Destination Germany: Why Not Choose… Cologne?
Welcome to the capital of the Rhineland! Come and discover all the wonders of this city with many faces, which ranks second in the hearts of young Germans, just after Berlin.
Home to Germany's third largest University, as well as being an industrial and commercial hub, the city is an international and cultural crossroads in the heart of the Rhineland. A weekend in Cologne is a chance to enjoy a dizzying cultural offer (the city has 42 museums), but also to laze around on a café terrace and to taste local specialities (currywurst, artisan beers) in a traditional bar.
The Painful Past Behind a Fascinating Architecture
Arriving in Cologne, the first thing you will notice is undoubtedly the city's architecture. Coming out of the central station, the imposing and majestic cathedral looms before you. A striking first impression of the city! It is one of the few buildings left standing after the incessant bombardments suffered by the city during World War II . Its atypical architecture is said to have saved it, because it was easily recognised by allied pilots, therefore serving as a landmark. Nevertheless, it was not entirely spared: its vault was destroyed (and a full restoration was carried out in 1950 ).
However, the cathedral is not alone. The city, almost entirely destroyed during the war, contains a great deal of architecture from the 50s and 60s. Outside of the city centre, the buildings are not as tall, and their façades are more colourful. Some even feature vegetation, whilst others are covered in street-art… All in the city's 86 neighbourhoods. There's no doubt about it: Cologne offers immense architectural diversity.
Cologne: City of Design…
The Belgian Quarter, a trendy area of Cologne, is buzzing, particularly during the "Le Bloc" Festival. Fashion and design boutiques, as well as artists' workshops, are open to all. This neighbourhood and the Ehrenfeld area, where deserted factories have been taken over by designers, are not to be missed: they are real permanent showrooms.
… but also City of Good Times and Partying!
With the greatest concentration of bars and restaurants per metre squared, Cologne could be called a party city! Brüsseler Platz is always full: it is the meeting point for students and anyone wanting to get together with friends. Cologne is multicultural and welcoming, with a highly tolerant atmosphere.
Top 10 Must-Sees in Cologne
The Cathedral: an impressive Gothic building on the UNESCO World Heritage List. One of the few buildings to have survived the Allied bombs, it is Germany's most visited tourist site.
The Ludwig Museum: opposite the station and behind the cathedral, the glass architecture of the Ludwig Museum is home to a rich collection of 20th-century art, and holds over 700 works by Picasso.
The Café Schmitz: the terrace of this historical Cologne café is full to bursting at all hours of the day. In an old butcher's shop which still has its neon sign and Jugendstil ceramics, this institution is beloved by trendy young Germans. Its 1950s decor gives it a retro feel.
The Belgian Quarter, Belgisches Viertel: this area, comparable to the Marais in Paris, is the perfect place to stroll and shop. In the side roads along its main street, the Hohenzollernring, you will find small designer boutiques, bookshops (including the famous Taschen publishing house) and alternative cafés with original decor. Looking up, you can admire the rare pre-war buildings which still boast their beautiful 1900 façades.
Le Farina Fragrance Museum: Two traditional houses share the flourishing market for this perfume dating back to the 17th century. Lovers of bergamot will choose the Farina House bottle (Obenmarspforten, 21) in its red cardboard packaging. If you prefer lavender, you will choose the blue and gold bottle from house N°4711, found at Glockengasse, 4711.
The Kolumba Contemporary Art Museum: a site to put at the top of your list! This magnificent building designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor (Pritzker Prize 2009) is built on the ruins of an old church. With its pure lines and good natural light, the exposed concrete building is a work of art in itself.
The Wohngemeinschaft: this highly original bar is designed to resemble a shared apartment. Bedroom, sitting room, and even a caravan: the retro-boho chic of this artists' HQ is made up of several different spaces.
A typical brewery: You absolutely must soak up the informal local atmosphere where guests drink beers brewed by the house. You can even see the stills in the yard.
KölnTriangle: the second highest skyscraper in the city. From its panoramic terrace, the view of the cathedral, the city centre and the Rhine is breathtaking!
Cologne Chocolate Museum: from cacao farming to the finished product, from its origins in America to its use in industrial products, Cologne Chocolate Museum invites you to discover all aspects of one of the world's favourite foods.
All the Flavours of the Rhineland on your Plate
You can't stay in Cologne without stopping by a bar to taste a local cervoise beer, Kölsch (which comes in 23 different sorts!). Cologne is bursting with little restaurants and bars where you can enjoy various specialities: potato pancakes (reibekuchen), halvenhaln (a snack of rye bread and cheese), roast beef marinated in vinegar (rheinischer-sauerbraten) served with a sweet-savoury side, and black pudding with onions (kölschekaviar).
April: Art Cologne
International art fair with over 200 galleries invited and a major design exhibition: the most important in Europe after that of Milan.
June: Le Bloc Festival
Completely free, this express festival allows all of the selected fashion designers to fill the shops of one of the city's trendiest areas: Belgisches Viertel (the Belgian Quarter).
July: Christopher Street Day
Cologne Pride, also known as Christopher Street Day, is Germany's biggest gay pride event, and one of the largest in Europe. It lasts two weeks, from late June to early July.
July-August: Sommerfestival der Philharmonie
Cologne Summer Festival (kölnersommerfestival) takes place from early July to early August. It includes numerous cultural and musical events in the city's streets and concert halls: music concerts, dance shows, ballets, street theatre, exhibitions, workshops for children, etc.
11 November: Carnival
This carnival, which is one of the best known in Europe, is a real institution, deeply embedded in local life since 1341 (first mention of the carnival). The carnival always starts on 11 November at 11 AM, because 11 is the number of fools. During this day, the festivities take place on Heumarkt square and in the whole historical centre.
December: Cologne Christmas Market
Every year, the city centre between the cathedral and the Rhine twinkles with thousands of lights from the seven Christmas markets, which create a special mood throughout the whole festive season. A unique and charming atmosphere!
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