Cologne is the fourth largest city in Germany. And you can go to Cologne with kids just fine for a weekend. The city has enough sights to keep you entertained for at least two days with kids. Especially if you also enjoy shopping (as you can do that very well in this city). A fun time to visit Cologne with kids is the period before Christmas when there are the famous Christmas markets in the city. We list for you the best sights and activities in Cologne with kids.
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Cologne with kids: general information
The city is easily accessible from the Netherlands by car and train. By car, it takes 2 hours and 20 minutes to get to the city from Utrecht, and by train it takes 2 hours and 40 minutes from Utrecht central. Keep in mind that when you visit the city of Cologne by car that you need an environmental sticker. These can be ordered from the ANWB website and will be sent to you within 5 days. To do this, you need to enter the car’s registration number and report code (found on the registration certificate) and then the correct color will be selected.
Cologne with kids #1: Cologne Cathedral
Cologne Cathedral is one of Cologne’s most famous landmarks. The cathedral and cathedral tower are right in the center and you can also visit this cathedral inside for free. The cathedral is definitely worth a look with the beautiful stained glass in it.
What you do have to pay a small fee for is to visit the cathedral tower and to visit the treasury under the cathedral. We always enjoy climbing a tower and enjoying a beautiful view of a city. To get to the top of the cathedral tower, you have to climb more than 500 steps to the top.
Below the cathedral, you can also visit the cathedral’s treasury. Six different rooms on three floors hold various treasures of the cathedral. Despite having special items in the display cases, visiting the treasure room is not very family-friendly. We personally don’t think you are doing your kids any favors with this.
Cologne with kids #2: Cologne zoo
In one of the oldest zoos in Germany, you will find 10,000 animals divided into 750 animal species. The zoo features the most famous animals such as lions, elephants, monkeys and giraffes. The elephant enclosure is especially impressive, and the zoo has the largest herd of Indian elephants in Europe.
The zoo also has plenty of play areas for kids to climb and clamber around. You have two large playgrounds (at the zoo restaurant and at the elephant park) where kids can have fun.
The zoo’s website also lists feeding times for different animals. This is also highly recommended viewing. There are also several shows at the zoo. Of course, there are also plenty of dining options at the zoo. You will need at least half a day at this zoo with your family!
family-friendly museums in Cologne
You can also visit some great museums in Cologne with kids. We list the best ones for you.
#3 Adventure Museum Odysseum: This is the most family-friendly museum in Cologne. The museum looks a bit like the Nemo science museum in Amsterdam. In the mouse’s house, kids can try out all kinds of things in different themes. Kids here learn how certain machines like a coffee maker work. There is also a section in the museum related to nature and space. Here, kids can also do all kinds of experiments. In just under 20 minutes you can get to this museum by public transportation from downtown. Keep in mind that you have to walk a bit (about a kilometer). You can get there by car in just over 10 minutes, and you can park under the museum. You can easily spend half a day at the museum with your kids.
#4 Chocolate Museum: This museum is a bit different from most chocolate museums in different cities in Europe. At most museums it is mostly a big store where they sell chocolate and some history is told, but at this museum there is much more interaction. Kids can learn about the origin of chocolate, its history and how chocolate is produced here. Kids can see exactly how chocolate is made in the chocolate factory and, of course, they get to taste chocolate (at the factory quality control). It is also possible to make your own chocolate bar. Funny here is the tropical greenhouse where you have a real cocoa tree.
#5 Sports and Olympia museum: if your kids are absolutely crazy about sports then this museum is an option. The museum, which is dedicated to German sports, features Schumacher’s Formula One car upon entry. In addition, different sports are featured in different parts of the museum. For example, the museum has a boxing ring and, on the roof, two artificial turf fields overlooking the Rhine River. Although there is a lot to see in the museum, the museum could have had more (sports) activities for kids.
Exploring the city of Cologne with kids
#6 Walking: we always enjoy walking through a city and seeing what is happening on the streets. The old town is not super nice, but there are definitely some neighborhoods in Cologne that are worth visiting. While in Cologne with kids, it’s fun to check out the Hohenzollernbrücke, which connects the main train station to the Old Town. Thousands of clasps of couples in love hang from this old railroad bridge, and especially for kids, it’s fun to see all the different clasps. From Cologne Cathedral, you can walk here in four minutes.
A special district in Cologne to visit is the Ehrenfeld district. This is an industrial district that has been transformed into a hip urban area where the many factory buildings now house trendy restaurants, bars and clubs. You can tell that this neighborhood is the creative heart of the city by the street art that is prevalent throughout the district. By train, you can get to this district from the main train station in six minutes. In this neighborhood, you can also see street art on an organized tour.
Another district where there is also a lot of street art to admire is the neighborhood of Belgisches Viertel. In this cozy district with many stores, restaurants and art galleries, you can find a lot of street art especially in the streets Maastrichterstraße, Brüssler Platz and Brüsslerstraße.
#7 Tourist Train: If your kids can’t walk much yet, then the tourist train is an option to explore the city. You can take the little train on two different routes through Cologne with kids. The chocolate express runs every half hour past various attractions in the western part of the city. The zoo express passes a bit more by the sights in the eastern part of the city.
#8 Cable car: you can also see the city of Cologne from the air with kids. The cable car goes over the Rhine River and offers stunning views of the city. The cable car starts at the entrance to the Cologne Zoo and ends in the Rheinpark city park. The cable car is 930 meters long and takes 6 minutes.
#9 Hop on Hop off bus: if you only have a short time and want to see much of Cologne with kids then these buses are an option. The tour takes a total of 1.5 hours and you will pass the following stops in the city: Heumarkt, Altstadt, Triangeltower/Railway-Station Deutz, Lanxess Arena, Odysseum, Cologne Zoo, Eigelstein Ebertplatz, Mediapark, Friesenplatz, Stadtmuseum, Glockengasse, Cologne Cathedral, Rathaus, Neumarkt, Chlodwigplatz and the Chocolate Museum.
Cologne with kids: other attractions
#10 Aqualand Thermal World: This water park is a fun option if you are in town for several days or if you and your kids love water parks. The water park can be found in the north of the city about a 20-minute drive from downtown (public transportation 25 minutes). In addition to several slides, the water park also has a lazyriver and a children’s pool. At this water park there is also the possibility to have a drink with your kids in the pool, as there is a bar in the main pool. At the water park there is also a spa with several saunas.
#11 Stadspark Rheinpark: if you’re looking for a city park, where your kids can have a good time then this park is a good option. The park is 50 acres and is located on the Rhine River. The park has plenty of grassy areas for family picnics. There are also beautiful gardens here in the park with colorful flowers. The park is also where the cable car towards the Cologne Zoo starts. There is also, of course, a playground in the park and a little train running through the park.
#12 Bonus tip: Phantasialand amusement park: 25 minutes away by car from Cologne in the town of Brühl is this fun amusement park. It is one of the largest and most visited amusement parks in Europe. The park is divided into six different themes: Berlin, Chinatown, Deep in Africa, Mexico, Fantasy and Mystery. Each theme has its own attractions and shows. For the smallest kids, most attractions can be found in the Fantasy and Berlin areas, and for the older kids you have very spectacular rides like the Flying Launch Coaster and Black Mamba. In the winter months, the entire amusement park is in winter atmosphere and a similar to the winter Efteling here in the Netherlands.
Where to sleep in Cologne with kids
Budget hotel: Art Rock Downtown hotel
Mid-range hotel: Hotel Burgerhof
Luxury hotel: Maritim Hotel Köln
To search for other hotels in Cologne with kids click here for the whole list of hotels.
Further information Cologne with kids
Cologne card: just like any major city, Cologne has a card, which allows unlimited public transportation and gives you many discounts on many of Cologne’s attractions. Take a look at what you want to visit in Cologne with kids and then calculate if the card is advantageous for your family.