What are some Free Things to do in Cologne?

We’ve all been there on vacation; counting the cash we’ve spent throughout the day and wondering if we really needed to buy that vintage track suit we found that we’re totally gonna wear all the time.  Suddenly, there are moths flying out of you wallet and your looking for some cheap or free things to do in Cologne.  As usual, we’ve got you covered.

Here are some suggestions on how to pass your time in Cologne on a budget!

History and Stories

1. We’ll get our shameless promotion out of the way early: Join a Free Walking Tour with us!

If you know the concept, while what we do is not entirely free, you decide what our tour is worth to you.  Rather than have you pay a fixed price up front, in the end, you can donate what you have or can give.  With our tour, you’ll get a great idea of what to do in the city, you’ll tour the old town, visit a medieval gate and a whole lot more.  This is the best way to get a feel of the city for cheap and you can book one here!

free walk cologne walking tour
We have a good time!

2. Next, it wouldn’t be a trip to Köln if you didn’t Visit the Cologne Cathedral: The Kölner Dom is one of the most famous landmarks in Germany, its most visited tour attraction and, believe it or not, it’s free to visit!  Get to admire this marvel of Gothic architecture, explore its vast exterior and interior, and you can climb the tower for a great view of the city (although that costs a few euro…).  This is a must while in Cologne and worth your time for sure!

You should probably see the building that’s on every postcard from Cologne.

3. This one seems a little broad but Walk along the Rhine River: The Rhine River is the heart of the city that runs through Cologne and offers beautiful views of the city from a lot of different angels.  Explore the waterfront of the Old Town for beautiful views of the skyline and cross the famous bridges of Cologne.  Wander the modern-mixed-with-medieval-architecture of the Rheinauhafen.  Walk through the calm and beautiful Rhein Park.  Camp out with a kiosk beer or two and take in the sunset at the Rheinpromenade.  You can also take a boat tour of the Rhine River. There are a lot of companies and the prices vary, but you can often find a tour for around €10-15 per person.

It’s the big blue wet thing, you can’t miss it.

Nature and the Outdoors!

5. Visit the Botanical Garden: The Botanical Garden in Cologne is beautiful place and free to enter.  Right near the Zoo, you can explore the calm park with thousands of plants from around the world all without spending a dime.  Speaking of the Zoo…

6. While you’re in town, you should check out the parakeets!  While walking around the city is isn’t uncommon to hear a loud bird call and watch a patch of bright green streak across the sky.  Those are the Cologne Rose Ringed Parakeets.  These loud, colorful birds are rumored to have escaped the zoo or been released by local collector!  No matter how they got out, they are hear in the thousands now and they nest every night in hundreds right along the Rhein River in between the chocolate Museum and the Deutzer Brücke.

It’s best to catch them at sunset as it turns to dusk and the best views can be had from the bridge itself.  They are a favorite among locals, just don’t stand under the trees too long…

There are two birds you can see in this photo, how many can’t you see…

7. Relax in a park:  Cologne is known for it’s beautiful parks where you can relax, have a picnic, grab a kiosk beer or go for a walk. Some popular parks include

  • Stadtgarten, centered in the city and a surprisingly quiet place to escape.
  • Volksgarten, in the south and great for picnics with a beer garden next to its lake.
  • Hiroshima-Nagasaki Park, a popular hang out for the student crowd.
  • and the Poller Wiesen, our particular favorite, great for Sunsets and views of the Rhein and City.
Team of free walking tours
The Poller Wiesen is where we took this photo!


Art and Culture!

8. Visit on Museum Night! This one requires a bit of pre-planning on your end but Admission is reduced at most museums on the first Thursday of every month including at the Museum Ludwig, our most famous art museum where entrance is reduced to 7€.   Many are incredibly well priced even without the reduction Cologne has a lot of very interesting and beautiful museums.  Check out our favorites here!

9. Check out the street art: Cologne has a vibrant street art scene, and you can find murals and graffiti all around the city.  This is especially found around the Belgian Quarter and most prominently in Ehrenfeld. Take a walk around our famous student quarter and discover some hidden gems.  We recommend starting your journey here along the Ehrenfeld train tracks.  From there, you can explore the Veedel further.



10. Attend a free concert: Cologne has a vibrant music scene where you’ll often find free concerts and events in and around the city.  Keeping track of all of our events isn’t are strong suit.  We’ll leave that to the hard workers over at Rausgegangen.

11. If all else fails, Go for a beer at a local brauhaus or Grab a Kiosk beer: Cologne is known for its beer, the Kölsch and you can’t leave Cologne without trying one.  You can find a beer for around €2-3 in most spots.  Even cheaper is a kiosk beer which you can drink while walking around the city.  Those go for as little as less than 2€!

If you manage to do some of these things while you’re in town, it should keep you on a very small budget.  Cologne can be cheap if you do it right!

Written by Mike Clarke, Cologne Resident and Perpetually Broke

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