Cologne, made famous by the perfume that came from there, is the fourth largest city in all of Germany. It straddles the River Rhine and is home to some of the most ancient buildings and universities. There is a lot going on in this part of the world and Cologne has a really vibrant arts movement with more than thirty museums, and many more galleries, to back up this boast.
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History and Geography
As Cologne straddles the river, it is primarily flat. It is thought that the first people to settle in the area date back to around forty years before Jesus was born. It was the Romans who founded Colonia, as it was known then, so there are many sites which are being excavated to find treasures from that time. One of the more recent large finds was a nineteen hundred year old boat.
Map of Cologne
During World War Two, Cologne was pounded by more than two hundred and sixty air strikes which killed around twenty thousand people and, eventually, the city centre was reduced by a staggering ninety five percent. The Jewish population had been removed by the Nazis and all the synagogues had been demolished. Even twelve of the Romanesque churches had been destroyed taking with them a mass of cultural treasures. However, a massive rebuild started soon after the war ended, which now sees Cologne being an ultra-modern city albeit with several ancient buildings that were refurbished.
Best time to go to Cologne
Since Cologne has a very temperate climate, the winters are a little mild and the summers are warm. May to September are the warmer months, but these seldom get higher than 24°C (75°F).
Getting Around in Cologne
Cologne is typically German in style and the emphasis is on bicycling to get around. There is a network of cycle paths all over the place and cycle priority crossings as well. Even on some of the one way systems, cyclists are allowed to traverse in either direction which is more than can be said for other modes of transport!
There is an excellent rail system with trains running between the Central Station to Bonne Airport or high speed trains to Amsterdam, Paris and Brussels. Trains also run to Frankfurt and Berlin with some connecting to the Channel Tunnel which takes people on to London.
Being on the river, there are river cruises all along the Rhine and this makes for exceptional photo opportunities. There are docks here too making it one of the busiest inland ports in Germany.
The bus system around the city is really good, and there are trams too, and local trains that zip people from place to place. Find bicycle hire places on the north side of the Hapuptbahnhof. One to three day passes are available for people who want to use a mix of subway, tram and bus to get around to the major attractions.
There is an airport here, shared with Bonn, so getting to Cologne is exceptionally easy.
Major Attractions and Sights
When people are on holiday, museums are always the place to head for. Cologne has the Wallraf-Richartz Museum which opened its doors in 2001. It has many fine paintings which date from the last seven centuries. It also has one of the best collections of Medieval paintings which are well worth the visit, along with some exceptional Monet and Rembrandt examples too.
The Cathedral (Kölner Dom) is absolutely stunning – very deserving as being one of the most recognizable cathedrals in the world. It is Gothic in style and the climb to the top of the south tower is only for the fit. From here, get a magnificent vista of the city down below. Indeed, the cathedral is probably one of the most visited places in Cologne.
If there are kids along on the holiday, taking them to the Cologne Zoological Garden is a great idea. There is the aquarium, the Jungle House, the Owl Monastery and the Elephant Park among other attractions. Monkey Rock is a must and the kids will love the antics that these adorable creatures get up to.
For a very different experience, try out the Claudius Therme. This is a collection of thermal baths that will make the user feel enriched and revitalized. It is a natural mineral thermal spring which means the water is always warm, no matter if it is an indoor bath or an outdoor one and a great way to relieve stress at the beginning or end of the holiday.
Hohenzollern Bridge is a must for lovers of all ages. Although it takes the trains over the river, people who walk the bridge have begun adding padlocks with their initials on to show how much they love someone. This is a great way to leave behind a reminder to others that love will always prevail!
Another great treat is the Chocolate Museum. People get to learn everything about this delicious delight but, best of all, they also get to dip wafers in the famous chocolate fountain as well. Visitors are also treated to a lovely cup of hot cocoa in the café on site, and these rounds off the visit in a very sweet way.
Cologne will always have its dark reminders of World War Two. In this instance, those who are interested in the history should visit the Gestapo Prison which has been preserved in its original state. People can learn about the Nazi movement here or just remember the trials and tribulations that the Holocaust victims went through. It is a good reminder that everyone not forget about that time.
This fair city has its share of lovely green spaces where people can just chill out after a long day of sightseeing. There are beer gardens and great scenery to ensure that visitors have a chance to relax. The Japanese Gardens in Dusseldorfer Strasse is particularly charming and features a teahouse, wonderful statues of Buddha, lanterns, and very attractive bridges and ponds scattered around. Try to visit when the cherry trees blossom in spring for a perfect photo opportunity. Autumn brings yet another photo opportunity when the maple leaves all shades of gold and red.
Another great place to visit is the Sculpture Park which displays pieces from both local and international artists. The sculptures change every two years, so even those who visit regularly get a chance to see something new. The cool thing about the park though is that as recently as 1997, this was just a derelict space doing nothing at all. The sculptures have really breathed new life into the area and it is popular with tourists and locals alike.
Even after a full day of sightseeing around Cologne, it is good to know that people can find a place to sit and relax while they are getting their second wind. Visiting one of the parks mentioned is the ideal way to people watch too which is always interesting in a foreign city. Take this opportunity to watch the world go by!