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Top 10 outdoor things to do in Cologne

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From boat rides on the river Rhine to a cold Kölsch in a beer garden, Cologne likes to play outside. Book a Cologne hotel and explore one of Germany’s greenest cities with this guide to outdoor Cologne.

Boat riding on the river Rhine

See the city from the deck of a white and red Köln-Düsseldorfer boat. From the central Rheingarten embankment boats take visitors around riverside Cologne in an hour.

Köln-Düsseldorfer, Rheingarten, Cologne, 50667

Outdoor cinema in Rheinauhafen

Every summer, Cologne’s Yacht Harbour, in the modern Rheinauhafen district, becomes the backdrop for a huge open-air cinema. The cathedral towers in the back while locals sit on amphitheatre-like stairs to watch the latest films.

Rheinauhafen, Harry-Blum-Platz 1, Cologne, 50678

River views from Rheinpark

Rheinpark is where Cologne relaxes. The walkways that crisscross the lush park, in the city’s north-east, lead visitors to a river promenade. Take a seat on a bench to see the Rhine stretch in front of Cologne’s skyline, with Rheinpark’s trees at your back.

Rheinpark, Deutz, Cologne, 50679

A glass of Kölsch in a beer garden

In the beer garden of Brauerei Päffgen, off the central Friesenplatz, visitors sit under large chestnut trees, while traditional waiters, or Köbes, keep up the supply of Kölsch, Cologne’s light beer. The brewery, founded in 1883, conveniently covers the garden with a glass roof during winter.

Friesenstrasse 64-66, Cologne, 50670

Night-time views from Kennedy Embankment

For the most romantic view of the city, cross the river to Cologne’s often neglected east side. A night-time stroll along the Kennedy embankment shows off a brightly lit cathedral behind the dark river, next to the steel arches of the Hohenzollern railway bridge.

Kennedy-Ufer, Deutz, Cologne, 50679

Pedal boating in Volksgarten

Rent a boat and pedal out on the lake in the middle of Cologne’s southern Volksgarten park. The sounds of family barbecues waft from behind the large trees that surround the picturesque lake.

Volksgarten, Eifelplatz, Cologne, 50677

Exotic plants at Botanical Garden

Inside the tropical hothouses of Cologne’s Botanical Garden, exotic flowers and plants blossom. The garden, going back to the 19th century, is a beautifully landscaped oasis of calm in the north of the city, dotted with fountains, flower beds and small waterways.

Amsterdamer Strasse 34, Cologne, 50735

Cross the river in the cable railway

A 930m-long wire rope crosses the river Rhine next to Zoobrücke bridge. Cologne’s suspended cable railway takes visitors across to Deutz. Board one of the tiny cabins and see the skyline pass on one side, while the river looms below.

Riehler Strasse 180, Cologne, 50735

Mulled wine at the Christmas Market

Outdoor activities aren’t restricted to the summer. Hot and spicy mulled wine is served from wooden huts at Cologne’s Christmas Market, located at the bottom of the cathedral. The smell of fried potatoes and gingerbread is in the air, while small stalls sell arts and crafts throughout the winter months leading up to Christmas.

Roncalliplatz, Cologne, 50667

Car-free window shopping on Hohe Strasse

Cologne’s Hohe Strasse boulevard stretches from the cathedral to Augustinerstrasse. Germany’s first pedestrianised shopping street is lined with big-name department stores and independent shops – and there isn’t a car in sight.

Hohe Strasse, Cologne, 50667