Cologne's 10 Cutting-Edge Art Galleries & Museums

Cologne Cathedral and the Hohenzollern Bridge
Cologne Cathedral and the Hohenzollern Bridge | © Jiuguang Wang / Flickr
Photo of Ellie Dewdney
7 October 2016

Cologne only may be Germany’s fourth largest city, but when it comes to artistic culture this city rivals the art capitals of the world. A haven for art connoisseurs, Cologne is littered with high quality galleries and museums, mixing classical and contemporary, with the world famous annual ART COLOGNE fair ensuring the city stays at the forefront of the international art scene. Here are ten of the best art galleries and museums in Cologne.

Galerie Artclub

Museum, Art Gallery
Käthe Kollwitz Museum Interior
Käthe Kollwitz Museum Interior | Courtesy Käthe Kollwitz Museum
Housed in a renovated fire station, Galerie Artclub is more impressive than its unassuming name suggests. Members of the ‘club’ are invited to display their art in one of the five exhibition halls – either as part of a group exhibition or a solo feature. What’s appealing about the Artclub is its inherent flexibility. As artists are invited to exhibit based solely on the quality of their work, this gallery refuses to be labelled under a single artistic niche. The stylistic and thematic variety on show always allows for an interesting viewing experience. Moreover, as the Artclub primarily functions as a platform for lesser known artists, much of the art work here is more affordable than at high end Cologne galleries.

Käthe Kollwitz Museum

Though it’s located in the heart of the city, visitors to Cologne could easily be forgiven for missing the Käthe Kollwitz Museum, hidden as it is above a shopping gallery at Cologne’s Neumarkt. However, what the museum lacks in size and status it makes up for with its art. Käthe Kollwitz was a German artist active in the first half of the 20th century, whose subject matter invariably focused on the tragedy of human suffering. The 750 pieces housed in this museum (including her paintings, prints and sculptures) may not be particularly uplifting but demonstrate impeccable skill and an emotional pathos that will leave few indifferent. A trip to this museum is guaranteed to leave a lasting impression on both the artistically and historically minded.

Skulpturen Park

Museum, Park, Architectural Landmark
Installation at Kolumba
Installation at Kolumba | Photo: Lothar Scnhepf, Courtesy Kolumba
The Cologne Sculpture Park is a space that defies easy categorization. It is, arguably, neither a museum nor a gallery, but for any art lover it is not to be missed. Since 1997, the 25,000 square foot public park has proudly displayed a diverse collection of contemporary international sculpture – including some of the most respected names in the art world. Moreover, the exhibition is constantly evolving; every two years new sculptures are selected and put on display making this park an ideal candidate for repeat visits. The sculptures on display between 2011 and 2013 included works by Gunther Forg, Martin Boyce, Leiko Ikemura, Dirk Skreber and many other well-known artists. This park is the perfect destination for those looking for something other than the traditional museum experience and there is something rather liberating about viewing the pieces outside.


When visiting Cologne it is hard not to be aware of the city’s Catholic past, with the cathedral being its most famous feature. It is hardly surprising that the city plays host to numerous collections of religious artworks. Kolumba is a museum run by the Archdiocese of Cologne and comes highly recommended. The museum itself is worthy of artistic interest, combining remnants of the original St Columba church, a 1950s chapel and medieval ruins in a beautiful juxtaposition of old and new architecture. The art work dates from late antiquity to the present day and includes everything from 12th century paintings to modern video installations. As such Kolumba offers a refreshing variety of art that is often lacking in similar museums. Visitors are encouraged to enjoy thought-provoking artwork at their own pace. This is not a conventional museum and has the ability to win over those with a little or no interest in religious art.

OffArtCologne Galerie

Like many of Cologne’s independent art galleries, OffArtCologne is located in the old town and is a hidden gem; almost literally in fact, as the gallery can be difficult to find, but persistence is well rewarded. OffArtCologne prides itself on offering talented young artists a forum for their work. As such this is a good place to visit if you are looking to buy, not just browse, as the gallery combines art that has genuine flair with affordable prices. The exhibition space is small, with a personal and intimate vibe, and minimalist decor that compliments the flamboyant art. It is worth noting that visits here are by appointment only, which can act as a deterrent but is actually a blessing in disguise. The gallery is always quiet, which means visitors have unparalleled access to the staff who are always eager to answer questions about the art and gallery.

OffArtCologne, Filzengraben 1-3, Cologne, Germany, +49 171 8998989

Rhenish Photographic Archive at Museen der Stadt Köln

Though Cologne is, perhaps, best known for its role at the forefront of contemporary art, the city is not exclusively the home of modern artistic exhibitions. The Museen der Stadt Köln currently houses the Rhenish Photographic Archive. Founded in 1925, this archive of historical photographs documents the continually evolving culture and heritage of Cologne itself. This is the place to go if photography is your preferred artistic medium. Recently, the archive has also bolstered its artistic standing by acquiring numerous images by famous local photographers such as Hugo Schmölz and P.P. Fürst. One of the more unusual aspects of this archive, however, is the fact the photographs are preserved as black and white negatives, giving visitors a charmingly nostalgic experience.

Museen der Stadt, Zeughausstraße 1-3, Cologne, Germany, +49 221 22125789

Galerie Nagel Draxler
Galerie Nagel Draxler’s Unfinished Season exhibition (2013) | Courtesy Galerie Nagel Draxler

Galerie Nagel Draxler

Galerie Nagel Draxler was founded in 1990 and since its conception has become one of the best places to see truly modern art in Cologne. The gallery’s original aim, of showcasing revolutionary conceptual art, has given it a wonderful element of unpredictability. The gallery is a champion of diverse mediums and original artists, and also seems to have something of a sixth-sense when it comes to predicting upcoming artistic trends. Many of the artists who have debuted work here have gone on to make waves within the art community, making this the perfect place to see or even buy a future great. The art on display at Galerie Nagel Draxler is amongst the most dynamic in Cologne; it sometimes divides artistic opinion but is always stimulating.

Galerie Nagel Draxler, Brüsseler Straße 85, Cologne, Germany, +49 221 2570591

Galerie Susanne Zander

Since its foundation in 1988 the co-owners of Galerie Susanne Zander, Nicole Delmes and namesake Susanne Zander, have earned this gallery a reputation as one of the primary exhibitors of exciting outsider art in Cologne. And as the gallery becomes increasingly involved in more conceptual outsider art, with many of the pieces on display questioning fundamental beliefs of how art is produced and received, this is not a place for the artistically narrow-minded. Though this gallery is internationally associated with quality outsider art, the real draw of Galerie Susanne Zander lies in the variety it presents; this is a gallery that prides itself of being materially and thematically diverse.

Galerie Susanne Zander, Antwerpener Straße 1, Cologne, Germany, +49 221 521625

Galerie Boisserée

Galerie Boisserée, located in the centre of downtown Cologne, is a champion of the graphic technique and dedicated to presenting the very best in graphic art. With a history stretching back to 1838 the gallery is well established within the local art scene. The gallery contains single artist exhibitions allowing visitors to get a real sense of individual artists’ chosen style and approach. Gallery owners Johannes Schilling and Thomas Weber have a preoccupation with artistic engagement that shines through via the quality of the art displayed. This, combined with Galerie Boisseree’s central location and surplus of large inviting windows make it difficult to resist a look around this illustrious gallery and the majority of visitors will not be disappointed with what they find.

Galerie Boisserée, Drususgasse 7-11, Cologne, Germany, +49 221 2578519

The Museum of East Asian Art

Building, Museum
The Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst or the Museum of East Asian Art is a well-known name amongst Cologne’s museums. However, it is far from the busiest tourist location and for those with a taste for the exotic it should definitely be on the itinerary. Before even crossing the threshold the exterior building and gardens invoke the Far East and the inside does not disappoint either. The heart of the collection was collected by museum founders, Adolf Fischer (1857-1914) and Frieda Bartdorff (1874-1945), and features everything from Buddhist sculpture to lacquer art. While of course wider questions remain to be answered about the rightful owners of non-Western ancient artifacts, this museum is doubtless fascinating and provides a unique perspective on East Asian culture in Cologne.

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