Leonardo Royal Hotel
Tel.: 0049 211 7771977
Leonardo Hotel Köln
Waldecker Straße 11-15
Cologne Tourist Board (Kölntourismus)
Opposite the cathedral, the tourist office stocks maps and brochures, and can offer advice on public transport and what to see. It can also help with hotel and tour reservations.
If you plan on ticking off most of the sites, it may be worth investing in the KölnCard which gives reduced-price admission to most attractions and excursions as well as free travel on all public transport. The card is available from the tourist office or online.
What makes a railway and pedestrian bridge so special? Here it’s the expression of love. While love locks have swept across the world, in Cologne they’ve taken a life of their own. In most places, lovers place a single padlock on a bridge, inscribe their names upon it and throw the key into the river to symbolise their devotion towards one another. Cologne has put its own party style onto the proceedings, replacing padlocks with bicycle chains and fluffy heart-shaped locks with racy looking handcuffs.
Nazi Documentation Centre
For an unflinching look at the darkest period in German history, step inside the Nazi Documentation Centre. Housed inside the city’s former Gestapo headquarters, today the building tries to educate as well as commemorate the lives of those lost during the Third Reich. It’s designed to work both as an academic research centre and an exhibition centre for the public, with a mix of permanent and temporary exhibitions.
Rathaus (Cologne Town Hall)
At first glance, the Town Hall looks like any other administrative building: staid and classical with stone figures representing nobility. In fact, more than 100 of them peer down, from kings and queens to saints and prophets. However, look more closely, and you’ll discover a few surprises: sculptures with their tongues hanging out and their trousers pulled down – even ones with genitals on display. Consider yourself warned. Once you’ve seen those, you may have a hard time concentrating on its Roman remains and impressive wooden carvings.
Cologne Zoo lays claim to being one of the best in Europe, and it certainly scores well in terms of both numbers and location. With over 4,000 animals representing 500 species, it follows up diversity with beauty in the form of the botanical gardens next door. Find elephants, giraffes and yellow-breasted capuchin monkeys among giant anteaters and pink pelicans, before heading to the aquarium to see seahorses, crabs and some fearsome piranhas. Combine a trip here with a flying visit over the Rhine on the adjacent Seilbahn (cable car open mid-March to early November).
The Wallraff-Richartz Museum houses more than 700 years of art. Its earliest work dates from around 1300 and takes visitors all the way through to Impressionism at the end of the 19th century. From Rubens, Rembrandt, van Dyck, and Tintoretto, to Renoir, Monet, Manet, van Gogh, Cézanne, Gauguin and Munch, it’s overwhelming to take it all in on a single visit, but there’s nothing to stop you from coming back.
Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral)
Unmissable in every sense, this behemoth is one of the most awe-inspiring buildings in the world and holds a number of treasures. Look out for the golden casket possessing the remains of the Magi, the ninth-century Gero crucifix, the Stefan Lochner triptych and the medieval stained glass windows. Climb the 509 steps to the viewing platform of the 157m-high (515ft) South Tower for the dizzying views and down below look in the Schatzkammer (Treasury Museum).
Cologne has (quite literally) been uncovering its Roman history in recent years until today. In 2016 two Roman graves with many valuable burial objects and skeletons were discovered by archeologists. Even bars undergoing renovation have discovered a mosaic or two in the basement. This museum celebrates Cologne’s importance as the capital of Roman Germany and is built around a superbly preserved mosaic floor (the best of its kind in north Europe). You’ll also find the world’s largest collection of Roman glassware as well as some chic Roman jewellery in the permanent collection.
Schokoladenmuseum (Chocolate Museum)
Set in a stunning building on the Rhine, this entertaining and educational exhibition (in English) studies every aspect of the history of chocolate and features a real working production line that culminates in a chocolate fountain. Real cocoa butter, vanilla and lecithin are on display as well as a tour through the tropics and a history lesson on the origins of the delicious snack.
This world-class museum is full of eye-catching pop art icons from the late 20th century, including masterpieces from Andy Warhol (<em>Marilyn Diptych</em> and <em>Campbell’s Soup Cans</em>), Roy Liechtenstein and René Magritte, plus several hundred lesser works by Pablo Picasso. Dalí’s huge <em>La Gare de Perpignan</em> is worth the entrance fee alone. Exhibitions staged here represent modern art from around the world in a fresh, engaging fashion.
Cologne's Romanesque Churches
Cologne boasts 12 wonderfully atmospheric churches, which were originally built between the 10th and the mid-13th centuries, then rebuilt and restored after severe war damage. Don’t miss Gross St Martin, St Aposteln, St Gereon, St Maria im Kapitol, St Cäcilien (now home to the Schnütgen Museum of Sacred Art) and especially St Ursula with its amazing and macabre Goldene Kammer bone chapel and reliquary room.
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