The Cologne Card (also known as the KölnCard or the Cologne Welcome Card) is the city’s official tourist card which gets you discounts at museums, attractions, tours, shops and restaurants, as well as free travel on the city’s public transport network. You can get either a 24-hour card for €9 or 48-hour card for €18.
Here are a 7 questions you should ask yourself when considering getting a Cologne Card…
1. How much do I want to walk?
The first thing to ask yourself when considering getting a Cologne Card should be how much are you able to walk or do you enjoy walking?
This is because one of the Cologne Card’s biggest perks is that it gets you free travel on Cologne’s public transport network (the KVB). The KVB is regular and easy to navigate, with underground and overground trains, trams and buses running all day and late into the night.
Most of the tourist attractions and popular districts within central Cologne are walkable. But by walkable, this could mean up to a 1-hour walk from one area to another. Cologne is a pretty big city.
If you don’t mind taking a stroll through the city and you’d prefer to take in all of the sights by foot then a Cologne Card might not be worth buying.
However, if you know you’ll end up hopping on and off public transport every now and again, the Cologne Card is definitely for you. A standard all day ticket for the KVB will cost you €8.60, so for an extra 40 cents a day to unlock a host of great discounts too, the Cologne Card is a great investment.
2. What time of year is it?
Following on from the above point, an additional question to ask is what time of year will you be using the card?
I personally love walking and exploring a new city by foot, however, my recent trip to Cologne was in early January, which unfortunately meant that we were treated to the somewhat miserable German winter weather.
We couldn’t have been happier to have the Cologne Card to hand when it was pouring with rain outside and we wanted to head out to a nice restaurant on the opposite side of the city for dinner.
During the warmer summer months you might not get as much use out of the free public transport, however, it is worth noting that the card also gets you discounts on bike hire and river cruises.
3. How many people are in my group?
In addition to the individual cards, groups of up to 5 people can purchase the 24-hour Group Cologne Card for €19 or 48-hours for €38. If you’re travelling as a group of 4 or 5 people who plan to stay together, the card is great value for money as it can work out as little as €3.80 each.
You can also purchase a Group TagesTicket (a KVB all day ticket) for a group of 5 people for just €12.90 (€2.58pp) if you only want to use the public transport. But if you’re planning on visiting even one museum where you’ll get a discount, the Cologne Card will probably prove better value for your group.
4. Where in the city am I staying?
If you’re staying in Altstadt-Nord, the historic city centre, then you’re going to be right in the middle of the action and easily walkable to the majority of Cologne’s main attractions, meaning you’re less likely to need public transportation.
However, if you’re planning to save money by staying outside of the inner-city (or you simply want to base yourself in another neighbourhood) then chances are you’ll need to jump on public transport to get around the city more, making the Cologne Card better value for money.
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5. How long am I staying for?
As I mentioned above, you can either get a 24-hour or 48-hour Cologne card, and this is certainly a factor you should take into consideration when making your choice.
If you’re only spending a day or a weekend in Cologne and therefore will be packing loads into a short amount of time, the Cologne Card makes more sense. Not only will you be able to use public transport to get around faster, but you’ll probably be making more use of the attraction discounts in the time the card is valid for.
If you’re spending more than a few days in Cologne, you’d have to buy multiple Cologne City Cards to cover your entire trip. In this case, it might not be worth getting the card or only getting it for one of the days and packing in a few of the attractions where you get the best discounts.
6. What type of trip am I going on?
Do you want to visit loads of museums, take a tour and watch an ice-hockey match? Or do you want to simply chill out at beer houses or wander up the banks of the river working on your photography?
A stag-do who plan to spend their time in Cologne drinking and not much else (no judgement!) definitely wouldn’t get as much use out of the card as, say, a family looking to do more organised activities and visit the major tourist attractions.
7. Which activities will I be doing?
Before you buy the Cologne Card, do some research into the type of activities you want to do and attractions you want to see during your trip, then compare your list to the discounts available on the card to see how much you might save.
Some of the best discounts include…
Museums and galleries:
- 50% off the Farina Fragrance Museum
- 25% off the Schokoladenmuseum (chocolate museum)
- 20% off Kölner Dom Treasury
- 20% off Museum Ludwig
- 20% off EL-DE Haus
- 20% off the Römisch-Germanisches Museum
Tours and experiences:
- 50% off numerous city tours
- 20% off segway tours
- 20% off boat cruises
- 20% off bike hire for the day
- 20% off Ice Hockey tickets
- 15% off Cologne Zoo
Plus discounts on a number of shops and restaurants around the city.
Some of these discounts may sound small, but if you’re going to be hitting a few of these attractions each day, you’ll quickly make up the €9 cost of the card.
For example, if you love museums and were to visit Museum Ludwig (saving of €2.20), the Roman-Germanic Museum (saving of €1.80), the Farina Fragrance Museum (saving of €2.50) and the Schokoladenmuseum (saving of €2.88) in one (albeit busy) day, you would have already more than made back the price of the Cologne Card without even using the free public transport or restaurant discounts.
Discounts for experiences such as the river cruises and events may be worth the price of the Cologne card alone.
Just make sure to do a bit of planning in advance!
So should I get a Cologne Card?
Well, think about what you answered to the questions above.
If, like on my recent trip, you’re popping to Cologne for a quick weekend during the winter and plan to use public transport and tick off loads of the museums and tourist attractions, then the Cologne card is definitely worth getting.
If you’re visiting Cologne for a week during the summer and plan to be sitting out on restaurant terraces sipping cocktails and taking leisurely strolls around the city admiring the architecture, then the card probably won’t be worth your money or is maybe worth only getting for a day of your trip (when it would provide the most value).
BONUS: How to use the Cologne Card
The Cologne Card can either be purchased online in advance then picked up at the Cologne Tourist Board Service Centre, or purchased directly from the Service Centre, KVB ticket machines and some hotels.
Once you have the card, it will become valid for 24-hours or 48-hours after you first use it. The start date and time are marked on the card by either the red machines on public transport or by the first attraction you use it in.