Cologne’s magnificent cathedral

It took more than 600 years to build but it was worth the wait. Cologne Cathedral is one of the most impressive sights in Germany.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. He has been a journalist for more than 20 years and has travelled the world full time since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany

The first thing that strikes you from the outside is how big it is. The first thing that strikes you from the inside is… well, how big it is.

Cologne Cathedral is enormous. That’s part of the reason why it took more than 600 years to build – although, to be fair, there was a break in the middle where nothing was done to it for a couple of centuries.

Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany

When Cologne Cathedral was finally finished in 1880, it was the world’s tallest structure (at 157 metres high) until it was overtaken by the USA’s Washington Monument just four years later.

Today it is still the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe.

Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany

I start my exploration of this site by experiencing the height firsthand. Step by step, I climb up one of the spires which forms the façade of the cathedral.

There are 509 steps and as I spiral around inside, I lose track of how far I’ve climbed and the end seems so far away. Until I suddenly pop out into the sunshine again.

Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany

Looking up, I can see the intricate detail that makes the lattice style of the tip of the spire above me. Through the gaps are the panoramic views of Cologne and the Rhine River which runs through it.

Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany

509 steps later, I’m back down on the ground and I head through the front doors into the main part of the cathedral. The interior stretches out in front of me.

On either side, stained glass windows and artworks line the walls. It takes ten minutes just to walk down one side slowly and look at each of the pieces on display.

Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany

Behind the altar is the collection of the most important items that the church holds

The idea for Cologne Cathedral was originally to hold the relics of the Three Wise Men. This was hundreds of years ago, of course, and it would not be surprising if this original plan had fallen by the wayside.

However, there at the back of the cathedral, behind the high altar, is the large golden casket where it was always intended to be.

Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany

Legend has it that the bones of the Three Wise Men were taken from Istanbul to Milan in the 2nd century and given to the Archbishop of Cologne 800 years later.

They are now the most important part of the cathedral – architecture aside – and bring hundreds of thousands of pilgrims here every year.

Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany

Visiting Cologne Cathedral, Germany

Cologne Cathedral is one of the most popular tourist sites in Germany. This is partly because of how spectacular it is (as I’ve already mentioned) but also because of its location.

It is literally at Cologne’s main train station which means that even people just passing through can easily pop in and have a look.

Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany

To see the site properly, though, it is worth giving yourself about an hour for the interior and another hour if you want to climb to the top of the spire.

While it’s possible to walk through the front doors, look around, and then walk out five minutes later – what would be the point? There is so much detail and so many pieces of art that deserve your attention.

There is this guided tour of Cologne that will tell you a bit about the cathedral from the outside (it’s worth doing to see a bit more of the city).

And there are some other cool options for exploring Cologne here too:

But I quite enjoyed walking around the Cathedral at my own pace and exploring all the little details myself.

Cologne Cathedral, Cologne, Germany

I’ve already mentioned the Shrine of the Three Holy Kings. Aside from that, make sure you see the other significant works – the Gero Crucifix, the Milan Madonna and the Altar of the City Patrons.

This is one of the most important and impressive sights in Germany. You will not be disappointed with a visit.

Where is Cologne Cathedral?

Cologne Cathedral is located at Domkloster 4, 50667 Cologne, Germany.

You can see it on Google Maps here.

How do you get to Cologne Cathedral?

To get to Cologne Cathedral, catch the train to Cologne’s main train station and it is right in front.

When is Cologne Cathedral open?

The cathedral is open at the following times:

November – April: 0600 – 1930

May – October: 0600 – 2100

How much does it cost to visit Cologne Cathedral?

Entry to the cathedral is free. However there is a charge to climb the tower or see the treasure chamber.

The tower climb costs: €4/€2

The treasure chamber costs: €6/€3

Combined ticket: €8/€4

Top tip

Although the free part of the cathedral is impressive, it is definitely worth climbing the tower for a special experience. Be warned – it is a long hard climb.

More information

You can find out more information on the official website of Cologne Cathedral.


Cologne is not a particularly cheap city, but there’s a good range of accommodation and some lovely options at the top end.


With a central location and great atmosphere, Cologne Downtown Hostel is a great backpacker choice.


For something a bit budget, Hotel Weber is a good choice in the centre of Cologne.


With cool modern design, I would highly recommend 25hours Hotel The Circle.


And when it comes to luxury, The Savoy Hotel has been upgraded and is a great hotel.

Time Travel Turtle was supported by DB Bahn, the German National Tourist Board and Youth Hostels in Germany but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.


This site is on the UNESCO World Heritage List!
I'm on a mission to visit as many World Heritage Sites as I can. Only about 800 more to go... eek!

7 thoughts on “Cologne’s magnificent cathedral”

  1. Oh. Nice entry!
    Plus in summer there are often organ concerts there. When I lived i Cologne, I have usually recommended to people who I couldnt host the hostel die Wohngemeinschaft. Well simply because of the cafe/pub that has great disign and my favourite district – Belgian Quarter 🙂

    • It’s funny you should ask – when I was writing this post I was looking through my photos to include one… and I couldn’t find anything! I am sure I took a shot, but clearly not. How silly of me.
      You can definitely see it and get a shot, though. If you’re not me 🙂

  2. Hi there!

    Nice blog and the pictures!

    I also have visited Cologne in summer time and I loved the town. So much to do, to visit, tasty food, architecture and many many more. Also people are friendly when they discover you are foreigner. You can easily make new friends with locals and exchange contect details 🙂


    • I’m glad you liked it too, Kris. I was there mainly to see the cathedral but was able to explore a little bit more of the city. I agree that it’s a friendly place. But, then again, I think most of Germany is!


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