My weekend in Cologne: Museums, machinery and miniature wargames, oh my!


My weekend in Cologne: Museums, machinery and miniature wargames, oh my!

by Tamala Malerk
Stripes Europe

As one of the top 10 largest and most popular cities in Germany, I knew that I would have plenty to see and do in Cologne, but what to do with only 48 hours? As a self-proclaimed history buff and overall nerd, I wanted to share some unconventional experiences from my weekend in Cologne.


Two-in-one museum surprise

As my spouse and I were sharing a schnitzel and “Halve Hahn” (a giant block of gouda cheese and rye roll) and sipping on one of Cologne’s famous “Kölsch” beers, we noticed an enormous building across the street from us with the word “Museum” painted on it. (We couldn’t quite make out the word before it). Of course, we had to check it out. As we were purchasing our tickets the woman behind the counter asked if we wanted to purchase admission to one or both museums. What a nice surprise, there was not one but two museums housed in this building. Museum Schnütgen has a vast collection of medieval art, including some beautiful stained glass pieces, in one of the oldest churches in Cologne. Interspersed throughout the medieval art is the museum’s latest temporary exhibit, Harald Naegeli in Cologne, whose graffiti and other artistic mediums fit right in with the macabre and gorgeous medieval art and artifacts. Once we saw all the medieval art we could imagine, we headed back to the center of the building and walked over to the entrance of the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum, where we were greeted by a seven-and-half-meter-high rice granary. It was there we began our exploration of around 65,000 objects about global human culture from religion to history and artifacts gathered by travelers in the 18th and 19th centuries.


Harold Naegeli Art Outside Museum Schnütgen| Photo by Tamala Malerk
Harold Naegeli Art Outside Museum Schnütgen | Photo by Tamala Malerk


Directly across from our two-in-one museum surprise was the Roemisch Germanisches (Roman German) Museum at the Belgisches Haus (Belgium house), which was currently housing two floors of exhibits and artifacts. As a huge fan of ancient history, this was my spouse’s number one “thing-to-do” on their list. I learned about the important role the Rhine River played for the Roman Empire and gazed in awe at the ancient artifacts, glass and jewelry on display.


Games Workshop: Next to the Belgian house was a retail shop known as Games Workshops, which makes the popular miniature wargame “Warhammer.” For those unfamiliar with Warhammer, you can play the game in a multitude of ways: as a video game, online, as an app or, in its “IRL” (in real life) form, as a strategy tabletop game where you get crafty and assemble and paint the miniature figures yourself before dueling it out with others. As we entered the shop, we were greeted by the nicest guy behind the counter, and we got to talking about the game and how we were surprised to have randomly stumbled upon the store. Little did we know we had just walked into the largest Warhammer store outside of the United Kingdom (where you can find the Warhammer Museum). We didn’t have time to sit in for a full game, but it is good to know the store is there for when we do.


Schokoladen Museum: So, this place definitely falls under the conventional category, but history-buff-nerds like chocolate too, especially when we get to learn about it while consuming it. I mistakenly assumed that the chocolate museum would be a place where I might learn a little about chocolate, but mostly just consume it. Do not get me wrong, the museum offered plenty of opportunities to consume chocolate in many different forms, but you learn so much about it touring three floors worth of chocolate facts, exhibits and the factory floor. Upon beginning the tour, you are handed a hollow bunny to eat at your leisure. You can look at chocolate-making machinery from the 1800s and classic molds, not only learning about the history of chocolate, but also the modern-day methods of ethically making chocolate. Across one floor, you walk through the multi-step process of creating the chocolate from melting the sugar, mixing the ingredients and molding the chocolate. I got to eat a tiny square of chocolate fresh out of the machine!


Rhine River, taken outside in Cologne |Photo by Tamala Malerk
Rhine River, taken outside in Cologne | Photo by Tamala Malerk


As you travel up to the next level, you see the chocolatiers molding the chocolate into some of your favorite shapes. There is also a fountain cascading with chocolate, and I got to behold the astounding view of the sun blazing on the Rhine River as I consumed a waffle stick dipped in chocolate straight from the fountain (handed to me by a museum worker to keep it as hygienic as possible). You can also use your time on this floor to order a custom-made chocolate bar that will be ready for you in 45 minutes (about the amount of time it will take you to finish exploring the exhibits) for around six euros. As you exit the museum, there is one last chance to score some free chocolate from a bowl of individual chocolate pieces. If you haven’t had enough chocolate, there is even a cafe on-site, where I drank hot liquid Lindt chocolate smothered in whipped cream.


If you only have a short time to spend in Cologne, make sure to quickly get your picture of the Dom, and then check out some of these more-or-less unconventional spots.

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