Romantic Break in Cologne

By Gordon Lethbridge, a Travel Professional

Read more on Cologne.

Overall rating:3.8 out of 5 (based on 6 votes)
Recommended for:
Romance, Short Break, Mid-range

The most romantic place to visit in Cologne is Europe's busiest railway bridge. However, there are more traditional romantic places to visit too

The busiest railway bridge in Europe with suburban, regional, ICE and high speed Thalys trains rumbling across several times a minute is the most romantic place in Cologne. The bridge, which takes trains from Cologne’s busy hauptbahnhof across the Rhine has grown into the de rigueur spot for lovers.

Thousands of padlocks engraved with messages of love adorn the railings that separate the pedestrian walkway from the tracks. Lovers lock their padlock to the fence as a sign of their undying love for each other and then toss the key into the Rhine below. When the state railway Bundesbahn indicated that they wanted to remove the padlocks public opinion forced them to backtrack. Now the bridge is festooned with tens of thousands of padlocks.

A stroll from Cologne’s iconic cathedral across the bridge takes only a few minutes but can be extended for a romantic stroll along the tree-line right bank, returning via Deutzer Brücke. Beneath the bridge you can, from spring until late autumn, catch a cruise along the Rhine (KD Rheinschiffahrt, Rheingarten, 50667 Köln; 0221 2583011;

The Old Town (Altstadt)

Between the Deutzer Brücke and the Hauptbahnhof is the Altstadt (Old Town). Largely pedestrianised the narrow cobbled streets and squares are best explored on foot using the twin towers of the Dom Cathedral as navigation markers. From the Rheingarten beside the river the Fischmarkt is the first part of the Altstadt you will come across. Its colourful town houses and the romanesque church of Gross St Martin positively invite you to linger. Full of pavement cafes and Brauhäuser it is one of the best squares to sit outside sipping coffee or Kölsch, the locally brewed beer served in a 20cl straight glass.

It is in Aldstadt where Cologne’s internationally known fragrance was originally made. Farina House (Obenmarspforten 21, 50667 Köln; 0221 3998 9941; is now a museum and retail outlet for Eau de Cologne. Visitors are greeted by a gentleman in a powdered wig and early 1700s fashion who introduces himself as Giovanni Farina, inventor of the perfume. An expatriate from Italy he found the stench of the non-existent sanitation and the masses of “great unwashed” too much to bear. He invented the light perfume that was “reminiscent of a spring morning in Italy after the rain; of oranges, lemons, grapefruit, bergamot, cedar and the blooms and herbs of...home”.

A guided tour of the museum takes you through the history of the perfume and the methods used to produce it. Attempts to copy the scent have been made over the years and the Farina family and their descendants have hired a total of 59 detectives over the years to track down illegal copyists. One high profile rival, 4711, also based in Cologne still rankles though.

No visit to Cologne, whatever the theme, is complete without a visit to the Dom or Cathedral ( Over 2 million visitors make this UNESCO World Heritage site the most visited site in Germany. It’s twin towers and gothic architecture dominate the skyline, and for nine years prior to the construction of the Eiffel Tower the cathedral was the tallest building in the world. If anything the interior is more breathtaking than the exterior with its many stained glass windows and soaring vaulted ceiling. The gilded 13th-century repository reputedly holds the bones of the three magi of the nativity.

The Food of Love

“If music be the food of love...” then a visit to the Kölner Philharmonika (Bischofgartenstrasse 1, 50667 Köln; 0221 204080; is certainly a must. Cologne prides itself on its art and culture scene and has a highly rated concert hall between the cathedral and the Rhine.

The true food of love, as everyone knows, is chocolate and there are two places that have to be on anyone’s list for a romantic weekend in Cologne.

The Chocolate Museum (Schokoladenmuseum, Rheinauhafen 1a, 50678 Köln; 0221 931 8880; is built in an old customs house of the Rheinhafen (Rhine Harbour). Über modern architecture blends with the more traditional style of the old custom house to link everything under one roof. After walking through a cocoa plantation in a tropical hothouse you enter a museum where everything from the Aztecs use of the cocoa bean to chocolate as we know it today is presented in an easy to understand and interactive way. This includes working production lines where chocolates and truffles are made and novelties like Easter rabbits are wrapped by machine. Of course you can taste samples or dip a wafer in the larger than life chocolate fountain. After touring the museum and purchasing chocolate souvenirs you can enjoy views over the Rhine eating and drinking the “food of the gods” at the waterside cafe.

For those who appreciate good chocolates then dinner in the Hanse Stübe is a must. This restaurant, decorated in classic dark wood panelling, is part of the Excelsior Hotel Ernst (Tankgasse 1, 50667 Köln), Cologne’s top hotel. Service is efficient, warm and welcoming and the food is excellent. Dinner is rounded off with a selection of chocolates handmade in the hotel’s kitchens. These alone are worth splashing out for.


For some retail therapy there are plenty of well-known brands along Hohe Strasse beside the Dom Hotel and Schildergrasse. Boutique shops can be found along Ehrenstrasse. For that really romantic touch you can have a ring designed on Friesenstrasse. Alternatively you may just prefer to have a padlock engraved and stroll across the Rhine by moonlight attaching it to the steel fence of the railway bridge before together tossing the key into the Rhine.

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More information on Romantic Break in Cologne:

Gordon Lethbridge
Traveller type:
Travel Professional
Guide rating:
Average: 3.8 (6 votes)
Total views:
First uploaded:
27 August 2010
Last updated:
4 years 16 weeks 1 day 23 hours 28 min 46 sec ago
Destinations featured:
Trip types:
Romance, Short Break
Budget level:
Free tags / Keywords:
romantic break, city break

Gordon recommends


Price from Rating
(out of 5)
1. Excelsior Hotel Ernst

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Community comments (7)

0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

You can find the same 'love padlocks' attached to welded iron trees on the Luzhkov Bridge over the Vodootvodnyy Canal in Moscow.

Good guide, has piqued my interest in Cologne


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1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Hi Gordon
I used to live in Cologne, so really enjoyed reading this. Re the padlock thing, it's a recent craze started by Italain novelist Federido Moccia, explained by Abigail King in her Inside the Travel Lab blog and by me in my Mooching around Spain blog

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Thanks Annie. No one in Cologne seemed to know exactly how it all started and I do like to get to the bottom of these quirky traditions.

0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

This guide certainly drew me in. What an intriguing statement that the railway bridge is the most romantic place in Cologne. Right away I wanted to find out why. The teasing continues with the setting of the scene- the busy bridge and fast trains- and then you reveal the padlocks story. I thought this was a brilliant and innovative way to introduce a guide.

You also picked out one of Cologne's more unusual attractions rather than the well know Cathedral to start your guide. Its a great way to show readers something different about a well-known destination.

The rest of the guide is well-written and I enjoyed reading it. Full of useful information and plenty of facts and tit bits to keep me entertained. Like others have I would suggest including the hotel price in the text and more use of bold text to highlight key items. For example, making “chocolate museum” bold will make it easier for readers to find and scroll to this part of your guide. It is not a criticism of a good guide, but just something that I find works well.

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0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

I agree that you have a nice writing style and that the introduction with the busiest bridge being a romantic spot is great. I do feel obliged to warn people though that 1 day in Cologne is sufficient to see and do all of the things mentioned. I made the mistake of going there for 3 days with my boyfriend and it was far too long. We did also make the school boy error of not checking when the museums were open, so found them all closed on the Monday, which was our last day, so we ended up with nothing to do but drink and eat more schnitzel. Scnitzel was good though!

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0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

It's quite unusual to link Cologne with romance, and it made an interesting theme. We need some more information about prices, though, to further whet the appetite.

One is inclined to forget that eau de Cologne, originated in Germany - though it should be obvious by the name, and you gave us some insight into how it all happened. What I would like to know is, who started the padlock craze, and why?

A nice article with with room for expansion.

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0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

Hi Gordon,

You have a nice writing style and it is commendable that your description has turned a simple railway bridge into a truly romantic place. I had also done the same during my last visit to Cologne, just made me wonder if my padlock is still intact.
The history of the Farina family and the steps they take to prevent copyright theft is interesting.
I would suggest you to highlight key words/phrases in bold to make the guide even more enjoyable to read.
I look forward to reading some more of your guides

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