As the fourth-largest city in Germany with over one million residents, Cologne was initially a Roman colony, or colonia (hence its name). Its location on the Rhine River was key to its status as capital of the Roman Germania province. The city became a center for worship, famous for the legend and cult of Santa Ursula, and built several splendid Romanesque churches that still exist. By the Middle Ages, Cologne was one of the most important cities in the Holy Roman Empire. In 1248, work began on its mighty cathedral (Dom), which was designed to house the relics of the Three Wise Men.
Modern-day pilgrims come not only to see the awe-inspiring cathedral and Romanesque churches but also to visit Cologne's fine museums (featuring rich Roman remains and an important artistic heritage) and to sample the city's famous hospitality in its brew houses. Despite its strong religious background, Cologne has a reputation as a fun town, and its Carnival is one of the biggest in Europe. Areas of interest include the Old Town (Altstadt) with its winding and narrow cobbled streets; the Belgian Quarter (Belgisches Viertel) with its beautiful old art nouveau buildings, trendy bars, restaurants and pretty green squares; and the Latin Quarter (Kwartir Lateng) with its mix of traditional and modern bars and clubs.
Dom Platz is located right next to the main railway station and is normally filled with tourists trying to squeeze themselves into a picture with the mighty cathedral in the background. The Schildergasse pedestrian shopping area starts here and extends for a couple of kilometers to Neumarkt. The more expensive shops can be found near the cathedral, as can other brands and boutiques. Located between the cathedral and the Rhine River, the Altstadt is a series of cobbled narrow streets filled with bars, restaurants and cafes. Don't miss the many breweries to sample the local beer, "Kölsch". Two good options are Pfaffen on Heumarkt or Gaffel on Alter Markt.
The Ring is a busy, tree-lined avenue with clubs, sports bars and cinemas. At the end of the Ring is the "Media Park", Cologne's newest addition to the architectural landscape. The focal point is a glass tower illuminated each night with ascending and descending blue lights. Walk across the bridge over a man-made lagoon to find cafes, restaurants, cinemas and clubs in this starkly modern complex. Belgisches Viertel consists of a dozen or so streets filled with trendy bars and restaurants and beautiful old buildings. In the summer, tables and chairs crowd the streets and the city's population seems to pour outside onto the sidewalks. This is a great place for shopping at chic boutiques, avant-garde jewelry stores and specialist grocery shops.
For more information, please visit the official website at: www.koeln.de