Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium
Again, another of these destinations I have been so many times like neighbouring Dusseldorf but never created the guide for it. Although honestly, since the first couple of times or so I came to the city, took all the pictures around and did almost every tourist sight, all the later occasions I returned is mainly to go to some favourite restaurants, meeting friends there and going out. The choice here for going out, say discos, pubs and general entertainment, is definitely greater than in Dusseldorf.
Cologne is without any hesitation one of the most historical and oldest cities in Germany. Back in the Roman days, it was the largest city in what was known the province of Germania. Currently ranks the 4th largest in the country in terms of population and of course importance, and because it did not suffer as badly as Dusseldorf the raids during WWII, it managed to retain a cute historic medieval old town. Not everything is “real” let’s be honest here, but the reconstruction and restoration thereafter was quite a success. It is therefore here you will find many more places of interest and sights than bigger brother Dusseldorf.
Still, the scars from the war are visible even right in the middle of a major landmark, the Cathedral Square. Notice the horrible brutalist and socialist hideous buildings scattered around. However with the latest projects trying to restore absolutely everything, gentrification to the maximum through the old town and construction of great cultural centres, museums and entire new districts with spectacular striking architecture have translated in even more tourism coming year after year.
Digging in this city even to make a simple hole can lead to discovery of another Roman structure below. It’s a bit difficult to find large buildings or structures from antiquity since everything lies below the current street level, but new efforts are bringing slowly pieces here and there, sometimes integrated to the new buildings and musealised in the basements.
The major landmark, and not only in the city but a symbol in Germany is the UNESCO World Heritage Site listed Cathedral. The Dom as it is known. The most visited monument in the country is already the reason number one why to plan a trip to Cologne for sure. So large and tall that it does not even fit most of the photo cameras at the square, still the most impressive view of the entire of it plus the old town and the beautiful steel railway bridge is from the other bank of the river Rhine. This will be your picture perfect postcard.
When planning your stay, consider this is a city for a day, good enough for enjoying every sight at slow pace, hence if this is your base or perhaps Dusseldorf, both cities are perfect for a weekend trip unless you happen to be around the Carnival season when you will get to enjoy the hundreds of parties and streets parades. It is the largest celebration of Carnival of any city in Germany. And so it does apply to the beautiful Christmas markets everywhere through the streets and squares from December.
Getting some few notes with regards to food, the choice is really very big hence easy to get what you feel like or desire. Many restaurants are everywhere around the historical city centre, most of them being nice breweries with local food. Check out the many located by the riverside, specially the area by Gross Sankt Martin. You will definitely not have any problem finding a nice place with good prices, rarely any tourist trap.
For more information about the city visit Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Germany’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Cologne
- Old Town Narrow and charming streets with many historical and old buildings. The highlight landmark is, of course, the Cathedral
-Komödienstraße The northern perimeter of the former Roman town, one of the major pedestrian streets leading towards the railway station and Cathedral, full of shops and restaurants.
-Roman remains Very few from the former city walls, and the North Gate arch already by the Cathedral square.
-Saint Andrew’s Church One of 12 churches built in the 10th century in Romanesque style, although greatly rebuilt and restores after WWII.
-Central Railway Station Just by the north face of the Cathedral at the opposite side of Roncalli Square. Really impressive outside and inside, especially the platforms covered with a massive iron and glass roof.
-Roncalli Square or Dom Platz, the heart of the historic old town.
-Cathedral or High Cathedral of Saint Peter. Simply known as the Dom in German, it is an UNESCO World Heritage Site listed. Miraculously it survived although with damages during the WWII raids.
-Althoff Dom Hotel Aligning the western side of the square. Was the most luxurious when built in 1800, although severely destroyed during the war and rebuilt in a more austere and simple design.
–Heinzelmännchen Fountain At the southern side of the square, corner with Am Hof street. Filled with little gnomes sculpted from the stone, said to be the workers of the city in the night.
-Roman-Germanic Museum Along the eastern side, one of these hideous buildings overshadowing the Cathedral.
-Ludwig Museum Right behind towards the east side of the Roman-Germanic Museum. A 1986 building created by Peter Busmann and Godfrid Haberer, it is home to one of the largest collections of Picasso among plenty other treasures.
-Hohe Straße The High Street, one of the principal shopping areas in the city. It runs north from the Roncalli Square towards the southern edge of the old town. Unfortunately not the prettiest since most of the original buildings were destroyed in the war.
-Obermarspforten Another of the important streets. Runs perpendicular from Hohe Straße and links with three important squares: the City Hall, Old Market and Haymarket.
-Glockengasse 4711 The number itself, 4711, is a brand of Eau de Cologne, and comes from the number assigned to the building by the French troops who entered the city in 1794. It is located west along Obermarspforten, not far from the Farina Museum.
-Farina Fragrance Museum One of the oldest fragrant factories still standing in its original building, located at the corner of Obermarspforten with the Rathausplatz. One can learn on the most famous fragrance Farina created, the world renown Eau de Cologne, which receipt has not change since 1709.
-Rathausplatz The City Hall Square, with the impressive Renaissance style building from 1573, although its history dates back to at least 900 years, making it the oldest in Germany. Right at the front, one of the largest excavated areas from the Roman times has recently been uncovered and soon to be made one of the principal museums.
-Alter Markt The Old Market Square, along the eastern side of the City Hall. Contains lots of buildings which are a simple recreation of what here once stood before the war.
-Haymarket Linked to the Alter Markt by a small street. It’s one of the largest squares and so the principal area during any celebration.
-St. Maria im Kapitol Visible just south from the Haymarket. One of the original 12 Romanesque churches built from the 11th Century.
-Great Saint Martin Church Just east from the Alter Markt, facing the riverside promenade. One of the most prominent Romanesque silhouettes in the city’s skyline.
-Old Fish Market Facing the Rhine river and St Marin Church at the other side, it is one of the most charming places in the city with the many cute colourful Gothic old houses all around, the very few rare examples that were spared during WWII raids.
- Rhine River Promenade Full with cafes, restaurants and nicely landscaped gardens, offering the best walk aligning with the old town and the newer districts.
-Rheingasse This little street perpendicular to the promenade it home to some of the oldest buildings untouched by the war.
-Overstolzenhaus A rare example of a patrician’s house in Roman style built in 1225, the last example in Cologne and one of the few remaining in Germany.
-Rheinauhafen Is a completely regenerated former harbour by the Rhine River hosting nowadays incredibly well designed buildings by renown architects.
-Malakoff Tower South along the promenade, built in 1855 as part of the Prussian defences in Cologne. Next to it was built in 1898 the swinging bridge.
-Imhoff Chocolate Museum Next to the Malakoff, housed in former warehouses of the port.
-Kranhaus Buildings Those are the biggest buildings in the whole complex and total three. They do resemble the cranes that once stood in the site.
-Siebengebirge wharf warehouses Original warehouses from when the harbour was built and in operation. They do host now exhibitions and galleries.
- Hohenzollern Bridge The landmark rail bridge. The best views of it are from the opposite side of the station, at the east bank of the Rhine River.
- Medieval Gates Only 3 remain from the original 12. Eigelsteintor, Hahnentor and Severinstor.
- Carnival A great sight in itself should you be in the city during Carnival period. It is the most important festivity in the city and the largest. It rivals Dusseldorf but Cologne still the biggest.
- Christmas Market During the Christmas period from the last week of November and until January, all the squares and streets around the Old Town host the Christmas market, one of the nicest in Germany.
In the nearby radius of Cologne you have no less than 4 international airports to benefit from. Either it being Cologne-Bonn International, which is the city proper airport and easily accessible via commuter trains and buses in matter of minutes; or much larger Dusseldorf merely an hour away and directly linked via commuter trains. The third choice would be Dortmund, an hour and half away and also directly connected to the railway network and as last, what is called Dusseldorf Weeze, farther north beyond Dusseldorf yet not so well connected to the transports.
Coming overland from anywhere in Germany is a great idea, especially via railway. The city is extremely well linked to the major cities and beyond either with high-speed trains or slower (and much cheaper in return) ones. From the neighbouring countries there are direct links to Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands or even Switzerland.
Within the city there are trams, metro and plenty of buses anywhere. However once in and around the old town or even across the river you will not need to take any public transportation at all. It is small enough to visit on foot, even for the more distant areas that can be easily reached on foot.
Unfortunately, like for any city in the whole region of North Rhine-Westphalia, I cannot recommend any hotel as I never had to stay in one nor having the need of searching for it. But being such important city and so touristy, there is a wide choice for everyone’s tastes and pockets. It should not be any difficult to get a nice deal. The city is not expensive therefore rates should be normal, except when the hordes of tourist invade the city during the high season months in summer. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Agoda, Opodo or Ebookers.
Album of the city
Album during Christmas time