The 10 things to do in Cologne, other than the Christmas markets

In Christmas, Europe, Germany, Mini Breaks, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, Unesco, World Travel by Gary2 Comments

What else should you look at to squeeze in.

People entering through an advent arch into the Meimat der Heinzel market as snow falls in an already wintery scene.

Entrance to the Home of the Elves

So let's assume you plan to go to the Christmas Markets, and you feel like a break from the endless Glühwein & wurst fest (Oh there is so much more!)

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The Cathedral or Dom

A truly impressive structure, and the backdrop for one of the major markets of Cologne.

It was added to the Unesco World Heritage list in 1996 and is free to visit.

A view of Cologne cathedral in the evening from the east after just crossing the Hohenzollernbrücke bridge.  The cathedral is beautifully floodlit and looks stunning against the dark sky.

The Dom

The iconic view is to cross the Hohenzollernbrücke after dark and capture the illuminated Dom & bridge from the other side of the mighty Rhine.

The iconic evening view of the Dom and Hohenzollernbrücke.  The cathedral is lit by white lights and the arched iron railway bridge is lit by orange lights With the River Rhine flowing underneath.

The Dom and Hohenzollernbrücke

Eau de Cologne

We all know I'm not talking about the water.

The 'original' can be found at the Fragrance Museum - Obenmarspforten 21, or a name that became synonymous with the term, 4711.

An elegant classical corner store where in 1709 Johann Maria Farina developed the first Eau de Cologne. The building is now home to the Fragrance Museum.  One of those things to do other than the Christmas markets.

The original Eau de Cologne

There are various outlets, but home to the 4711 fragrance museum is the Dufthaus at Glockengasse 4

The number 4711 logo in the archway to the 4711 fragrance museum.  Another must see, and smell, whilst in Cologne for Christmas

4711 -The smell of Cologne

Museum Ludwig

A shot of the silvery aluminium roof of Museum Ludwig with Cologne's cathedral in the background set against a deep blue sky.

Museum Ludwig

Fancy a bit of culture? The Museum Ludwig is only a stone's throw from the Dom Market and houses a unique collection of art including a selection of works by Pablo Picasso, American Pop art and an impressive photography collection.
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Foodie Gadget Heaven

The Kölner Kochhaus, or Cologne cook store, on the corner.  The windows are full of amazing cookware and inside is an Aladdin’s cave foodie gadgets.

Kölner Kochhaus

Okay, so those who know me know I love a gadget, and if it's a culinary toy then all the better. My favourite place for a 15 minute gander is the Kölner Kochhaus. A shop that will leave you wanting something…

Peek & Cloppenburg

The old glass egg shaped Department store of Peek & Cloppenburg under dark grey winter sky. The scene is lit with a golden light coming from inside the store.  It's one of the main Department stores in Cologne.

Peek & Cloppenburg

Yep you heard me right! If you're not German you may wonder what I'm going on about. More shopping! And from a guy!

To be honest the Peek & Cloppenburg building is striking, and wandering around for a Brit is eye opening, it's the little differences in style that become apparent. It's always good to have a little look as you wander up Schildergasse which will take you straight to the Angel market at Neumarkt.

I suppose I should also mention Galeria Kaufhof too without jumping to number 6, with its wonderfully impressive window displays - The best are the animated Stieff collection, although they not in place every year.

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Why not?

Start creating your own Christmas Market adventure and discover the culinary delights for yourself, easyJet & British Airways are just a couple of options.

Discover more of Germany on a road trip like us, SIXT car hire cover all budgets and allow you to pick up and drop off at different destinations.

The Chocolate Museum

The entrance to the Chocolate Museum next to Cologne's Christmas Harbour market.

The Chocolate Museum

What can I say CHOCOLATE - Mmmmm. The Chocolate Museum in the Rheinau harbour, and right next to the Harbour Market. Certainly worth a visit, and if it's your birthday you get to go for free.

Want to make more of you stay in Cologne?

If Cologne is the city for you, and you fancy some further reading to ensure you don't miss a thing, grab your travel guide and start planning.

For the adventurer

Okay, more shopping, but this is a must - especially if Cologne has turned out colder than you expected, or those comfortable shoes are not as comfortable as expected - but that is not the main reason.

The Globetrotter store Richmodstraße 10 - This store has an amazing selection of 'Outdoor' equipment, plus an overwhelming array of the 'Cologne Camouflage' - Jack Wolfskin. If you want to wander around the German markets looking like a local, Jack's ya man. Granted I could have bought my jacket cheaper on-line at home, but would I have had the chance to try the different options on?

However the real reason is when you look up you'll see a forest canopy, and when you look down there'll be somebody testing their scuba gear - yes, there's a pool at the bottom.

We once watched a guy 'test drive' a kayak - how many stores can you do that in?

A wide-angle portrait shot of the central atrium inside of the Globetrotter store.  The view extends from the daisy covered blue sky through 4 stories down to the pool at the bottom of the store.

Inside the Globetrotter store

Discover the old town

That beautiful tower behind the elf market is the Rathaus.

It always makes me snigger like a child that the German for townhall is Rat haus - with the politians being the 'rats' - We know they're not, but it still tickles my child-bone.

A portrait shot of the detailed gothic tower of Cologne’s Rathaus against a deep blue sky.

The Rathaus

The lanes that run down to the waterfront, such as Salzgasse & Lintgasse, plus those delightful little squares such as Ostermannplatz.

One of the quiet narrow cobbled lanes of the Old Town of Cologne at dusk, lit by lanterns hanging from ornate hooks. At the end of the line is the tower to one of Cologne’s many churches

The cobbled alleys of the old town

There's plenty to discover as you stroll between markets so make sure you vary your routes.

Two life-size brass statues of characters that represent the soul and character of the city of Cologne.

Tünnes and Schäl statues

Stroll the waterfront

A view across the River Rhine at night with Cologne cathedral dominating the skyline on the right in Saint Martin's church dominating the skyline on the left. Pleasure craft line the edge of the riverbanks are waiting to take passengers on on an evening tour

The views across the River Rhine

The Rhine is a working thoroughfare that gave Cologne it's life blood, it has changed shape over the years but gives a wonderful view of the other side of the city. Whichever bank you choose to meander along you'll see both the old & new Cologne.

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Visit a bar

Now, I am going to share with you a list of bars I enjoy - of course it's not a definitive list, and all our tastes vary, but these are my favourites in no particular order.

If you're tempted to find out a little bit more behind the unique flavour of Cologne's Kölsch, book yourself onto the Cologne Brewery Tour: Secrets of Kölsch. The 2 hour tour includes a visit to four breweries around the Old Town and of course a sample in each.

Täglich Brasserie - Okay I said no particular order, but this is in the top 3. It's the atmosphere, great staff - the ever smiling Jurgen, and full of people enjoying themselves.

Scene of Janis's infamous conga through the narrow bar.

People strolling past the Täglich Brasserie.  The narrow front of the shop hides the depth of the building, and its long bar.

Täglich Brasserie

Herings im Martinswinkel - The grumpy man and his wife.

It was actually Andrea, the wife, that referred to Amir as the grumpy man.

Amir is far from grumpy and the atmosphere in the busy little gastropub is great.

A visit to Cologne would not be the same without a visit to Herings.

The pretty pastel coloured town houses, now home to Herings im Martinswinkel, in front of the tower of St Martin's church.

Herings im Martinswinkel

Bierhaus en d`r Salzgass - Love this place, so many great memories - The businessman & the beer mat, the guys from the Luftwaffe & the German lady who worked as a nanny in her teens in the UK - all folks we've chatted too whilst sharing a table. It gets really busy so timing is everything.

Inside the Christmas decorated Bierhaus en d'r Salzgass, a traditional Kolsch pub with beer barrels on the bar.

Inside Bierhaus en d'r Salzgass

To see the Köbes strut around the bar with the Kölsch tray in one hand, eagle eyed, looking for patrons in need of refreshment. Then they pounce, plucking you empty 200ml glass, refreshing it with a full one, before adding a further pencil mark to you beermat, increasing your tally.

There's also a great array of regional food - if you don't fancy eating on the markets then fill your boots here.

Früh am Dom - You have a choice of the brauhaus, or a descend into the catacombs of the brauhauskeller this is an amazing place to dive into. Great food, and a lively atmosphere.

Expect it to be busy as it's a stones throw from the Dom market (Take my word, please don't throw stones 🙂 ) I

f you're joining us and staying at the Eden Hotel, owned by the Früh brewery, the lift takes you straight down to the lower levels. Oh dear…

The front of the Früh am Dom brewhouse in black and white with the red of the Früh logo the only colour in the image.

Früh am Dom

Papa Joe's Biersalon - this watering hole, with its tuba & accordion animatronic jukebox (yes, you read that right), is buzzing - it's location, just behind the Elves market, means that it's always busy.

Outside Papa Joe's Biersalon In the evening. The pub is decorated with twinkle lights and sign displaying they serve Gaffel Kölsch.

Outside Papa Joe's

So get ready to share a bench and sway in time with your favourite Bavarian oompah tune.

The bustling scene inside Papa Joe's Biersalon, a traditional star pub in the centre of Cologne.

Inside Papa Joe's

Haxenhaus - This bar/restaurant is a short distance from the mighty River Rhine, and it's power is demonstrated by the line on the bar that the 1995 flood waters rose too.

When the River Rhine is behaving itself this pork fest palace, specialising in pork knuckles & sausages, is full of people sharing benches and having a 'chompingly' good time.

Brightly decorated pub of Haxenhaus at night on the cobbled lanes close to the River Rhine.


Brauerei zur Malzmühle - Stroll up to the entrance to this establishment and it doesn't look traditionally welcoming but past the large rotating wooden door you enter a world of people munching down on a vast array of traditional German fare.

If you're just drinking head to the back and savour the fresh Mühlen Kölsch.

Have a beautiful art deco doorway and windows in a rather drag building leading to the Brauerei zur Malzmühle, another traditional pub in Cologne.

Brauerei zur Malzmühle

There's more

For the up to date list of all things Cologne & Christmas, check out Cologne Tourism

Obviously there is a lot more to Cologne than the Christmas markets, the Cologne Carnival is something I need to fit into our busy schedule one year - I have been avoiding it because I feel I may get hooked, as I have done with the Christmas Markets.

We truly do love Köln

Have You?

Enjoyed the Christmas Markets in Cologne? How many of the list have you done? Or is there anything on this list that takes your fancy?

Inspired to visit Cologne at Christmas?

And why wouldn't you. It's our favourite (Is it wrong to have favourites?)

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About the Author


Gary, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born and raised in London. An IT guy who likes to takes snaps. Along with Janis his partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, over a Sherry in Seville, they decided that enough was enough with suits. The decision was made to take their knowledge and experience to create a blog to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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  1. After reading blog after blog, I stumbled across yours to my delight! A colleague of mine and I, with our husbands in tow, will be traveling to Germany the week before Christmas so that I can meet my German counterpart from the main office in Herdorf. My colleague has been to Germany many times but this will be my first trip. I was having a difficult time narrowing down where we want to go until I read your blog. One of the IT guys from our GmbH office was in the states for two months so we got to know him quite well. He suggested Cologne but other people in our office gave different opinions. Your description of the places and your insights on the atmosphere make we want to see everything on your list. Any suggestions for where to stay/eat/visit in Frankfurt? We will be there the night we arrive and the day before we leave. Any ideas would be helpful! Thanks for your inspiring blog… I REALLY can’t wait to get there!!

    1. Author

      Hi Terry, firstly sorry for the delay in getting back to you – slight hiccup with the site yesterday.

      Anyway, soooo excited for you. Germany at Christmas is magical, and Cologne is our favourite. I’ll even wish for a little snow for you like we had in 2012!

      In Frankfurt we stayed in the Adina Apartment Hotel Frankfurt Neue Oper. A lovely place for us, because we had the car and it had convenient parking, but it was a 10-minute walk to the markets. As for eating, we had grazed on the markets (Cheese sausages or Käsekrainer, and apfelwein or (apple glühwein) are two things to try.) We also took the weight off our feet one night at Paulaner am Dom, but that’s more Bavarian. Did you check out our post on Frankfurt?

      For more suggestion, I’d check out our friends the Berkeley Square Barbarians, because they know Frankfrust so much better than us.

      Finally, I hope you have a really great time; there’s something special about Christmas in Germany

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