How To Spend Two Days in Cologne, Germany’s Fun Loving City

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Cologne is Germany’s bohemian, good time city, with a striking spire and the world’s most famous perfume.  Here’s how to spend two days in Cologne, with a local itinerary.

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How To Spend Two Days in Cologne

Cologne is the fourth largest city in Germany but compared to Munich, Berlin and Hamburg it gets considerably fewer visitors. Which is a great shame.

As the largest city on the Rhine river and the home of the Karneval, with 2 days in Cologne you can have plenty of German-flavoured fun.

So, please find these tips from Cologne locals to make the best of any weekend in Cologne.

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48 Hours in Cologne Itinerary

Day One in Cologne

On the first day, you’ll stay more or less in Cologne city centre, around the Old Town.

Most of the Old Town and the area around Cologne’s landmark Dom was destroyed during World War Two.  But today, you wouldn’t be able to tell, as much of it was painstakingly rebuilt. That’s the thing about Cologne: it’s always looking to the future as well as the past. 

Breakfast in Cologne

Fuel up at Bäckerei Zimmerman with one of its 50 or so amazing German breads, especially the amazing “schwarzbrot”, or black bread. Then head over to Espresso Perfetto for a quick pick-me-up before starting your adventure.

Top of Cologne Cathedral on a cloudy day - two days in Cologne, Germany

The Kölner Dom

Let’s begin at the Dom, Cologne’s indomitable cathedral. This UNESCO World Heritage monument is a highlight of the city but locals also know a trick or two.

Look out for the Fenster stained glass window, designed by a random number generator.

Skull and Crossbones

While you’re in the area, don’t miss the morbidly fascinating Golden Chamber at St. Ursula.

“Its four walls are covered in bones,” says local Marcel. “Arranged in design patterns or Latin words, you’ll also find shrines and altars covered with bones and skulls, most of them in elaborate silver or gold relic holders.”

Gestapo HQ

Since we’re on the topic of gruesome history, you won’t have to walk far to get to the EL-DE-Haus. Used as a prison and execution centre by the Gestapo, today the building hosts Cologne’s Nazi documentation centre and temporary exhibitions about the 3rd Reich.

“A sobering place, but one that remains immensely important these days”, adds Marcel.

Germany - Cologne - Crane Homes Skyline for Two days in Cologne 48 hour weekend itinerary
An utterly unique skyline

Take in the Cologne skyline

One might think that the Dom’s spires would provide the best sky view, but of course, that misses the cathedral itself.

Stephan recommends you cross the river and climb up KölnTriangle. This way, you can get the best views over the cathedral, the river, the promenade, the train station and the bridge you just crossed – all in one neat frame.

In the distance, towards the south, you’ll see these peculiar commercial-residential buildings in Rheinauhafen that seem to perfectly embody this neighbourhood’s industrial past.

Germany Cologne Rathaus with herat shaped balloons overhead
Heart shaped balloons over the Cologne Rathaus

The Rhein Boulevard

Time to go back and explore what you just saw on foot by walking along the beautiful Rhein Boulevard — you may also come here around sundown to hear the cries of the thousands of ring-necked parakeets zipping along the river back to their nests.

Lunch in Cologne

Try Funkhaus, a meeting place for journalists working in the nearby WDR broadcasting studios with decor lifted straight from the ‘50s & ‘60s.

After lunch, continue on your Cologne itinerary with these inside tips.

The Shop with 50,000 Postcards

Pop by W. Königs Postkartenladen in the pedestrian zone of Neumarkt, a shop with an alleged 50,000 postcards.

Some cards may have been sitting there for decades, waiting just for you.

A Quick Craft Beer?

If you’re thirsty, you can try Craftbeer Corner Coeln.

At the city’s first proper taphouse and with over 15 (daily changing) craft beers from all over Germany and the world, you’ll be sure to find something that suits your taste.

Glass of kölsch on the banks of the river in Cologne, Germany

Kölsch: the Secret Liquid of Cologne

No weekend Cologne itinerary would be complete without the city’s signature drink.

First things first: Kölsch isn’t served like other beers. Instead, it arrives in 0.2L glasses with automatic refills unless or until you cap your glass with your coaster.

A word of warning: Kölsch is cheap, light and easy to drink, so it’s easy to have at least a couple more glasses than you were planning on…hic!


At Bei Oma Kleinmann ,it’s all about the schnitzels. It’s a restaurant with a long history but a modern concept – just choose your schnitzel (there’s vegetarian & vegan options, too), wash it down with plenty of Kölsch and you’re good.

Keep in mind that the “children’s portions” are what you’d normally get at any other restaurant, so don’t be overwhelmed.

A Night in Cologne

You can already just cross the street and land in Stiefel where you can get a couple more glasses of Kölsch.

Alternatively, go to the neighbourhood park and meeting point Rathenauplatz, where you can do as the locals do: stock up at the nearest corner shop and enjoy the vibes at the “best public meeting square in town.”

In this part of Germany, drinking in public is legal.

You can also grab a book from the public bookshelf while you’re at it. And if you’d rather sit inside, there’s also romantic, candle-lit Meister Gerhard am Rathenauplatz where you can have a glass of wine.

Day Two in Cologne

On the second of your two days in Cologne, we’ll move a further away from the centre. Get a day pass – you’ll be using public transport a lot!

  • Top Tip: the S-Bahn is the light rail and U-Bahn is the metro.

Breakfast in Cologne

Your Cologne itinerary continues at Cafe Buur, which serves all-day breakfast (well, from 9am to 6pm at least).

“Whatever kind of breakfast you can think of, they have it”, writes local Lea.

Most of it “is served in little pans and is decorated with lots of love. It’s one of the places where you see other people’s food and want to have all of it.”

Neon Kölsch

Just two blocks away you’ll see the iconic Reissdorf-Männchen, an animated neon advertisement for a brand of Kölsch that’s already more than half a century old.

Lake in Aachener Weiher in Cologne, Germany

Wild Geese and Open Spaces

Next stop: the Aachener Weiher, a park in the middle of the city with a pond with its own population of wild geese. There’s a small beer garden next to the pond where students gather, especially in the summer.

The Museum for East Asian Art

For an alternative taste of Cologne, visit the Schmitz in the MOK (the Museum for East Asian Art). Locals love to sit in the museum’s hall or on the terrace right next to the water, having a good cappuccino and soaking up the artsy urban atmosphere.

The Concrete Church

If you admire quirky buildings then walk a little further to reach the Johannes XXIII church, built in 1968.

Little Italy & Lunch

For a quick neighbourhood snack, you can try Pizza Pizza and enjoy a quick Italian-inspired meal in “Little Italy”.

Alternatively, snap up a quick snack at the kiosk Büdchen am Nikolausplatz, a central meeting point of the neighbourhood.

It’s open every day (except Mondays) and you can enjoy a pastry or beer in the park. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a small concert, lecture or art exhibition!

A Curious Hardware Shop

Since you’re in the area, you can also stroll by Eisenwaren Edmund Bosen, a hardware shop that has simply frozen in time since the owner passed away in 1998. Nothing has changed since then, and rumour has it that the current owners do open for friendly visitors. Brave enough to ring that bell?

City of Cologne lit up at night, two days in Cologne Germany

Bohemian Nightlife in Cologne

By now, your two days in Cologne are nearly over. Ready for more Kölsch or ready for a change?

 Wohngemeinschaft, close to Aachener Weiher, is an all-time classic bar in Cologne’s nightlife scene. It’s actually a hostel that’s made to look like a WG – a shared residence. It’s one of the city’s international community’s preferred hangouts, so you will find lots of travel-themed events. Also: where else are you going to find a whole VW hippie bus inside a bar?

Keep your appetite for Ehrenfeld, our final stop and one of Cologne’s most bohemian, alternative, oriental, Berlinesque neighbourhoods.

Gol recommends Kebapland for dinner – it’s on Ehrenfeld’s most central street, Venloerstrasse; follow your nose and you’ll find it! Don’t let the fact that it’s in a container keep you away; this is the alternative quarter, remember?

Bookmark Now – Two Days in Cologne Itinerary

Bittersweet History

Since you’re in the area, you can discover the story of the Edelweißpiraten, a loosely knit youth-group that had organised as part of the resistance against the Hitler Youth. Be warned that the story, although inspiring, does not have a happy ending, but there are lots of memorials about their story around the Ehrenfeld train station, even an annual music & culture, the Edelweißpiratenfestival.

Finishing Your Weekend in Cologne

So, are you ready to celebrate your final hours in Cologne with some music? Marcel recommends Sonic Ballroom or Live Music Hall (if there’s a band on) for some alternative fun.

Finally, if you’re in the city when it’s not the Karneval and would like to experience some of its famous spirit, try Flotte.

Germany - Cologne - House 4711 building for two days in Cologne Itinerary
Yes. Cologne is the place that gave us the name cologne. See house 4711 for the story…

More Than Two Days in Cologne?

If you have more time and you’re still wondering what to do in Cologne, then enjoy exploring the following suggestions:

  • Cologne City Hall, between Rathausplatz and Alter Markt, looks grand at first. But take a closer look at those statues to see some rather dubious behaviour going on…
  • Come back for the Christmas Markets! Famous across Germany, Cologne turns its passion for hospitality into a festive offering.
  • Visit the Chocolate Museum on the Rhine River. Yes, you get to taste some…
  • Take a bike tour along the river and see the Old Town, the Dom and the Hohenzollern Bridge from a different angle.
  • Museum Ludwig serves up contemporary art in a building worth a visit in its own right. 
  • Taste the original Eau de Cologne in 4711 – step back in time to the invention of cologne itself in this original shop. 

Where To Stay in Cologne?

Find the right place to stay from you from this choice of Cologne hotels. If you book through these links, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

  • Excelsior Hotel Ernst – classical five star luxury hotel in an excellent location near the train station and Old Town.
  • Qvest Hotel – Romantic hideaway in a 19th century building with clean, bright interiors and close to fashionable nightlife.
  • Hotel im Wassteturm – Luxury five star hotel in a bare brick water tower. Member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
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