Things to do in Cologne

Itineraries for Your Trip to Cologne

Cologne locals share their perfect days.
Find your Cologne

3 Days in Cologne for First Timers

Curated by Jessica Colley ClarkeJessica Colley Clarke is a freelance writer and curious traveler based in New York City. Her stories have appeared in AFAR magazine, BBC Travel, The Daily Beast, and the New York Times, among other publications.

From boat trips to pub crawls, Cologne offers plenty of entertainment. Bike through different neighborhoods, sample craft beer, go museum-hopping, and more. Here’s how to make the most of three days in this German cultural hub on the Rhine River. 

Day 1

Find your bearings in Cologne with an introductory tour. For maximum flexibility and easy transportation, purchase a hop-on hop-off bus pass that stops at popular attractions such as the Cologne Cathedral and City Hall—or opt for a combo bus/boat package. Alternatively, hit the streets on a group or private walking tour through the historical Old Town. Later, check out some of Cologne’s excellent museums, such as the Farina Fragrance Museum, the Chocolate Museum, and the Odysseum science museum (perfect for kids). In the evening, savor views of the city on a sunset or dinner cruise along the Rhine. 

Day 2

Enjoy the fresh air and cover ground more quickly on the back of a bike. Following a local guide, marvel at landmarks such as the Hohenzollern Bridge while exploring different districts. Themed rides (e.g. a tour of the city’s best Christmas lights) are on offer seasonally. Then, get a taste of German beer culture while learning about Cologne’s history as you stroll among traditional pubs and sample a variety of microbrews. Or, go for a guided pub crawl that includes nightclub entry.

Day 3

Delve into your creative side with a photography-themed tour. Join a local photographer for tips on topics such as perspective and composition, as you wander around the city center snapping photos. Alternatively, venture beyond Cologne on a day trip—perhaps a sightseeing journey to Königswinter with views of castles, vineyards, and churches along the way. For more flexibility, buy a hop-on hop-off boat pass, getting off wherever you like along the Rhine—towns such as Linz, Koblenz, and Mainz make scenic stops. 

See more things to do in Cologne