The Antoniter church is a small, elegant and unassuming building set in the main shopping street of Schildergasse. Its unassuming nature is fitting, being the first Protestant church in Cologne. But it doesn't make it any less delightful. Its sharp but slender lines are offset perfectly by the curved glass mirror walls of the Peek&Cloppenburghaus that looms over it from next door.
One of the most interesting of Cologne's many churches is Alt St. Alban. It's no longer a church in the normal sense of the word, but a memorial. It was destroyed during World War 2 and its burned out frame has been left as a reminder to the dead, much like Coventry Cathedral in the UK. A poignant sculpture draws your attention, a pair of almost ghost like stone statues called "the Grieving Parents".
Cologne has a cosmopolitan atmosphere and this has given rise to a profusion of gay bars, saunas and clubs. In fact its a bit like a less-tacky Amsterdam. There is a great gay map which shows them all and you can walk to most of the central ones.
My favourite sauna - one of the most luxurious in the world - is Badehaus am Römerturm, just outside the centre. You can spend all day and evening there as they serve very good food.
According to a sign:
"Removed and raised section of the main northern sewer of the Roman city.
Runs from west to east at a depth of 9 meters underneath Kleine Budengasse.
Accessible from the Preatorium below the Town Hall."
Starting at the banks of the river Rhine, the Altstadt is the compact core of Cologne. It's marked by the large number of bars and restaurants, and distinguished by a concentration of slender altbaus dating back to the 14th century. The walk along the Rhine from the Cathedral before darting into some of the narrow alleyways behind the altbaus is probably as atmospheric as it gets in Cologne. It won't take long to wander every street so stretch time out by stopping off in a restaurant or bar.
The Hahnentor - cock's gate - was one of the main gateways into Cologne. It's part of the medieval city wall and was built in 12th century. The name has nothing to do with poultry, but probably comes from the word "Hain" - a small forest, because there used to be forests just outside the gate.
Today it houses a very important society of Cologne, the honourable guard for carnival.
I like to see the difference between the small stalls of the Christmas market and the huge, solid gate close-by.
1. Roof of the Philharmonic Hall
2. Sign in English
Speaking of Wurstigkeit, have a look at this public square near the station.
People like to walk across this square to get from the station to the river, but often they are not allowed to, and there are guards ("City-Service") to keep them off.
The reason for this, as you can see from the second photo, is that the Cologne Philharmonic Hall is situated right below this square. If people walk or skate on the square the noise can be heard in the hall below, which disturbs performances and rehearsals.
You'd think that an architect commissioned to design a concert hall should have been able to foresee this problem and build it some other way, but no. This is Cologne, after all.
As if that weren't enough, the new North-South subway line (the one that did or did not cause the city archive building to collapse) is being built two meters below the concert hall. Soundproof walls are supposed to prevent any noise or rattling from being noticeable in the concert hall, but tests so far have apparently been unconvincing. We shall see. (Or hear.)
Pretty much opposite the main entrance to the Hauptbahnhof is this little cafe with its terrace on the square. This is a little piece of Italy transported to central Cologne with Italian staff and good, not too expensive, coffee.
Ideal spot for watching the world go by.
Whilst the city has several municipal art galleries, the best known being the Museum Ludwig, I didn't have time to visit any - too busy sausage munching and beer tasting!
I did though notice this pair of private galleries, Galeries Boisserie and Karsten Greve, whose doors I poked my head through. Both of these are seriously upmarket and have some interesting works by mostly local (ish) artists. Everything is of course for sale and it's free to browse but you wont see any price tags attached!
Websites have pics of their current and previous exhibitions to give you an idea what they're all about.
A good way to see Cologne is to use the City Tour Bus. When the weather is fine the roof is open. The main start point is near the railway station and cathedral . The fare is 12 euro [ April 2010 ] you can hop on and off, but if you stay on the tour takes one and a half hours.
Don't be surprised whan you see billy goats in Cologne, mostly just statues, but occasionally also live ones, especially Saturday afternoons.The one on the picture was on the roof of a stall at the Christmas Market.
A billy goat called Hennes is the mascot of the local football club, 1.FC Köln. They have a very large fan club in Cologne, much larger than the other team, Fortuna Köln. I once got in the way of the fans rushing to the stadium when I was trying to walk in the opposite direction - it's best to wait until they all have passed.
On the banks of the Rhine in Cologne, boat operators offer day cruises on the river, which offer fine views of the city. There are day and overnight cruises. The standard day cruise departs at 9:30 am. This is a great way to tour the Rhine valley.
If you cross the Hohenzollern Bridge towards the right bank of the Rhine, you will see a spectacular glass skyscraper - this building features a viewing platform (Köln Triangle Panorama) with stunning views over the Rhine and Cologne.
Kölsch is the local beer in Cologne. It has a slightly malty, fairly soft palate -- and is even lighter than the Pilsner style in color. In the beer houses and pubs, the waiters (Köbes) typically serve the Kölsch in a simple, tall, straight, cylindrical 200ml glass called a Kölsch-Stange. Also, the Köbes in the traditional places will keep bringing you new glasses of Kölsch until you put your beer mat on top of your glass indicating that you have had enough.
When visiting Cologne, a tourist soon comes to understand that Kölsch is more than simply a beer -- it is a way of life. The Kölsch lifestyle is fun, friendly, and communal. When you drink a Kölsch in Cologne, you share a common bond with everyone else in the city. So, when visiting Cologne, enjoy some Kölsch!
At the Tourist Service-Center, I purchased a ticket for the Cologne Coach Service's 90-minute guided bus tour. The tour is given in both German and English. If you don't understand German, I recommend that you sit in the back of the bus because the bus is often past the attraction by the time that the guide gives the commentary in English.
This bus tour only stops once at the promenade near the Hyatt Hotel to allow tourists to take pictures of the Cologne Cathedral across the Rhine River.
This tour helps provide a good overview of the city. It also provides great background information on the different sights and sections of the city.
While this bus tour was good, I think a tourist with plenty of time might prefer the hop-on hop-off bus tour with recorded commentary in several languages that is offered by Stattreisen Köln.
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