You’ve found yourself with just a couple of hours to spend in Cologne. Maybe you’re waiting for a train or you have a long enough layover you could leave the airport for a few hours. Whatever the case is with only 3 hours in Cologne you can get a good taste of the city.
This article assumes that you have 3 hours from the time you arrive at the main train station in Cologne, Köln Hauptbahnhof.
Your first stop should be Cologne Cathedral, it’s easily the biggest and best attraction in the city. If you aren’t careful you could end up spending your entire 3 hours here. While there is a treasury and you can climb the cathedral I wouldn’t recommend either of them if you want to see more of Cologne. A leisurely stroll through the cathedral will only take 30 minutes or so.
Love Lock Bridge
Behind the cathedral is the busiest railway bridge in Germany, Hohenzollern Bridge. What makes it a must-see isn’t the 1,200 trains that cross it every day, the real attraction is the love locks. Thousands of them line one side of the pedestrian path that crosses the bridge. If you’re worried about time, I wouldn’t bother walking very far out onto the bridge. Though if you have more than 3 hours in Cologne the best way to spend that extra time would be crossing the bridge and taking the elevator up the KolnTriangle. That’s the tall glass building with an observation deck. You won’t find a better view of Cologne.
Walk along the Rhine
When you’re finished with the bridge head down to the river on the same side as the cathedral. This is a popular spot for locals to hang out when the weather is good. All along this section of the river is Cologne’s Historic District, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Beirhaus am Rhein is a fantastic place to stop for a drink and something to eat. Or you can go into the historic district and go to Heumarkt, a large square where you can find Gilden im Zims, another great place to get some Kolsch. Why do I keep suggesting Kolsch? It’s the local beer and you’ll only ever find it in Cologne.
Once you’ve finished your drink it’s time to start heading back to the cathedral. This time instead of wandering along the river though take a walk through the historic district! Along the way, you’ll find lots of places you can stop and get a souvenir if that’s your sort of thing.
As you pass in front of the doors of the cathedral be sure to look around. Nearby you’ll be able to see what seems like a random stone arch that serves no purpose. This arch actually dates back to the Roman times. It’s very easy to miss standing so close to the amazing cathedral, but it’s well worth a glance as you pass.
If you still have some time to wait after all of this take a seat on the stairs between the train station and the cathedral. This is a great place to people watch.
Have more than 3 hours in Cologne and want to see more? Check out my guide to a cheap trip in Cologne.