A self-drive or Eurostar holiday to Cologne will introduce visitors to a city boasting a wealth of historical and cultural attractions. This should come as no surprise; the city holds a history spanning over 2,000 years and amazingly several cultural monuments dating from the city’s early years are still standing today. You’ll discover them stood beside medieval and modern landmarks, all combining to showcase a city of immense affluence and intrigue.
Given the history of Cologne, you’ll find an endless list of attractions, sites and stories to discover during your city break. To help you connect with the most fascinating elements of Cologne, we’ve put together a timeline of the city’s fascinating history and culture.
There is a long history of Romans residing beside the River Rhine, a history that Cologne has been a significant part of. Several signs of the Roman civilisation can be found in the city, from the Roman foundations beneath the City Hall, the famed Roman Tower which was built in the first century AD and the Weidener Grabkammer burial chamber which contains spectacular furnishings. For the best insight and information into the city’s Roman era, look no further than a visit to the fantastic Roman-German Museum.
Arguably one of the most prominent landmarks in the history of Cologne, Cologne Cathedral towers above the Old Town, offering panoramic views from 157 metres up across the roofs of the city. The first stone was laid in 1248, though the cathedral as it stands today wasn’t completed until 1880. Miraculously, the cathedral survived heavy bombing during WWII and today the building is maintained and resorted by a team of 80 stonemasons, glaziers, roofers and several other specialists.
Touring the many Romanic churches found across the city is easily one of the top things to do in Cologne. There are twelve Romanic churches that contribute to the culture and history of Cologne, from St. Andreas and magnificent St. Gereon to charming St. Maria Capitol and the towering Groß St. Martin (pictured below).
The Old Town and Medieval Cologne
Picturesque charm resonates throughout Cologne’s Old Town. Over 70% of the city was destroyed during WWII, but much of the breath-taking medieval architecture and buildings were rebuilt to their original appearance. Today, one of the best places to enjoy the atmosphere of the Old Town is over a glass of Kölsch – a traditional Cologne beer – off the cobbled medieval streets of Heumarkt.
Cologne’s iconic bridge provides passage across the River Rhine, while also simultaneously blending history and modern culture. The bridge was built in 1907 and then rebuilt after WWII, reopened to the public in 1948. It is a proud feat of German engineering, but for many today, the bridge is perhaps best known for its ‘love lock’ tradition. This involves tens of thousands of padlocks being secured to the bridge by different couples, symbolising their love. It is estimated that the padlocks have added over two tonnes of weight to the bridge!
The modern day city holds another important chapter in the history of Cologne and its captivating culture. The city has become a haven for shoppers with one of Europe’s biggest shopping areas, found along Hohe Straße and Schildergasse, just a stone’s throw from the city’s cathedral. Art lovers will also revel in the opportunities presented by Cologne, especially via the world-famous Museum Ludwig and the ART Cologne festival held every April. Koelner Zoo is another famous modern day resident of the city, popular with tourists and locals alike. Cologne is also recognised for its diversity and acceptance of different cultures, famed as being one of the most gay-friendly cities in Europe.
Read more about Cologne via our informative guide.