Visiting Cologne - What to See and Do
(Cologne Bonn Airport CGN, Germany)
The large German city of Cologne
is a treasure chest of architectural wonders, medieval stunners and contemporary gems. The city was established by the Romans way back in 38 BC, and it is evidently proud of its heritage. Plenty of ancient landmarks make up the city's long list of sightseeing attractions.
During the early 1940s, Cologne was heavily bombed by Allied forces, leaving much of the city in ruins. To the city's testament and undying spirit, it quickly rebuilt, leaving limited traces of the war's footprint. Nevertheless, the rebuilding process took more than 50 years to achieve. Today, the medieval structures and Renaissance-style dwellings are Cologne's most endearing features.
While in Cologne, it is almost impossible to escape a pub or club, which seemingly exist on every corner. Visitors would have to go on a dozen pub crawls just to see them all. The sights and sounds of major festivals are part and parcel of North Rhine-Westphalian culture, so plan trips accordingly. However, be warned - the city becomes a haven for nightlife and street parades during many city wide festivals. Making hotel reservations is an absolute must.
Ten things you must do in Cologne
- Exploring Cologne's most dynamic medieval structure, the Dom (Cathedral), is a must for any traveller. Tours are available, but do not operate during Mass sessions. If tourists have to wait, then do so with eagerness, because the amazing interior and marvellous views from the Dom's southern tower are spectacular. Entrance to the church is free, but venturing to the top of the spire (509 steps) will set visitors back a few Euros.
- Tour the 12 Romanesque churches of Cologne. The likes of St. Severin, St. Andreas, St. Georg and St. Ursula's basilicas are well-worth visiting. However, St. Kunibert is commonly regarded as the top-notch Romanesque church in the city. This is probably due to the stunning array of stained-glass windows fringing the structure's facade.
- If visiting at the end of January or early February, be ready to experience festive chaos on the streets of Cologne. The city hosts its biggest event during this period, which is simply referred to as Karneval. During the event, almost one million people flock to the bustling historic streets of the city.
- Cologne has a rich, Roman heritage, which can be unwrapped within the Roman-German Museum (Romisch-Germanisches Museum). If tourists want to play it safe, uncover the landmark via a guided tour. However, discovering the ancient Roman relics and artefacts independently is recommended. Inside the museum are authentic, excavated structures erected during Roman occupation.
- When you've had enough of sightseeing medieval structures, take a walk to the banks of the River Rhine, where the Rhine Harbour (Rheinauhafen) can be experienced. Today, this once overlooked area of the city has become a hub for trendy restaurants, boutique shops and apartment buildings. Try eating at one of the delectable restaurants hugging the banks of the river.
- Ironically, one of the most avant-garde and modernistic structures in the city is also home to some of Cologne's oldest art collections. Those who adore the beauty of art will find the Wallraf-Richartz Museum to be most entertaining. Rembrandt, Rubens, Canaletto and Lovis Corinth are just some of the world-renowned artists with work displayed here.
- Cologne is home to dozens of art museums and galleries. Failing to explore some or all of these magnificent attractions would certainly be a mistake. The Ludwig Museum is regarded as the leading art gallery in the city. The likes of Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso are well represented within. Even an hour in the Ludwig Museum will satisfy the demands of this culture-mad city.
- The city is full of interesting districts, but one of the grooviest is the Agnesviertel. Taking up an afternoon with a stroll through this bohemian-clad neighbourhood will put a smile on anyone's dial. Picturesque shops, bookstores, tiny art galleries and landmarks like Fort X, anticipate travellers year round. This is one of the best places to shop for non-mainstream fashion and accessories.
- Couples on a romantic holiday can affirm their love at the Hohenzollern Bridge. The structure is lined with love padlocks, as locals believe that couples will be blessed by locking their love upon this bridge. Be sure to write names clearly and a date of significance onto the padlock - and don't forget to throw away the key into the river, so that the bond can't be unlatched.
- Making a day trip to Phantasialand is the most family friendly activity in Cologne. Roller coasters and dozens of other thrill-ride attractions make for an exciting and entertaining family day out, and prices are reasonably inexpensive. The best part about the park is the two-day passes, so visitors don't have to rush the experience.