cologne city

Discover Cologne when Traveling to a Sports Event

Cologne is the fourth largest city in Germany and one of the oldest in the country – there’s been a settlement here for over two thousand years. If you’ve got a forthcoming sports event in Cologne (perhaps to watch one of the five Euro 2024 games set to be played in the city’s stadium), then knowing a little bit about your destination is the best way to enjoy your trip to the max.

We’ve got everything you need to know in the Cologne Guide below, including the best times to visit, highlights in the city’s calendar, and tips about Cologne that’ll take your trip to the next level.

Cologne’s 2024 Highlights

Cologne Carnival

Running from February 8th to 14th, 2024, Cologne Carnival promises to be a riot of color, music, and local culture and is a must-see if you’ll be in the city. Widely referred to as Germany’s craziest party, the six days see the whole of Cologne enjoying dressing up, singing, dancing, and parading. Street parties, balls, ghost parades, and lively brunches are just a few of the events on offer – and dressing up is pretty much mandatory!

The Rose Monday Parade (to be held on February 12th, 2024) is viewed by many as the highlight of the Cologne Carnival. Around 1.5 million people (most wearing fancy dress) will line the streets to watch the colorful spectacle of bands and costumed performers doing their thing, the latter of whom will throw sweets and flowers to the crowds.

C/O Pop Festival

This popular music festival will take place from April 24th to 28th, 2024, with acts confirmed so far, including Majan, Ness, Deki Alem, Dominik Hartz, and Serpentin. As well as all the music, there will be loads more to enjoy, including an excavator workshop (for those with a longstanding desire to dig up and move huge piles of sand), dance workshops, and discussion panels.

Unlike traditional festivals, C/O takes place at a variety of venues, including bars and restaurants, throughout Cologne, and despite the name, covers a huge cross-section of genres. Many artists count this event as their breakthrough moment, so who knows, you may just witness a star being born!

UEFA Euro 2024 Tournament

Of course, a Cologne Sporting Events of 2024 would not be complete without mentioning the forthcoming Euro 2024 tournament, which will see thousands of sports fans from around the world come together to support their national teams. Five of the tournament’s matches will be played in Cologne Stadium on June 15th, 19th, 22nd, 25th, and 30th June 2024.

As well as the football games themselves, Cologne will be host to an official Fan Zone in Heumarkt. Enjoy the unforgettable ambiance and diverse atmosphere as you watch the matches on the big screens for the ultimate Euro 2024 experience. There will also be live entertainment and a host of regional and global cuisines to sample. And if you’re feeling in the mood, why not have a go at one of the several football-themed activities that will be on offer?

Alternatively, head over to the Public Viewing area at Tanzbrunnen, where you can watch the tournament matches in the company of hundreds of other supporters, with the Rhine River and Cologne Cathedral as the backdrop to the action.

Cologne Marathon and Half-Marathon

If you’re a keen runner and traveling to Germany in the fall, Cologne is a city of sports travelers that consider taking part in the Cologne Marathon or Half-Marathon on October 6th. There will also be a relay run and a kids’ race to add to the fun. The event attracts around 27,000 participants each year and has grown to become one of the five most popular marathons in the country.

Runners line up to start in the Cologne Deutz area, then cross the Rhine, and take in the imposing Cologne Cathedral before passing (or going through) many of the city’s most well-known sights and beautiful parks. 

Night at the Museum Cologne

Prepare for an experience like no other. In early November (exact date to be confirmed), the city’s museums and art venues will open their doors late into the night, welcoming visitors to enjoy a wide range of performances, exhibitions, readings, concerts, workshops, and more.

Night at the Museum 2023 was an extremely popular event, with thousands of people including sports travelers relishing the unique evening and late-night ambiance of some of the city’s most special venues. Buying a single ticket will give you access to all the museums, galleries, and other institutions taking part in the event, as well as to the various Museum Night parties that will be held across Cologne. Tickets are expected to go on sale at the end of August.

Christmas Markets

Visit Cologne in the weeks leading up to Christmas for a truly magical experience. The city is renowned for its gorgeous Christmas markets, which pop up in different districts, offering handmade crafts, gingerbread, ornaments, local food, and much more.

Most of the visitors who flock to the city during the festive period head to the Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market – when the sun sets, the market glows beneath a canopy of overhead lights, adding to the holiday magic. There are plenty of other Christmas markets to discover in Cologne, though, including the Angels’ Christmas Market in Neumarkt Square and the Nicholas’ Village Christmas Market, which you’ll find – appropriately enough – in Rudolfplatz.

Top 10 tips for your visit to Cologne

If you’re traveling to a sports event in 2024 – perhaps to see some of the matches of the UEFA Euro tournament – or heading to Cologne on vacation, here are the things to know to make the most of your trip.

The best time of year to visit Cologne

For the best weather, it’s best to visit Cologne from May to October, when the temperature tends to be pleasant, and the beer gardens throw open their gates. Visit in February, however, if you’re keen to experience the chaos and wonder of the Cologne Carnival, or plan a festive trip in November or December to savor the magic of the city’s many Christmas markets.

Relish some traditional Cologne fare

If you’re in Cologne, sampling some of the city’s traditional dishes and snacks is a must! Meat lovers will go mad for Schweinshaxe, which is a cured and cooked pork knuckle topped with bacon and usually accompanied by sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. Halver Hahn is a must-try, too. It’s not, as the name suggests, half a chicken, but it is a very popular snack comprising a rye roll served with medium-aged Gouda, onions, mustard, and butter.

For some hearty traditional fare, opt for Himmel und Erde (‘Heaven and Earth’), a mashed potato and apple dish. While popular throughout the whole of Germany, the Cologne variation of this meal is particularly delicious, incorporating roasted onions and crispy fried blood sausage.

Kölsch cologne

Sample the local beer

Cologne has a long history of brewing the beer (kölsch) that the city is famous for. There are dozens of local breweries here, producing a range of beers, including the popular Gaffel Kölsch, Reissdorf Kölsch, and Sion Kölsch. You’ll be able to sample these beers in many bars and restaurants throughout Cologne, and they’re wonderful to enjoy alongside a plate of delicious local food or snacks. You’ll notice that the beer is served in a special glass called a kölschstange, which is specifically designed to keep the beverage carbonated and cold.

If you enjoy trying a variety of beers, you’ll discover plenty of specialty shops and bars throughout the city, offering the craft beers that are becoming increasingly popular.

The Gallery Scene

The city of Cologne has been well known for its vibrant art gallery scene since the 1960s, and a visit to at least a couple of the galleries is essential if you’re in town. If you’re limited in time and can only fit in a trip to one, check out the Galerie Bucholz, which you’ll find hidden behind an antique bookstore. The large, airy rooms house internationally renowned artists, and the gallery is the perfect place to get a feel for the city’s unique zeitgeist.

Discover Cologne Stadium

Whether or not you’re traveling to Cologne to watch some of the Euro 2024 matches, a visit to Cologne Stadium (also known as the RheinEnergieStadion) is recommended. Cologne is home to what is probably the most important and famous sports museum in Germany (and some say Europe) – the German Sports and Olympic Museum. The museum’s exhibits, numbered in thousands, detail a rich history spanning about 2,500 years – from gladiators fighting to race-car drivers breaking barriers. The museum also offers tours, shows, and even a beautiful view as it’s located directly on the Rhine River, in an old customs building. A sports fan (and honestly even a casual traveler) simply can’t be in Cologne for Euro 2024 and miss the museum.

Marvel at Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral is the top must-visit sight in most Cologne guides, and it’s no surprise why. Added to the UNESCO World Heritage site list in 1996, the building stands at 515 feet, making it the third-largest church in the world. During your visit, be sure to check out the spectacular stained glass windows and ascend the 291 steps of the belfry to take in the stunning view from the top.

Be wary about mentioning Dusseldorf!

Cologne locals love their city – and with this comes a deep rivalry with Dusseldorf, which stretches back for centuries. As a visitor, you’re best not even mentioning the D word. And it’s wise not to order Dusseldorf’s Altbier in a bar (even if you can find it on the menu) instead of Cologne’s kölsch unless you want to get some serious side-eye from the locals.

Resist swimming in the Rhine

The river may look super inviting in places, especially in the heat of summer when all you can think about is cooling off. Think again, however: the Rhine is known for its treacherous currents – plus the passing cargo ships can pull swimmers into deep waters. Due to this, large swathes of Cologne’s waterfront are officially no-swim zones.

Save money

Your Cologne travel doesn’t need to break the bank. In fact, there are lots of ways to enjoy a fabulous trip to this German city without spending a huge sum. For example, Free Walk Cologne offers daily free walking tours of the city that last a couple of hours and take in many of the major highlights. Buy a Cologne transport pass to save money on travel and access discounts on a range of the city’s attractions and restaurants, and spend a day in one of Cologne’s many beautiful parks, most of which offer free entry. There are many different accommodation options in Cologne that can save your money too.

Explore beyond the city limits

If you’ll be staying in Cologne for a few days or more, it’s well worth exploring beyond the city limits. Just a forty-five-minute drive away (or an easy train ride) is the Bruder-Klaus-Feldkapelle, a striking chapel in the middle of a meadow. Over one hundred spruce tree trunks that have been covered in concrete and set on fire make up the interior, while the top of the building has been left open to allow sunshine and rain to fall into the space below.

FAQ about Cologne

Can I drink the tap water in Cologne?

Yes, the tap water in Cologne is safe to drink. Save money during your trip by using a refillable water bottle.

Should I tip in Cologne?

Tips in restaurants are appreciated if you’re happy with your meal. Many diners simply round up the bill to the nearest euro, or you can leave a tip equal to 5-10% of the bill. In Germany, tips aren’t left on the table – it’s customary to let the waiter know how much you would like to tip before you pay the bill.

What’s the best way to get around in Cologne?

Cologne has a great public transport network, and you can get around by tram, subway, bus, and train. Alternatively, you may wish to hire a bike to get around the city.

Cologne: a passionate city rich in history (and Kölsch)

Colognians love their city, and this feeling may rub off on you during your sports trip! Whether you’re traveling for the Euro 2024 tournament and planning to take in some of the city’s sights at the same time or have a family holiday to Cologne coming up, you’re sure to love this passionate, liberal, and culturally rich city. Just don’t mention Dusseldorf.