Although ‘Cologne’ is certainly an internationally recognised name, in many places it has come to be more closely associated with the words ‘Eau de’ and a certain perfume than Germany’s fourth largest city. The cultural centre of the Rhineland, this western city has seen rising tourism levels in the past few years, but remains relatively off the beaten path for many travellers – a sad mistake, given the beauty of Cologne’s architecture, the quality of its museums and galleries and the brilliance of its gastronomy. If you plan on visiting this corner of Germany in 2014, take time out for a weekend in Cologne and explore some of these fascinating sites.
Despite suffering massive damage during the Second World War, Cologne has some excellently preserved architecture dating back to the mediaeval era. The most iconic is the Kölner Dom, a gothic cathedral that took over 600 years to complete and is now Germany’s most visited monument. The cathedral’s location at the end of the main shopping street means there’s no excuse for not stepping inside, while anyone free from vertigo should climb the stairs to the rooftop viewing platform and take in the spectacular panorama of Cologne’s skyline.
Cologne is celebrated for the Twelve Romanesque Churches of the Aldstadt, but if there’s only so many Romanesque churches you can see in one weekend, make sure you visit the Great St Martin Church, built during the 12th and 13th Century. The looming spires and turrets are reminiscent of a fairytale castle, rising dramatically above the pastel coloured buildings below. For a more macabre glimpse into Cologne’s history, head to the Basilica of St Ursula: legend has it that the church was built in the 12th Century on top of a grave of martyred virgins. The Golden Chamber inside the chapel was built using the remains from the mass graves, adorning the walls with bones arranged in patterns and Latin words.
Sunny days in Cologne are wonderful, but the rain does provide the perfect justification for spending all day inside one of the city’s celebrated museums. The modern art collection at Museum Ludwig includes works by Picasso, Lichtenstein, Pollock and Warhol, while the Romano-Germanic Museum is filled with beautiful mosaics and artefacts dating back to the Roman Empire’s occupation of west Rhineland. The Imhoff-Shokoladenmuseum on the banks of the Rhine traces the history of chocolate and is partnered with the modern day Lindt-Imhoff chocolate factory, letting visitors get up close to the production line and even sample some freshly made treats.
Cologne is famous for its beer halls and one of the most beautiful is Haxenhaus zum Rheingarten, known for its old-fashioned hospitality and located in an impressive mediaeval building. Head here in the evenings to refuel on grilled pork knuckle, potato dumplings and sausages while sipping the local ‘Kölsh’ beer from traditional glasses.
If you decide you want to spend a little longer in the charming city of Cologne, the property experts at Engel & Völkers Cologne will be happy to help you to find a home away from home. Our expert agents have a deep understanding of the local and international markets, so whether you’re located in the Rhineland, wider Germany or almost anywhere else in the world, you can rest assured that we’re adept at working on both a regional and global scale.