Things to do in Cologne on a budget

Are you planning a trip to Cologne Germany? and would like some inspiration on where you should visit, tips, and advice! Or you may not have an idea on where you would like to travel to next! You have come to the right place! In this post, we provide you with inspiration on the Things to do in Cologne on a budget, tips and advice that we have learnt from this short trip.

The first thing that’ll catch your eye, as you fly into Cologne Airport, is the large gothic cathedral (Dom). Witnessing this from the air, is sure to get you all excited. You’ll be ready to jump off the plane and explore everything Cologne has to offer.

On our visit, we explored a variety of things in Cologne from the Gestapo museum, which taught us so much more about World War II in Cologne and Germany, to the incredible architecture at the Cathedral.  We take you on our journey to the best Things to do in Cologne on a budget.

When to visit

The first key element of visiting Cologne on a budget is when you travel.  

The cheapest time to visit Cologne and really save money is by visiting during the winter season. Prices will be at the lowest. However, the cold and unpredictable winter weather doesn’t make it the best time to travel.  

Lighting a candle in the cathedral in Cologne Germany
Lighting a candle in the Cathedral in Cologne Germany

If you don’t mind travelling during the cold winter months, then head to Cologne between November and February. 

Why not visit Cologne during the shoulder months of September to October and March to May, prices are still at the lowest, yet weather conditions will be improving. 

Bev & Shams exploring Cologne Germany

Of course, travelling during the summer months of June to August will be the best for weather, but prices will be the most expensive. If you are travelling on a budget, then you’ll want to avoid travelling during the summer. 

We would also recommend were possible, to travel outside of the school holidays. Prices skyrocket during School holidays. Travel when children are in school and you could pick up a very good offer. 


Germany is part of the European Union, and use the € (Euro).

Overseas travellers will need to convert their currency into the €s. We would recommend taking enough cash with you for your holiday and a little bit extra for emergencies. You can use a debit or credit cards, but always check with your bank prior to travel. There could be a fee for non-Stirling transactions (it might be labelled differently in your home country). 


The first known settlers to Cologne were the Romans back in 38BC, with many discoveries of Roman artifacts still being found. The most recent discovery was made in 2007, when a 1,900-year-old Roman boat was discovered.

During World War II, Cologne suffered the most, with the city’s population reduced by 95%. Evacuation from the city to the rural areas saw much of the reduction in population. The Allied forces dropped about 35,268 tons of bombs on the city, destroying much of the city.

With Colognes turbulent history over the years, it is now the 4th largest city in Germany!

Things to do in Cologne Germany on a budget

Sightseeing can be a real budget killer, especially if you have to pay to enter the attraction.  

We would recommend the following tips, on how to pick up free sightseeing tickets, or in some cases tickets at a fraction of the price. 

  • It is possible to get discounted tickets for top tourist attractions when you purchase the tickets in advance and online. 
  • Are there any travel cards available to purchase that allow discounted entry to certain places? 
  • Are there any multiple entry tickets for a number of attractions in the area?
  • What tourist attractions are free, or have concessions for a certain day that is free. For example, every 4th Sunday is free entry. 

To help you plan your trip to Cologne on a budget, we have detailed some of the things you could do in Cologne, along with information on any discounts you could pick up or free tourist attractions.  

Things to do in Cologne for free 

One of the easiest ways of travelling to Brighton on a budget, is by visiting the free tourist attractions in the town. And there’s a few to do. Here’re some of the free things to do in Cologne.

Kolner Dom (Cologne Cathedral)

Cost: Free

Opening times: 6am – 5pm, during the summer months it is open later

The focal point of Cologne is the attractive architecture of the cathedral, and in a central location. Kolner Dom has two spires making it the tallest in the world! It was constructed in 1248, but it took over 600 years to complete.

Inside the Cathedral in these things to do in Cologne Germany
Inside the Cathedral in Cologne Germany

Whilst the exterior of the building is remarkable to look at, wait till you get inside! The light that pours through the stain glass windows are just incredible, with so much detail, and colour.

This is a lovely place to get out of the busy streets, and into peaceful surroundings. You could light a candle and pray, or just sit in one of the pews soaking in the atmosphere.

It is possible to climb the south tower, and watch over the surrounding buildings below.

Cathedral in Cologne Germany
Cathedral in Cologne Germany

Just behind the main alter is the Shrine of the Three Kings. It is where the sarcophagus is said to hold the remains of the Kings who followed the star to Bethlehem when Jesus was born.

We loved the Cathedral so much, that every day we stopped by to admire its creation.

Old Town

Cost: Free

The old town is located on the water’s edge of the Rhein from Hobenzollernbrucke to Deurzer Brucke, covered with cobbled streets and narrow road. This is the place to find a good restaurant, café, bar, or Brauerei (German Brewry).

Busy street in these things to do in Cologne Germany
Busy street in Cologne Germany

This would be a great spot for a lovely evening stroll, or stop off at one of the restaurants or cafes for a bite to eat.

Hohenzollernbrucke (bridge)

Cost: Free

Also known as Love Locks, due to the large number of padlocks with loved up couples’ names, or initial scribbled on the back of the lock, and locked to the bridge.

Cathedral from across the water
Cathedral in Cologne Germany

Do you want to show your love to your partner, wife, husband, or the one you love, by locking a padlock with your name inscribed on it? You’ll be fighting the thousands of padlocks already here, but it is still worth dropping by to see the different sizes, colours and the vast number that are locked to this bridge.

Tunnes and Schal statue

Cost: Free

There are many statues dotted around Cologne, we visited Tunnes and Schal. It is believed that if you touch the noses of Tunnes and Schal it will bring you luck.

With Dusseldorf only a short distance from Cologne, you could easily add this onto your trip to Germany, by visiting Dusseldorf in Autumn.

Things to do in Cologne 

We have included other things to do in Cologne Germany, but you will need to pay an entrance fee. Take this into account when you are budgeting for a trip to Cologne. We have included discounts that you could pick up that could save you some money. 

NS Dokumentaionszentrum

Cost: 9 Euros/£7.64/$9.94 for 2 adults, and 2 Euro/£1.70/$2.21 each for the English translation

Opening times: 10am – 6pm Tue-Fri, Weekends and bank holidays 11am-6pm

The NS Dokumentaionszentrum was the headquarters for the Gestapo (Secret Police) during 1935 – 1945. The exterior of the building looks like any other building in the area, even the upper floors on the interior of the building look like an office or police station, but the real surprise is downstairs in the basement!

The upper floors of NS Dokumentaionszentrum has become the exhibition, detailing what life was like during the buildup to the Nazi reign, and what work the Gestapo’s did within Cologne during the war years. This is interesting, and is an important part of German history.

Inside the basement, is where the Gestapo officers held their prisoners, tortured them, a bunker for the torture of prisoners and to escape the air raids above, and a court yard, where much of the killings took place.

Once inside the basement, the atmosphere changed drastically, from a warm light space upstairs, to a cold, and artificially lit area. You can really feel the sadness and horrors that would have gone on down here, without the passing public above knowing the real atrocities that went on.

One prisoner made the daring decision to escape, and made it out to tell the tale, they escaped via the coal shoot!

Descriptions in the basement are in English, but the upper rooms are in German only.

We would highly recommend purchasing the audio guide, as this’ll definitely help you understand the exhibition in the upper part of the building, but also details the basement.

Panorama (triangle Viewing Point)

Cost: 3 Euros/£2.55/$3.31 per person, group of 5 people it is 2.50 Euros/£2.12/$2.76 per person

Opening times: May – Sep 11am-11pm, Oct – April 12pm-8pm

Panorama (Triangle Viewing Point) offers 360-degree views of Cologne.  With views of the entire city, including the Cathedral in the back ground, the scale of the city is evident from this position.

Where to stay on a budget

Accommodation can be one of the biggest things that eat into your budget.  

We have a family member who lived in Cologne, who we stayed with. This keeps our budget to a minimum. If you have a family member or a friend who lived in or near Cologne, then contact them about staying with them. It is a sure way to save some money.

If you don’t have family or friends who live in Cologne, then you will need to book somewhere to stay. You could consider visiting Cologne on a day trip if you travelling around Germany. Public transport connects well with Cologne and other areas of the country.

Alternative, the cheapest accommodation in Cologne will be hostels. You can stay in a dorm room, with shared bathroom for as little as €12.00 per night. Hostels are a great way to meet likeminded travellers. But hostels are not for everyone, especially the party lifestyle some live. 

There’s plenty of other hotels and B&B’s in the city, some at a premium price, while others can be picked up for about €60.00-€115.00 per night. 

To visit Cologne on a budget, be flexible with your dates and try to avoid weekends as accommodation prices are normally more expensive than mid-week. You should look for accommodation that’s in a good location and of course within your budget.  

As mentioned previously, try and avoid school holidays and during the peak season, as accommodation will be more expensive.  

Here are a couple of options on where to stay:

Station Hostel for Backpackers

This hostel is ideal for budget friendly travelers, with dorm rooms, and some private rooms. The biggest tick is that it is in the perfect location, it is next to Cologne central Station, and within a short distance from the many sights to see.

We have heard that it is clean, spacious, great communal areas, internet access and more.

Hopper Hotel et Cetera

This is an interesting hotel; it was once a monastery, that has been converted into a 49-room hotel. This is in a good location, close to all amenities, a little more expensive in price, but again it is all about what your budget is!

Its main feature advertised is the sauna and bar, which is located in the cellars, what a great way to relax after a long day.

There are some great reviews about the hotel, from previous guests.

Stern Am Rathaus

There are some really great reviews of Stern Am Rathaus, it is in a very good location, with it being close to the Rhine River. This is still reasonably priced, but again this is dependent on your budget, and how much you are prepared to pay per night, however for the luxury of this place you may think you have bagged a bargain.

How to get around Cologne

The closest airport to Cologne is Koln Bonn Airport, which is about 15 miles from the center. You can take a direct train from the airport to Cologne Central Station in Cologne, with the trains running frequently. Most European flights arrive and depart from Koln Bonn with some international connections.

There are train services between other major cities in Germany such as Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich and some international trains to Brussels.

There are bus and tram services connecting Cologne with suburbs in and around the area. We personally preferred to walk, it’s the healthier option, better on the environment, but also budget friendly. It can also be the quickest and most convenient way to travel.

Tips on visiting Cologne on a budget

Do you ever wonder how people travel so often? Or how people travel the world full time? That’s simple! Travellers like us, plan, research, save and budget our holidays. Do you want to travel as much as possible or full time? All you have to do, is follow our simple tips on how to travel on a budget. 

You’ll need to research where you want to go, when you want to travel, what you are prepared to spend on accommodation and how much you intend to spend per person per day for meals to establish your budget. Try some of these tips and techniques to be able to save more on your budget and travel more. 

  • Try travelling off season, as prices are often at their cheapest. By Booking off season, you could save more money compared to travelling during the summer months or school holidays. 
  • Book your flights in advance to pick up the best deals and book mid-week dates. Weekend travel tends to be more expensive.  
  • When shopping around for deals, search via incognito browser or clearing your browser history regularly. In our experience, we have shopped around for deals, before checking a week later and the price alters due to the tracking cookies from that website. If you search in incognito browser, you should have a more accurate deal.  
  • By registering with airlines for airmiles, you collect airmiles for every booking you make with them. As you collect the miles, you can apply the points to future trips, upgrades, or free flights. 
  • This links with the above, with certain credit card providers, they’ll offer points on airmiles for purchases you make on the card. The more you spend, the more points you could receive which in turn gives more savings on travel deals, upgrades, or free flights. 
  • Many attractions offer discounts for online ticket purchases, plan your holiday by visiting the attractions website and book tickets where appropriate.  
  • Check out what attractions are free, or what days are free entry, that way you could save more money, but also keeping within your budget. 
  • Are there any free classes in the area that you could be interested in? You could learn more about the culture, by taking up a class, but you would still have an adventure with free classes. 
  • Accommodation can sometimes be a real budget killer, staying in a hostel is cheaper and a great way to meet new people.  
  • If a hostel is not ideal for you, research what types of accommodation’s available, you could pick up a bargain by staying in a small B&B or hotel. 
  • Public transport can be inexpensive, especially if you can pick up a discounted public transport card. In our experience however, walking is the cheapest and best way to get around. It’s healthy for you, and environmentally friendly. But by walking you can stumble upon a hidden gem that you may have passed by on public transport.  
  • Prior to your trip, research the places to eat, check out their menu and price before you travel. Once you have found the places you want to eat, within your budget range, then include this in your itinerary. It’s also a good idea to have a budget in mind for how much you want to spend per person, per day, per meal. Our budget is £10.00 per person, per meal, per day, totalling £30.00 per person per day. If we can find a place that serves what we like for less, then we are saving money even before we travel, bonus. 
  • We would also recommend buying groceries from the local supermarket. The food is often cheaper and buying food can last for a number of days, meaning your money has gone further just on food. 

Travelling really doesn’t have to be expensive, we have implemented these simple steps to allow us to still travel but have that adventure and so can you! 

Where to eat on a budget 

Why spend money on eating out in Cologne when you could just bring a picnic or lunch. If you purchase the food from your local grocery store and make it, not only will it be a healthy option, but a good way to cut your budget in half.  

We would recommend making sandwiches, pasta, salads, packing fruit and healthy snacks to go in your picnic. Most of these foods will be cheap to buy and easy to make and pack ready for your trip to Cologne. If you are travelling as part of a couple or family/group, you could set your food budget for less than £10.00 for the entire trip rather than £10.00+ per person per meal.  

You’re on holiday, why would you want to pack your own food, when you could eat out in a restaurant or café? If you do decide not to take a picnic or your own food with you to Cologne, then make sure you set a budget on how much you want to spend on meals per person per day and keep to it. It can be easy to exceed your food budget with eating out, especially when you have to pay for the meal, the drinks and sometimes the service charge on top.  

To keep within a budget, do some research on places to eat. Go online and check where you could eat and check their menus before you travel. This will give you a good idea on the prices for a main meal and drinks. If the price is above your budget, move onto the next place until you find somewhere that’s within your budget.  

Don’t forget you need to maintain your hydration. This will increase your food and drinks budget. To keep things to a minimum, bring your own drinks. Water is cheap and easy to come by. We have a water pouch plus reusable water bottles that we fill to keep us hydrated.  

Not everyone likes plain water, so add a little bit of fruit juice with the water, again it is cheap and the best way to stay within your budget. 

You can easily set a budget of €12.00 per person per meal just as we did.

There is no better way to dive into the culture of Germany, than with trying some of Germany’s traditional food. As you plan on where to eat in Cologne, make a point of eating at German restaurants and order those traditional dishes.

What to pack 

Packing is essential when going on holiday, but you have to be smart about what to pack. 

Germany is seasonal, so depending on when you travel will depend on what you will need to pack.  

It isn’t just the clothing you need to consider; you’ll need to pack the correct documents such as passport and visa if this is required. 

Why not head over to our post on What to Pack for Germany. In this, we provide an extensive list of all the important things to pack. You can also download, a check list to help you pack the right things and never miss an item.  

Your Say

Have you been to Cologne? What was your highlight? Was there anywhere that you would recommend that we have not included above? We would love to hear from you, all you need to do is leave a comment below.

Continue your German travel planning, with these useful posts:

There may be affiliate links within this article, using these links will not cost you anything extra, but we may earn a small commission to help us maintain our travel blog. Thank you for your support. 

Things to do in Cologne on a Budget
Things to do in Cologne on a Budget
Cologne on a Budget
Cologne on a Budget
Things to do in Cologne
Things to do in Cologne

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