Anyone who’s ever wondered where cologne came from need not worry any more. This type of fragrance is named after Cologne, the German city where it was invented. Germany’s fourth largest city with 1 million residents, was heavily bombed during World War II. As a result, Cologne is a quite modern city, though remnants of its rich history, dating from Roman times, can still be found.
Located on the scenic Rhine River, this city is one of the most-visited destinations in Germany and there are plenty of great tourist attractions in Cologne, both ancient and new:
See also: Where to Stay in Cologne
10. Cologne City Hall[SEE MAP]
Located in the heart of the old town, Cologne’s Rathaus is Germany’s oldest city hall. Its Gothic tower is decorated with more than one hundred sculptures. Construction of the tower started in 1407 and when it was completed, it was the tallest building in the city, even eclipsing the Gross St. Martin. After the historic building was severely damaged in the Second World War, the City Hall was only partially reconstructed; the rest of the complex was rebuilt in a modern style.
9. 4711 House[SEE MAP]
The 4711 Cologne House is undoubtedly the prettiest smelling house in Cologne. Located at Glockengasse no. 4, it is the birthplace and flagship store for the most famous brand of eau de cologne (water from Cologne). The number 4711 refers to a house number assigned during the French occupation at the end of the eighteenth century. Made since 1792, the original fragrance was known as Echt Kölnisch Wasser. The same formula is still being used today. The ground floor of the house is home to a store selling the famous perfume. On the first floor is a small museum about the history of Cologne 4711.
8. Schildergasse[SEE MAP]
Travelers who love to shop need to visit Schildergasse, the busiest shopping street in Europe. This pedestrian-only street draws about 15,000 shoppers an hour. Running between Hohe Strasse and Neumarkt, the street dates back to Roman times. Artists painted coats of arms here during the Middle Ages. Located in central Cologne, the street features numerous department and chain stores, and trendy boutiques, including clothing store inside a glass building that is shaped like a whale. Shoe stores are especially numerous on Schildergasse . Streets around Schildergasse also offer good shopping.
7. Botanical Gardens & Flora[SEE MAP]
Travelers with green thumbs will naturally navigate to the Botanical Gardens & Flora, but any visitor will enjoy a stroll through Cologne’s oldest and most traditional park. The botanical gardens and flora used to be separate complexes but were combined into the botanical garden in 1920. The garden today contains more than 10,000 species of plants in a variety of settings, ranging from greenhouses to exotic gardens to rainforests. The historic building Flora was recently renovated and is now an elegant event center. The botanical garden is located in north Cologne near the cable car terminus.
6. Museum Ludwig[SEE MAP]
The Museum Ludwig was created in 1976 to house the 350 pieces of modern art that the chocolate magnate Peter Ludwig donated to the city of Cologne; nearly two decades later, Peter and his wife Irene donated another 90 works, mostly by Picasso. Today the museum also contains important works by significant contemporary, expressionist and classical modern artists, as well as a collection of American Pop Art. Visitors say the exhibits are nicely arranged and like that the museum can be toured in a few hours, rather than taking up a whole day. Explanations are in several languages.
5. Gross St. Martin[SEE MAP]
Gross St. Martin is one of twelve Romanesque churches in Cologne. Thanks to its massive tower, the church is also one of the most imposing. Were it not for the crosses on top, visitors might easily mistake Gross St. Martin as a medieval castle. The church is considered one of the best looking buildings in Cologne, and is very popular with tourists. The Romanesque church was built between 1150 and 1250, after a fire destroyed the earlier church. Restored after being heavily damaged in World War if, Gross St. Martin with its trefoil choir still dominates the skyline in Old Town.
4. Cologne Cable Car[SEE MAP]
The Cologne Cable Car, which connects the zoo and botanical garden, is considered the city’s safest transportation. In operation since 1957, the short trip over the Rhine River offers spectacular views of Cologne, including the river and Cologne Cathedral. It also passes over a nudist spa, but riders say they cable car is high enough that not too much can be seen. A popular Cologne tourist attraction, the vintage-style four-seat cable cars make the trip in 10 minutes.
3. Romisch-Germanisches Museum[SEE MAP]
The Romisch-Germanisches Museum may be located in a modern building, but its interior contains parts of original Roman facilities, making it an archeological site as well as a repository for ancient artifacts. The museum was built so as to protect the site of an old Roman villa. A Dionysius mosaic can be found in the basement, while a section of an old Roman road is outside. The museum’s mission is to protect Cologne’s Roman heritage, which includes not only facilities but also items such as utensils and tools the Romans used in daily living.
2. Hohenzollern Bridge[SEE MAP]
Of the seven bridges that cross the Rhine River in Cologne, the Hohenzollern Bridge is the most famous thanks to its location near the cathedral. The construction of the original bridge took place from 1907 to 1911. In 1945, German military engineers blew up the bridge when Allied troops began their assault on Cologne. Just three years later the bridge was partially repaired and in 1959 the Hohenzollernbrücke was completely reconstructed. Due to its location near Cologne’s main train station about 1200 trains pass here every day. A pedestrian walkway allows visitors to cross the Rhine for a beautiful view of the skyline of Cologne.
1. Cologne Cathedral[SEE MAP]
Easily the most famous church in Germany, Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) has been Cologne’s most prominent landmark for centuries. The cathedral stands on the site of a 4th century Roman temple, followed by a church commissioned by Maternus, the first Christian bishop of Cologne. Construction of the present Gothic church began in 1248 and took, with interruptions, more than 600 years to complete. Two huge towers, completed in 1880, dominate Cologne’s skyline; it is the city’s second highest building.