Cologne on the Rhine
Touring the lovely city of Cologne, Germany
A 2,000-year-old city, Cologne, spans the Rhine River in the North Rhine – Westphalia state of Germany. It’s the region’s cultural landmark with Gothic architecture, awesome green spaces, and fantastic river views.
One of the most popular landmarks in Cologne is Cologne Cathedral. The cornerstone of this cathedral was laid on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary on August 15, 1248. Since their completion in 1880, the two massive towers of the cathedral have dominated Cologne’s skyline. The northern tower, at a height of 157.38 meters, is taller than the southern one by 7 cm. Today this cathedral is the second-tallest structure in the city with the telecommunication tower being the first tallest. The cathedral covers practically 8,000 sq meters of floor space and can hold over 20,000 people. It has become an important pilgrimage place in Europe, housing the shrine of the Three Wise Men. There are outstanding stained-glass windows and a lot of important artworks. In 1996 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The charming narrow alleyways and traditional old houses beckon one to come strolling in the Old Town. There are many breweries, pubs, and restaurants in which to relax. The Old Town of Cologne along with the Cologne Cathedral directly across the Rhine, the Romanesque Great St. Martin Church, and the tower of the historic City Hall, make up the world-famous Rhine Panorama. There are many museums located here, among them the Museum Ludwig, Romano-Germanic Museum, and others. There are plenty of monuments and fountains to admire, and historical remains. The major attractions for both residents and visitors are Alter Markt and Heumarkt, surrounded by lots of small restaurants and cafes.
Right in the middle of the Alter Markt Square is the Jan-con-Werth-Brunnen, a fountain that was built in 1884. It is in honor of Jan von Werth, who was a successful general during the Thirty Years’ War. The fountain is the creation of German sculptor Wilhelm Olbermann and shows the general standing atop a tall pedestal with allegorical statues of the Kolner Bauer and Kolner Jungfrau at the foot, representing valor and purity. There are reliefs that depict the story of the romance between Jan von Werth and Griet.
At the top of the facade of house Number 24 is the “Kallendresser”. This is a sculpture of a man with his trousers pulled down. The origin of this sculpture is unknown and there are those who claim that it is a political statement about City Hall, standing opposite this house.
Among the highlights of the Old Town is the historic Kolner Rathaus or City Hall. It was built in 1573 and is the oldest such public building in Germany. In the Hanseatic Hall, you can see the Gothic figures of eight prophets and nine “good heroes.” Its sonorous carillon plays three times a day.
Founded in 1976, The Ludwig Museum features about 350 modern works of art donated by Peter and Irene Ludwig. This is the first museum in Cologne to exhibit modern art. Besides pop art, the museum also has an extensive collection of Russian Avantgarde paintings and many artworks by Picasso.
The Wallraf-Richartz Museum is especially strong in the work of the Cologne school, while the Ludwig focuses on modern and contemporary painting.
The tallest structure in Cologne is Colonius. This TV tower was built in the early 1980s along the green belt, encircling the inner city. It was built in 1981 by the Bavarian construction company Dyckerhoff & Widmann. At the time it was built, the Colonius was Germany’s sixth tallest communications tower rising over 253 meters high. The height later increased to 266 meters with the addition of a tall radio antenna at the top of the spire. Up until 1999, the observation deck was open to the public along with a revolving restaurant. You can see views over Cologne and as far as Bonn and Dusseldorf.
House of Fragrances 4711 was redesigned in 2001 and the interior architectural structure of the gallery was turned into an all-in-one exhibition, modern convention, and presentation room. There are state-of-the-art multimedia appliances and the room is perfect for workshops, seminars, conventions, and meetings of up to 60 people. You can arrange for a guided tour of the museum. 4711 is a traditional German eau de cologne that is, the creation of Maurer and Wirtz.
A new and attractive district of Cologne is the reconstructed Rheinauhafen waterfront complex. It is close to the city center, located on the right bank of the Rhine. It has become one of the city’s popular attractions. Here you can find a mixture of modern residential and office buildings with many cafes, restaurants, and galleries.
The centerpiece of this area is the new Cologne promenade with the trio of buildings known as the “Kranhauser” or Crane Towers. The buildings rise to a height of around 60 meters and have the shape of hoisting cranes.
Here you’ll also find a recently opened four-star hotel with a trapezoid-shaped – art’otel. This is an eye-catching building with colorful windows and has picturesque collages created by Korean artist SEO, a former advanced student in Georg Baselitz’s master classes.
The Great St. Martin Church has a distinctive crossing tower and trefoil choir. It has been a part of the Old Town since the Middle Ages. The site upon which the church sits was located on an island in the Rhine in Roman times and had several warehouses. The church was built on top of the warehouses and incorporated their remains. It was badly damaged during WW II and archeological excavations were made beneath the choir. Today the smooth transition from the foundations of a Roman warehouse to the walls of the church can be plainly seen. The upper parts of the church were reconstructed and are a typical example of Rhenish architecture.
Across from the church stand the folklore figures of Tunnes and Schal.
Medieval legend has it that the patron of Romanesque St. Gereon's Basilica was a Roman officer, who died along with 318 legionnaires for his faith. In ancient times on the martyr’s grave, a church with an oval base was built. The church has a giant central area, built in phases, the church rose to an enormous height. It has a decagonal-shaped nave topped by a dome. The interior of the church is lit by the decagonal 21-meters-wide arched roof, and there are colored windows created by Georg Meistermann.
Take a stroll through Cologne’s oldest and most traditional public park, the Flora and Botanical Garden, located in Riehl, a northern district of the city close to the left bank of the Rhine. The garden covers 11.5 hectares and was established in the 19th century. There are over 10,000 species of plants and you can walk between exotic plants in the tropical greenhouses and the Palm House, which makes you feel like you’re in a rainforest.
The heart of this garden complex is The Flora, a historic building that offers a place for conferences, concerts, and social gatherings like weddings and gala celebrations.
Altenberg Cathedral is one of the finest examples of early Gothic architecture in Rhineland. Known as the Bergischer Dom, the church was built in 1259. Both Protestant and Catholic congregations share it. In the interior, you'll find lovely Gothic stained glass and tombs of princes and abbots.
The Museum of Applied Arts is situated in the former house of the Wallraf-Richartz Museum since 1998. The exhibition includes furnishings, ceramics, glass, jewelry, and textiles from the late Middle Ages and designer objects of the 20th century. In the inner courtyard, you’ll find the statue of an angel holding a painter’s palette in its hands. The statue is over seven meters high and part of a fountain. It was created in honor of Stefan Lochner, the master artist of the Cologne school of medieval painting, and dedicated in 1953 on the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death.
A perfect place to spend a summer day and barbeque is the Volksgarten. A lot is always going on here besides bongo drummers, Frisbee players, and soccer players. There is a children’s playground, pedal hire, beer gardens, and restaurants. You can see the remains of the Lunette and the former Fort Paul, once belonging to a Prussian fortress.
For total relaxation and various activities in a natural setting, there is The Stadtwald Forest. It was planted on the land of the former Kitschburg manor in 1895. The forest has three artificial ponds. The forest stretches to the southeast along Decksteiner-Weiher pond to the borough of Sulz, at which point it adjoins Beethoven Park. Here, visitors and families can participate in many activities like jogging, pony riding, a hands-on children’s zoo, and an animal park. The green lawns invite picnickers.
More than two centuries old, Melaten Cemetery is an oasis of complete peace and quiet. It has a park-like design and people enjoy coming here for quiet, contemplative strolls. The cemetery has around 55,000 graves, among them the graves of prominent Cologne citizens like the members of the Millowitsch theater dynasty, Willi Ostermann, Dirk Back, and the Farina family, creators of Eau de Cologne. You can see many impressive monuments and objects of traditional and contemporary art. There are Classicist, neo-Gothic, and neo-Baroque grave monuments, symbols, and sculptures. Melaten is also a landscape conservation area with many plant species and more than 40 species of birds and insects as well as bats and squirrels.
The statue honoring actor Willy Millowitsch stands on Willy Millowitsch Square.
The equestrian statue of Kaiser Wilhelm II sits on the western side of the Hohenzollernbrucke Bridge.
Cologne Zoo was founded in 1860 and is one of the oldest zoological gardens in Germany. You can see fine 19th-century menagerie buildings, among them the Moorish-style elephant house and an old birdhouse resembling a traditional Russian church that now houses chimps. Other highlights here are Ape Island with a mock rainforest, a well-stocked aquarium, and an excellent big cat enclosure.
Take a Cologne Sightseeing Cruise and see the city from the Rhine River. It is also popular to take the Rhine Evening Panorama Cruise where for two hours you can view the city aglow with lights. Enjoy dining on the river with the Cologne Rhine River Dinner Cruise.
In the picturesque town of Brühl, an easy 15 kilometers drive south of Cologne, stands Schloss Augustusburg. This elegant 18th-century palace is famous as the home of the Archbishop of Cologne.
Sumptuously decorated and furnished, this charming Late Baroque/Rococo palace is worth a visit for its magnificent staircase hall. Other highlights include its large park, used for open-air concerts and festivals. Sharing the same park is Falkenlust Palace, built in 1740 and an important part of this World Heritage site.
Kids will enjoy visiting Phantasialand, one of the largest theme parks in Europe. Highlights include a cable car, a Viking boat trip, a monorail, and a reproduction of old Berlin.
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