Unusual things to do in Cologne: The best hidden gems

In Cologne for the first time? Here’s my Cologne visitors guide!

Best known for being the home of the Cologne Cathedral and the 12 Romanesque churches, Cologne is full of incredible things to do. But if you’ve ticked off all the major tourist attractions, or are just looking for something different to do, here are my recommendations for the best unusual things to do in Cologne!

While it’s great to see all the big attractions in Cologne like the Old Town or Belgian Quarter, it can also be fun to check out some of the city’s hidden gems. Get off the beaten path and away from crowded places to explore some more unique places. Here are some of the best unusual things to do in Cologne!

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Want to know the best free things to do in Cologne? Here’s my guide!

Unusual things to do in Cologne: The best-hidden gems

What you need to know

  • What is Cologne best known for? Cologne is probably best known for the Cologne Cathedral as well as of course being the home of Eau de Cologne!
  • Is Cologne worth visiting? Definitely! Cologne is full of history and exciting things to do, I really recommend it!
  • What is there to do around Cologne Germany? Some of the most popular Cologne attractions are the Love Locks Bridge on Hohenzollern Bridge, the Chocolate Museum, Cologne City Hall or going on a walking tour or boat tour along the River Rhine. If you’re looking to explore some of the city’s secret spots, however, check out this post!

Check out St. Gereon’s Basilica

One of the most beautiful churches in Cologne, what really makes St. Gereon’s stand out is its decahedron dome. Nearly 21m x 17m in size, the structure is often compared to the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. In addition to its impressive dome, the church boasts intricate and grand sculptures, stunning mosaics, and vibrant stained glass windows. St. Gereon’s was one of my favourite churches in Cologne and is well worth checking out!

Explore Melatenfriedhof – Melaten Cemetery

Melaten Cemetery, with over 50,000 graves, is the largest graveyard in Cologne. Originally a home for lepers, the site held its first official burial in 1810 and has grown exponentially since then. Melaten is renowned for its impressive sculptures, statues, and monuments, particularly along Millionaires Avenue. Melaen Cemetery is the final resting place of many of Cologne’s local notable figures including the Farina family, original producers of Eau de Cologne, and Nicolaus August Otto, the inventor of the Otto engine.

The cemetery provides regular guided tours if you’re interested in learning more about its history, making it one of the best unusual things to do in Cologne!

Visit the unique Chandelier hall sewer

One of the most unusual things to do in Cologne has to be a visit to Chandelier Hall. When the city’s sewer network was overhauled and modernised in the late 1800s it was met with so much celebration that Kaiser Wilhelm II was expected to attend an opening ceremony. In anticipation of his presence, two chandeliers were installed within the sewers. Today, this underground space not only hosts guided tours but also serves as a venue for music concerts.

Step back in time and visit a real Roman tomb

If you’re a history lover looking for unusual things to do in Cologne this is definitely for you. Found accidentally during an excavation in 1843, the tomb was preserved, restored, and later opened as an exhibition. It’s thought to date back to the second century with the inside resembling a Roman dining room, complete with sofas and armchairs made of limestone. There are several busts, believed to be reliefs of the deceased as well as an incredible sarcophagus.

In addition to being able to see the tomb itself, there’s also a small museum to learn more about its history.

Experience the Golden Chamber of St Ursula

St Ursula’s church is the namesake of Ursula, a Roman-British Princess, who was said to be executed in Cologne along with 11,000 other women. In 1155, a mass grave believed to contain the remains of these women was discovered in the city, and the bones were transferred to the church. The Golden Chamber was created to house these ruins and relics, which now line the walls. The room’s bone-covered walls and golden artefacts create an eerie atmosphere, making it one of the most unique places to visit in Cologne!

Visit the St. Andrew’s Church tomb

Step into the crypt of St. Andrew’s Church, where you’ll discover the tomb of Saint Albert Magnus, also known as Saint Albert the Great. This revered medieval philosopher and scientist is celebrated as one of the thirty-five doctors of the church. The church also houses the incredible Maccabee shrine, believed to contain relics of the Maccabee brothers. The church and crypt are free to enter and are located right by the Cologne Cathedral, there’s no reason not to visit it!

Hunt for bananas and Space Invaders

While wandering around Cologne be sure to keep your eyes peeled for bananas and space invaders! The space invaders are small tiled art pieces dotted high and low on buildings across the city. They’re the result of the Space Invader Project and there are 27 of them to find.

As for the bananas, you’ll find these unique pieces of street are spray-painted around the city. Artist Thomas Baumgärtel has been tagging noteworthy museums and art galleries for decades, marking them with his distinctive banana graffiti. Spotting one of his bananas is a sign that a place is worth visiting!

See the city gates at Hahnentor

Another great stop if you’re into history is visiting one of the city’s former gates. Once surrounded by walls, the city of Cologne was once only accessible by gates. One of the most impressive gates still standing is Hahnentor to the West of the city. Formerly serving as the entryway for royalty, its two impressive towers exude medieval flair, offering a glimpse into the past.

Head underground at Röhrenbunker

Known as the fear tube, Röhrenbunker is one of the city’s many bunkers used during World War II. Sat only a short distance below the surface and despite its mere 30-centimetre-thick concrete walls offering little protection, this underground refuge provided shelter for approximately 180 people during bombing raids. The bunker has been well preserved and tours offer you a chance to explore the history of the site. In my opinion, one of the best unusual things to do in Cologne!


From underground bunkers to space invaders, there’s no shortage of great things to do and see in this historic city. Be sure to take time to get off the beaten path to really see all the best things to do in Cologne Germany!

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