With a population of just over one million people, Cologne is Germany’s fourth largest city. The city is found on the Rhine (Rhein) River and is home to the famous Cologne Cathedral. Cologne is one of Germany’s oldest cities. It was founded by the Romans in 50 AD and was named ‘Colonia’ and just a few years later it became one of the most important trade and production centres in the Roman Empire north of the Alps. In the Middle Ages, Cologne was the most densely populated and one of the most prosperous towns in the German-speaking region.
Fast forward a few years…. 90% of the inner city was destroyed in the second world war and only 40,000 people were living in the city. In 1947 work began to rebuild the Old Town and the city now ranks as one of the most prominent travel destinations in Germany and Europe. The city has much to offer including the Cologne museum, which is ranked as one of the best museums in the world, the annual Koelnmesse, which is home to approximately 55 international tradefairs and attracts more than 2 million visitors, the extensive shopping options and the world renowned Cologne Carnival (Kölner Karneval).
Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral) – The Cologne Cathedral is the most impressive building of the Cologne skyline and can be seen from almost every point in the city. The North Tower is an impressive 157.38m high with the South Tower just 7cm shorter. The gothic cathedral is the second highest building in Cologne and was completed in 1880, however, the Cathedral has a very long history dating back to 1248 when its foundation stone was laid. It was initially built to house the remains of the Three Kings, which Archbishop Rainald von Dassel brought back in 1164 from Milan, however, construction was stopped in the early 16th century when money ran out. For more than 300 years the city’s skyline was dominated by a huge building crane and an incomplete South Tower. After the turn of the 19th century there was a reawakened interest to complete the Cathedral and in 1842 King Friedrich Wilhelm IV ordered the recommencement of work on the building. It was finally completed in 1880, however, received extensive damage during World War II. Since then, the Cologne Cathedral has been restored and continues to attract millions of visitors annually. In addition to the Shrine of the Three Kings, the medieval gold craftsmanship within the Cathedral surpasses all other shrines in the Western world in terms of size and grandeur. The Cathedral is also home to a Medieval sacristan crypt which contains church treasures dating back to the 4th century made of gold, silver, bronze and ivory. Visitors are also able to climb up the stairs of the South Tower and enjoy a view of the city from approximately 100m above! On the way up visitors pass the bell chamber which contains eight bells including St. Peter’s Bell which is the largest freely swinging church bell in the world.
Römisch-Germanisches Museum (Romano-Germanic Museum) – the Romano-Germanic Museum is an archaeological museum featuring a large collection of Roman artefacts from the Roman settlement of Colonia. The basement is home to the museum’s main attraction, the Dionysus (god of the grape harvest) mosaic. This extremely well preserved mosaic was originally discovered when a bomb shelter was being built during World War II and is believed to have been created around 220 to 230 AD. The mosaic is made up of over a million pieces of glass, stone and ceramics and is the heart of the museum (in fact, the museum was built around this floor). The museum opened in 1974 and mimics the layout of the ancient village which once stood there. In addition to the mosaic, the museum features a reconstructed tomb of legionary Poblicius (approx. 40 AD), as well as an extensive collection of Roman glassware, medieval jewellery and many everyday items from life in Roman Cologne (including pottery, portraits, inscriptions and architectural fragments).
Imhoff Schokoladenmuseum – In 1993 Hans Imhoff opened one of Germany’s most popular museums – the chocolate museum! It is situated in the city’s Altstadt (Old Town) and exhibits the entire history of chocolate – from its beginnings with the Olmecs, Maya and Aztects, to contemporary products and production methods. The museum attracts over 675,000 visitors and provides approximately 5,000 guided tours annually. It contains a small tropicarium (a greenhouse made specifically for the growing of palms and other tropical and subtropical plants) which houses two species of cacao: Theobroma cacao and Theobroma grandiflorum. The museum also displays miniature versions of machines used in the production of chocolate, allowing visitors to observe the chocolate production process with small chocolate bars given out at the end. The museum-shop is found next to the foyer featuring almost entirely Lindt products, some which are almost exclusively found at the museum-shop. Finally, the biggest (and our favourite!) attraction is the 3m high chocolate fountain – employees dip wafers into the melted chocolate and hand them out to the visitors and yes, you can eat as many as you like!
- The University of Cologne is one of Europe’s oldest and largest universities
- Cologne is home to Germany’s only Palm Tree Alley
- The city’s favourite pub snack ‘halber Hahn’ (or as the locals say, ‘Halver Hahn’) is often mistaken by tourists as being half of a chicken, when it is in fact a bun with cheese and mustard
- The famous perfume “Eau de Cologne” was initially a medicine against the pox; the brand ‘4711’ used to be the house number of its founding company, Farina, in the Glockengasse
- The Cologne Cathedral is Germany’s second largest religious building and was the highest building in the world for a four year period after its completion