Cologne is the perfect place to base yourself when exploring the Rhine Valley. From Cologne there are numerous day trips such as Drachenburg Castle, Eltz Castle or nearby cities like Düsseldorf or Mainz. Here, you’ll find our favorite day trips from Cologne that you’ll definitely love! All of these destinations can either be reached by car or by public transport.
Day Trips from Cologne – Overview
- Drachenburg Castle, 30 min. drive
- Bonn, 30 min. drive
- Düsseldorf, 45 min. drive
- Linz am Rhein, 45 min. drive
- Monschau, 60 min. drive
- Monreal, 60 min. drive
- Eltz Castle, 90 min. drive
- Mainz, 120 min. drive
- Geierlay suspension rope bridge, 120 min. drive
As you can see, I’ve ranked the destinations by distance, but you can also easily connect some of them! For example, Bonn, Drachenburg Castle, Linz am Rhein, Monreal and Eltz Castle are in the same direction, which means you could combine them all. However, since this should be quite stressful, I would combine Bonn and Drachenburg Castle and another day Linz am Rhein, Monreal and the famous Eltz Castle. If you want to spend more or less time in one of the locations, you can of course mix them as you like.
How we’d combine these destinations
DRACHENBURG CASTLE + LINZ AM RHEIN
MONREAL + ELTZ CASTLE + GEIERLAY BRIDGE
Monreal is a tiny town nearby the famous Eltz Castle and really easy and fast to explore. When we visited Monreal, we spent the morning in the town and then drove on to Eltz Castle. You might want to spend more time at the castle, snap some photos and maybe hike the panorama path. Afterwards, drive to the Geierlay suspension rope bridge to enjoy it without the crowds.
MAINZ + BACHARACH
We haven’t mentioned Bacharach in this list, because we wanted to give you a good mixture between these typical fairytale towns, castles, and urban cities. Nevertheless, Bacharach and Mainz can be done in one day as well. However, most people decide to either visit Mainz or Bacharach because you actually can spend more time there. But isn’t that always the case?
Unfortunately, Bonn can hardly be combined with another destination, unless you skip on Linz am Rhein and visit Bonn and Drachenburg Castle. However, it’s so easy to spend a whole day in Bonn since Bonn has some beautiful castles and – in spring – blooms in full pink with all its cherry blossoms.
Düsseldorf is a perfect day trip from Cologne although it can hardly be combined with another destination here. Nevertheless, you’ll be happy exploring Düsseldorf and Benrath Castle if you spend a whole day in the city.
Monschau is one of the prettiest towns in North Rhine-Westphalia and had to be on this list! It’s famous for its beautiful Christmas market and countless photo spots. We bet you’ve already seen numerous photos of Monschau on your Instagram feed.
Day Trips from Cologne: Short Guides
In the following, we’ll give you a very brief introduction into every destination we picked as a day trip. If you want to read more about a certain destination, you’ll always have the option to read the detailed guide.
1. Drachenburg Castle
The famous Drachenburg Castle in Königswinter was built within only two years and used to be a private villa that’s never been inhabited. Nowadays, the castle is a museum and open since 2009!
Did you know that you can also sleep in the castle? You have to stay at least two nights and it’s definitely not cheap, but it’s possible! However, in Gerrmany it’s actually pretty common that palaces and castles are inhabited. For example, the beautiful Eltz Castle is owned by a family that actually lives there.
Unfortunately, admission to the park isn’t free and will set you back around €7 for adults and €5 for children and students, but since the castle and the park is very well taken care of, it’s completely okay. Please remember that you still have to pay for any tours, if you’re interested in them.
Also, Drachenburg Castle is perfect for a photography day trip! We never leave the house without our camera and we loved Drachenburg Castle and the surrounding area.
Read more about Drachenburg Castle.
If you’re still planning your trip to Cologne and the surrounding area, why don’t you visit during spring when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom? Every year, between Mid-April and Mid-March, thousands of tourists come to Bonn to witness the special event.
Besides that, Bonn is pretty awesome too! Bonn is the birthplace of Ludwig van Beethoven and the former capital of Western Germany. Back in the days, Bonn used to be the political center of Germany and you can still see and feel this nowadays. Most people actually shuttle between Bonn and Berlin, because many government offices are still split between those to cities.
Read more about Bonn cherry blossom.
If you’re into cold blue tones and urban city style, Düsseldorf is the perfect day trip for you! The capital of North Rine-Westphalia is the absolute opposite to Cologne, but definitely worth spending some time at.
My favorite spots in Düsseldorf are very easy to find: it’s the famous Medienhafen that you may already know from various pictures and Benrath Castle which is a bit more outside of the city. Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful pink castle where you can spend some time walking through the pretty gardens, admiring the beauty of the castle and – of course – take some photos!
Another very beautiful spot is Mickeln Castle which is way smaller, but equally beautiful – in another way.
Also, if you’re in Düsseldorf, you shouldn’t miss out on Düsseldorf nightlife! The city center is known for its cute and unique bars where you can find high-end luxury bars next to casual bars with some of the best cocktails.
Read more about Düsseldorf.
4. Linz am Rhein
Situated in the Romantic Rhine Valley, Linz am Rhein is one of the most photogenic towns in North Rhine-Westphalia. As previously mentioned, it only takes around 15 minutes from Drachenburg Castle which makes it easy to combine these two day trips.
If you like half-timbered houses, you’ll love this beautiful small town in Rhineland-Palatinate.
Read more about Linz am Rhein.
Monschau is a small town near Aachen on the Belgian border. This tiny town is particularly famous for its Christmas market, which attracts many tourists every year. But Monschau is definitely worth a visit in other seasons too. If you love half-timbered houses and narrow streets, you will definitely like Monschau!
Read more about Monschau.
Compared to Monschau, Monreal is even smaller and almost tiny. It’s close to the Eltz Castle in the beautiful German Eifel. For your interest, Monreal holds the title of the most beautiful village in Germany – and totally deserves it. Monreal really has something magical.
Besides this, Monreal is perfect for taking photos or hiking. Nearby is one of the German panorama paths which are hiking paths with a particular beautiful view.
Read more about Monreal.
7. Eltz Castle
Eltz Castle is probably one of the most visited castles in Germany. Again and again thousands of photographers and influencers flock to the castle. However, most people forget that – in addition to the beautiful castle itself – the surrounding area also has a lot to offer! For example, the 12,6km long dream path where you can enjoy the Eltz panorama to its fullest.
Unfortunately, the Eltz Castle is also very hard to reach by public transport. So if you can, we’d recommend to go by car.
Read more about Eltz Castle.
Mainz was built by the Romans at the time and has over 2,000 years of history. Nowadays people visit Mainz mainly because of the Chagall windows and the Gutenberg Museum.
In our opinion, Mainz is also beautiful besides these sights and invites you to take a stroll along the Rhine River and daydream or enjoy one of the Rheinhessen wines and watch the sunset.
Read more about Mainz.
9. Geierlay Bridge
Our last recommendation is the Geierlay Bridge, which for some time was the longest pedestrian cable bridge in Germany. It was replaced by the Titan RT in the Harz, which is why it is known today only as the most beautiful suspension rope bridge.
Unfortunately, it is a bit difficult to reach the Geierlay Bridge, which is why it would be better to have your own car here.
Tip: It is best to visit the Geierlay Bridge in the late evening just before the end to escape the crowds.
Read more about Geierlay Bridge.
We hope you enjoyed these day trips from Cologne! Here are some more posts you might like:
- Instagram Spots in Germany
- 14-day Germany itinerary
- Cologne Itinerary
- 11 reasons why you should visit Cologne