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The obvious go-to point and biggest draw for tourists is Cologne Cathedral. Climbing the 533 steps all the way up to the top of the southern tower will sure make you sweat, but from 97 metres (320ft) you’ll have excellent views over the city centre and the hustle and bustle of one of Germany’s most frequented shopping streets right below you. An informative tour is included in the admission price, but you should book well in advance if you’re planning to go as the public tours sell out well ahead of time. One drawback is that the view lacks the most prominent landmark of Cologne’s skyline – the cathedral itself; for that, you have to walk all the way back down again.
Heading to the sixth level of the parking deck P1 of this department store is a bit of an insider’s tip. Even though it’s conveniently located in the central shopping district and millions of tourists walk past it every day, not many know of the great views you have from up here. On a summer’s afternoon, it’s worth popping over to parking deck P2 and taking the elevator to level 14/15. The views aren’t as good, but on sunny days the area converts into a beach bar – ‘Sonnenscheinetage’ – with sand, cocktails, and sun loungers.
If you’ve wondered where to go to enjoy those postcard views over Cologne Cathedral and Love Lock Bridge, the answer is Köln Triangle, also known as the LVR tower. It’s still lesser known than the vantage points on the left side of the Rhine, but it’s well worth crossing the river and taking the elevator up to the 28th floor. From there, a staircase takes you up one more floor to the viewing platform, where 360-degree panoramic views over the city and beyond wait for you.
The Herkulesberg bridge connects Cologne’s green belt with the Mediapark but is a bit tricky to find if you don’t know the area well. But once you get there you’ll be rewarded with great views over Cologne. The bridge itself has seen better days; graffiti covers the concrete elements and blue paint chips off of the steel joists. Photographers appreciate the urban scene and the lesser known perspective it gives over Cologne’s skyline. If you venture a bit further, you’ll reach the hilltop of Cologne’s Herkulesberg, which is ideal for barbecues and picnics with a view.
The cable car opened in 1957 and at that time was the first one in Europe to carry passengers over a river. A ticket buys you six minutes of spectacular panoramic views over the riverside promenades and major landmarks, including Cologne Cathedral. On special occasions, such as Kölner Lichter, the gondolas operate at night time as well. The cableway is currently undergoing refurbishment but is expected to reopen in the near future.