Cologne lies on the banks of the Rhine River and is Germany’s fourth largest city. Its long and fascinating history has given the city a distinctive charm; a towering cathedral, medieval marketplace and grand old buildings sit alongside modern office blocks. Cologne is a hot spot for tourism, as well as media and business. It is famous worldwide for the scent Eau de Cologne, first produced here in 1709. It’s also known as being one of the most liberal cities in Germany.
One of the most popular areas for visitors is the picturesque Old Town, which was almost completely reduced to rubble during World War II. Cologne was one of the most heavily bombed cities in Germany, but it has been painstakingly rebuilt. The historic center, including the Alter Markt (Old Market), has been restored to its pre-war heritage and the surviving old buildings, such as the famous Cologne Cathedral, carefully preserved. A more modern attraction, but still one of the oldest of its kind in Germany, is the Cologne Zoo.
Cologne today is known for being a major cultural center and is famous for its Winter Carnival, held in February. There’s also plenty of activity throughout the year thanks to the city’s vibrant arts scene, countless galleries and more than 30 museums. The Museum Schnütgen houses an extensive collection of medieval art in an 11th-century Romanesque church. Visit the Museum für Angewandte Kunst (Museum of Applied Art) and browse through thousands of design objects, from a Mies van der Rohe chair to a retro vacuum cleaner.
If you want to practice your German, Cologne is a great place to do so as the locals are known for their welcoming nature. English is also widely spoken here, especially by younger people, and tours and information in English are available for all of the city’s main attractions.
Getting around Cologne is easy with the efficient and affordable public transport network, which includes trams, buses and trains. There is an English language feature on ticket machines. Renting a bike is another great way to see this city; rentals are available from the northern side of the main train station.