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Guide to the sights of the City of Cologne

Our website offers a selection of information on those sights of Cologne which you really should see. Furthermore, there is a brief survey of the history of our city. Get an overview of the most important sights in an individual guided tour "Cologne à la carte" in co-operation with our partner Tour Agentur.

Cathedral of Cologne - Historic Town Hall - Gürzenich - The Eau de Cologne
Arsenal of Cologne - Old city - Ubiermonument
Fortification of Cologne - The twelve romanesque Churches

 
 


 
 
Kölner Dom - The Cathedral of Cologne

Why was Cologne Cathedral built? The Cathedral houses the shrine in which the relics of the three magi –in Germany: the three holy kings- are being kept. These relics were discovered by St. Helen, mother of the Roman emperor Constantine, at the beginning of the 4 th century near Bethlehem. They were brought to Constantinople and later were transferred to Milan. When Milan was conquered in the 12 th century, the German emperor Frederick I. “Barbarossa”, gave them to his chancellor, the Cologne archbishop Reynald of Dassel as an acknowledgement for his support in the campaign against Milan. These relics were the most valuable part of the booty.

50 years later, a precious golden shrine for the relics was complete. Now the people of Cologne wanted a more representative church to display the shrine in. By and by, the old Cathedral from the Carolingian Age was demolished, and in 1248 the foundation stone for the new Cathedral in a French Gothic style was laid.

More than 300 years later, in 1560, the building was abandoned only partially finished and covered by a temporary roof. It was not until the age of Romanticism in the 19 th century that the Middle Age experienced a revival and a neo-Gothic style came into fashion. The brothers Boisserée discovered the long lost construction plans, and so the completion of the Cathedral could be started. In 1880, the Cathedral officially was inaugurated.

Cologne Cathedral is one of the largest Gothic churches in the world. Admire more than 10 000 square meters (12 000 square yards) of stained glass windows out of eight centuries: the oldest (“Elder Bible Window”) dating back to 1260, the most recent from 2007 (“Gerhard-Richter-Window”) with more than 10 000 motley squares on more than 100 square meters.

Tour Agentur arranges individual tours of the Cathedral (1 hour) or tours of the Cathedral in connection with a city tour “à la carte” (2,5 h).

 

Further Information
Opening hours:    
November - April / 06:00 - 19:30
May - October / 06:00 - 21:00
Guided Tours of the Cathedral are possible only at specific times.
Groups (max. 25 persons) are charged an extra fee of 30€ on weekdays and 40, 00 € on weekends and holidays.
Ascent to the tower: 09:00 – 16:00 (summer until 17h/18h) Treasury: 10:00 – 18:00

City map | Website           Top of page    
 
     
 
Das Historische Kölner Rathaus - Historic Town Hall

Cologne City Hall consists of three separate buildings from the 14 th, 15 th and 16 th century. In ca. 1330 the people of Cologne began to build the “Long Hall”, which now is called the “Hall of the Hanseatic League”. In this hall, the member cities of the Hanseatic League assembled.
The tower was built within seven years between 1407 and 1414. When it was complete it reached a height of 61 m and was higher than the southern spire of the Cathedral, then still incomplete (59 m). In 1569, Wilhelm Vernukken began with the construction of the splendid Renaissance porch.
Buildings which were added later were destroyed in World War II.
Underneath the adjoining “ Spanish Building”, built in the 1950s, remains of the palace of the Roman governours, the Praetorium, were found. They can be visited.
On the east side of the City Hall tower, a wood-carved head sticks out his tongue every full hour: “Platzjabbeck” is documented since the 15 th century. He was meant to demonstrate the city council’s pride and self-esteem to everyone.

City map | Website            Tope of page     
 
     
 
The Gürzenich

Gürzenich was and still ist Cologne’s most famous ballroom. In particular during carnival, events and celebrations take place here. Gürzenich was built between 1441 and 1447 on premises which belonged to a family coming from the village of Gürzenich. For centuries it was Germany’s largest ballroom. Due to its size, assemblies of the Imperial Diet (“Reichstag”) and of the nobility were held here until 1531. After destruction in World War II, Gürzenich was reconstructed.

The adjoining church of St.Alban remains a ruin and serves as memorial to the dead of World War II. With its statues of the “Weeping Parents” by the famous sculptor Käthe Kollwitz it represents the dark side of life with mourning, death and destruction – in contrast to Gürzenich standing for the bright side with dancing, music and celebration.

City map | Website            Tope of page     
 
     
 
Farina Fragrance Museum - Eau de Cologne

In 1709, the Italian Johann Maria Farina came to Cologne and developed an entirely new distillation process by which volatile scents could be dissolved. Since people believed that water was harmful to their health, they hardly ever washed and preferred perfumes. His shockingly expensive scent of “a springtime in Italy” opened Farina the doors to Europe’s high aristocracy. One small bottle of his “Eau de Cologne” cost the equivalent of 10 000 Euro in our money, so the market quickly was flooded with cheaper imitations.

Farina’s most persistent competitor, Wilhelm Mülhens tried to outsmart him by calling his product “Farina at the Post Station”. When he was forbidden to call his perfume “Farina”, he named it after his house number in the time of French occupation: 4711.

In the traditional Farina house on Gülichplatz, a Fragrance Museum will take you on a journey though the history of perfume manufacturing in Cologne. You will follow the tracks of Johann Maria Farina who created Europe’s oldest surviving company logo.

City map | Website            Tope of page     
 
     
 
Kölnisches Zeughaus (Arsenal) - Cologne Municipal Museum

The Cologne arsenal was built in the late 16th century to store the Cologne armoury. Today, it houses the Cologne Municipal Museum which makes our city’s history from the Middle Age until today come alive. A model presents the entire city in the 16 th century with the incomplete Cathedral and its many churches. The city’s economic life and the people’s everyday life are outlined, as well as the age of industrialization in the 19 th century. Photographs document how profoundly Cologne was destroyed in World War II. The life style of the post-war period is reflected in typical articles of the 1950s.

Tour Agentur arranges individual tours of the museum (1 hour) or tours of the museum in connection with a city tour “à la carte” (2,5 h).


City map | Website            Tope of page     
 
     
 
Historische Altstadt - Old city with Fischermarkt

Where in Roman times an island was situated in the river in front of the city, today Cologne’s Old Town extends between the Old Market with the historic City Hall and the old Fish Market. Its centre is the Romanesque church of St. Martin-the-Great. The Old Town was reconstructed after World War II in a traditional style, but some of the historic houses with their narrow facades still remain. The names of the streets and alleys of the Old Town give us an idea what kind of people went about their business here in the Middle Age: Buttermarkt (Butter Market), Fischmarkt (Fish Market), Salzgasse (Salt Alley). This was the merchants’ quarter close to the river.

Tour Agentur arranges individual guided tours of the old town (1,5 hours).

City map | Website            Tope of page     
 
 



 
 
The Ubiermonument & roman history of Cologne

Archaelogical Sites: Ubian Monument, Praetorium, Roman Sewer, Mikwe – Archaelogical Zone.

In the phase of reconstruction after World War II, archaeologists discovered much of the Roman colony CCAA (Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium). This was the name Cologne received in 50 AD along with its city charter. Before, here was a Ubian settlement, the “Oppidum Ubiorum”. The Ubians were a Germanic tribe which originally had settled on the other bank of the river and was transferred here in ca. 50 BC.

The oldest remaining building of the Oppidum Ubiorum (and the second oldest stone monument north olf the Alps!) is the so-called “ Ubian Monument”. It was named after the Ubians, but it certainly was built by Romans. Its original function still remains a much-discussed mystery.

In the 1950s, archaeologists discovered remains of the Roman governor’s palace underneath the “ Spanish Building” next to City Hall: the Praetorium. Cologne was capital city of the Roman province of Lower Germania between the 1 st and 5 th centuries. In this time the palace of the emperors’ governors was enlarged and reconstructed at least four times.

Further remains are still to be excavated in a new Archaeological Zone. In connection with a visit to the Praetorium, 140 meters of a Roman sewer channel can also be visited.

In the new archaeological zone, remains of the former Jewish quarter are being excavated, including remains of one of Germany’s oldest synagogues from the 8 th or 10 th century.
Jews had to undergo ritual cleanings in circulating water at certain points. These cleanings took place in a Mikvah: a shaft reaching down 16 meters to ground water level. The Cologne Mikvah, built in the late 12 th century is one of the oldest surviving in Germany.

Tour Agentur arranges individual tours of the Praetorium (1 hour) or tours of Cologne’s archaeological sites (1,5 or 2,5 hours).


History of Cologne

City map | Website            Tope of page     
 
     
 
Fortification of Cologne & Hahnentor

Cologne received its city charter in 50 AD. It was then that the citizens were permitted to build a fortification. The foundations of this oldest Cologne city wall, and some remains of the above-ground wall still can be seen.

By the 12 th century, the city had outgrown the Roman city. A new semicircular city wall was built, which stretched over 8 km (ca. 5 miles) and was the longest north of the Alps. Walking along the Cologne Ring Street one discovers not only fashionable shopping and amusement miles, but also remains of this immense wall. In the south, Bayenturm formed the southeast cornerstone of the fortification. Close by, Bottmühle was a private mill on top of the wall. Four of originally twelve gates of the wall also remain: Severinstor in the south, Hahnentor in the west and Eigelsteintor in the north were representative main entrances to the city, whereas Ulrepforte in the southwest was only a small gate, but famous as the site of the legendary Ulrepforte battle in 1268. Further remains of the wall with its watchtowers can be seen on Sachsenring in the southwest and on Hansaring in the northwest.

In the 19 th century, the city wall was demolished, since it meant an obstacle for the growth of the city in the age of industrialization. The Prussian kings had laid out two new rings of fortification, the outer of which formed a 42 km long semicircle round the city. Parts of the Prussian fortification can still be seen, for instance Fort I in the south of the city, or Fort X in the north.

City map | Website            Tope of page     
 
     
 
The twelve romanesque Churches

In the Middle Age it was said of Cologne to have as many churches as there are days in a year, and in fact the existence of at least 200 churches and chapels is verifiable. Since the churches housed valuable relics, Cologne was one of Europe’s most important centres of pilgrimage, next to Rome and Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Therefore, Cologne was called “Holy Cologne”. In the age of reformation, Cologne remained a catholic city. Under Napoleon, in the secularization, about 150 churches were demolished. Cologne citizens who realized the value of the church treasures collected them, for instance Ferdinand Franz Wallraf, Alexander Schnütgen or the brothers Boisserée. Some of them gave their collections to the City of Cologne (see Wallraf-Richartz Museum; Museum Schnütgen)

Jewels of extraordinary beauty are the remaining twelve Romanesque churches which are spread all over the medieval city, each of which has its own character and its special features.

Tour Agentur arranges individual guided tours of one (1 hour) or more (2,5 hours) Romanesque churches.


St. Andrew’s:
Former men’s collegiate. Church built in the 13 th century, choir 15 th century in the Gothic style. Spectacular modern stained glass windows by Markus Lüpertz. Tomb of 13 th century universal scholar Albertus Magnus.

St. Apostles: Former men’s collegiate. Church built in the 12 th and 13 th centuries. Exceptional trefoil choir, considered the most beautiful example of this architectural feature typical for the “Rhenish Romanesque”. Spectacular modern frescoes by Hermann Gottfried. Every sunday classical concerts.

St. Cecilia’s: Originally a ladies’ collegiate, later a monastery. Built in the middle 12 th century, this church today houses the Schnütgen Museum (Link)

St. George’s: Former men’s collegiate. Inaugurated 1067, remodelled in the 12 th century. Remarkable modern stained glass windows from 1930.

St. Gereon’s: Former men’s collegiate. The oldest parts go back to a Roman memorial building (4th century) still visible in today’s structure. Enlarged in 1067 – 1069 by a choir and transformed into a spectacular decagonous dome in 1219 – 1227: one of Europe’s largest dome constructions of the Middle Age. Modern stained glass windows byGeorg Meistermann and Wilhelm Buschulte.

St. Cunibert’s: Former men’s collegiate, last Romanesque church in Cologne, inaugurated 1247, only one year before the foundation stone of the Gothic Cathedral was laid. Oldest stained glass windows in Cologne (13th century.).

St.Mary’s in the Capitol: Former ladies’ collegiate, founded by Plectrude (d.ca.717), wife of Pepin of Herstal, Mayor of the Palace to the Merovingian kings. The name “in the Capitol” reminds of the Roman Capitol temple dedicated to Jupiter, Juno an Minerva, which preceded the church in this place. Today’s church was built in the 11 th century under Abbess Ida, grand daughter of Emperor Otto II. and Empress Theophanu (see St. Pantaleon’s) and inaugurated in 1065. Trefoil choir after the model of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Under the choir, second largest crypt of any German church. Extraordinary works of art: carved wooden doors with scenes from the New Testament (11 th century); tombstone of Plectrude; expressive Plague Crucifix (14 th century).

St. Mary’s Lyskirchen: Only remaining parish church from the Romanesque period, built in the 13 th century, former sailor’s and fisher’s church. Complete cycle of frescoes from the 13 th century.

St. Martin ’s-the-Great: former Benedictine Abbey, built in the 12 th and early 13 th century, spectacular combination of trefoil choir and tower, Roman excavations. This church is part of a monastery again and therefore can be visited on weekdays (except mondays) only in the morning and only on Sundays in the afternoon. The excavations are accessible from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 17:00.

St. Pantaleon’s: former Benedictine Abbey, church inaugurated in 980. Tombs of Archbishop and Imperial Chancellor Bruno (d.965), brother of Emperor Otto I., and of Byzantine princess and later German empress Theophanu (d.991).

St. Severin’s: former men’s collegiate. Church dates back to a small church (4th century) on a Roman-Frankish cemetery, remains of which can be visited under the church. Today’s structure inaugurated 1237 and enlarged and remodelled in the 14 and 15th centuries in the Gothic style.

St. Ursula’s: former ladies’ collegiate. Centre of the Cologne relic cult. Church built in the 12th century, choir 13th century in the Gothic style. “Golden Chamber”, unique document of baroque relic cult.

Of Cologne’s Gothic Churches, the Cathedral St.Peter’s and Mary’s is the most famous and one of the largest churches in the world.

 

City map | Website            Tope of page     
 
 


Should you have any comments about these presentations or like to see another sight included, please write to us. You may as well send your own text to put on our site.

 
 
Folowing: Most remarkable museums of Cologne

LatLon-Europe presents a choice of the most remarkable museums for every city, be it a metropolis or a small town. Allow yourself to be surprised by the quality of diversely themed and inspirational museums.

For example: Chocolate Museum Cologne


 
     


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