Summer holidays in Cologne
It's a fine life on the Rhine
HomeAway travel expert
There are innumerable reasons to choose Cologne, Germany’s fourth largest city, as the charming backdrop for your summer holiday. Located in the west of Germany, the city is defined by the Rhine. The river, the third longest in Europe, runs from the Alps to Rotterdam. Yet, a walk through the expansive grassy parks that border the Rhine feels unique to the city, and the collection of bridges have become symbolic, connecting the ‘left’ and ‘right’ sides of Cologne, the curious description locals give to the areas divided by the stretch of water.
Discover the buildings and landmarks with have helped create Cologne’s striking cityscape, reflecting both its fascinating history and its regeneration: Cologne was bombed extensively in World War II and many of the city’s buildings were damaged or destroyed. Tackle the winding stairways of Cologne Cathedral or plan a diverse itinerary, visiting the phenomenal Museum Ludwig and Wallraf Richartz Museum, and beer tasting in one of the city’s dynamic bars. Sample the city’s unique beer, ‘Kolsch’, before discovering the city’s quarters, including the eccentric Belgian Quarter. It has chic eateries, coffee shops, and bars which circle St Michael's Church. Also not to be missed are Aachener Straase, a stretch of vibrant bars and clubs, and Ehrenfeld, an area almost overflowing with quirky shops.
Top five destinations for summer holidays in Cologne
West of the river and Elizabeth Treskow Platz
Local city dwellers affectionately describe the areas west and east of the Rhine as the ‘left’ and ‘right’ sides! Along the left of the river, stretches of grassland border the water and offer perfect picnic spots on summer afternoons, and ample opportunity for kite-flying and cycling. On the ‘right’ side, there are some of the city’s chic restaurants and bars as well as crepe-stalls and antique markets to explore. Trawl the different squares, such as Elisabeth Treskow Platz, and eateries which line the water. There is also an opportunity to board a cable car and take an unique trip across the river!
Explore the Rheinufer area from a different angle and begin East of the river. Cross the Hohenzollern bridge and marvel at the spectacle of ‘Love Locks’ fastened to the bridge which glint in the sunshine, before enjoying an evening of concert at the Cologne Philharmonic Hall. For exquisite German cuisine choose to dine at one of the superb restaurant overlooking the serene waters, before taking a midnight stroll along the river and stopping in one of the numerous riverside bars to sample the local beer, Kolsch, which is typically served in 0.21 glasses.
A summer break in Cologne is incomplete without tackling the Cathedral’s colossal climb. If you decide to rise to the challenge, conquer the tower’s 509 steps, and enjoy staggering panoramic views. The building’s incredible views of the city are one Cologne’s major tourist attractions, especially since the closure of Colonius Tower, an iconic telecommunications tower that offered breathtaking views of the cityscape. Discover the stunning architectural features and tombs inside the cathedral, before exploring nearby Museum Ludwig and the Romisch Germanisches Museum. Museum Ludwig holds some of the country’s most acclaimed art collections. Contemporary art installations and collections from artists such as Wolfgang Tillmans and Jenny Holzer alternate with critically acclaimed postmodernist works by artists including Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jackson Pollock. Trace the entangled history of Germanic and Roman civilisation in Romisch Germanisches, before dining in one of the eateries circling the Kolner Dom area.
Grungurtel Park and nearby Ehrenfeld
Take advantage of the bursts of sunshine and visit one of the city’s picturesque parks, such as Grungurtel. Being a university city, Cologne enjoys a vibrant art and cultural scene, and many of the city’s parks become platforms for musicians and street performers. Areas like Ehrenfeld reflect the city’s student demographic, as well as Cologne’s Turkish community. The combination of shops and restaurants, as well as theatres and galleries mark this area as an interesting alternative to the more touristic centre.
The Belgian Quarter
Cologne is home to a number of dynamic quarters with distinctive cultural scenes, beer gardens and historical landmakrs. Areas such as Luxemburger Straße and Kornerstraße are both picturesque and culturally stimulating, and areas like Rathenauplatz and Stadtgarten are renowned for their vibrant beer gardens and concert venues. The Beligan Quarter, or Belgisches Viertel, is examplar of Cologne's thriving cultural scene. The centre, Brusseler Platz, has a host of chic cafes and restaurants, independent shops, vintage fairs, and record stores. Lunch in one of the eateries scattered around St Michael's Church whilst watching live music, before exploring nearby Aachener Straße.