5 Jaw-Dropping Day Trips From Cologne That You Can’t Miss!

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In this article, we’re venturing beyond the cityscape of Cologne to discover five spectacular day trips that promise to elevate your travel experience in Germany. Drawing away from the Cologne Cathedral’s towering spires, let’s unfold the map to nearby treasures that are equally captivating.

Often, the heart of a region lies nestled in the places a short journey away, where the rhythms of history, culture, and nature play a more tranquil tune. In less than an hour’s drive or train ride, you can swap the vibrant buzz of Cologne for the serene allure of sites filled with historical significance, natural beauty, and unique adventures. There are some fabulous choices!

In fact, my favorite thing about Cologne is that it makes such a great base to explore the region.

5 Jaw dropping day trips from ColognePin

From the medieval streets of Monschau to the avant-garde flair of Düsseldorf, each destination offers a different slice of life, encouraging you to pause and wonder.

Eager to step back in time or lounge in the lap of luxury without wandering too far from your Cologne base? Get ready, because each of these spots not only makes for an easy day trip but also leaves an indelible impression that’s sure to enrich your German escapade. Let’s step out of the familiar and into the extraordinary with these five jaw-dropping day trips you can’t miss.

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5 Jaw-Dropping BEST Day Trips From Cologne Germany That You Can’t Miss!

Part of why I love Cologne is that there are some absolutely fabulous day trip from Cologne options just a short train ride away. Each of the Cologne day trip options here are fabulous places to visit in their own rights and it’s just a huge bonus you can visit them without changing beds.

All these Cologne day trips are worth your precious vacation time.

To see train options, tickets and prices to each of these destinations, check out the Deutsche Bahn site here.

1. Bonn

Old Town Hall in BonnPin
Old Town Hall in Bonn

Just a short train ride south of Cologne, you’ll find the charming city of Bonn. Situated on the banks of the Rhine River, Bonn is not only scenic but steeped in historical significance, comfortably making its way onto your list of must-visit best day trips from Cologne by train.

Visitors often marvel at Bonn for being Ludwig van Beethoven’s birthplace, celebrating its rich cultural legacy. This city served as the capital of West Germany until reunification, and since then, it has seamlessly transitioned into a hub of international cooperation, hosting several UN institutions.

Your journey to Bonn is straightforward; a regional train can whisk you from Cologne to Bonn in under 30 minutes.

Click here to check out Deutsche Bahn schedules and prices.

Upon arrival, a diverse array of experiences awaits. Traverse through the quaint streets of the old town to sense the atmosphere of its storied past. Then, dive into the history and achievements of the famous composer at the Beethoven-Haus museum.

Bonner MünsterPin
Bonner Münster

Bonn’s appeal lies in its unique mix of historical gravitas and laid-back charm. The city is compact enough for you to unveil its treasures on foot, yet the cultural offerings are comparable to much larger metropolises.

From museums that trace the arc of Germany’s political history to tranquil botanical gardens that invite serene contemplation, Bonn caters to both the intellectually curious and the relaxation seeker.

For travelers, Bonn is a delightful juxtaposition of past and present. It’s an accessible getaway with opportunities to enjoy open-air markets, seasonal festivals, and boat cruises along the Rhine. With both indoor and outdoor attractions, it makes for an ideal destination year-round.

What to Do in Bonn on Your Day Trip:

  • Visit the Beethoven-Haus museum to immerse yourself in the life of the musical genius.
  • Stroll along the Museum Mile, home to numerous noteworthy museums.
  • Enjoy a leisurely walk in the Rheinaue park, a green oasis stretching along the river.
  • Explore the ornate Bonn Cathedral and the Old City Hall in the central market square.
  • Taste the flavors of the region at local eateries throughout the city.

Embrace the slower pace and cultural richness of Bonn. It’s the perfect addition to your German escapades, serving as a memorable pause from the hustle and bustle of larger cities.

Click here to read our full stop-by-stop itinerary to a day in Bonn.

2. Aachen

Beautiful AachenPin
Beautiful Aachen

Situated near the borders where Germany meets Belgium and the Netherlands, Aachen is a city rich with European history and charm. Located roughly an hour’s train ride west of Cologne, it serves as an ideal day trip destination thanks to regular direct trains that make the journey easy and convenient for you.

Click here to check out Deutsche Bahn schedules and prices.

Once the home of Charlemagne, known as the ‘Father of Europe,’ Aachen is steeped in history. The Aachener Dom, or Aachen Cathedral, with its intricate mosaics and storied past as the site of numerous coronation ceremonies, stands as a must-see. It was first commissioned by Charlemagne himself in the 8th century and was Germany’s first UNESCO site.

Visiting here is absolutely amazing. Make sure you do a tour to get up close to Charlemagne’s tomb and to see his throne.

This city, embracing its past while looking to the future, also houses RWTH Aachen University, one of Germany’s Universities of Excellence.

As a traveler, you’ll appreciate Aachen for more than its history. The town center is compact and inviting, allowing for a leisurely exploration on foot. Here, the convergence of three countries has cultivated a distinct culinary scene, and the city’s quaint coffee houses and bakeries are famed for their Printen, a kind of gingerbread synonymous with Aachen.

Aachen RathausPin
Aachen Rathaus

What’s more, Aachen’s relaxing hot springs, which date back to Roman times, are a unique feature you won’t find on most day trips. The Carolus Thermen Bad Aachen offers a modern take on the thermal baths, providing a serene escape for those looking to unwind.

Despite its small size, Aachen packs a cultural punch with its local theaters and museums, such as the Couven Museum, showcasing the region’s Baroque lifestyle, and the Suermondt-Ludwig Museum, housing a rich collection of sculptures and paintings.

This may be the best day trip from Cologne Germany option. It is mine! There’s nothing like experiencing the history of Aachen Cathedral first hand.

Things to Do in Aachen on Your Day Trip:

  • Marvel at the Aachen Cathedral and (ideally) attend a guided tour to appreciate its rich history.
  • Visit the Charlemagne Center to learn more about the city’s history.
  • Relax in the Carolus Thermen Bad Aachen, the modern thermal springs.
  • Try local delicacies like Aachen Printen and tour a local bakery.
  • Visit the Couven Museum to get a glimpse of 18th-century domestic life.

Aachen’s unique blend of rich historical tapestry and modern-day comfort makes it a memorable getaway choice. Here, you can trace the footsteps of kings, enjoy the soothing waters once loved by emperors, and savor flavors loved by locals, all within the span of a single day.

Click here to read our full guide to Aachen.

3. Düsseldorf


Just a 30-minute train ride from Cologne will land you in the vibrant city of Düsseldorf, the capital of North Rhine-Westphalia. As you disembark at the central station, you’ll immediately sense the shift from Cologne’s Gothic grandeur to the sleek modernity that Düsseldorf exudes. This short journey time makes a day trip from Cologne to Dusseldorf very inviting.

Düsseldorf’s history is a fascinating juxtaposition of old and new. The city was largely rebuilt after World War II, but pockets of the old world charm remain in the Altstadt (Old Town), where you can meander through narrow lanes and discover why it’s famously nicknamed ‘the longest bar in the world’.

This city is a paradise for shoppers, with the “Kö,” or Königsallee, being the highlight as one of Europe’s most luxurious shopping boulevards. Here, you aren’t just shopping; you’re partaking in a high-end experience with every boutique and flagship store at your disposal. The bustling modernity of the Media Harbor contrasts with this, showcasing extraordinary architecture like the Gehry Buildings.

Marktplatz DüsseldorfPin

For you, Düsseldorf offers a day brimming with culture and leisure. The Rhine promenade provides a picturesque path for leisurely walks or bike rides, lined with cozy restaurants and cafes where you can stop for a break and watch ships glide by.

Come evening, the lively atmosphere in the Altstadt offers a plethora of local beers and traditional German dishes. For art aficionados, the plethora of museums and galleries, such as K21 for contemporary art, ensures a stimulating cultural feast.

Things to Do in Düsseldorf on Your Day Trip:

  • Take a stroll along Königsallee for luxury shopping.
  • Relax and people-watch on the Rhine Embankment Promenade.
  • Explore the Altstadt and sample local brews in the traditional pubs.
  • Marvel at modern architecture in the Media Harbor.
  • Visit the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen (K21) for contemporary art exhibitions.
  • Enjoy a meal at one of the international restaurants in the Japanese Quarter.

In Düsseldorf, traditions blend with modern luxury, providing you with an urban adventure rich in experiences. A day here promises the delights of a modern city while still being steeped in the deep cultural heritage of Germany. Although, I would pick the other day trip options on this list first.

Click here to read our full guide to Düsseldorf.

4. Brühl

Augustusburg BruhlPin

Nestled just a 18-minute train ride from the bustling city of Cologne, you’ll find Brühl, a small town with a grandeur that belies its size. Stepping off the train, you’re a stone’s throw away from some of Germany’s most remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Brühl’s claim to fame is primarily its two palatial edifices: Augustusburg Castle and Falkenlust Hunting Lodge. These 18th-century masterpieces illustrate the high artistic quality and significant cultural influence of the era’s architecture and landscape design. They’re a testament to the grandiose lifestyle of Clemens August of Bavaria, an archbishop and prince-elector of Cologne.

Beyond its historical buildings, Brühl surprises visitors with Phantasialand, one of Europe’s most enchanting theme parks. It perfectly juxtaposes the town’s historical background with modern thrills and adventures fit for both young and the young at heart.

Inside Schloss Augustusburg BrühlPin
The magnificent highlight

Brühl is not just a step back into the opulent past or a dive into fantasy-themed excitement; it’s a blend that caters to a wide variety of interests. Whether you’re a history buff, architecture enthusiast, or simply looking for a fun day out with the family, Brühl’s small-town charm combined with royal splendor offers a complete package.

Things to Do in Brühl on Your Day Trip:

  • Tour Augustusburg Castle and its magnificent baroque gardens.
  • Visit the Falkenlust Hunting Lodge to complete the UNESCO World Heritage experience.
  • Have fun at Phantasialand, with its wide array of rides and shows.
  • Walk through the town center for a dose of local life and perhaps a coffee break.
  • Explore the Max Ernst Museum if you’re interested in surrealist art.

Brühl is your serene escape from Cologne’s city life, a place where you can immerse yourself in the culture and history of bygone times along with enjoying modern-day entertainment. In just one day, Brühl offers you a window into the past without sacrificing the pleasure of the present.

Click here to read our full guide to Brühl.

5. Monschau

Beautiful MonschauPin
Stunning Monschau

Tucked away in the rolling hills of the Eifel region, the picturesque town of Monschau is an idyllic escape from the bustling streets of Cologne. A scenic 2-hour drive or a combination of train and bus ride will transport you to this charming medieval town, which seems almost untouched by the passage of time.

Click here to check out Deutsche Bahn schedules and prices.

Your experience in Monschau will transport you back centuries, as you explore narrow cobblestone streets, timber-framed houses, and the iconic Red House, famous for its baroque staircase. Rich with history, this town was a bustling center for wool and cloth production which you can learn about in the local museums that preserve its past.

For you as a traveler, Monschau offers a tranquil retreat. The town is renowned for its mustard, a traditional craft that continues to this day at the Monschau Mustard Mill where you can taste and buy a variety of mustards. The surrounding nature provides a verdant backdrop, perfect for a relaxed day of sightseeing, walking, and photography.

Red House (Rotes Haus) MonschauPin
Red House (Rotes Haus)

The castle of Monschau, perched above the town, provides stunning views and a historical context for those interested in architecture and history. Throughout the year, Monschau’s cultural calendar is punctuated with events from classic car rallies to Christmas markets, making any visit special.

And let’s not forget the cuisine; the region’s hearty dishes are a delight, especially when accompanied by a locally brewed beer. With a combination of culture, history, natural beauty, and gastronomy, Monschau is a destination that promises a full, enriching day out.

Things to Do in Monschau on Your Day Trip:

  • Wander the charming streets and take in the traditional architecture.
  • Visit the Monschau Castle for views of the town and surrounding nature.
  • Explore the Rotes Haus to see the opulent interior and historical artifacts.
  • Stop by the Monschau Mustard Mill, witness the production and sample the mustards.
  • Enjoy the local cuisine and perhaps try a regional beer at one of the cozy restaurants.
  • If time allows, take a nature walk or hike in the Eifel National Park nearby.

In Monschau, every step is a stroll through history, every meal is a taste of tradition, and every view is a picture-postcard scene. It’s the perfect destination for you to unwind and soak in the beauty of Germany’s rural landscapes.

One of the prettiest towns in Germany, you won’t regret a visit here.

Click here to read our full guide to Monschau.

As we wrap up our tour of the stunning day trips from Cologne, it’s clear that the region is brimming with destinations that promise not only a feast for the eyes but a treasure trove of cultural, historical, and natural wonders. Whether you’ve been captivated by the recent history of Bonn or enchanted by the fairytale allure of ancient towns, these escapes offer unforgettable experiences just a stone’s throw from the city’s heartbeat.

So, the next time you find yourself in Cologne, let your spirit of adventure guide you beyond the city limits. With each day trip offering its unique spectacle and story, you’re sure to return with a collection of memories that resonate far beyond the picturesque views captured in your photographs.

Check out train/bus options to each of these places here.

Looking for the best places to visit in Cologne? Don’t miss our Cologne itinerary here or our one day in Cologne itinerary here. You can also find all our travel guides to Western Germany here.

Sharon Gourlay in the Rhina Valley

By Sharon Gourlay

Sharon first fell in love with Germany back in 2000 on her first visit. She loves the long history, the picturesque Old Towns, the castles, the food, everything really! Since then, she has visited many times and loves writing about Germany here so you can enjoy it too. In fact, Sharon loves German culture so much that she sent her kids to a German primary school in Australia. She especially loves Berlin and towns with charming Old Towns like Celle and Quedlinburg. Sharon also has a Certificate III in International Travel Sales and understands the nitty gritty of travel planning. Through this site, she'll help you have the perfect trip to Germany whether it's your first or tenth time!

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