A visit to Cologne doesn’t have to include the Cathedral (the Kölner Dom) but it’s probably a good idea… and it doesn’t take all day. You’ll have more than enough time to hunt down the rude Rathaus sculpture and wander around the city too!
But first, a bit of background.
Cologne started out almost 2000 years ago as a Roman city. It’s location on the river Rhine made it a perfect hub for trade and transport… and so the city grew. As time moved on it became one of the most important European trade centres, but then, things changed. With trade focusing more on the Americas, the city of Cologne diminished in importance. It destroyed its own city walls to expand during the 19th century and in the 20th, World War II destroyed roughly 90% of the inner city. And on the whole, it wasn’t rebuilt sympathetically.
Regardless of the ‘built for purpose’ nature of the city – and some of the post-war building styles are definitely dated – there’s still some surprises and pleasant sights lurking around Cologne.
Though it was severely damaged during the Second World War, the Cathedral remained standing (if a little worse for wear). Sat on the doorstep of the central train station, it’s a pretty difficult building to miss. In fact, you’ll be able to spy it from various points around the city, given that it’s the second tallest building here. Should you feel willing and able, there’s also the chance to climb the tower… it’ll cost around €4 and take you up around 540 steps.
Do expect the Cathedral to be full of tourists, though remember it’s still a place of worship and services are routinely held here. That means you won’t always be able to wander freely through the building. Do check out times for visiting at the website.
It’s a lovely space really, with some beautiful stained glass work. I always make an effort to look for St. George – he’s easy to spot, as he’ll be standing over the body of a dragon. Can you see him in the picture above? It’s such a shame for the dragon! He’s always being murdered.
Should you wish to light a candle for someone here, there are several points to do so and it requires a small donation. This is based on a trust system (naturally).
Find Out More | Website
Flora und Botanischer Garten
This is Cologne’s oldest public park, located just a stones throw from Cologne Zoo. It’s entirely free to wander through and if your legs aren’t quite worn out from the Zoo, it’s a lovely way to give them an extra stretch.
The Botanical Garden, with its splendid Flora event venue, covers an area of 11.5 hectares. It was established in the 19th century and is visited by more than a million people every year. | Cologne-Tourism.com
Currently the greenhouse is in the process of being entirely replaced – so whilst you’d normally pay a small entry fee to the glasshouses, don’t expect to be visiting them before 2019. The subtropical house is slated to remain open and the camellia display from January to April should continue (details here).
The Romano-Germanic Museum
The Roman mosaic with scenes from the world of Dionysos (c.AD 220/230) and the reconstructed funerary monument to the legionary Poblicius (c.AD 40) are probably the best-known exhibits in Cologne’s Romano-Germanic Museum. | Museum Website
This mosaic is exactly the reason I wanted to visit the museum. It was discovered just to the south of the Cathedral in 1941 whilst an air-raid shelter was being built… and that’s what governed the location of the new building. Unfortunately the building itself is one of those “post-war architecture” things that hasn’t dated well. But it’s functional, and it’s what’s inside that counts.
At €6.50 per adult, I can’t say I’d recommend this museum to anyone other than a true Roman artifact lover. The mosaic itself is utterly gorgeous, but only you can judge whether you’d think the rest of the collection would interest you. The museum focuses on the archaeological heritage of the city and surrounding areas, spanning a time frame from Palaeolithic to the early Middle Ages. The majority of works on view are Roman and you’ll get a good overview here.
For myself, I’m a little conflicted. I liked the museum enough, though thought the price point might have been a touch on the high side. That being said, I’m still glad I went.
Find Out More | Website
The Old with the New
One of the things I liked about Cologne was spying older buildings incorporated into new ones, like the Kolumba Museum below. You’ll have to keep your eyes peeled for examples but I liked the way it reminds the viewer of what was and now is. It was a strong visual reminder to me of times gone by, of war and the redevelopment of the city. These pieces of building are part of the history of the place, yet form part of its future too. Or perhaps I’m reading too much into it!
This tower we spotted after walking along the river Rhine, heading from the south towards the Chocolate Museum. The route took us past the old customs and warehousing halls, still outfitted with cranes for unloading cargo. These buildings are being redeveloped into new and more modern uses, including restaurants, shops and even The German Sport and Olympic Museum!
Somewhat fitting this category (though honestly, I’m shoe-horning it in) is this delightfully old hat and cap shop. Located on Friesenwall, this business still makes hats and caps traditionally to fit – so if you’ve got a head that doesn’t seem work for “one size fits all” headwear, this is the shop for you!
Rude Sculpture on the Rathaus
Finally, if you’ve made it this far, you deserve a treat. And your treat is…
Have you spotted it yet? How about a close up?
That’s certainly one flexible man! How delightful! Now if you want to find him for yourself, just navigate to the City Hall (Rathaus) at the Alter Markt.
He’s providing the base for the Konrad von Hochstaden sculpture, a former Archbishop of Cologne (1238 to 1261). Now I can’t find any solid information about this fellatio-attempting gentleman, but it does seem that the Archbishop did something the people of Cologne didn’t like. The internet suggests it might be because Konrad put a ridiculous tax on hops (thus increasing the price of beer) but it seems no one really knows for sure.
Either way, swing past this building and grab a photo on your visit. It’ll certainly raise a few giggles when you’re showing off your travel pictures!