What to do in Cologne, Germany

I went to Cologne with a friend. A very last-minute decision – we didn’t plan anything for the weekend, and we thought hey, let’s take a train to Cologne. All the key attractions are close to each other – a great place to check out if you didn’t have much time on your hand. So – here is a list of what I think is a must-do if you are here for just a short trip…(other than shopping of course!). 

Cologne Cathedral

This is the main attraction – so should be top of your list!

The cathedral’s foundation was laid on 15 August 1248. The cathedral is said to house the remains of the Three Wise Men or the Three Kings – which Archbishop Rainald von Dassel brought back to the cathedral city in 1164 from the conquered city of Milan. Ok – I didn’t know about all this when I visited. Read about it after the trip. All I knew was that this is a very beautiful Gothic cathedral. 

A couple of facts about the cathedral

  • It is Cologne’s second talent structure after the telecommunications tower
  • It has 8k square metres of floor space and can hold more than 20,000 people
  • The cathedral is one of the most important places of pilgrimage in Europe because of the shrine of the Three Kings. 
  • It was declared a World Heritage site in 1996

Check out the opening hours here at the website link.

Cologne's Old Town

The Old Town is situated on the banks of the Rhine in central Cologne. Three-quarters of Cologne was destroyed during World War II and the city had to be rebuilt. Imagine the city resembling a battlefield – full of rubble.

Today – you find brightly coloured buildings and as you walk from square to square, you can find them lined up with cafes and restaurants. We had lunch here at Alter Markt – good food and great atmosphere.

Ludwig Museum

I saw my first Picasso in The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid. I didn’t realise that the Ludwig Museum has the third largest Picasso collection worldwide after Barcelona and Paris. It has the largest American pop art collection outside the United States.

The Ludwig Museum was set up in the 1980s after the husband and wife collectors Irene and Peter Ludwig donated 350 modern artworks from their collection to the city of Cologne. The museum houses art made after 1900.  Since 2001 the collection has expanded in the field of contemporary art. Some of the things that they displayed made me think – “really – is that art?” Check out my photos – tell me what you think.

I totally recommend visiting the museum by the way – it’s quite cool and ‘mind-blowing’.

Checkout the museum website in the link here to find out more.

Ok, guys – these are not just any bunch of boxes. The Brillo Boxes are precise copies (silkscreen ink and paint on plywood) of the Brillo soap pads cartons exhibited in 1963, by pop artist Andy Warhol in a New York gallery. That’s right! Wow, right.

So what is artistic about the box? There was a lot of debate about this. It seems back in the day. Customs agents also disagreed on these being ‘art’. They taxed the boxes as commercial items when these were shipped to Canada for a show instead of giving these the special tax status of an artwork.

Hey – don’t laugh yet – did you know one of the boxes which Warhol signed were sold at Christie’s in 2010 — for $3 million? 

Pablo Picasso - Dans l’atelier, [In the Studio] 1964. I love his work!!!
Christo - Wrapped Calculating Machine, 1963. Yeap - I didn't get this one either.

Hohenzollern Bridge

The tiered-arch bridge separates the industrial area from the historical area of the city. It was built between 1907 and 1911. The bridge was badly damaged in World War II and was completely rebuilt in 1959.

The bridge use is restricted to just rail and pedestrian traffic. The bridge was also hit with the “love locks” craze which started around 2008. You can find thousands of locks all over the pedestrian railings. Couples would visit the spot every year to declare their love, and throw away the key into the river to express loyalty to one another. So far the Hohenzollern bridge can still accommodate the additional weight from the padlocks but there may come a time when they would have to ban these like many other bridges in Europe such as Pont des Arts in Paris and Vecchio Bridge in Florence.

The bridge is a must-do even if it’s just for the view! You get a beautiful view of the tower of Groß St. Martin Church and the towers of Cologne Cathedral from the over the Rhine…

Cologne Funicular

I really enjoyed the cable car ride – as it leisurely took us across the Rhine, highways, parks. A strange feeling for me because a cable car ride for me is usually up the mountain or something. But this time it’s just over the river and parks – saw a number of people sunbathing too! Yeap – really a different kind of feel. Highly recommended!

The cable car is opened from April to October.

NS Documentation Center

The National Socialism Documentation Center housed at the EL-DE building was established in 1979 and started out as a centre for research and academics. Now it is the largest regional memorial site in Germany for those who lost their lives during the time when the country was controlled by National Socialist party (or the Nazi party led by Adolf Hitler).

The EL-DE house is named after the original owner of the building Leopold Dahmen, initial “LD”. It was his family home combined with his business premise. The Dahmen family still own the building today.

The building became the headquarters of the Cologne Gestapo from 1935-1945. The building was a great location for the Gestapo as it was within close proximity of the police headquarters, the court building and the central prison. The Gestapo converted the living space into offices and installed ten prison cells on the upper basement level. The cells were supposed to serve as temporary holding cells where the Gestapo would interrogate prisoners. However some prisoners spent weeks or even months in these cells.

Interesting to note that after the war, the house was used by tenants almost immediately – one of the tenants was the City of Cologne. Some of the people who had been interrogated and tortured by the Gestapo the buildings had to be married here etc.

Get more information from their website here.

Great Time in Cologne

I ended up doing much more exploring than I expected. All the attractions are within easy reach. In fact, if you take the cable car – you will find that it takes you right to the zoo and botanical park – if you want to add that to your list of places to visit.

The city is also well-known for its carnivals like The Crazy Days, The Ghost Parade, Music Carnival “Sing Your Heart Out” etc. But with the Covid situation and all – most events for the year were cancelled. But once/when things improve – they may start planning for the events again – so you may want to time your visit accordingly. You can check the city tourism website for more details.

Anyway – with or without the carnivals, if you are around the area and you’re looking for a place to ‘chill’ on one of those short weekends – consider Cologne!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.