Art of Touring Destination Management

Are you spending a few days in Cologne or the region? What might you expect to discover on a day trip from Cologne? We’ve put together of few of the best day trips from Cologne for you to discover.

Top Tip: So much of our region is accessible by public transport, particularly the train. If you are traveling as a group, it may work out cheaper to use a VRS 24StundenTicket for local/regional trains or SchönerTagTicket North Rhine-Westphalia for Intercity (IC) or Intercity Express (ICE) trains.

A run-down of the 5 best day trips from Cologne

1. Aachen

2. Bonn

3. Brühl

4. Düsseldorf

5. Königswinter & Drachenfels

Map of day trip excursions from Cologne

Here’s a summary of where the 5 best day trips of Cologne are located. Click each point for more details


1

Aachen

  • Aachen Cathedral viewed from across an empty square
  • Aachen Town hall looking at the roof with statues and a blue sky
  • Aachen City Hall in good weather
  • Aachen market place with fresh fruit for sale
  • 3 Aachner Printen cakes, two covered in chocolate on a white plate

Aachen is the jewel of the western edge of Germany.

Home to Germany’s very first UNESCO World Heritage site, the Carolingian Aachen cathedral, the city boasts everything you need for a perfect day trip from Cologne.

The city is best known as the location of a residence of Charlemagne (Charles the Great), The King of the Franks. Back in the Middle Ages, he was a powerful ruler, with territory covering much of Western Europe. His last 20 years were spent in the city in which time he transformed Aachen into an imperial metropolis.

Tours of the cathedral run through the day and are essential in order to scratch the surface of the beautiful building.

Around the cathedral you will find a plethora of intimate cafes, market places, bookshops, and delicious bakeries (with the keyword being “PRINTEN” – small, thin, delicious, chocolate-covered cakes!)

How to get there
  • From Cologne main station: frequent regional trains take 50-60 minutes, or faster, more expensive hourly express services take 30 minutes.
Not to be missed
  • A taste of the spiced, chocolate-covered classic: the Aachner Printen
  • A mulled wine at Aachen Christmas market

2

Bonn

Bonn is a small but perfectly formed city of 320,000 which packs in much more than you would expect in a city of this size.

In the city centre you will find an 18th Century palace, now the University of Bonn, and the house where the city’s most famous son was born: Ludwig van Beethoven. You’ll see images of him all over the city, and in 2020 the city designed a self-guided walking tour which is well worth your time.

The city hall is also a beautiful addition to the city, providing a stunning backdrop to a daily market which offers delicious local produce.

A little further out, you’ll find the “Museum Mile”, which cements Bonn’s reputation as major cultural centre. The beautiful rococo palace, Schloss Poppelsdorf, and its accompanying botanical gardens are also a must for any visitor.

How to get there
  • Many trains, both regional and express, leave Cologne Central Station each hour, taking 20-30 minutes to reach Bonn Central Station
Not to be missed
  • If you are lucky enough to time your visit for spring, make sure you visit the Altstadt (old town). Near Heerstraße and Breite Straße you can see the city’s incredible display of cherry blossom

3

Brühl & Augustusburg Palace

Augustusburg is one of the more famous sites located in the Cologne Region. It was once the palace of Prince Bishop Elector Clemens August of Bavaria. Today, it is one of the best examples of German Rococo architecture to be found anywhere, which is why it has UNESCO World Heritage Status.

Inside, visitors get to see incredibly ornate royal apartments together with furniture from the same period. Outside are some of the best French baroque formal gardens to be found in Germany.

And if that isn’t enough, you can take a wander through the woodland to reach another baroque jewel: the Falkenlust hunting lodge. This was the site of Clemens August’s lavish balls. He would also use the lodge to indulge in his most treasured past-time: hunting with falcons. Hunting scenes are depicted on hundreds of beautifully presented ceramic tiles.

How to get there
  • Brühl station is located right next to the palace gardens and is reached from Cologne main station in just 15 minutes
Not to be missed
  • A tour inside to see the incredible marble staircase at Augustusburg
  • Marveling at the intricate detail of the hand-painted tiles inside Falkenlust.

4

Düsseldorf

  • Vista over the Rhine with a floating restaurant and tower in the distance, a nice destination for a day trip from Cologne
  • Rhine tower in Düsseldorf viewed through branches of the trees
  • A blue bike chained to a fence next to the canal at Königsallee in Düsseldorf
  • Light coming through the trees over the canal on Königsallee in Düsseldorf
  • White wavy reflective Gehry buildings in Düsseldorf
  • Silver wavy reflective Gehry buildings in Düsseldorf 2
  • A nice place for a day trip from Cologne - towers on the Handelshafen in Düsseldorf
  • Half full Altbier glass in Düsseldorf

No list of the best day trips from Cologne would be complete without a mention of regional capital, Düsseldorf.

This stylish and sophisticated city offers much in the way of culture. For example, there are world renowned museums and galleries such as the Kunstsammlung NRW (K20 and K21).

The riverbank and old city also hold a lot of potential for the perfect day trip from Cologne. Highly recommended is at taste of the local brew, Altbier, in what locals call “the longest bar in the world” (really a collection of 250 bars which stretch through the old town).

And no trip to Düsseldorf is complete without a stroll down the “Königsallee”. This immaculate street offers one of the most luxurious retail offers anywhere in Germany.

With good local transport options readily available from the main station, you can easily reach Flingern for a more intimate neighborhood feel and fantastic cafes and restaurants. And why not take in some street art at Kiefernstrasse (click below for our full article)?

How to get there
  • Express (IC, ICE) and regional trains leave regularly from Cologne’s main station, taking 20 – 35 minutes
Not to be missed
  • A wander around the avant-garde architectural district in the Mediahafen with buildings by Frank Gehry
  • Enjoying the Rhenish joie de vivre of the Rhine Promenade with lots of places to eat and drink, offering endless views on the Rhine River

5

Königswinter & Drachenfels

A short train ride south from Cologne brings you to the picturesque wine village of Königswinter. From here you can reach Germany’s first ever nature reserve, the Siebengebirge Naturpark.

The most famous of all the sights has to be a hill known as Drachenfels (which translates as “Dragon Cliff”). Making your way up the hill by train or on foot, you will find the Drachenburg. The Bonn stockbroker Stephan von Sarter had the magnificent castle built at the end of the 19th century, and it makes a magnificent venue for events and exhibitions of all kinds.

Moving on, there are spectacular views of the Rhine valley and ruins of a much older fortress perched precariously on the hill’s summit. There’s also a modern cafe here, offering welcome refreshment.

How to get there
  • 40 minutes by regional rail to Königswinter, then either a hike or a trip on the “rack railway” up to the top of the hill
Not to be missed
  • An ascent and descent with the rack railway is a must of any trainspotter!
  • If you have a car, it is worth stopping at the Petersberg Hotel for more stunning views on your way back to Cologne