Cologne or Köln in German is situated on the Rhine River and is one of the country’s most important cultural centres with numerous museums, galleries, medieval Churches and Baroque Palaces as well as having over 2000 years of history. The pedestrian friendly streets allow for some great places to stroll or shop along the Hohe Straße and Schildergasse.
The Old Town with its cobblestone streets and alleyways is home to the 19th Century twin spired Cologne Cathedral, known for its gilded medieval reliquary of the Three Kings and sweeping river views. A UNESCO Listed Site, the Cologne Cathedral is one of the most visited sites in all of Germany. The interior holds priceless art including stained glass windows from the 1500’s and the 10th Century Gero-Kreuz crucifix and a black marble high altar from the 1300’s carved with niches featuring images from the Coronation of the Virgin. Adjacent to the Cathedral you will find the Ludwig Museum, which houses art from an extensive collection from Picasso to Russian Avant-Garde.
Amongst the various museums to visit while in Köln are the Fragrance Museum situated close to the Rathaus. The museum explains everything there is to know about perfume in the exact rooms where Eau de Cologne was invented in the 18th Century, the oldest intact perfume factory in the world. The Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum is operated in collaboration with the Lindt & Sprüngli chocolate brand and is one of the world’s top attractions in its field. The exhibits strike a balance between educational details about the origins of chocolate and how cocoa is grown and the indulgence of seeing chocolate being made. A real treat is the three metre high chocolate fountain where you will be given wafers to dip in the liquid chocolate to taste. Other museums to visit include the Romano-Germanic Museum a Roman villa uncovered during the war next to the Cathedral and the Wallraf-Richartz Museum.
Apart from Köln Cathedral other Churches worth visiting include the 11th Century St. Maria Im Kapitol Viertel, a Romanesque Church that stands on the spot where an ancient Colonia’s Roman Temple once stood. The Romanesque St. Gereon’s Basilica is definitely Cologne’s most unusual Church, constructed in the 12th Century with a ten sided domed structure that dates back to the Roman times. The interior is filled with medieval mosaics, murals and ancient relics. The 12th Century Romanesque Groß St. Martin is another to visit with its foundations resting on the remnants of a Roman Chapel built on what was then an island in the Rhine. The Church has now been transformed into a Benedictine Monastery.
Another highlight of the Old Town is the Kölner Rathaus or Cologne City Hall. It dates back more than 900 years and boasts a rich history. Some of the focal points to see include the Hansasaal or Hanseatic Hall, the 14th Century main building, 15th Century tower and Renaissance style loggia and cloister.
The Hohenzollern Bridge is a tiered arch bridge located between the Cathedral and KölnTriangle, which dates back to the beginning of the 20th Century. Cross the bridge for views over the river, the tower of Groß St. Martin Church and the towers of Cologne Cathedral. In the last few years the bridge has become another to be taken over by the “love locks” craze. Due to Cologne Cathedral’s World Heritage status the city was not allowed to have any buildings that would interfere with the city’s skyline so due to this situation the KölnTriangle skyscraper was kept to just over 100 metres. From the observation deck you will have fantastic panoramic views over the Old Town, the Cathedral and the 266 metre Colonius Telecom tower behind it. On the left bank near the Hohenzollern Bridge there are jetties where you can board a boat for a cruise along the famed Rhine River.
Cologne’s trendiest area is the Belgian Quarter, situated between Aachener Straße and Friesenplatz. Here you will find some great cafés, boutiques, theatres, galleries and bars. The streets are all named after cities and provinces in Belgium like Brussels, Ghent, Antwerp and Liege as well as Maastricht and Utrecht in the Netherlands.
Just 15 kilometres from Cologne is the picturesque town of Brühl, where you can visit the Schloss Augustusburg an 18th Century Palace of the Archbishop of Köln. This stunning Palace is decorated in late Baroque Rococo style and is famous for its magnificent staircase hall. Other highlights include its large park that is used for open-air concerts and festivals. Sharing the same park is 1740 Falkenlust Palace an important part of this World Heritage site.