Köln (Cologne) is the 4th largest city in Germany. It was the 3rd largest city in West Germany and is the largest city in the middle Germany and along the river Rhine (Rhein), that divides the city in two. Cologne is situated between Düsseldorf and Bonn, that are only about 30 minutes away by train. The city is a cathedral city and a major culture center with more then 30 museums and also has many churches. The perfume Eau de Cologne comes from the city, originally from 1709. University of Cologne is one of Europe’s largest and oldest universities.
Köln was founded by the Romans as Oppidum Ubiorum 28BC and under Frankish rule in the 5th century. Konrad Adenauer was mayor of Köln 1917-33. In 1938 40% of the Jewish population was lost. It was heavily bombed in 1945 during WWII so most historic buildings were replaced by modernist buldings. Some historical buildings have been restored. But the Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral) survived. This catholic church is the largest and most impressive gothic cathedral in the world and the greatest landmark of Köln! At 157m to the two spires it is still the tallest building in Köln. It was also the world’s tallest structure in 1880-84 and still the world’s 3rd tallest church! The cathedral was built 1248–1560 and completed 1842–1880. It is free to visit the cathedral, that is Germany’s most visited landmark (20 000 visitors a day), and it is really impressive with really high ceiling and almost like a city block of its own. In the crypt what is said to be the remnants of the Three Wise Men are buried in Der Dreikönigenschrein. It is the largest reliquary in the Western world.
Opposite Kölner Dom is the square Domplatte, with Roman ruins, and benches and fountains, and stairs, a popular place to hang out or sit down and relax. Right next to the cathedral is Köln Hauptbahnhof (Cologne Main Station), a large railway station, that is a bit dull and modern since it was bombed during WWII.
There are nice promenades on both sides of Köln. On the West part, you can walk along the Am Leystapel. Hohenzollern Bridge is the most prominent bridge, where you can walk or take the train to other side of Rhine. It was named after the Hohenzollern family and castle Deutz Bridge and Severin Bridge are other large bridges that connect the city center with East part. Altstadt (Old Town) on the West bank of the Rhine is where you find most old buildings. Rathaus, the gothic Town Hall can be found here, as well as narrow old lanes. It is Germany’s oldest city hall. The 61m tall tower was built 1407-14, have been restored after the bombings. Rathausplatz (Town Hall Square) was under reconstruction during my visit. Fischmarkt (Fish Market) is a square facing the river with restaurants with outdoor seatings. The square Alter Markt (Old Market) and Heumarkt are here with further restaurants and monuments. Great St. Martin Church (Grosse St.Martin) is a Romanesque 80m tall church from the 1200s that overlooks the Rhine from the Old Town.
Kölner Ringe is a green Paris like boulevard that goes around the city center and changes name several times; Hohenzollern Ring is the main entertainment district of Cologne with clubs and restaurants.
Hohe Strasse is the main pedestrian shopping street, near the cathedral. It has some rare stores and restaurants, but not many historical buildings, they were lost during the bombings. The street that is Hohe Strasse today existed already in Roman times, as the city’s Cardo Maximus. It is often very crowded and has sometimes street musicians. Schildergasse is also one of the most busy shopping streets. 4711 is an interesting building at Glockenstrasse, it has a special architecture and is the HQ for the the Eau de Cologne brand 4711. Next is the Kolumba Museum that houses Roman artifacts.
Neumarkt is a busy square with trams and shopping arcades. The district is named after it.
Globetrotter store is a multi-storey department store just for sports, in an old building. The interior is ultramodern, with a circular glass elevator and there is a lake on the ground floor of the atrium.
Opposite the city center from Rhine is the Deutz district, where the Köln Messe (Cologne Fair) is. Cologne is a major fair city. Koelnmesse (Cologne Trade Fair), opened in 1924, has around 80 fairs and 2000 conferences every year on space of 284,000 m2 and several large buildings. In Deutz is also the Köln Messe-Deutz train station and some tall buildings. The landmark is KölnTriangle, a 103m tall circular glass skyscraper from 2006, that has a very popular observation deck, CologneView, on the top 29th floor. Immediately at the end of Hohenzollern Bridge you find the equestrian Kaiser Wilhelm II Statue and the postmodern Hyatt Regency, a postmodern luxury hotel built in 1989. Wilhelm II was King of Prussia and the last German emperor. There is one equestrian statue, belonging to the Hohenzollern family, on each ramp of the bridge. In Deutz is also the huge and futuristic Lanxess Arena (formerly Kölnarena), the home for the hockey team Kölner Haie. It opened in 1998 and also has handball and concerts, with a capacity of 20 000 people.
Belgisches Viertel (Belgian Quarters) in the west part of the city center is filled with hip stores, Belgian pubs and restaurants and old residential buildings. The streets have Belgian names like Brüsseler Strasse and Antwerpener Strasse and at Brüsseler Platzstands the neo-romaneque St Michael’s Church.
The tallest tower in the whole Rhine area is the 266m tall Colonius TV tower, built in 1981, and situated in West Köln. Unfortunately the observation deck is not open to public anymore, but as mentioned the KölnTriangle is open for views instead. The tallest skyscraper in Cologne is the 148m (166m to the antenna) tall KölnTurm, with 43 floors, built in 2001 in West Köln, near Colonius. It is part of MediaPark by famous architects Jean Nouvel and Kohl&Kohl, an office complex with buildngs around a modern circular place. It is the 2nd tallest skyscraper in Nordrhein-Westfalen (after Bonn’s Postturm). It is still not as tall as the Cologne Cathedral though. West Köln is mostly a reszidential area, but many people were partying in the large park Innerer Grüngürtel (Inner Green Belt) Saturday night.
Hansa-Hochaus, built in 1925, was one of Germany’s first highrises, and for a brief period, Europe’s tallest highrise. It is 66m tall and has 18 floors.
Köln has trams that go partly underground, U-bahn, like many other German cities it is a mix of a subway and a lightrail tram system.
There are a few towers intact of the 12 that were part of the city wall, Hahnentorburg at Rudolfplatz, Ulprepforte along Sachsenring and Severinstorburg at Chlodwigplatz, a square in Alstadt-Süd, the South part of the Old Town, where trams go right through.
On the West bank of Rhine, just next to the South part of the Old Town (Alstadt-Süd), is Rheinauhafen (Rhine Harbour) where you find the three "Crane Houses", Kranhäuser, three modern 17-storey highrises buildings that resemble cranes (with a part hanging above the river promenade) to remind of the cranes that once was there. They provide offices and luxury apartments and the first "crane building" was completed in 2008.
Cologne-Bonn Airport (Köln-Bonn Flughafen) is situated midway between Cologne and Bonn, to the East of Köln. It is one of Germany’s largest with over 12 million passengers a year and 2 passenger terminals. It was built in the early 1900s as a military airfield, but opened for civilian use in 1951.
Cologne-Bonn Airport is from where I flew back. All trains to the airport, normally just 20 minutes from the mainstation, were cancelled, so had to take a Mercedes taxi to the airport. Many flights were cancelled, but not mine.
Köln is a hip city, a bit like Berlin. On Saturday night there was a lot of party. Köln, and especially the Kölner Dom, was the main attraction on the 9 euro ticket, when it was possible to travel as much as you can within Germany for 9 euro, public transport within the cities included (only the fast intercity trains were excluded so I took quite som time).
Even though many old buildings are lost, Cologne is a very attractive city, due to its vibrant atmosphere, trees etc, the interesting history and landmarks like the Kölner Dom. Also the Rhine with its promenades is nice. The geographic position close to many other large German cities, and Luxembourg, France, Belgium and Netherlands make Cologne a very popular city.
I stayed at Neumarkt in Altstadt-Süd the first night, visited Cologne for A day and travelled further to Düsseldorf in the evening. I then stayed at the A&O Hostel Neumarkt. I returned to Köln after the Luxembourg trip on the last day and then stayed at the Hotel am Chlodwigplatz in the South part of the city center. It was Saturday night and the city was really on fire, people were dancing and singing in the subways, drinking and smoking and playing loud music in the parks and singing and shouting all night long along karaoke tracks outside convenience stores. Did I mention the hotel provided earplugs for the guests?
Cologne would be my favourite city to live among the German cities. A special feature about Cologne is that it seems that no one is from the city, most people I asked were either tourists or just moved there. During three days of my stay, especially the day in Köln, middle and Southern Europe experienced an extreme heatwave. It was sunny and at 3 PM it was 38 degrees C. The heat was almost unbearable, but it was possible to do sightseeing if you do the most intense part in the morning and until noon and in the afternoon take many breaks and drink a lot of water!
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