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20 Things to Do in Cologne

Last updated: 7 May 2024


Points of Interest in Cologne

Basilica of St Ursula

There have been various buildings on this site since at least 400 AD. It was long believed that this is the site of the mass burial of 11,000 virgins associated with the legend of St Ursula. In fact, this is the site of Roman necropolis; sarcophagi are present. The current building, although added to over the century, was started in 1135. In the 17th century, the many relics – supposedly of the 11,000 virgins – were placed in the Golden Chamber, one of the must-see sites of Cologne. The church was damage during WWI, and has been restored since,

Belgisches Haus

The Belgian House was home to the Consulate General for Belgium until 2015, hence the name. Constructed in 1948/49 by the Belgian state to serve citizens of that nation living in the surrounding states. Today, the first two floors house the temporary exhibition of the Römisch-Germanisches Museum, while that venue undergoes a major refurbishment. While the exhibition does not include everything, it is nonetheless a substantial exhibition and should not be missed.

Chocolate Museum Cologne

One of Cologne’s more popular attractions, the Chocolate Museum offers the visitor everything from a comprehensive exhibition of the history of cocoa covering 5,000 years o the plant’s cultivation, a tropical greenhouse, many images and films, with lots of tasting opportunities – including a 3m high chocolate fountain. You are free to explore over 4,000 square meters of exhibition space or take a guided tour. End your stay at the chocolate themed café with spectacular views of the Rhine River.

Cologne - Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium

Colonia was always an important town for the Romans; the capital of the province of Germania Inferior and later the capital of Germania Secunda. The regional headquarters of the military in the region was based here. There are a number of features to see in the city, including sections of the wall and towers. The Roman museum, exhibitions are currently in a temporary location, was built on the foundations of a townhouse and displays its mosaic floor of Dionysius.

Cologne Cathedral

Construction of the cathedral began in 1248 and was completed in 1880. Despite the passing of seven centuries, the building stayed true to the original plans. Besides being known for its majestic qualities, it is the 3rd largest church in the world, the cathedral is also home to exceptional examples of Christian art, including numerous altars, the Shrine of the Magi, which is the largest reliquary shrine in Europe, and the 14th century stained glass windows. Visitors can enter the treasury, climb the towers and see the bell chambers. A number of themed guided tours are offered.

Deutz Abbey & Old St Heribert Church

In 1002 AD Emperor Otto III and Archbishop Heribert established a Benedictine monastery on the remains of the Roman fort of Divitia. Heribert was buried in the Romanesque church – hence the name Alt St Heribert. His bones are now in a shrine in Neu St Heribert, a nearby catholic church. Both the monastery and the church were destroyed many times in their histories. The monastery was dissolved during the Deutsche Mediatisierung, 1802 – 1814. Fully restored following WWII but retaining its Romanesque cellars; the abbey is now an old age home and the church is used by the Greek Orthodox community in Cologne.

Divitia Fort in Deutz

At the beginning of the 4th century AD, Emperor Constantine built a fort on the right bank of the Rhine, opposite Colonia. Part of the Roman Limes, it was intended to strengthen the Empire’s border. A textbook example of a late Roman fort, it is well known as a result of numerous excavations, despite there being very little to see. The preserved walls of the east gate are visible. Where possible, the outline of the fort is marked in the pavement. In 1002 AD Deutz Abbey was built on the remains, and much later a Prussian fortification incorporated the NW Roman tower. The western half was destroyed during the construction of a 19th century river embankment.

Heinzelmännchenbrunnen - Pixie's Fountain

Just off the main square in the centre of Cologne is the Heinzelmännchenbrunnen; a fountain based on a local myth about pixies. Legend has it that during the night pixies would do artisans’ work for them. Until they were discovered by a tailor’s wife. The fountain is a tribute to August Kopisch, who in 1836 immortalised the legend in a poem called ‘Die Heinzelmännchen zu Köln’. Conservation of the fountain is sponsored by the adjacent Früh Brewery – a great place to enjoy a kölsch and traditional, local dishes while sightseeing.

Kolumba Museum, Cologne

Kolumba Museum is one of the oldest museums in Cologne, a collection of religious art from Late Antiquity to the 21st century. Highlights of this collection, including a Romanesque style crucifix and a 4th century glass cage cup, are on permanent display. As spectacular as the collection is, the museum itself is worth a visit. The celebrated Swiss architect Peter Zumthor has designed a strikingly simple building around the ruins of an ornate Gothic church that was severely damaged during the second World War.

NS Documentation Center - EL-DE Haus

From 1935 to 1945 EL-DE Haus was the headquarters of the Secret State Police for the administrative district of Cologne. It was from here that the Nazis orchestrated their reign of terror on the city. A permanent exhibition outlines the history of Cologne during the National Socialist era. In the cellar is the ‘Gestapo Prison’; with more than 1,800 wall inscriptions that bear witness to persecution, torture and murder, this is one of the best preserved detention sites of the Nazi era. The NS Documentation centre is Germany’s largest regional memorial site for the victims of Nazism.

Map of Points of Interest in Cologne

Cologne Points of Interest