The ancient and famous city of Cologne envelopes itself across the iconic River Rhine in Germany’s Westphalia region. Known for the stunning Cologne cathedral, one of the tallest in the world, and its numerous museums, Cologne is a hub of history, culture, and modernity. Perfectly placed in the center of the Rhineland, Cologne also acts as an ideal jumping-off point for many day trips in the region.
Whether you want to head eastwards to the rural landscapes of Germany or follow the course of the Rhine River north and south to the many towns and cities, Cologne has it all. Let’s look at the best day trips from Cologne and what each one offers.
Linz am Rhein
Around thirty miles south of Cologne is the charming riverside town of Linz am Rhein. Whether you make the hour’s drive or the similar timed train, once you enter the town, you will be quickly struck by Linz’s beauty. Boasting preserved paneled buildings and a cobbled old town, Linz is something straight off a picture postcard.
You can spend your time here simply walking around the small streets and town squares, taking in the small-town charm. The local church and weekly market are favorites of outside visitors and will give you the perfect impression of small-town German life. For those who love the great outdoors, Linz am Rhein is also on the Rheinsteig hiking trail – you can spend a few hours hiking this trail along the eastern banks of the River Rhine.
The Ahr Valley can be found slightly southwest of Cologne and is a breathtaking region of rolling vineyards, rivers, and foothills. The valley makes for a perfect day trip from Cologne – especially for those who want to escape from the hustle and bustle of the inner city. Known across the nation as Germany’s premier wine-producing region, the Ahr Valley is home to the famous spätburgunder (pinot noir) wine and can be seen in the numerous vineyards and small cottage industry winemakers.
The narrow, deep gorge of the Ahr Valley is perfect for grape growing, thanks to the microclimate made by the volcanic slate cliffs. A day trip from Cologne to the Ahr Valley is characterized by leisurely strolls through the countryside. Making your way from one small hamlet to the next with a glass of wine or two, an Ahr Valley day trip combines the best in exercise and indulgence.
Just north of Cologne is the capital of the North Rhine-Westphalia region, the city of Düsseldorf. Often seen as Cologne’s friendly cultural rival, Düsseldorf makes for an ideal day trip from Cologne, where you can see the similarities and differences between these two major German cities. Take a walk along the city’s iconic Königsallee, a beautifully illuminated street that is renowned for its high-end shopping, art galleries, and elegant restaurants.
Düsseldorf’s Old Town (Altstadt) is also not to be missed. As one of the best preserved old towns in western Germany, the historical charm tops many modern cities. The modernity of Düsseldorf can also be seen; with top forward-thinking restaurants, theaters, and night-time entertainment, you will not be short of things to do in the regional capital.
South of Cologne is another of the region’s major Rheinland cities, Bonn. As the former capital of West Germany and the birthplace of famous composer Ludwig van Beethoven, Bonn has long held a special place in the landscape of German culture and history. With the perfect balance of inner city life and open green spaces, there is much to do on a day trip here.
Spend some time wandering around the botanical gardens of the Poppelsdorf Palace, where you will be taken back down the years to Bonn’s place as a major German settlement. To learn more about one of Bonn’s most famous sons, don’t miss the chance to visit the Beethoven-Haus Museum, where the iconic composer was born.
Only eleven miles southwest of Cologne is the town of Brühl. Not only does Brühl make a great day trip destination because of its close proximity to the city, but for its world-renowned must-see sights. Arguably the most famous hotspots in Brühl are the Augustusburg and Falkenlust Palaces, which are both listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Constructed in the early to late 18th century, the Augustusburg and Falkenlust Palaces are some of the finest examples of Rococo or Late Baroque architecture anywhere in the world. It’s only possible to visit the palaces with a guided tour, yet this only adds to the immersive experience. Once you have taken the tour, you shouldn’t pass up the chance to take a short walk to the hunting lodge Falkenlust.
Slightly further south of Bonn is the Schloss Drachenburg or Drachenburg Castle as it is sometimes known. This privately owned villa was built in the style of a royal palace. Constructed in the late 19th century, Drachenburg Castle is one of the most iconic landmarks along the River Rhine and is a fantastic place to visit on a day trip from Cologne.
After wandering around the villa and its grounds, the rolling countryside that surrounds the villa and the river’s eastern banks are ideal for hiking and exploration. Home to a wooded sanctuary with a range of prominent hills and wildlife, the Siebengebirge nature reserve is one such place. With its history, alluring architecture, and beautiful nature, a day trip to Schloss Drachenburg is unmissable.
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