With more than 2,000 years of history, it is unsurprising that Cologne has a seemingly endless number of museums to explore. We need somewhere to showcase all those stories and artifacts! Ranging from modern art museums to a chocolate lover’s paradise, there is a wonderful museum for every traveler to enjoy in Cologne. We polled our local tour guides to create this list of Cologne’s best museums. 

Located across the city, Cologne’s best museums span all sorts of topics and themes. There is a massive collection of cultural and art objects to discover in Cologne’s best museums. If you are interested in visiting any of these museums with a knowledgeable guide, contact us today to set up a custom tour itinerary perfectly suited to your individual interests and client needs. We love crafting unique experiences!

A Tour Guide’s List of the Best Museums in Cologne

Cologne Chocolate Museum

Conveniently located along the Rhine River, the Lindt Chocolate Museum is THE museum to visit in Cologne. In fact, it receives more than half a million visitors per year, making it the most visited private museum in the state of North Rhineland Westphalia. If you are traveling with one of our river cruise partners, your ship might be docked directly in front of the Cologne Chocolate Museum! The interactive attractions lead visitors through thousands of years of cocoa history, including artifacts and images from the Aztec period to modern day. Also inside the museum is a 10 meter tall tropical greenhouse where you can see and feel how cocoa is grown in the real world. 

In the museum, you will learn the entire process of chocolate production from bean to bar. The visit culminates on the production floor, where you can see chocolate bars coming out of a conveyor belt. You can even sample chocolate bars for yourself! A perennial favorite of visitors is the chocolate fountain. A museum employee will dish you up a sample of Lindt’s incredible chocolate fresh from the fountain. Before you leave, make sure to walk up to the rooftop viewing platform for one of the best panoramic views of Cologne. It is very picturesque! 

Farina Fragrance Museum 

To learn about the history of perfume and eau de cologne production in Cologne, a visit to the Farina Fragrance Museum is essential. This quirky and offbeat museum is housed inside the original building where the Farina family began their perfume production back in 1709. Johann Maria Farina is the world’s oldest known perfume manufacturer, and the Farina’s family still operates the business today. Inside the museum, you will see perfume artifacts like glassware and promotional posters, as well as a lengthy section documenting plagiarism attempts made against the Farina brand. 

The museum can only be visited on a guided tour. There are several German and English language tours of the museum offered daily. Be prepared for an offbeat experience in which the passionate guides are dressed in clothing suited to the 18th century and regale you with stories of the brand’s long history. You will learn about famous clients of Farina, such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Princess Diana. At the end of the tour, you’ll receive a souvenir size of perfume to take home with you, or you can buy larger size perfume bottles in the attached gift shop. 

Ludwig Museum

The preeminent art museum in Cologne is the Ludwig Museum. Located just steps away from Cologne’s famous cathedral, this is an easy place to add on to any visit of Cologne. Named after Peter Ludwig, a millionaire chocolate magnate from the early 20th century, the museum was gifted 350 modern artworks from his private collection of more than 50,000 artworks. 

The museum is devoted to modern art, particularly from the Pop Art, Abstract, and Surrealism eras of the 1960s-1990s. With an astonishing collection of works from artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, the Ludwig is a must-visit in Cologne for any art lover. There is also a sizable Picasso wing, along with seasonal and rotating exhibitions throughout the year. 

EL-DE House / NS Documentation Center

For a darker experience of German history, take a visit to the EL-DE House (also called NS Documentation Center) on Appellhofplatz. Once the headquarters of Cologne’s branch of the secret Gestapo police from 1935 to 1945, this museum now serves as a memorial center for victims of the Nazi regime. It is the largest memorial of its kind in Cologne. The permanent exhibition in the EL-DE-Haus deals with the history of Cologne during the National Socialist Third Reich era. 

Most of the permanent exhibits in the museum are housed in the basement jail and detention center because this Gestapo Prison is one of the best preserved detention sites from the Nazi era. With more than 1,800 carvings on the prisoner cell walls, the building itself serves as a poignant cultural asset bearing witness to the persecution, torture and murder that occurred here. In 2009, the permanent exhibition was modernized with interactive media stations integrating visual media and in-depth materials to the visitor experience. You can expect an intense but important experience when you visit the EL-DE House. 


Not typically featured on a “best of Cologne” list, Kolumba is a hidden gem. Built by famed Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, Kolumba is a minimalist masterpiece housing the religious art collection of Cologne’s archdiocese. This is one of our favorite architectural sights in the city and we love showing off Kolumba to our visitors on our Alternative Cologne Tour or Belgian Quarter Tour. The building has three elements: the ruins of the original St Kolumba church, a chapel called Madonna in the Ruins, and a gallery & museum space housing the art collection.

You can visit all aspects of the building, making sure to notice the way the architecture uses light and shadow to show off the exhibits. As well as the building itself, the exhibitions are also fascinating. The Museum’s collection combines artifacts going back to the Roman period with contemporary artists. Everything is explained in a handbook (available in English). 

  • Address: Kolumbastraße 4
  • Hours: 12:00 -17:00 Wednesday – Monday 
  • Ticket Price: 8€
  • Website: https://www.kolumba.de/ 

Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum

Take an ethnographic and cultural tour of the world at the unique Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum. Ethnography is the scientific study of peoples and cultures with their customs, habits, and mutual differences. The museum’s primary collection contains over 3,500 artifacts from Wilhelm Joest, a 19th century ethnographer who traveled to Africa, Oceania and Asia during his studies. Focused heavily on storytelling and engaging the visitor, this museum leads you through elements of culture that can be found around the world such as weddings, music, funerals and celebrations. 

From a reconstructed Indonesian longhouse to Chinese wedding garments, there is a fascinating assortment of items at this museum. The Rautenstrauch-Joest museum is not exempt from ongoing societal conversations about colonial-era artifacts remaining in European museums and collections. In fact, the museum attempts to grapple with questions of ownership and preservation in the exhibits, giving the museum a very contemporary feel.   

Do you have questions or comments about Cologne’s best museums? Comment below!