With its 1.1 million inhabitants, the cathedral city of Cologne is the fourth largest city in Germany after Berlin, Hamburg and Munich and the largest in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. As a cultural and economic metropolis, the city has international significance.
The metropolis on the Rhine has a lot to offer. First and foremost, of course, with the Cologne Cathedral as the city’s landmark, and the carnival, which every year turns the lives of the people of Cologne upside down.
Sights, museums, theaters and of course the brewery culture should not be missed by visitors to Cologne. But even away from the highlights, there are always special corners in the city where you can just sit around nicely, or enjoy the view. That is absolutely part of the Rhenish attitude to life!
Tip 1: Cologne Cathedral
Cologne Cathedral is the landmark of Cologne and towers majestically over the city. With a height of 157.31 meters, Cologne Cathedral is the third-highest church in the world, beaten only slightly by Ulm Cathedral and the Basilica Notre-Dame de la Paix in the Ivory Coast. Until 1884, Cologne Cathedral was considered the tallest building in the world. In 1996, the church was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The special feature of the cathedral lies in the different architectural styles. This is due to the fact that the start of construction of the Cologne Cathedral dates back to the 13th century. It was only after centuries of construction had been halted that the cathedral was finally completed in the 19th century. This results in a unique harmonization between the Gothic and late Gothic architectural styles.
Cologne Cathedral is considered the most visited sight in Germany and receives about 6 million tourists from all over the world every year. Cologne Cathedral is particularly famous for the Epiphany Shrine and the Gero Cross.
The Epiphany Shrine houses the presumed bones of the Epiphany.
It is the largest surviving medieval reliquary and also the largest medieval goldsmith’s work in Europe:
2.2 meters long, 1.1 meters wide and 1.53 meters high. 74 gilded figures depict the history of salvation and over 1000 precious stones and pearls further adorn the shrine.
The Gero Cross from the 10th century is also one of the oldest preserved Christian works of art this side of the Alps. It is almost 3 meters high and made of partially gilded wood.
Tip 2: Chocolate Museum
Do you like chocolate and have always wondered how chocolate is made? Then you should definitely pay a visit to the Chocolate Museum in Cologne. The museum is located directly on the Rhine and is one of the ten most visited museums in Germany with over 650,000 visitors annually.
During a professional guided tour of the museum, you will learn interesting facts about the cultivation of cocoa beans, the importance of roasting the beans and why conching chocolate is important. The highlight of the tour is the final tasting session, during which you will be able to sample some of the best fine chocolates in the world. The tour, including the tasting, lasts about 90 minutes. Afterwards, you will definitely no longer be satisfied with normal chocolate.
Tip 3: 4711 – Eau de Cologne
4711, or also called Eau de Cologne, is one of the most famous and oldest brands in the world. Originally, Eau de Cologne was not intended as a perfume, but as an internal remedy. In 1792, the merchant Wilhelm Mülhens received the recipe as a gift from a monk. The recipe has hardly been changed since then. However, some EU requirements made slight modifications necessary. The main ingredients of the perfume are lemon, orange, neroli, petitgrain, lavender, bergamot and rosemary. Of course, the 4711 contains a few more ingredients, but they are kept strictly confidential by the company. The perfume is said to be relaxing, calming and anti-inflammatory.
Public tours of the fragrance museum are offered every Saturday. Learn all about 4711’s traditional past.
In Glockengasse house number 4711, you have the opportunity to participate in fragrance seminars. Under the guidance of experts, you will compose your own Eau de Cologne and learn about the profession of a perfumer.
Tip 4: City Hall
The City Hall of Cologne consists of two parts: on the one hand the historic City Hall and on the other hand the Spanish Building directly opposite. Both buildings are centrally located in the old town, surrounded by the town hall square and the old market.
Both the town hall tower and the Hansa Hall, the actual showpiece of the town hall, were badly damaged during the Second World War. Only with great effort it was possible to reconstruct both the tower and the hall.
A special highlight of the town hall tower is the much praised carillon. Four times a day the bells of the town hall tower ring out. The selection includes 24 pieces of music, which change regularly. Melodies by local musicians like Bläck Fööss and Jupp Schmitz or Jacques Offenbach are only a small selection.
Tip 5: Museum Ludwig
In the middle of Cologne, between the cathedral and the Rhine, lies the Museum Ludwig with its characteristic red façade and silver-grey shed roofs. It houses the most extensive Pop Art collection in Europe, the third largest Picasso collection in the world, one of the most important collections of German Expressionism, outstanding works of the Russian avant-garde and an excellent collection on the history of photography. Today, the Museum Ludwig owns one of the most important collections of 20th and 21st century art in the world. And this, unlike courtly collections, is thanks to the extraordinary commitment of the citizenry.
The founding couple Peter and Irene Ludwig laid the foundation for the museum in 1976 with the donation of 350 works of modern art to the city of Cologne. The increasingly global orientation of the steadily growing collection, with artistic positions from Africa, Asia, and Latin America, challenges the classical canon and leads the collection into a present that is more networked than ever before.