It would be difficult not to be captivated by the city of Cologne, the fourth largest in Germany, located in the North Rhine -Westphalia region.
In a beautiful way, this city combines its rich past—which covers more than two thousand years—with the vibrant vitality and modernity that characterizes a 21st-century metropolis.
During times of splendor, Cologne flourished for its strategic location along one of the most important trade routes of the Roman Empire, north of the Alps.
In the Middle Ages— between the 12th and 17th centuries, Cologne was one of the leading members of the Hanseatic League—the association of cities that controlled trade in Northern Europe.
In 1388, the University of Cologne—one of the oldest in Europe—opened its doors. Centuries later, during World War II, more than 90% of the city was devastated, and the reconstruction works began in 1947.
Each year, Cologne attracts more than two million visitors, who come for business—the city holds around 75 trade fairs annually—but also for its tourist attractions, including the magnificent Romano-Germanic Museum, which features remains and vestiges from the city’s distant past. Among the most relevant sites, you will find twelve Romanesque churches, exceptional examples of medieval architecture; the beautiful City Hall and various squares, including places of great interest for the observant traveler.
However, something that deserves a special mention is the majestic Cologne Cathedral. It is the city’s most famous and beloved landmark and was declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. Its construction began in 1248 and was completed in 1880. A magnificent example of the Gothic style, it has two 515-foot towers that are visible from anywhere in the city.
Museum lovers will enjoy the Ludwig and Wallraf Richartz Museums, which are two outstanding centers of culture.
Art and Culture in Cologne
The Ludwig is dedicated to modern and contemporary art and houses one of the leading collections of European and American post-war art, including the largest collection of works by Pablo Picasso in Europe. Also on view, there are masterpieces by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, George Segal, Max Beckmann, and Jasper Johns.
Meanwhile, the Wallraf Richartz Museum, housed in a modern building in the city center, boasts one of the most important collections of medieval art in the world, along with a selection of baroque works and Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist masterworks. The Museum’s permanent collection covers the period from the 13th century to the early 20th century and includes pieces by Rubens, Rembrandt, Tiepolo, and Monet.
If you enjoy outdoor walks, you will love the charming Botanical Garden. The city boasts a large number of green spaces, including the Rhine Park which covers 40 hectares and—adorned with precious sculptures—is considered one of the most beautiful parks in Germany.
Commercial Street in Cologne.
Other interesting places are the Chocolate Museum and the Hohenzollern Bridge over the River Rhine, one of the busiest railroad bridges in the Old Continent.
If you have the opportunity to travel to Cologne, the best thing would be to wander around and fall in love with the culture and the people of this beautiful city.
And of course, don’t forget to visit its famous taverns for a taste of a typical Kölsch beer, or enjoy a delicious dinner at the maiBeck Restaurant, awarded one Michelin star. ■