Length: 8.6 km (5.3 miles), terrain flat
Cologne Running Routes:
Rhine River Route
For more running routes, see Route List.
Cologne is one of the oldest towns in Germany, founded by the Romans over 2000 years ago. And there are enough historic sights to connect a lot of them together into one run. And a big part of the route will be along the scenic Rhine waterfront, so there will be enough nature added in.
This route will start in front of the amazing Cologne cathedral (the "Dom"), visit a few Roman artifacts, then head south up the river to the old Prussian forts, then loop back along the medieval city walls before heading back through the center of town again.
NOTE: There are paths along both sides of the Rhine River in both directions from the Köln center, lined with several nice parks. So you can't go wrong by just running along the river. Every bridge, even the railroad bridges, has a pedestrian walkway over the river.
The Historic Cologne Route
Standing on the square in front of the Cologne cathedral is an experience in itself. The gothic facade and twin towers are massive, and it was once the tallest building on earth. Make sure that you don't leave Cologne without touring the insides of the church. The gigantic space inside, with beautiful stained-glass windows, and the reliquary of the magi (three wise men), and the crypt are impressive from every angle. The cathedral took 7 centuries to build, and survived basically intact through the World War II bombing raids, taking 70 direct hits, but still surviving.
|Detail from the Dom front doors|
|Looking into the Roman museum|
Make a loop around the small museum building. On the side next to the Dom you can see the cathedral's stone masons' workshops down in the courtyard next to the church. The masons have to constantly replace weathered stones on the facade, a never-ending process.
|Roman street paving: were there skateboarders in the Roman days?|
Run downhill to the river and then turn right to run south along the water. This is the old town area, full of waterfront restaurants and pubs. This is the best place to hang out on a nice summer evening.
|Promenade along the Rhine|
|St. Martin's in the old town|
The street ends in a couple of blocks at the Alter Markt (Old Market), full of more restaurants and pubs. Turn left here and run the block to the next market square, Heumarkt (Haymarket). Immediately turn left again and run down the little lane, Salzgasse, downhill towards the river again. This area is also full of restaurants, pubs and clubs. Salzgasse ends at Buttermarkt, where you turn right and run through the rest of the old town for a few blocks.
|Courtyard behind Salzgasse|
Before the bridge, cut over to the water's edge and then run under the bridge, heading up-river to the south. We'll keep running along the riverside until the turn-around point.
After a few blocks, you'll see the old harbor island coming up ahead, with the rounded-glass front of the Chocolate Museum at the tip of the island. Cross the old metal bridge over to the island and run over to the new promenade along the river here. It's nicer and quieter than the street along the mainland.
|Running towards chocolate museum|
After some blocks, you'll pass the old Bayenturm tower from the old city walls, on the right side. You are now leaving the medieval town center of Cologne. We'll get back to run along part of the wall on the way back.
You will see the metal arches of the railroad bridge coming up ahead. Just after the last riverfront building before the bridge, turn right and cross the street (Agrippinaufer) at the pedestrian crossing. You'll see a round, red-brick fort straight ahead, in a woodsy park. The fort (called the Rheinschanze) was part of a ring of fortifications built by the Prussians after they got ahold of this area following the Napoleanic Wars. The Germans were forced to demolish most of the defences after World War I.
|The Rheinschanze fort|
Circle the little fort and come back out at the front entrance again. Now run directly away from it on Titusstraße. Another park lines the right side. A block later, the street comes to an oval square, where you turn onto Mainzer Straße and run 2 more blocks until you come to the big Ring street, with its tram line. The ring street forms a half-circle surrounding the old city walls.
Cross the ring street and run one more block to the wall itself. You will come to the Bottmühle, an old windmill tower surrounded by a green grounds. In the old days, it was common to use the city-wall towers as windmills. Today, a youth group, the "Falken" use the tower.
Actually, along this section, there isn't any wall to see, just the old towers.
Now turn left on Severinswall and follow it 2 blocks to the old city gates, the Severinstorburg. Pass the gates, as the street name changes to Kartäuserwall. The street isn't very spectacular, but it's quieter than the ring road.
|Metallic guard at Ulrichturm|
|Wall section with watchtower|
The street comes out at the east end of the Neumarkt square, where several tram lines converge. Run straight to the back side of the square and turn right on the pedestrian shopping street, Schildergasse. This is the main shopping area in the town center. Just follow the street eastwards back to the old town, staying on the right side, Gürzenichstraße, at the spot where it forks.
When you come to the first really old building, a big gothic-looking thing with battlements running along the roof, turn left on Quatermarkt. The building, the Gürzenich, is a 550-year-old venue where kings and kaisers have held receptions, and it's still used as a venue today.
|Archaeological dig at the Rathaus|
Go past the digs, and turn right to look at the facade of the town hall. The first part is a reproduction of a roman building, built in the kaiser-era. The kaisers liked reaching back historically to the Roman times: the word "kaiser" comes from "caesar", and for a thousand years the German kings held the title "Emperor of Rome" in the Holy Roman Empire.
On the left side of the city hall, you'll find its gothic tower, rebuilt after the war.
|Rathaus gothic tower|
|These guys were playing Pachelbel's Canon at the Dom|