© KölnTourismus GmbH, Axel Schulten

Cologne Cathedral Tower Climb

533 steps to the observation platform

It’s 97 metres skyward without an elevator. You’ll need a certain amount of fitness and comfortable shoes, because you have to climb 533 steps. People go up on the right-hand side of the stairs and back down on the left-hand side. When you encounter descending visitors, it can get tight on the sometimes narrow, slippery steps.

But after completing the popular climb up the tower, you will be rewarded with a panoramic view over the city centre of Cologne, the Rhine and, in good weather, the Siebengebirge. The climb starts at the separate access structure on the side of the Cathedral. You’ll also find the box office there.

© KölnTourismus GmbH, Konrad-Schmid

Almost halfway up: The belfry

At a height of about 53 meters, you will pass St. Peter's Bell, which is the Cathedral’s Bell 1 and also called “decker Pitter” (fat Peter) by the people of Cologne. It’s time for a short break and a bit of history: This bell was cast in 1923 and with its 24,000 kilograms and 3.22 m diameter was until 2016 the largest bell in the world swinging on a straight yoke. The clapper alone weighs about 600 kg. St. Peter’s Bell rings only on special occasions and major holidays.



The bells of Cologne Cathedral

St. Peter's Bell  |  Pretiosa  |  Speciosa  |  Bell of the Three Kings  |  St. Ursula's bell  |  St. Joseph's bell  |  Chapter bell  |  Ave bell  |  Angelus bell  |  Vespers bell  |  Consecration bell  |  Emperor's bell

St. Peter’s Bell, aka “decke Pitter”: The Cathedral’s Bell 1

“Fat Peter” has had an eventful history. It was cast in 10 minutes, but the metal took weeks to cool — and it also took weeks to transport it up the tower. During World War II, it escaped being melted down after the City of Cologne cunningly claimed that “the bell would be needed to celebrate the final victory.” This argument actually worked.

In the 1950s, St. Peter’s Bell got a crack, and in 2011 the clapper weighing several hundred kilos broke off. Fortunately, it didn’t crash all the way down into the Cathedral, but bounced on 8-inch-thick wooden floorboards. And so “fat Peter” with its powerful deep C still rings into the hearts of Cologne residents and visitors today.

© KölnTourismus GmbH, Andreas Möltgen

How long it takes you to reach the Cologne Cathedral observation deck

After a total of 533 steps you finally reach the observation deck of the south tower. How long will it take you to get up there? It depends on your physical fitness. On the Internet, you will find a length of 5–7 minutes for trained people who do not take a break on the way up. Otherwise you should reckon with about 15 minutes including a break in the belfry.