It’s without doubt that Cologne is one of the most popular cities in Germany. With its authentic vibe, rich history and modern architecture, there’s something for everybody. But what if you only want to spend a single day in Cologne? Find out why a day trip to Cologne makes perfectly sense and how to make the most out of 24 hours in Cologne in this 1-day Cologne Itinerary for first timer’s.
A Local’s 1-Day Cologne Itinerary
If you don’t know us already: Hi, we’re Tabitha & Florian and we’re proud to say we get to live in one of Germany’s coolest cities! For sure, Berlin and Munich (and many other German cities) are beautiful as well, but today’s all about Cologne.
So, Cologne – or Köln in German – simply has everything you’d want from an European city: It has centuries-old history, impressive modern architecture, beautiful green parks, delicious food with riverfront dining, one of the best clubbing scenes in the whole country, and the list goes on.
Cologne Guide for First Timer’s
While it’s the inspiring and beautiful Cologne Cathedral why most people visit Cologne, we promise you that there’s so much more to enjoy, discover and explore. We designed this itinerary for first timer’s in Cologne to help you with your travel plans, make sure you get the best to see and just be able to enjoy „our“ home.
We also know that you can easily spend a lot more time in this beautiful city, but just one day is also perfectly fine to get a glimpse of what Cologne is like and figure out if it’s worth visiting a weekend or whole week.
1 Day in Cologne | Overview
DAY 1 AM / History & Culture
DAY 1 PM / Best Views of Cologne
DAY 1 EVENING / Nightlife in Cologne
Why visit Cologne?
After publishing this article about 11 reasons to visit Cologne, we hope you’re already planning your visit to Köln. However, here are five our favorite reasons why you should visit Cologne:
- Visit the Cologne Cathedral, UNESCO World Heritage
- Enjoy your time with the local’s and drink some Kölsch beer
- Don’t miss the biggest Carnival in Germany
- Take some Instagram photos at Im Martinswinkel
- Try local cuisine and visit a brewery
When is the best time to visit Cologne?
Cologne is beautiful year round, but we’d recommend to visit during Carnival if you’re interested in that. Otherwise, you could also visit in winter and experience some beautiful Christmas markets.
If you don’t like both, then we’d recommend visiting Cologne in spring since it’s not too hot and you can enjoy your time in the city.
How to get to Cologne?
Basically, there are three ways to get to Cologne:
- Fly into international airport Cologne Bonn
- Travel by train
- Use a car to get to Cologne
All possibilities are equally good and depend on where you come from. Assuming you want to visit Cologne from another German city, traveling by train oftentimes is more comfortable and easier, but it’s also possible to take a flight into Cologne Bonn airport.
How to get around in Cologne?
From Cologne Bonn airport you can simply take a train to the main train station in Cologne which is right next to the famous Cologne Cathedral. From here on, you can easily walk.
AM / History & Culture
As already mentioned, we designed this itinerary to help you get the best out of your short time in Cologne. That way, we planned some history and culture in the morning, but first: grab breakfast!
Assuming that your journey starts at Köln Hauptbahnhof (the Cologne main train station), begin your day with breakfast at Merzenich Bäckerei. That’s one of the most traditional bakeries in Cologne and you’ll find them everywhere across the city. They have tons of pastries to choose from and if you’re a sweet tooth like us, try the Nougat Brezel.
Tip: Avoid the Merzenich Bakery behind the Cologne Cathedral. This one is always way too crowded. Instead, search for Minoritenstraße only a few meters away and you’ll be fine!
Whether you’re into history or not, you may already know that Cologne was one of the most heavily bombed cities during World War II in Germany. Unfortunately, the war absolutely flattened the city and damaged the Cologne Cathedral which – back then – was one of the highest structures in the world. Today, it still has the world’s largest church facade.
The building of the Cologne Cathedral started back in 1248, and was hit by 14 large aerial bombs causing severe damages. Luckily, the cathedral was reconstructed in the post-war years.
If you want to dive a little more into the history of Cologne’s most famous landmark, be sure to visit the Treasure Chamber on the left side of the main entrance. The Treasure Chamber houses a rich collection of church relicts dating from the Middle Ages. The best known is the Shrine of the Three Kings. Honestly, we’ve only visited the Treasure Chamber once and it was a day trip back in school, but if you’re super interested in things like this, give it a try.
Another popular thing to do: climbing the cathedral tower. After 509 steps, you can enjoy a magnificent panoramic view. Unfortunately, there are no elevators and hence, it’s not suitable for handicapped persons. On your way to the top you’ll pass eight bells – including the famous St. Peter’s Bell.
After seeing Cologne’s most famous landmark, make your way to the Old Town where you’ll find these colorful houses you’ve probably seen on Instagram over and over again.
Simply search for Im Martinswinkel in your maps app and it’ll guide you the way. From here on, you can also wander the narrow cobbled streets, enjoy lunch by the Rhine in one of the numerous breweries or drink coffee at one of the many outdoor cafés. If you’re visiting Köln in November or December, you’ll find a beautiful Christmas Market in this area and some others nearby.
Moreover, you shouldn’t miss on Great St. Martin Church which you can see rising over the little colorful houses along the Rhine River. It’s a beautiful Romanesque church whose construction began in 1150 and continued until 1250. Also, Great St. Martin Church was heavily damaged during World War II: the tower and nave were burnt to the ground. Luckily, the church was reconstructed in post-war years.
After enjoying some of Cologne’s Old Town, you basically have two options: Go shopping in Hohe Straße and Schildergasse, which is regarded as one of the best shopping areas in Germany. Or grab some typical German food in one of the many breweries you’ll find. We’d suggest to try the local beer called Kölsch. Actually, every brewery brews its own Kölsch and arguing which one tastes the best is a very popular activity in the city.
If you decide to go shopping on Schildergasse, dozens of shops for every budget and taste line the busy street. you’ll find fast-fashion giants and more upmarket designer brands along with picturesque cafés and places to grab some fries. Please be aware that all stores are closed on Sundays.
PM / Rhine Promenade & Best Views of Cologne
We really hope you enjoyed your visit to Cologne so far. We love to enjoy an afternoon walk along the Rhine the most. Hence, we couldn’t help but add it to the itinerary. From Cologne’s Old Town or the shopping area, walk towards the Cologne Cathedral again. From there on, go over to the Hohenzollern Bridge, the famous Cologne love lock bridge, and enjoy some incredible views of the cathedral itself.
Once you crossed the bridge, you’ll immediately see people sitting and drinking beer at the Rhine promenade. If you want to, you can join them, but we’d suggest you go further to Cologne Triangle.
Cologne Triangle is an observation deck open to the public and with it’s 103m height, it offers incredible panoramic views of the city. The entrance fee is around €3 and we’d say it’s one of the top things to do in Cologne.
Night / Enjoy Cologne’s Nightlife
After a long day in Cologne, you’re either in the mood to sleep or you might want to enjoy Cologne’s nightlife. Luckily, Cologne offers so many things to do in the evening. For example, you could have a drink on the Rhine promenade or visit the popular Bootshaus in Cologne-Deutz.
We know so many people who travel to Cologne only to party in Bootshaus. So, if you’re planning on visiting Cologne anyways, why not take advantage of that?
Here are some key facts: Bootshaus was voted best club in Germany in 2019 and eight best club in the world. Famous for its unique vibe, mood and regular top acts like David Guetta, Armin van Buuren, DJ Snake, Don Diablo, and many more.
We really hope you liked this Cologne Itinerary. Here are some other posts we think you’d enjoy:
- 11 reasons why you should visit Cologne
- Top Cologne day trips
- Germany 7-Day Itinerary
- Most instagrammable places in Germany
- A complete guide to Düsseldorf