A beautiful city built on ancient Roman ruins and surrounding the imposing Kolner Dom cathedral, Cologne has much to offer a family on a European vacation. Set on the Rhine River and with a population of just over one million, the city is relaxed and its cobblestone streets lead to diverse activities for families - like chocolate making, climbing to the top of the Kolner Dom or leaving a lock on the Love Lock Bridge.
Cologne is easy to navigate, with a public bus and train system and many city tour options - like the ubiquitous big red bus and the kids' favourite green mini train that takes a smaller city route, as well as walking, cycling and segway tours- but as usual your feet are your best bet for exploring and discovering the magic of Cologne.
One of the amazing things about Cologne is the limitation upon high-rise buildings in the city so it is very lowrise with views of the Kolner Dom from every angle. This also means when walking around the city you can always see huge clumps of sky and have a lovely feeling of openness and space.
The city was bombed extensively during World War II but much of its stunning architecture has been restored or salvaged and, along with a combination of historic and modern buildings and bridges, it is a truly charming city.
Here are our top things to do with kids in Cologne.
COLOGNE TRIANGLE PANORAMA:
For fabulous views across the Rhine to Cologne city and 360 degrees around, make sure to visit the Cologne Triangle Panorama. It’s a short stroll across the Hohenzollern Bridge from the city and a quick lift ride up to the top. From there the views are lovely, up and down the Rhine, over to the seven mountains and across to the Kolner Dom and city. It’s a great place to point out buildings and mountains to kids who will of course also enjoy the lift ride up 29 floors to the top. It costs 3 Euros and is open every day.
THE LOVE LOCK BRIDGE.
Hohenzollern Bridge is covered with thousands of padlocks inscribed with couples names who, once they have locked onto the bridge, throw the keys into the water of the lock which symbolises that their love will never be broken. Em was fascinated with this bridge and the locks and would have spent hours here looking at the different coloured locks, the shapes and engravings.
Just over the bridge is the Kolner Dom, the incredible Catholic Cathedral which commenced building in 1242 and was finally completed in 1880. There will always be scaffolding up on some part of the Cathedral as its sandstone structure needs regular upkeep but that doesn't take away from its majesty and the delicate detail in its cones and arches. Inside the Cathedral is simply huge with incredible glass windows, sculptured columns, paintings, alters and vestibules. Climb to the top for amazing views over the city, or sit on the surrounding steps and enjoy a coffee or ice-cream and watch the world go by.
A visit to the Treasury is a must to view some of the remaining treasures including and relics (ie/ the bones) of Saints. It is open Tuesday to Sunday and costs 3.50 Euros.
SUNSET ON THE STEPS OF THE RHINE
Wander down to the steps on the western side of the Rhine with wine and cheese and join families and friends to wait for sunset over the city. A must on warm summer nights as the vibe is fun and happy with music playing and people enjoying themselves as they wait for the sun to set over the city and the Kolner Dom.
Who has the sweet tooth in your fam? This is such a fun activity for all the family - a visit to the Lindt Chocolate Museum will se you learning all about chocolate, making chocolate and bringing your own chocolate home with you. Go for it - eat as much as you can! It’s just next to the Olympic Museum on the Rhine and costs 11.50 Euros for adults and 7.50 Euros for kids.T he Museum s open Tuesday to Sunday (and some Mondays) - check the website for more details. http://www.schokoladenmuseum.de/en/
We had a great time at the Olympic Museum, it’s a three story gallery of Olympic memorabilia and snapshots of history making Olympic events but the best part for kids is that they can try the equipment like gymnastic bars and vaults, cycles and running tracks, with soccer, tennis and basketball courts on the roof. You’ll be amazed at the outfits the athletes, particularly the women, had to compete in, and will learn a lot about Olympic history. And your kids will force you to make fools of yourselves trying to jump over things and perform Olympic feats!
The Kolner Seilbahn Cable Car offers breathtaking views over the city, up and down the Rhine and all the way to the Cologne Zoo. I’m not a big fan of zoos as we prefer to see animals in the wild so we didn't take this trip but the cable car alone would be a fabulous trip across the river and back for 7 Euros for adults and 4 Euros for kids for a return ticket.
MINI-GOLF AND NATURE FUN
We had a fun afternoon of mini golf at the Minigolf Rodenkirchen, about a 20 minute drive from Cologne city. It’s a nice little course, although a little crowded on the weekends, and you can buy beers and sit at little tables around the course. Watch out for eager beavers trying to push in to avoid long waits at other holes! You can also hire bikes here, walk along nature paths, hike and picnic.
This is an incredible must-see - an ancient underground Roman city and Jewish quarter discovered in the middle of Cologne and dating back to the days of the birth of Christ. The Governors residence has been unearthed with evidence of Roman plumbing system, ancient pottery and carvings and such an incredible history.
BAUHAUS, BREAD & BREAKFAST:
You have to visit a Bauhaus while in Cologne, there are may on the esplanade that runs along the Rhine and you can find them dotted all over the city, Enjoy your pork steak, schnitzel and potatoes while you sip the signature Kölsch style of beer. . The waiter will mark the number you’ve had on your coaster and add it all up at the end of your dinner. The food is so delicious and of course the beers are too. If you’re with German friends you will likely finish the meal with a shot of schnapps.
German breads are pretty special, they're fresh and thick and crispy and at breakfast eaten with meat and cheese and tomato, or maybe with butter and jam or eggs and ham. We had the best breakfasts ever with the Braukmanns in Cologne.
WALK WALK WALK
This city is made for walking - along the Rhine, over bridges, through cute little city streets, courtyards and plazas. Look out for the 12 churches within the city and enjoy the amazing medieval architecture. It’s really beautiful, friendly and since there’s no overdevelopment it feels so open and happy - you can always see the sky.
We really want to go back to Cologne, especially in February for the amazing Carnivale we’ve heard so much about. Have you been? Let me know what you loved. Evie