For a tourist, one of the highlights of any trip to Cologne is climbing the stairs of one of the Cathedral towers. Be forewarned, however, that you must climb a total of 509 narrow, winding steps up the tower -- and then descend the same 509 narrow, winding steps to exit. If possible, try to go when it is not crowded because there are sometimes traffic jams with the two-way traffic on the stairs.
The walk up the stairs is challenging, and my legs were like rubber when I finally made it. Fortunately, there is plenty of room at the top to walk around and take photos. The views are amazing!
One of the most successful TV shows for children in Germany is the "Maus", the mouse. It won lots of prizes thoughout the years and children and adults like it. The show explains the phenomena of everyday life, like why does water look blue even though it has no colour at all?
There is a store, called Maus and Co, which sells all stuff connected to the mouse. I put this tip in the "what to do"secton rather than the shopping one, because there are also some things just to look at in this store, not just to buy.
At the Cologne Tourist Information Center near the Cathedral, the Köln WelcomeCard is available for purchase. Depending on the length of your stay, you have the option of purchasing a card that is valid for 24 hours, 48 hours or 72 hours. There is a booklet that lists the different offers and discounts that are available with the card.
For me, the biggest benefit of the card is that it allows free travel by public transport – buses, trams, and trains – throughout the entire region of the Rhine-Sieg transport network (Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Sieg - VRS).
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!
Apart from the mouse, this is another point in Cologne which children will like. The story is that once upon a time, Cologne was blessed because there were dwarfs, brownies, who would come at night and do all the work for the people there.They were never seen. But one woman was so curious to know what they looked like, that she put peas on her staircase so that the little men would fall. Then she would be able to see them. Her plan worked, but the dwarfs were so angry that they left and the citizens of Cologne had to do all their work by themselves.
This scene is depicted in this fountain.
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.
Cologne has a large downtown pedestrian zone on Breite Strasse that offers the opportunity to stroll around a variety of different kinds of shops, small boutiques, relaxing street cafés and art galleries.
Pedestrian zones are common to many German cities, not just Cologne. After the end of World War II, German city developers largely decided that cars should be banned from distinct areas of the city centers, giving pedestrians the chance to leisurely walk through such downtown pedestrian zones in peace.
Personally, I think that these urban pedestrian zones in Germany are great. I wish the city planners in the United States would build more urban pedestrian zones instead of simply allowing the development of suburban strip mall sprawl.
Cologne is one of the most important European railway junctions, with more than 1,200 train arrivals per day to the Cologne Main station (Hauptbanhof). Even if you're not trainspotting freak like me (but more interested in architecture ;) the steel and glass canopy roof of the late 19th century station will be interesting to visit. The steel construction measures 225 metres in length, 65 metres in width, and 24 metres in height.
When large railway stations like this were built they were called cathedrals of their time, and actually if you look closer there are similarities in the form of the steel construction of the railway station and of the Gothic Cathedral.
The extensions of the railway station are modern, including the modern facade that faces the Cathedral. Similar to large airports today the Hauptbanhof (that has more than 200,000 visitors daily) is partly turned into a modern shopping centre.
The Eigelsteintor (Eigelstein Gate) is one of the city’s three remaining gates in the old medieval wall. The gate tower was originally built in the 13th century. Two semi-towers flanking the center section were added in the Middle Ages.
Today, the Eigelsteintor forms the center of the lively pedestrianized entertainment district of Agnesviertel, full of bars and sidewalk cafés.
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.)
Opposite one side of the Cathedral, you will find the KölnTourismus (Cologne Tourist Service-Center) that provides tourist information (including maps), welcome cards, tickets, and souvenirs. The representatives in this tourist service center can help provide valuable guidance about the city of Cologne and its various attractions.
On one of my recent visits to the Cologne I saw the opera The Meistersinger of Nürnberg by Richard Wagner, as staged by Uwe Eric Laufenberg, who is now also General Manager of the Cologne Opera.
This is a tricky opera to stage because it gets very nationalistic towards the end (no wonder it was one of Hitler's favorite operas). Laufenberg gets around this very elegantly by placing the last scene in 21st century Cologne, not 16th century Nürnberg, and having it take place right in front of the opera house with all sorts of typically Cologne things going on, both live and on a video screen, to distract attention from the nationalistic pathos.
Update 2012: After a long public altercation with city officials, Uwe Eric Laufenberg was dismissed without notice as General Manager of the Cologne Opera in June 2012. A few months later the Cologne Opera was chosen both as Opera House of the Year and as Outrage of the Year by the critics of Opernwelt magazine. Laufenberg has since been hired as the next General Manager of the Hessen State Opera in Wiesbaden, starting in 2014.
Tünnes and Schäl are two figures from the puppet theater of Cologne. There are statues of them in the Alter Markt. They never actually existed, but were invented by Johann Christoph Winter (1772-1862). The good-natured but dim Tünnes is constantly being taken in for a ride by the cunning and crafty Schäl.
Many people rub the noses of the statues of Tünnes and Schäl because it is believed that doing so will bring good luck. During our VT meeting in Cologne on May 24, 2008, we stopped to take a photo by the statues of these famous puppet characters.
First, one should visit Koeln Tourismus GmbH, the Cologne Tourist Office, which is situated right opposite to the main entrance of the cathedral. There you'll find most helpful stuff you can imagine. They'll inform you about anything you need to know when visiting Cologne, such as, accomodation, museums, exibitions, concerts, events, shopping, etc.
I never book hotel room in advance, it is my style eversince I started my travellings. Most of the times I travel by car, which gives me the opportunity to stop over night in any place I want. I am kinda visual type and like to see the aspect of the hotel fist. Before coming to Cologne, this time by plain, I knew there'll be the big fair starting on Sunday 05.03.06. There are more then 75 hotels in Cologne only and equaly so in the close surroundings of the town, but all of them were sold out except for those where room costs a fortune.
The guys from the picture have help me to find a room in the hotel situated right Am Bollwerk, which is one the most attractive part of the old medieval town.
For those who like the works of Kaethe Kollwitz, there is a very good exhibition of many of her drawings and some of her sculptures. It's somewhat hidden in the shopping mall at Neumarkt center, in the top floor there. There are signs leading to it from the Neumarkt area.
They offer very interesting background information of her life and work, most of it in German only.But even without reading all this, it is a very interesting exhibition.
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