Spotlight On: Cologne's Festivals

Located along the picturesque Rhine River, Cologne has all of the charm you might expect from a riverside city. From the trendy harbour to the Gothic buildings to the famous carnivals, this modern meets medieval city is teeming with endless possibilities.

The world-renowned events attract millions of visitors each year and, with the lively Cologne Carnival, the popular beer fests and the spectacular food markets, Cologne is a must for anyone looking to visit Germany.

Kölner Karneval (Cologne Carnival)

A woman dancing at the Cologne Carnival

Don't forget your feather head piece and drums, folks

Cologne Carnival is Germany’s answer to the Mardi Gras. It is the largest, annual event in the city and on the 11th day of the 11th month at 11:11am, it is officially declared open. Whilst the carnival season takes place over a couple of months, the dazzling street festivals do not start until after the New Year.

Over one million visitors head to Cologne for the colourful street parades to drink beer and have a good old knees-up. Typically, people dress up for the occasion, so whether it be a giraffe onesie from Primark or an elaborate costume, it’s customary to get yourself involved. A highlight of the famous carnival is Women’s Day, which takes place in the middle of February on Rose Monday. This sees women either kissing men on the cheek if they like them, or cutting up their ties if they don’t. Obviously. Bars stay open until the early morning during the carnival and people congregate in the pubs, at the end of the festivities, to toast the celebrations with a pint of Cologne’s own Kölsch beer.

Kölner Lichter (Cologne Lights)

Fireworks lighting up the River Rhine

Beautiful fireworks illuminating the river

Widely regarded as one of Europe’s most spectacular firework displays, the Cologne Lights attracts upwards of one million visitors each year. It is held in the middle of July and illuminates the Rhine River for one evening with an impressive firework show.

Around five tonnes of fireworks are imported for this occasion and dozens of fantastically decorated ships mark the grand finale of the celebration, as they sail down the river. The public can even take part in the performance by setting off Chinese lanterns after the fireworks and getting together to sing along, drink and have a good time.

Weinwoche (Wine Week)

Visitors drinking at Cologne's Wine Week

Wine Week? Sounds like our kind of week

Wine enthusiasts will love the city’s annual Weinwoche (Wine Week), which is one of Cologne’s most popular springtime events. Held annually each May, this festival celebrates the famous Rhineland wine region, noted for its delicious white wine, and you can sample wein (German for wine, folks) from over 25 of the region’s top wineries.

This event takes place in the central Haymarket area of Cologne, filled with seriously swanky bars and clubs, where you can carry on the celebrations until the early hours. Traditionally, the wine stalls line the street for 12 days, showcasing over 500 different types of plonk - along with plenty of opportunities to sample some of Cologne’s local delicacies. Cheese and wine, anyone?

Bonner Bierbörse (Beer Markets)

Beer tables in Cologne city centre

Let's have a toast to Cologne

Translating to ‘beer market’, the Bonner Bierbörse takes place in over 20 areas of Germany. Basically, a load of people get together to sample pints, eat and laugh for a full weekend, as the centre of Cologne transforms in to a huge beer garden.

Over 35 breweries assemble in the city centre and upwards of 500 different types of beer are showcased; from domestic brews to beers from every corner of the world - it’s a pint-lover’s heaven. Not only can you drink until the early hours, but there are also a variety of street vendors serving traditional German food (schnitzel, strudel, sauerkraut, of course) to keep you going. A prominent feature of the ‘beer market’ is Kölsch – Cologne’s very own brew. This is Germany’s answer to Britain’s pale ale and it is exclusively brewed in the city. If you go to the right places, you can get a litre (remember, folks, the German’s don’t drink in pints!) for under €2.

Guys, if there’s one thing you can rely on Cologne for – it’s a good festival. Prost Zu Cologne!

If you fancy heading to Cologne, check our or Cologne Weekend location page, to see what else you could get up to in this awesome German city.


A Yorkshire lass with an obsession with the Tudor monarchy. Used to fancy the man from Aqua. Now has a fear of the dark, hoovers and ghosts.

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