First Time in Cologne: Where to Go and What to Do

First: A walk through the centre

What is a better way to start your long- awaited trip than a slow stroll through the tourist crowds in the centre?  Well, I have a suggestion… How about passing by the Chocolate museum beforehand? It is definitely worth paying a visit. And for all the nonfans of chocolate, there is a treat for you too. Take a look around because just next to the Chocolate museum there is a beautiful view waiting to be seen. Time to take out your camera! Capture the river Rhine flowing steadily along your side, feel the wind blowing gently towards you, take a minute to enjoy. Now let’s move on. A city is not conquered before you visit its main shopping street. Fortunately, Cologne has a lot to offer on its shopping street and with that, I don’t mean brands, I mean atmosphere. If there is one thing that made me fall in love with Cologne, that would be its street musicians. On every corner- different culture. Authentic and simple. Food for the soul. And if you prefer sightseeing to listening to music, the shopping street is just the right place for your curious eyes. Follow the crowd and you will get to the majestic Cathedral of Saint Peter (Kölner Dom in German). Elevated on 157m above the ground, you can only gaze to the sky and be impressed. To feel even smaller, go inside. Check the stained glasses and the high arches above you.

Ideas for spicing up your trip

cologne cologne night

Hop on a boat

Why not? Take a random boat while walking along the Rhine river and sail away for a dreamy break from all the walking. And if you want some romance, wait for the night to come. Night lights bring out the most romantic side of every city. Combined with a river and a boat, you get the perfect date out. You can even leave the fancy dinner at a restaurant for some other time and eat a sandwich on the boat instead. And as though that may not sound so appealing, will it be memorable- for sure!

Animal lover? Go to the zoo!

The zoo on Cologne is only 10 minutes away from the centre if you take a tram. What is more, trams are a great way to see the neighbourhoods without all the fuss and the tourists. Get the city undressed- get away from the centre and see the actual busy life of Cologne.

Get lost…

This one is a must. Don’t always go with the crowds. After checking all the monuments on your list, turn off your GPS. Follow the tiny streets, enjoy their charm. Find the beauty in street art. Then look at the people. A city has no life without its people. You are part of Cologne’s charm for the weekend. Make it a weekend to remember!

Another free afternoon? Off to Bonn.

bonn bonn I always like to see at least two cities on a trip- a busy one and a tranquil one. Bonn is a great follow-up after a day in Cologne. But be ready for a swift change in the atmosphere because Bonn is a place to relax. Here are a few tips for an afternoon well spent:

Check the Marketplace and the Old Town Hall

If you fetch up in Bonn during the weekend, make sure you find the Marketplace where you can have a quick German snack on the way. The Old Town Hall with its beautiful rococo facade is located just next to the Marketplace. Take a walk around it and you will also see the University of Bonn which looks more like a historical monument than a student residence.

The Rhine again!

I know I already bragged about the river but you really have to see it again from a different point of view. And if you are a photo maniac just like me, it may be time for another photo session cause the Rhine is just the perfect background from any angle.

Beethoven’s House of Birth

And if you are in the mood for some cultural enrichment, then definitely visit the Beethoven’s museum. It’s a small house in the centre full of old portraits, musical instruments and good atmosphere. You can also buy a souvenir from the shop on the first floor and listen to a short musical show before going out.

Back in Cologne. What about food?

Okay, time for the essentials. Food! Fortunately, I’m am just the right person to ask for advice. So here are my top three suggestions:


So in Cologne, I visited Vapiano for the first time and it is officially my favourite place to eat. It might be tough to choose what to have but I guarantee you won’t regret whatever the choice. You get the food cooked in front of you for just a few minutes. I have to say I am also impressed by the design as it is super cosy. The best part is when you finally sit after all the sightseeing and you can enjoy your meal. My advice: don’t hurry.


My first time in Hardrock! So I thought it may be a little overrated but nope. I loved it. The atmosphere is very unique, the staff is always friendly and the food is just as good. You can also buy something from the merchandise shop in every restaurant. Don’t hesitate if you haven’t been there yet.

A wurst on the way

You haven’t been to Germany if you haven’t tried their famous wurst. I liked it and I don’t even like meat that much. So all you meat lovers out there, definitely try this. You can get a wurst on the street, in a pub or in a restaurant. And if you happen not to like it- pizza is always a good idea. And the best thing about it is that there is always a pizza place somewhere close to you.

Have power for a night out?

Nightlife in Cologne is definitely not to miss. If you feel like it, go to any bar for a cocktail or visit a shisha bar if you want something different. The city has some great dancers as well. You might want to check them out at the dance club. In some places, you get a card at the entrance which serves you like a credit card while ordering drink after drink and then they make you pay on your way out when you are the most generous because of the alcohol. Smart! But you also have a 50 euro limit so that you don’t get bankrupt before you know it. But that was just one club, if you like paying on the spot, just ask Google what’s the best place for you. Then join the party and have fun!

Final tip:

Don’t overdo the planning. Sometimes it’s better to go with the flow. But make sure your trip is worth to remember. So say yes to all opportunities and go out to explore!

Liliya Dimitrova

a travelling dancer and a dancing legal advisor.