Should you rent a car in CologneGermany>Cologne

One of the most iconic images for the round-Europe inter-rail traveller is the Hohenzollern bridge leading out from Cologne Hauptbahnhof station and over the Rhine, with the imposing Dom Cathedral as a backdrop.

For getting around the enormous Rhine-Ruhr conurbation which stretches from east to west to the north of Cologne, there is certainly no need for a hire car, as public transport is excellent. This is covered in our Düsseldorf car hire advice page. What about elsewhere?

[top num=”65″]

Despite initial impressions, there are actually several reasons why you might find that you should hire a car in Cologne, and these generally revolve around driving south.

[why2 num=”65″]

  • Valleys and Vines – Further to the south are the Rhine and Mosel valleys, which offer many a scenic vista amongst the numerous vineyards.
  • Belgium and Luxembourg – Cologne Bonn airport is also a useful gateway for the Ardennes scenic region in southern Belgium and also for neighbouring Luxembourg. From within Europe, flights to Cologne are usually much cheaper than flights to either Brussels or Luxembourg, and there is also a wider choice of low-cost routes. Generally, it is better to head into this part of the world in a hire car, although it is by no means essential (see below).


  • Autobahns – You can try and race a high speed train down the A35 autobahn, but with ever increasing speed restrictions coming into place on the German motorway network, the train is almost certain to win. Having said that, the German motorway network is still an easy way of getting around when compared with British or American equivalents.
  • Nurburgring – Cologne is also the closest major airport to the infamous Nurburgring Grand Prix circuit. You can even drive around the circuit in your own car, but hire car companies would not be best pleased about you doing it in one of theirs! More realistically, there area around Nurburg offers plenty of opportunities for scenic drives on rural lanes.

[whynot2 num=”65″]

Within the city

  • Public transport provision within Cologne itself, to neighbouring Bonn and also within the Rhine-Ruhr conurbation to the north is excellent, so no car is needed for simply travelling around this area. See our Düsseldorf page for more details.
  • High-speed and local train services are available to and from all the main airports in the region, including Cologne Bonn, and also Frankfurt International to the south and Düsseldorf International to the north.
  • Cool as ICE – If you really want to zoom fast down the A35 corridor, you can of course just take the ICE high-speed train from Cologne airport to Frankfurt. If you book far enough in advance, you can get a seat right behind the drivers’ cab – but depending on formation, you may need to upgrade to First class to get this view!

Beyond Cologne without a car

  • Boat cruises – A hire car is certainly a good option for exploring the Rhine or Mosel Valleys, but an even more pleasant, and far more tranquil option is to take a river cruise holiday. For shorter trips, plenty of cruisers offer journeys along the Rhine in Cologne itself. A perfect option for dinner!
  • Cycling – the city of Cologne itself is renowned for being one of the most cycle friendly in Germany, and there are also plenty of trails linking Cologne with the other big cities in the region. German drivers might have a reputation for putting their foot down on the autobahns, but cyclists can generally expect to be treated with respect by drivers in German cities.
  • Mosel Maare cycle route – Further south is the Mosel Maare cycle route, a rare example of a railway in Germany which fell into disuse, and has since been converted into a cycling trial. This runs between Daun and Wittlich. Take the train to Daun, or to Wengeror for the southern end of the route.

[ratings2 num=”65″]

In many ways, the decision whether to hire a car or not in Cologne is a simple case of direction — head north and probably you won’t need to, head south and we think it is a good idea. As many people would have the impression that there is no need to hire a car in Cologne, or anywhere else in Germany, we think this is one city where that sentiment is worth re-considering.

Verdict — yes.

[footer2 num=”65″]

Author: Carometer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *