Cologne – Köln or Kölle, depending on how native you’ve gone – is Germany’s oldest city, dating back over two millennia. Dominated by the towers of its rustic, soaring cathedral, Cologne is a little heralded corner of Germany that hides numerous photogenic medieval and Roman features amongst its charms. It’s a refined city, a place where Belgian-style chocolate shops integrate the epic beer halls, and the angular pastel houses along the banks of the Rhine give the centre an almost fairytale vibe.
It’s hard to miss the twin towers of the 157 meter tall cathedral, Dom, which took over 600 years to build, and are celebrated throughout Germany in songs and literature. Inside you’ll find the golden Sarcophagus of Epiphany, a 13th century relic that’s at the forefront of a mammoth collection of art hidden in the cathedrals’ treasure chamber. In fact, the entire city is rammed full of churches, with twelve ornate Romanic examples tucked within the Medieval city walls, including a tiny 9th century worship spot that takes the breath away.
The Fish Market, the City Gates, the City Hall, the Praetorium and the Roman Tower all offer outstanding examples of the Cologne of old, too, while you can pick up a thorough explanation of it all at the impressive Römisch-Germanisches Museum, which gives a full account of the Romans along the Rhine, as well as housing its own mosaics.
The city’s not all about history, though. There’s plenty in the way of off the wall modern architecture here, and the locals have a penchant for a few beers (try the local specialty Kölsch) and soaking up an inspiring local collection of modern art. The beer halls here are notoriously lively, while there’s a full on social calendar incorporating the impressive local soccer team and plenty in the way of live concerts or theatre to enjoy, too.
While it might be Germany’s oldest city, Cologne’s far from stuffy, and goes out of its way to run with the times. None of that ancient charm’s been lost, though, and you can spend hours exploring the side streets eying ornate buildings and snacking on spectacular chocolate. Alternatively, bring a strong painkiller, and dive into the tumultuous nightlife.
During the christmas period you can stroll at three different authentic Christmas markets: one at the cathedral, one in town centre and one at 'Alter Markt' near the river.
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