Cologne is not only the namesake of a perfume, but also a distinct type of beer. A tour of the Kölsch breweries is a fun way to mix up a weekend of traveling. The breweries are conveniently located near most tourist destinations. A glass or two of Kölsch in between museums and tours never hurt anyone.
Kölsch: The tastiest light beer you’ll ever drink.
Kölsch is light and delicious. It is a top-fermented, clear yellow beer with a crisp taste. Served in small 0.2 L glasses, each glass costs at most 1.80 €. Cologne has many Kölsch breweries, or in German, Brauhause. Don’t confuse Kölsch with Altbier, a beer brewed in nearby Düsseldorf. The two cities have a hefty rivalry and each side will view it as an insult to their regional brew.
When you are finished drinking, place your coaster on top of your glass. If you forget, you’ll have another glass of Kölsch in front of you as soon as you finish the one you’re drinking.
Früh am Dom and the Dom Cathedral
Früh sits directly across the street from the majestic Dom Cathedral. In the warmer months, you can sit outside and enjoy a view of the Dom while sipping Kölsch.
Früh am Dom Brauhaus
Früh is one of the largest brauhaus in Cologne. It is also always filled with tourists. Früh is featured in almost every guidebook for Cologne.
Despite the crowds, Früh is still worth a visit. It’s size makes it stand out compared to the other breweries. The restaurant area seems to go on forever. Here, like in most of the busy Kölsch breweries, you will be asked to stand at the bar unless you plan on ordering food.
The Dom Cathedral, also called the Cologne Cathedral is at the top of every sightseeing list. Tourists are constantly backing into one another as they try to fit it’s towering spires in a photo. In 1995, the UN named it an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The inside is just as impressive as the outside. Looking up, the lofty ceiling dwarfs the tourists in the Cathedral. The size is meant to remind patrons of how big God is in comparison to their own lives. The stain glass windows are filled with detail, you could easily stare at them for hours.
To tour the inside of the Dom is free, but if you want to make the trek to the top of the tower, it’s 4 € for adults and 2 € for children. If you are willing the climb 533 steps to the top, you will be rewarded with a panoramic view of Cologne and the Rhine.
Peter’s Brauhaus and the Cologne Chocolate Museum
Unfortunately not nearly as close to one another as Früh and the Dom, you can stop by Peter’s as you make your way to the Chocolate Museum. Both are Cologne highlights that shouldn’t be missed.
If you are only going to eat at one brewery, eat here. The food is delicious and they have a good selection of regional foods. Try ‘Himmel und Ääd’ (Heaven and Earth) for authentic Kölsch food. The Kölsch beer they serve here is one of the best as well.
In comparison to Früh, Peter’s is much more quaint. The restaurant feels much older and authentic. It’s very easy to enjoy a few rounds of Kölsch while taking in the decor. If you forget how much you’ve had, just check you coaster. The waiter will put tally marks on it to keep track of how many drinks to charge you for.
Cologne Chocolate Museum
The Cologne Chocolate Museum or Schokoladenmuseum Köln, is a delicious place to spend an hour or two. Overlooking the Rhine River, you couldn’t find a more beautiful place to learn about chocolate.
Admission is 9 € for adults and 6.50 € for children. The museum takes you through the history of chocolate, from the early American culture’s through today. After learning about chocolate’s origins, you can watch chocolate be made in a miniature Lindt chocolate factory.
They save the best for last. At the end there is a giant chocolate fountain. Part of the tour includes a cookie that an employee holds under the fountain before offering it to each patron. After sampling their chocolate, you will definitely want to buy more on your way out at the gift shop.
Brauhaus Sion and the Cologne Zoo
From the Chocolate Museum, make your way back along the Rhine. There’s a nice walkway where you can watch the barges and tour boats make their way up and down the river. Turn left at Mühlengasse and then make your way back into the world of Kölsch. After you stop at Sion, you’ll want to make your way to the main train station,the Köln Hauptbahnhof, to catch the U-bahn to the Zoo.
Right as you walk in, you can see the tap where they pour Kölsch from a traditional wooden barrel. This is one of the smaller Kölsch breweries, but it is packed with character. Tucked into a side street, it’s not as popular with tourists. It’s a well kept secret, the Kölsch here is tasty.
Like many of the Kölsch breweries, it was destroyed in 1942 and had to be rebuilt. Since then they have promoted keeping the tradition of brewing top-fermenting Kölsch.
The Cologne Zoo, also known in German as the Kölner Zoo, is located 15 minutes away from the main tourist area by U-Bahn. A quick ride will bring you to one of the best zoo’s in Germany.
If you are a zoo-lover, plan to spend most of the day here. It’s regularly 19.50 € for adults and 9 € for children.
The zoo has all the animals you would expect to find, but what sets it apart is how happy they are. All of the animals look well-cared for and happy with their lot in life. The exhibits are well planned. You can watch monkeys play on ropes. The elephant’s live in family groups in a massive habitat.
Other Cologne Highlights
Cologne has even more to offer. Here is a short list of other must-sees in the city.
- 4711 House of Fragrances – Sample the original Eau de Cologne.
- Romanic-Germanic Museum – Learn about Cologne’s Roman and German history.
- Hohenzollern Bridge – Bridge over the Rhine covered in “Love Locks”
- Hohe Strasse– Pick up some souvenirs on Cologne’s main shopping street.
- KD Tours– Take a cruise down the Rhine River