Koln is the fourth largest city in Germany, with a population of about one million inhabitants. Probably the oldest German city, being founded by the Romans in 38 BC, Koln is located in the North Rhine-Westphalia, on the banks of the Rhine. The city suffered a great deal during World War II, with more than 250 air strikes that destroyed much of the buildings and monuments. Therefore, many older historic buildings needed renovations and reconstructions to resemble the originals. The construction of the new buildings was done in a 1950s style.
A building that, fortunately, was largely spared is the symbol of the city – the amazing Koln Cathedral. Although it was hit 14 times by bombs, its structure survived, at present being completely restored. The cathedral, which with its twin towers marks the city’s skyline, was started in the 13th century and only completed in 1880, when it held the distinction of being the tallest building in the world. Today, the fascinating Gothic dome boasts the title of the largest cathedral in Germany and Northern Europe and is considered an important pilgrimage site due to the fact that it houses the relics of the Three Magi.
Koln is known for its deep culture, housing more than 30 museums and hundreds of art galleries. There are also 12 Roman churches, all of which are great examples of medieval architecture. 11 of them were severely affected in World War II, and their recostruction was only completed in 1990.
Here are other attractions and sights to visit in Koln:
Perhaps the most impressive attraction in the city (after the Dom, of course) is the Roman-Germanic Museum. It is one of the most important archaeological museums in Germany, and was built in the 1970s around the famous mosaics of Dionysus. The mosaic, formerly the floor of the main room of a large Roman villa in the third century, was discovered in 1941, during the excavations made for a shelter against air raids. The museum, opened in 1974 and located right next to the Dome, houses an amazing collection of prehistoric, ancient and medieval artifacts, objects that offer a perspective on the daily life, beliefs and customs of cultures long forgotten.
Koln is a city of live music and concerts, where artists come from all over the world and offer a variety of musical styles. There is also the Ludwig Museum which, since its opening in 1986, has become one of the most important international concert halls, with the capacity to accommodate up to 2,000 people. It offers popular jazz and pop music as well as lesser known and new genres.
Another place worth visiting in Koln is the City Hall (Rathaus) in the Alter Markt (Old Square). The building dates back to 1330 and features a majestic 15th-century tower with a 16th-century Renaissance façade. A bell tower rings every day at 17:00. It features an remarkable architecture, and houses many statues, including a few of King Arthur and Carol the Great.
One of the favorite places for locals and tourists in Koln is definitely the Old Square. Located in the heart of the Old City, it is surrounded by cafes and restaurants and hosts a variety of events throughout the year: the Christmas market in the holiday season, the Medienburgerfestival during the summer and many more. The old market is most famous because of the carnival that starts at 11:11 on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, a street carnival that lasts for a week (called “crazy week”).
Many other places are worth visiting in Koln. Among these are the Belgian Quarter, a shopping paradise, the Mustard museum, the Chocolate Museum and the Schloss Augustusburg, a beautiful 18th-century palace that once belonged to the Archbishop of Koln.