Cologne is one of Germany’s oldest cities, founded by the Roman Emperor Claudius in 50AD as “Colonia” at roughly the same period as London. Before that the location was inhabited by Ubii villagers whose ancestors had moved in some 4500 years before. Under the Romans the city became home for imperial Governors and an important trade centre due to its central location in Europe, and its advantageous position on the banks of the Rhine River. Many traces of Roman rule can be found at the Romano-Germanic Museum.
Cologne then became part of the Franconian empire of Charlemaine in the 8th century during whose rule the first cathedral was built in the 9th century. The Archbishops of Cologne were powerful feudal lords who were later overthrown by the townspeople in the 14th century when the first city university in Europe was founded. The University of Cologne now has 44,000 students.
From the 14th century onwards, its excellent trade was somewhat diminished by the discovery of America, which remained until the 18th century when the city walls were pulled down to allow expansion. The subsequent industrial revolution turned Cologne into a hotbed of economic activity again.
Ninety per cent of the old city was destroyed during the war, but miraculously the Cathedral survived. Luckily the Old Town was rebuilt but outside this area the city is characterised by post war architecture.
Cologne and the surrounding conurbation is now the fourth largest German city, with the Cologne rail station in particular acting as one of the most important hubs in Europe. With its rich cultural scene it’s emerging as a popular tourist destination, with most notably the Cologne Karneval providing entertainment of hundreds of thousands of revellers every February. For UK travellers, the main draw is currently the several Christmas markets that take place every year, but in my view the Cathedral itself is a medieval gem that must be experienced. Gary Phillips.
Getting to Cologne
Cologne has its own international airport but Dusseldorf is only 32kms away. Both are served by a number of low cost airlines. There is now a new high speed line between Brussels and Cologne which makes travelling by Eurostar from London a realistic option with a travel time of less than five hours door to door.
Things to do and see in Cologne
Impossible to miss, the 60m high Dom is the world’s largest Gothic Cathedral. Built over 1000 years, it is truly breathtaking and worth visiting Cologne just to see at first hand.
Take a walk on the Rail Bridge
In front of the Cathedral over the Rhine, is the famous rail bridge that features in most photos of the city. You’ll see thousands of padlocks fastened to it by romantic couples vowing commitment to each other.
Roman – German Museum
Situated on the square beside the Dom is the Roman German Museum, where many artefacts from the time of “Colonia” founded 2000 years ago by the Romans.
The Twelve Romanesque Churches
The twelve churches of Cologne are all in the Old Town and are UNESCO Heritage protected like the Dom. All were built by the various Archbishops who ruled over the city between the 9th and 13th centuries.
Museums of Cologne
There are a number of fine museums to visit in Cologne, especially attractive when using the Cologne Card, allowing you free acess and travel all around the city. The best place to get a card is at the Tourist Office opposite the Dom, or at your Cologne hotel.
Farina Haus Fragrance Museum.
In 1709, Johann Maria Farina created a brand of perfume called “Eau de Cologne.Farina Haus brings together three centuries of perfumes and cultural history from the world of Rococo to today.
Kathe Kollwitz Museum
The most extensive collection of this 20th century artists works to 1945.
Cologne Art Association (Kolnischer Kuntsverein)
Founded in 1839, as one of the oldest art associations in Germany whose objective is the promotion of madern art.
City of Cologne Armoury Museum
Built in the Imperial city at around 1600 in Dutch Renaissance style. Now home to the city of Cologne.
Art museum of Cologne founded by the Archbishop in 1853. Mostly an Architectural museum nowadays.
The Ludwig family donated a large number of works to the museum to found it in 1976. It was then the first museum in the city to exhibit contemporary art.
The Chocolate Museum
Founded and financed by Dr. Hans Imhoff, a local businessman. Claims to be a leading chocolate museum.
Where to stay in Cologne
The Marriott Cologne is especially convenient if you’re arriving off the train as its just 200 metres away to the left as you come in to the city. It has a large open reception area with attractive lighting and plenty of seating in front of an open plan bar area where you smoke as well as drink, (Germany is now one of the few countries left in Western Europe where you can still smoke in areas like this).
Checking in was quick and efficient with friendly staff who spoke good English. I was on the fourth floor which was accessible by a lift operated by a room key to prevent intruders. When I got to the room I was impressed by the ample space available and the immaculate way it was prepared. The shower was perfect after a long day of travel to Cologne.
The only gripe I had was the high price of the broadband, at Euro19.99 per 24 hours I felt this was excessive, especially as I had already checked on the website to determine whether there was any, and there was no mention of any charges let alone the price I eventually paid. It’s a shame that hotels of this standing have to resort to this level of cynicism instead of including this basic need in the price. To me it’s like charging for electricity. I hope one day hotels will offer wifi free of charge. The only upside was that the upload speed was incredible. Finally breakfast was faultless, with a wide array of choice you would expect from a five star hotel.