visit this handy guide.

Watch the train traffic atop the Cologne Triangle

If you are passionate about trains and breathtaking views, the Köln Triangle is a must-visit destination in Cologne. The observation deck, open any day of the week, provides stunning panoramic city views you won't find anywhere else.

Discover the beauty of Cologne’s Botanical Garden

If, like me, you're a sucker for breathtaking gardens, then the Botanical Garden in Cologne's Riehl district is an absolute must-see.

Spanning 11.5 hectares, it has been drawing crowds for over a century. This hidden gem, visited by over a million people annually, is a feast for the senses with its vibrant colours, fragrant blooms, and lush greenery.

Once separated by a wall, Flora and the Botanical Garden were united in 1920, creating an unforgettable oasis that will leave you mesmerised for days after you return home from your trip.

Visit the funky Belgian Quarter

 The sun is shining into Herr Pimock bar in Belgian Quarter, illuminating the bar adorned with green subway-style tiles and bar stools. There are skis in the corner, an umbrella under one table and a bunch of flowers on the bar.
Herr Pimock Bar in Belgian Quarter, Cologne, Germany

The Belgian quarter of Cologne boasts a variety of attractions, such as great food options, parks, beautiful architecture, street art, boutique shopping, cafes, bars, and a local vibe.

Despite feeling like you're far from the heart of the city, it's within walking distance. Besides, the efficient tram system makes getting around even easier.

For a cosy lunch option, check out Herr Pimock bar. And if you're craving homemade quiches, Salon Schmitz is another fabulous spot to try. It's popular among locals, so be sure to snag a table early.

Unwind at Cologne’s green spaces

After a busy morning or afternoon of sightseeing or shopping in Cologne, take a break and unwind in one of the city's many parks.

Depending on your location, you can easily reach a park by bus, bike, taxi, or foot. Some popular options include Volksgarten and the stunning Rheinpark parkland.

If you're in the Belgian quarter, head west to Hiroshima-Nagasaki Park and spend a relaxing afternoon by the serene Aachener Weiher Lake.

Stroll through the park, admire East-Asian art at the Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst, or enjoy a refreshing glass of lemonade while taking in the stunning lake views.

Top Tip: Download this article as a self-guided walking tour on your smartphone. Check out our Cologne City walk on

Things to do in Cologne at night

A round sign depicting Kölsch beer
Kölsch beer in Cologne

There are plenty of options if you're looking for things to do in Cologne at night. Take a stroll through the Old Town and enjoy the illuminated architecture, dance the night away at a club, or join a ghost tour.

While night watchmen lead many exciting tours, most are only available in German. If language isn't a barrier, it's worth joining one of these tours for an authentic Cologne experience.

While in Cologne, don't forget to try the famous Kölsch beer. It's typically served in a Kranz (or wreath) with small glasses. The beer is light and easy to drink, but be careful not to lose count of how many you've had!

To keep your beer cold, it's served in small glasses, and you can place a beer mat on top to avoid refills - a local tip! If you've had too much to drink, hail a cab.

If you want to experience the best pubs in Cologne's south side, consider booking a guided pub crawl. With a tour, you can stay safe, enjoy delicious food, hear interesting stories, and trust your guide to take you to the most iconic pubs in the area.

The Cologne Card: a smart way to explore the city

Unlock the best of Cologne with the Cologne Card, your ultimate ticket to hassle-free travel and fun experiences in the city.

With the Cologne Card, you can enjoy free public transportation and exclusive discounts on the city's top attractions, including museums, sightseeing tours, restaurants, and shopping destinations.

You can get your Cologne Card online and pick it up from Köln Tourismus at 1 Kardinal-Höffner-Platz.

Opening times: Monday - Saturday: 09:00 - 20:00, Sunday and holidays: 10:00 - 17:00

Where to stay in Cologne

A cosy room with a bed and colourful cushions on the windowsill
Wohngemeinschaft Hostel in Cologne 

We have something for you if you're looking for friendly and unique places to stay in Cologne.

Stern am Rathaus - a superb boutique hotel in Cologne

The Stern am Rathaus Hotel is a charming accommodation on Bürgerstraße 6 in the Altstadt-Nord district. With only eight rooms available, securing your reservation early is best to ensure availability.

The hotel is situated on a tranquil street just a stone's throw away from the magnificent Cologne Cathedral.

The super friendly staff made our experience delightful by imparting valuable insider knowledge about the local area and customs, so we highly recommend booking it for your stay in Cologne.

Die Wohngemeinschaft - Cologne’s funkiest rooms

If you're on the hunt for a warm and welcoming hostel that's a little out of the ordinary, look no further than Die Wohngemeinschaft Hostel.

Located in the trendy Belgian Quarter, this unique accommodation boasts themed rooms, caring staff and delicious breakfast. It's the perfect base for exploring the delights of the area.

It's a unique accommodation in the city with a caring staff and a delicious breakfast. The rooms are themed and fun to stay in, so check it out if you like unusual places on your travels.

For more accommodation options in Cologne, use the handy search box below:

Is two days in Cologne enough?

Yes, two days is enough to explore Cologne. It's a compact city that's easy to navigate, making it perfect for a short city break any time of the year. During our visit in early September, we discovered many enjoyable sights in Cologne.

Although it was initially just a connecting hub between Bangkok and London, after our extended trip to Southeast Asia, Cologne has become one of my favourite European holiday destinations, and I highly recommend it.

Next on my bucket list is to visit the famous Christmas Markets in Cologne.