Germany is in general a fantastic yet vastly underrated country, and even within that general air of unassuming charm Cologne often loses out on many backpacker itineraries to its more popular neighbour Berlin. But like many underdogs this fantastic German city has a lot of weight behind its punch and can hold its own with the best of destinations. In fact, Cologne is one of my favourite European cities!
However, whether you are coming here for a city break or as a longer tour of Germany, like many places in Europe Cologne can put a pretty hefty dent in your budget if you are not careful. Luckily, there is plenty to do that won’t set you back a single cent!
The Catheral – or Dom (for once I prefer the English word) – is one of the largest Catholic Cathedrals in Europe and certainly one of the most visually stunning. Dating back to the 13th Century, it has been preserved as a UNESCO world heritage site. It is well worth setting aside a couple of hours to explore the architecture and enjoy the art of the stained glass windows. If you are fit, you can also climb the 500 plus steps up the towers, it really isn’t as easy as it looks and can be a tight fit if you cross anyone coming the other direction, but the views that you get in reward are more than worth the effort.
Explore the old town with a tailor made walking tour.
Wandering around Colognes wonderfully preserved and restored streets really does evoke a wonderfully medieval atmosphere. There are numerous old Romanesque churches, a picturesque 12th Century city hall and the historic alter Markt, the atmospheric Rheinauhafen harbour and numerous other historical buildings. It really doesn’t matter what order your tour goes in, just take your time and soak in the atmosphere and the sights.
Stroll along the Rhine.
Taking a stroll along the Rhine promenade, especially on a warm summers evening, is the perfect way to end a day exploring this great city and one of the best ways to see the city. There are a number of free attractions along the west bank too, including the peaceful Rheinepark and a number of man made beaches. If you can time it right, walk over the Deutzer Bridge for fantastic views of the city skyline at sunset.
Flora and Botanical Garden.
Located along the Rhine, these magnificent gardens are a perfect escape for an hour or two. Explore the stunning manicured gardens and greenhouses and even have a little picnic.
Visit 4711 Cologne house.
For a little bit of quirky culture head to Cologne 4711, named after the designation given to the building when Napoleon occupied the city (yes, it has that much history) and is considered to be the birthplace of modern perfume! It is also the birthplace of the famous perfume Eau De Cologne 4711 (which was also named after the building) and you can even dip your hands in a fountain filled with the perfume itself!
I hope you are enjoying this ‘free things to do in …’ series and find it useful, if you have any specific requests then please let me know in the comments section below. If I have been there then I’ll add it to the list!