Stretching along the west bank of the Rhine River and presided over by the UNESCO-listed Cologne Cathedral, the Old Town (Altstadt) is both the navigational and historical heart of Cologne. With its colorful old buildings, beautiful Romanesque churches, and scenic riverside promenades, it’s an obvious starting point for any exploration of the city.
No Cologne sightseeing tour is complete without a visit to Old Town landmarks like the Cologne Cathedral, the Town Hall, and the Hohenzollern Bridge. Join a walking tour and learn more about the city’s history from your tour guide; admire the views on a cruise along the Rhine River; or explore independently on a hop-on hop-off bus tour.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Cologne’s main Visitor Information Center is located outside the cathedral in the Old Town.
- There are free Wi-Fi spots located around the Old Town.
- Most of the attractions in the Old Town are wheelchair accessible, but some of the narrow cobbled streets might be tricky to navigate.
How to Get There
Most of Cologne’s main attractions, hotels, and restaurants are located in or around the Old Town, so it’s impossible to miss the neighborhood. The main Köln Hauptbahnhof train station sits just north of the cathedral. From the cathedral, trams run to nearby sights such as the Rheinauhafen and the Chocolate Museum.
When to Get There
Whether you visit during the day as part of a city tour or after dark to drink or dine along the riverfront, Cologne’s historic center is lively at all hours. The busiest time to visit is during the peak summer months (July and August), when attractions like the cathedral can get busy; get an early start if you want to escape the crowds. Alternatively, Cologne is at its most atmospheric during the annual Carnival or over the winter holidays, when the Old Town hosts some of Germany’s best Christmas markets.
A walking tour of Cologne Old Town
Start your walking tour outside the magnificent Cologne Cathedral, then head to the riverfront to see the Hohenzollern Bridge and stroll along the waterfront. Stop to see Museum Ludwig and Great St. Martin’s Church, then head west to the Alter Market, where you can visit a traditional brauhaus (brew-pub) to sample a Kolsch beer. Continue to the Neumarkt, one of the main shopping centers, stopping along the way to see the Heinzelmännchen fountain and the Tünnes and Schäl statues, then visit the Farina Museum to learn more about Cologne’s perfume-making history.