Cologne (or Köln in German) is probably best known to the British for its famous cathedral and also for the perfume, “Eau de Cologne”, whose origins date back to the 18th Century. This Rhineland city is also an art and cultural centre of international renown. Cologne has a very animated theatre scene, 120 galleries with a wide variety of collections and 42 museums including the Museum Ludwig. The Museum Ludwig is next door to the cathedral and is home to a world class collection of modern art including works by Andy Warhol and many pop art pieces. Fresh exhibitions are held every few months and it is well worth spending a half day exploring the exhibits on show. A visit to the FragranceMuseum is also a must. The museum showcases a collection of historic perfume bottles and documents, amid distinctive rococo furnishings.
Every November carnival fever takes over the city and up to 70,000 carnival revellers come together on Heumarkt square to celebrate the opening of the new carnival season. Revellers from Cologne and carnival goers from the rest of the world and traditional Cologne carnival bands will transform the square in the centre of the city with all the vibrant sights and sounds of the carnival.
The city is well known for its Christmas Markets. These are held all over the city centre from the end of November and are a must see for anyone taking a pre-Christmas city break. Browse among the colourful stalls selling everything from handmade toys to glass Christmas decorations. There is food of all kinds and plenty of opportunities to enjoy mulled wine or hot chocolate. The atmosphere is relaxed, fun and very family-orientated and you can even ice skate outdoors in the square at Neumarkt.
The Gothic cathedral dominates the skyline of Cologne and is one of Germany’s most famous landmarks. It is also one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic and Neo-Gothic architecture in the world. The building of the cathedral commenced in 1248 and took over 600 years to complete. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1996. At the end of the gigantic nave is the shrine of the Three Magi, the Wise Men whose relics were brought to the city in 1164.
We mustn’t forget Cologne’s location astride the River Rhine. Visitors can take all kinds of trips on the river to enjoy some wonderful views of Cologne and the scenery along the river. The newly designed Rheinauhafen docks are a particularly special highlight. The historical dockland quarter of Cologne now boasts a new shopping strip with numerous galleries and cafés.
Perhaps a good way to finish a day’s sight seeing is with a local beer. The people of Cologne are very particular about their beers and the brew houses and bier kellers of the old town are a great way to enjoy the light Kölsch beer, unique to Cologne.