Best Day Trips from Cologne
We lived in Cologne for one year. During our time in North Rhine-Westphalia, we explored everywhere we could in the surrounding region. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite day trips from Cologne. All of these destinations can be reached by public transit.
Best Cologne Day Trips:
- Linz am Rhein – if you love half-timbered houses & vista points
- Ahr Valley – if you love wine
- Brühl – if you love palaces
- Düsseldorf – if you love modern architecture
- Bonn – if you love history
- Schloss Drachenburg – if you love castles
Linz am Rhein
– If you love half-timbered houses & vista points –
Linz am Rhein is a small town in Rhineland-Palatinate, located about 55 km south of Cologne. The town is situated on the right bank of the River Rhine in the Romantic Rhine Valley. You can reach Linz in one hour from the Cologne Central Station via a Regional Express (RE) train.
Linz am Rhein’s historical old town (historische altstadt in German) is delightful, with its many colorful half-timbered houses, charming Marktplatz and Rathaus (town hall). We came to Linz in order to hike part of the RheinSteig, which is the 320 km trail that goes through the Siebengebirge, Lower Middle Rhine Valley, Upper Middle Rhine Valley, and Rheingau.
What to see and do in Linz am Rhein
- Option #1: Explore Linz in the morning. Hike Stage 19 of the Rheinsteig Long Distance Trail to Bad Honnef. The hike takes 6-7 hours. End your day with dinner in Bad Honnef and take the regional train back to Cologne. Learn more about this hike: Rheinsteig Stage 19.
- Option #2: Arrive in Linz. Take a short hike to Burg Ockenfels (25 minutes) to enjoy the view of the Rhine River. Return to Linz for lunch.
– If you love wine –
The Ahr Valley (in German: Ahrtal) is a wine region in Rhineland Palatinate known internationally for its spätburgunder (pinot noir) wine. It’s also Germany’s largest red wine growing region. The narrow Ahr Valley is characterized by a deep gorge framed by steep terraced vineyards. Red grapes are able to grow and ripen here, because of the warm microclimate created by the volcanic slate cliffs and soil.
The best way to explore the region is by hiking the Rotweinwanderweg, the Red Wine Trail. The trail is easy, mostly flat, and clearly signed with a red grape motif. As you weave through vineyards, you’ll see castle ruins, a magnificent monastery, churches and quaint winemaking villages. Whenever you’re ready for a break and more wine, simply walk down to the next town. Red wines to drink: Spätburgunder, Portugieser, Dornfelder, and Frühburgunder.
We recommend starting the hike in the town of Altenahr. You can reach Altenahr in 1 hour and 45 minutes from Cologne via public transit.
Next Read: Ahr Valley Travel Guide
– If you love palaces –
Brühl is a town in the Rhineland located about 17 km southwest from Cologne. The main reason to come to Brühl is to visit the Augustusburg and Falkenlust Palaces, both of which are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Augustusburg is a beautiful and ostentatious 18th century Rococo palace. You can only visit the interior via a guided tour. After the tour, enjoy the palace gardens and take a 25 minute walk to the hunting lodge Falkenlust. Falkenlust can be toured at your own pace with an audio guide (available in 12 different languages). For more info on the palaces and visiting hours, check out the Schösser Brühl website.
After visiting the palaces, head to Brühler Wirsthaus. This rustic yet modern tavern is located directly next to the Brühl train station. Address: Max-Ernst-Allee 2, 50321 Brühl
Essential Reading: Cologne Travel Guide
– If you love modern architecture –
Düsseldorf is the capital city of North Rhine-Westphalia. It’s located on the Rhine River about 45 kilometers north of Cologne. From the Cologne Central Station, it only takes 30 minutes via train to reach Düsseldorf.
We recommend walking around the MedienHafen to see the architecture of Frank O. Genry (Neuer Zollhof, 1998), William Alsop (Colorium, 2001), and Claude Vasconi (Grand Bateau, 1998). The modern architects were given creative license to construct buildings for future tenant usage. The result is a remarkable skyline of organic shapes, colorful facades, and unpredictable structures.
What to see and do in Düsseldorf
- Grab a pastry at Manufactum. If you’re walking from the main train station to the city center, you’ll likely walk by this gorgeous shop, selling premium home products. Housed in this store is a bakery that has delicious Franzbrötchens & Croissants. Address: Steinstraße 4, 40212.
- Drink Altbier in Düsseldorf’s Altstadt (old town). The old town is dressed in cobblestone streets, chocolate and mustard boutiques and over 300 bars and clubs. The Altstadt has been nicknamed “the longest bar in the world,” making it prime pub-crawl territory.
- Explore Carlsplatz Markt. There is a permanent market (open everyday but Sunday) at Carlsplatz, selling fresh fish, spices, fresh juice, flowers and fruits & vegetables.
- Eat at Dreas & Dendas. This small lunch eatery in the Unterbilkneighborhood offers a unique menu of 2 to 3 items Monday through Friday. Address: Neusser Strasse 129.
- Ackerstrasse in the Flingern Quarter. The Flingern neighborhood is home to beautifully curated shops containing fresh designs and tempting house items.
– If you love history –
Bonn is a delightful city on the Rhine River about 30 kilometers south of Cologne. We enjoyed coming to Bonn via train and bike (long ride but doable) to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and baroque architecture. As a Roman settlement, the former capital of West Germany and the birthplace of Ludwig van Beethoven, Bonn has a lot to be proud of.
What to do and see in Bonn
- Take a relaxing walk in the Botanical Gardens of Poppelsdorf Palace. Entree is free. Address: Meckenheimer Allee 171, 53115 Bonn.
- Visit the 18th century Beethoven-Haus Museum. Address: Bonngasse 20, 53111 Bonn.
- Eat at Brauhaus Bönnsch. Their beer is delicious and they make a Käsespätzlepfännchen to die for. Address: Sterntorbrücke 4, 53111 Bonn.
Don’t Miss: Germany Travel Guide
– If you love castles –
Schloss Drachenburg is an enchanting villa, situated above the town Königswinter in the Siebengebirge. You can spend the day hiking to and around Drachenburg. The Schloss has a long history of changing ownership and restoration, which you can learn about on a guided tour. When we visited, guided tours were only conducted in German.
Visiting Schloss Drachenburg
- The fastest way to reach Schloss Drachenburg is by taking a regional express train (RE) or regional train (RB) from Köln Hbf to Königswinter Bahnhof. The train ride takes 40 minutes.
- When you reach the Königswinter Bahnhof, follow the Eselsweg pathway to the castle. On route, you’ll pass the restaurant Felder’s am WInzerhäuschen where you can grab a bite to eat and drink. The walk takes 30 minutes to the castle.
- Schloss Drachenburg is open from March through November. In December, the Schloss is only open on the weekends. Opening Hours.
- After visiting the castle, you can continue walking to the old castle ruins of Burgruine Drachenfels. Near the ruins, there’s a viewing platform and restaurant with sweeping views of the Rhine River.
- If you have more time, you can do a 2 hour loop hike in Königswinter.
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