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How To Visit Cologne Cathedral

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Updated: May 10, 2024

One of the grandest and largest cathedrals in the world, the Cologne Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it a destination on any trip to Germany.

This post helps you plan your visit to the Cathedral, including what you will see there, directions, and information on what tours are offered.


INSIDE COLOGNE CATHEDRAL

In this section, we provide details about some of the significant parts of the Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom), one of the most magnificent examples of Neo-Gothic architecture in the world. 

Read a brief history of the Cathedral below.


Central Nave

The central nave of the Cologne Cathedral is in the shape of a Latin cross, measuring 45 meters (147 ft.) wide by 144 meters (472 ft.) in length. 

The arms of the cross are the two aisles on each side of the nave leading to the transepts.

In the north aisle is the altarpiece of St. Clare (c. 1350-1400) and the altarpiece of St. Agilolphus (c. 1520) in the south transept.

In the choir is the high altar with a huge slab of black limestone, believed to be the largest in any Christian church.

There are 14 statues on the pillars in the choir (c. 1300), carved oak choir stalls (1308-11) and painted choir screens (1332-40).

In the Chapel of Our Lady, on the south wall of the choir, is a triptych entitled The Adoration of the Magi (c. 1445), which was made by Stefan Lochner.


Stained Glass

The cathedral contains over 20,000 square feet of stained glass windows created over nearly 8 centuries. 

The Cathedral's oldest stained-glass window is the famous Bible Window, which dates back to the 13th century, believed to be the earliest stained-glass window in Germany. 

The Window of the Nativity dates back to 1507, while the Window of St. Peter and the Tree of Jesse dates back to 1509. Several windows date back to the mid to late 1800s.

The Richter-Fenster (“Richter Window”) was designed by Gerhard Richter in 2007 to replace the cathedral’s original windows that were destroyed in World War II.


Shrine of the Three Kings

Known in German as Dreikönigsschrein, the Shrine of the Three Kings is a gilded sarcophagus of gold and silver, and studded with jewels dating back to the early 13th century,

It is said to contain the bones of the Biblical Magi, or Three Wise Men who visit the baby Jesus after his birth. 

At 153 cm (5 ft.) high, 220 cm (7.2 ft.) long, and 110 cm (3.6 ft) wide, it is the largest reliquary in the Western world. 

Ever since the Shrine was built the Cathedral has remained one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Europe.


Treasury

The Cologne Cathedral’s Treasury is the largest in Germany. This rich collection of relics from the Middle Ages grew over the centuries with gifts from bishops, popes, and kings.

It includes liturgical vestments, manuscripts, chalices, insignia of the archbishops and cathedral clergy from the 4th to the 20th century, and early examples of Christian art, some over 1000 years old. 


Towers

The twin spires are 157 meters (515 ft.) tall, making this the largest Gothic Church in Northern Europe, and the third tallest cathedral in the world, It was the world’s tallest building between 1880 and 1884.

There are eight bells. The Petersglocke (St. Peter’s Bell) in the South Tower weighs 24 tons. 

It is the largest freely swinging church bell in the world and is rung only on 11 major holidays such as Christmas and Easter.

For a fee, visitors can climb 533 stairs to the platform of the South Tower, 97 meters (318 ft.) tall. From there, one can get sweeping views of the city of Cologne and the Rhine.


TICKETS

Entry to the cathedral is free. This does not include access to the Cathedral Treasury or the Tower. 

To visit either of these areas, you must purchase a ticket. If you want to visit both, you can purchase a Combination ticket. 

Tickets cannot be purchased in advance. 

Treasury Tickets

  • Adult €6
  • Children/Students/Concessions €3
  • Families €12
  • The Treasury is open from 10:00 to 18:00 (6 pm)

Tower Tickets

Depending on how long it takes you to climb the 533 steps and how long you want to stay on the viewing platform, a tower visit usually takes you between 30 and 45 minutes.

  • Adult €6
  • Children/Students/Concessions €3
  • Families €12
  • The Tower is open from 10:00 to 20:00 (8 pm). The last entry time is 30 minutes before the Tower closes.

Combination Ticket for Tower and Treasury

  • Adult €9
  • Children/Students/Concessions €4,50
  • Families €18

GUIDED TOURS 

Public tours run every day at 14:00 (2 pm) and last about 60 minutes. You can purchase tickets up to 14 days in advance.

Night Tours

These tours occur occasionally. The tours last approximately 90 minutes.

  • Adults €20
  • Minimum age: 16 years
  • Maximum two tickets per booking

Check dates and purchase tour tickets here.


PLAN YOUR VISIT

The cathedral is open daily except for November 11, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day. 

Note that during the carnival season in Cologne (November 11 until Ash Wednesday), the tower is closed on the following days (dates change year to year).

  • Women's Carnival Day
  • Carnival Saturday
  • Carnival Sunday
  • Rose Monday

Hours

The general public is welcome from 6:00 to 20:00 (8 pm). Tourists may enter any time, but the Cathedral prefers that tourists enter during working days/hours:

  • Mon-Sat 10:00 to 17:00 (5 pm)
  • Sunday 13:00 (1 pm) to 16:00 (4 pm).

The Cathedral Treasury is open to visitors between 10:00 and 18:00 (6 pm).

The Tower is open to visitors between 10:00 and 20:00 (8 pm).


Service Hours

  • Monday to Saturday Mass: 6:30, 7:15, 8:00, 9:00 and 18:30 (6:30 pm)
    Devotion: Monday to Friday 18.00 (6 pm)
  • Sunday Mass: 7:00, 8:30, 10:00, 12:00, 17:00 (5 pm) and 19:00 (7 pm)
  • Divine Office: 18:00 (6 pm)

Check the up-to-date mass times here.


How to Get Here

The Cologne Cathedral is at Domkloster 4, Domumgebung.

Use this Google Map link for exact directions from your point of departure.

The following public transit lines have stops near Kölner Dom. The closest stop is Köln Dom/Hbf.

  • Train: RB26, RE5 (RRX), RE8, S11, S12, S19
  • Light Rail: 18, 5
  • Bus: 127, 136, 260, 978, SB25

Also, this hop-on-hop-off bus tour stops at the Cathedral.


BRIEF HISTORY

In 1164, the Archbishop of Cologne was given the relics of the Three Kings from Frederick I, the Holy Roman Emperor. 

Clerics of the Catholic Church wanted a grander home for the relics, thus the start of this New-Style Gothic cathedral. 

The foundation stones were laid in 1248, and construction continued over several stages. 

No work occurred during the 16th to 18th centuries. It was finished in 1880, 632 years after construction had begun.

Its colossal size is one of its most impressive qualities with a footprint measuring 145 meters (475 feet) long and the cross nave 86 meters (282 feet) wide. 

Though the massive Western facade is the largest in the world, the Cologne Cathedral’s interior is the world’s third-largest. It is, nevertheless, spectacular.

About The Author

Stephen Pickhardt

Stephen is the CEO of Free Tours by Foot and has overseen the transformation of a local walking tour company into a global tour community and traveler’s advice platform. He has personally led thousands of group tours in the US and Europe, and is an expert in trip planning and sightseeing, with a focus on budget travelers. Stephen has been published and featured in dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Yahoo, Washington.org, and more.
Updated: May 10th, 2024
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