Cologne Travel Blog› entry 9 of 11 › view all entries
Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city after Berlin, Hamburg and Munich, and is the largest city both in the German Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants. It is one of the oldest cities in Germany, having been founded by the Romans in the year 38 BC. Cologne was granted the status of a Roman "city" in the year 50 AD.
Cologne lies on the River Rhine. The city's famous Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cologne. The University of Cologne (Universität zu Köln) is one of Europe's oldest universities.
Cologne is a major cultural center of the Rhineland and has a vibrant arts scene. Cologne is home to more than 30 museums and hundreds of galleries. Exhibitions range from local ancient Roman archeological sites to contemporary graphics and sculpture. The city's Trade Fair Grounds are host to a number of trade shows such as the Art Cologne Fair, the International Furniture Fair (IMM) and the Photokina. Cologne is also well-known for its celebration of Cologne Carnival, the annual reggae summerjam, the largest of its kind in Europe, and the LGBT festival Christopher Street Day (CSD).
Within Germany, Cologne is known as an important media center. Several radio and television stations, including Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), RTL and VOX (TV channel), are based in the city.
In 2005 Cologne hosted the 20th Roman Catholic World Youth Day with Pope Benedict XVI. It was one of the largest-ever meetings, with over a million participants.
Coat of arms
The three crowns symbolize the Magi (Three Wise Men) whose bones are said to be kept in a golden sarcophagus in Cologne Cathedral (see Shrine of the Three Kings at Cologne Cathedral). In 1164, Rainald of Dassel, the archbishop of Cologne, brought the relics to the city, making it a major pilgrimage destination. This led to the design of the current cathedral as the predecessor was considered too small to accommodate the pilgrims.
The eleven tears are a reminder of Cologne's patron, Saint Ursula, a Britannic princess, and her legendary 11,000 virgin companions who were supposedly martyred by Attila the Hun at Cologne for their Christian faith in 383. (The entourage of Ursula and the number of victims was significantly smaller; according to one source, the original legend referred to only eleven companions and the number was later inflated by relic traders.)
Cologne is well-known for its beer, called Kölsch. Kölsch is also the name of the local dialect. This has led to the common joke that Kölsch is the only language you can drink.
Cologne is also famous for Eau de Cologne (Kölnisch Wasser).
Cologne carnival is one of the biggest street festivals in Europe. It is held annually; the season starts officially on November 11 at 11 minutes after 11 with the proclamation of the new Carnival Season, and it continues until Ash Wednesday. But the so-called "Tolle Tage" (mad days) don't start until Weiberfastnacht (Women's Carnival) or, in dialect, Wieverfastelovend (Thursday before Ash Wednesday), which is the beginning of the street carnival. Hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to Cologne during this time. Generally around a million people are celebrating in the streets on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday.
The center of Cologne was completely destroyed during World War II.
* Cologne Cathedral (German: Kölner Dom) is the city's famous landmark and unofficial symbol. It is a Gothic church, started in 1248, and completed in 1880. In 1996, it was designated a World Heritage site; it claims to house the relics of the Three Magi.
* Twelve Romanesque Churches: These buildings are outstanding examples of medieval sacral architecture. The roots of some of the churches date back as far as Roman times, like St. Gereon, which originally was a chapel on a Roman graveyard. With the exception of St. Maria Lyskirchen all of these churches were very badly damaged during World War II. Reconstruction was only finished in the 1990s.
* Cologne University, with approx. 44,000 students as of 2005, is the largest university in Germany.
* Fragrance Museum Farina House, the birthplace of Eau de Cologne.
* Römisch-Germanisches Museum (English: Roman-Germanic Museum) for ancient Roman and Germanic culture.
* Wallraf-Richartz Museum for medieval art.
* Museum Ludwig for modern art.
* EL-DE Haus, the former local headquarters of the Gestapo houses a museum documenting the Nazi rule in Cologne with a special focus on the persecution of political dissenters and minorities.
* Kölner Philharmonie - the Cologne Philharmonic Orchestra Building housing both the Gürzenich Orchestra and the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne.
* RheinEnergieStadion, the major Cologne stadium, primarily used for soccer games, seating 50,997 visitors in national games and 46,134 in international games, home to the local 2.
* Lanxess Arena (formerly known as Kölnarena), a multifunctional event hall, home to the local hockey team, the Kölner Haie (English: Cologne Sharks).
* Kölnturm (English: Cologne Tower), Cologne's second tallest building at 165.48 metres (542.91 ft) in height, second only to the Colonius (266 m/873 ft).
* Colonius - a telecommunication tower with an observation deck (closed since 1992).
* Colonia Hochhaus - Germany's tallest residential building.
* Köln Triangle Tower - opposite the cathedral with a 103 m (338 ft) high viewing platform - in contrast to the cathedral with an elevator and a view with the cathedral over the Rhine.
* Hansa Hochhaus - designed by architect Jakob Koerfer and completed in 1925, it was at one time Europe's tallest office building.
* Rheinseilbahn - an aerial tramway crossing the Rhine.
* Messe Köln (English: Cologne Fair). Exhibition area of 100,000 m² (1,076,000 sq ft).
* Messeturm Köln (English: Exhibition Tower Cologne).
* Hohe Strasse (English: High Street) is one of the main shopping areas and extends past the cathedral in an approximately southerly direction. This street is particularly popular with tourists and contains many gift shops, clothing stores, fast food restaurants and electronic goods dealers.
* Ford Motor Company plants, assembling the Ford Fiesta and Ford Fusion as well as manufacturing engines and parts; headquarters for Ford of Europe.
* The Panasonic Toyota Racing Formula One team has its factory in the city.
* Schildergasse - extends the shopping area of Hohe Strasse to the west ending at Neumarkt.
* Ehrenstrasse - the shopping area around Apostelnstrasse, Ehrenstrasse, and Rudolfplatz is a little more on the eccentric and stylish side.
* Historic Ringe boulevards (such as Hohenzollernring, Kaiser-Wilhelm-Ring, Hansaring) with their medieval city gates (such as Hahnentorburg on Rudolfplatz) are also known for their night life.
* German Sports & Olympic Museum, with exhibitions about sports from antiquity until the present.
* Schokoladenmuseum (Chocolatemuseum) officially called Imhoff-Schokoladen-Museum.
* JavaMuseum - Forum for Internet Technology in Contemporary Art - collections of Internet ba