Cologne has grown up on the banks of the River Rhine as a key trading hub. From its early days as a Roman military outpost, through its medieval heyday, when it was the largest city in Germany, through the industrialisation of the surrounding area and two Wold Wars, this city has remained strong, pioneering and welcoming. The city’s successful history makes it an architectural wonderland, with medieval houses standing next to towering office blocks, and everything in between.
The heart of Cologne is its Old Town (Altstadt), on the west bank of the Rhine. This is where the city began, over two thousand years ago, and it retains a central role in the life of the city. Unlike many cities that were heavily bombed in the Second World War, Cologne’s residents opted to restore the historic centre in its picturesque style, rather than creating a modern space. This loving attention to detail and careful preservation are best appreciated in the Alter Markt (Old Market), which is lined with cafés and features outdoor music performances in the summer and a world-famous Christmas Market in winter.
The unmissable symbol of Cologne is Cologne Cathedral – a Gothic masterpiece whose spire can be seen from anywhere in the city. Climb it for stunning panoramas across Cologne. To truly appreciate the cathedral (without straining your neck), take a stroll across the Rhine on the Hohenzollern Bridge, one of the world’s busiest railway bridges that links the two halves of the city.
Cologne has attracted artists and artisans for centuries, thanks to its position on trade routes, its wealth, and the museums in the city reflect the skills that have been perfected here. Discover the art and design of everyday objects at the Museum für Angewandte Kunst (Museum of Applied Art), where everything from delicate porcelain to early vacuum cleaners is on show. Iconic household items, like a Mies van der Rohe chair show how function and form come together. Religious art takes centre stage at Museum Schnütgen, a quiet museum housed in a church.
Families will love a visit to Cologne Zoo, where they can meet elephants, owls and everything in between. The on-site aquarium adds another element to your trip, and most exhibits are indoors, so you never have to worry about the weather!
Cologne is a friendly place to visit, and has an excellent public transport system, making it easy to find your way around.