Cologne Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Cologne

Straddling the river Rhine, Cologne is the fourth largest city in Germany and a major European metropolis and cultural center. The latter is manifested in the richness of impressive architecture and fine museums found in the city. When in Cologne, make sure to explore the city's most popular places of interest with the help of this orientation walk!
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Cologne Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Cologne Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Germany » Cologne (See other walking tours in Cologne)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.1 Km or 2.5 Miles
Author: audrey
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Heumarkt (Hay Market)
  • Alter Markt (Old Market)
  • Groß St. Martin (Great St. Martin Church)
  • Historic Town Hall
  • Hohe Strasse (High Street)
  • Schildergasse Shopping Street
  • 4711 House of Fragrances
  • NS Documentation Center
  • Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral)
  • Museum Ludwig
  • Hohenzollernbrücke (Hohenzollern Bridge)
  • KölnTriangle Panorama (Triangle Observation Deck)
1
Heumarkt (Hay Market)

1) Heumarkt (Hay Market) (must see)

The Heumarkt is the second largest square in Cologne and is located in the Altstadt-Nord district.

In 1608 the English cosmopolitan Thomas Coryat praised the Heumarkt as the most beautiful place he had seen on his travels, after St. Mark's Square in Venice. Today the pedestrian zone invites you to stroll, the outdoor catering in the numerous restaurants of various kinds characterizes the street scene. The 1963 meter long Heumarkt has an area of 16,400 m² and is therefore the second largest square in Cologne after the Neumarkt. The Heumarkt is one of the most important transport hubs in the city.

A driveway to Deutzer Brücke enables a connection to the Cologne motorway ring in the east, in the west there is a connection to Aachener Straße via the tangents to Neumarkt and Rudolfplatz. In the south there is a connection to the Cologne brooks. The Cologne tram serves the square with the Heumarkt underground station, which opened on December 14, 2013.
Sight description based on wikipedia
2
Alter Markt (Old Market)

2) Alter Markt (Old Market)

Alter Markt (Kölsch Alder Maat) is the name of a historic square in Cologne's Altstadt-Nord district.

Originally, the Alter Markt and Heumarkt were a unified marketplace under the name Alter Markt. Their separation took place through the incorporation of the Unterlan district. Below the Marstor (“porta Martis”, kölsch “Marsporz”; demolished by a council resolution in 1545) it was regularly called “Hühnermarkt” or “Unterlan”. A special form of the gaddem is the so-called “La”, a box-shaped container, which is also eponymous for the “Unterlan” district. The district of Unterlan included Buttermarkt, Salzgasse, Unter Kasten, the northeast of the Heumarkt and the northwest part of Marsplatz. The southern part of the old market was called “forum feni” (lat. Fenum = hay; hay market) from around 1250, but the name “vetus forum” (virne market; old market) was often referred to this southern part until around 1400 as well.

The west side of the square is dominated by the old town hall, which contains elements of the neo-renaissance and was completely destroyed in the Second World War. The house "zum Granen", which was considered to be one of the most beautiful Gothic houses in Germany, was demolished in 1853. Some historical details of the old square were redesigned by the Düsseldorf art professor Ewald Mataré, such as the bizarre sculpture of the Kallendresser (High German: someone who relieves himself in the gutter), about the origin of which there are several legends. One reported that there had been a dispute between two residents of a house on Alter Markt, one of whom was always blowing his tuba loudly and with the window open - whereupon the other, living in the apartment, one day no longer knew how to defend himself than to "purposefully" clog the neighbors' tuba with excrement from above.

Another legend says that the politicians in the town hall, which is directly opposite, were given a crude understanding of their criticism. The new Kallendresser graced the house "zum Hanen" (No. 40) since May 1964. This sculpture was a flat relief, about 70 cm² in size; Today it is attached to the inconspicuous house No. 24 on the east side near the roof.
Sight description based on wikipedia
3
Groß St. Martin (Great St. Martin Church)

3) Groß St. Martin (Great St. Martin Church) (must see)

Cologne is very famous for its 12 Romanesque churches, much as for the exquisite and majestic Gothic churches. Among these dozen churches, Gross St. Martin holds a special place in the hearts of people who live here. This church is also visited by tourists from across the world. It was constructed by the Archbishop Bruno the Great on remnants of a Roman chapel (circa 960 AD) on what was then an island in the Rhine and dedicated to Saint Martinus. Later it was transformed into a Benedictine monastery.

The church was badly damaged in WWII, with restoration work completed in 1985. The current buildings, including a soaring crossing tower that is a landmark of Cologne's Old Town, were erected between 1150-1250. The architecture of its eastern end forms a triconch or trefoil plan, consisting of three apses around the crossing, similar to that at St. Maria im Kapitol.

The most significant feature of this church is its majestic awe-inspiring tower, rising above the surrounding buildings. This tower in silhouette is one of Cologne skyline’s distinctive features. The attractive Romanesque design with heavy masonry and narrow windows is a sight to behold.

Why You Should Visit:
Very handsome church exterior; very nicely located near the Rhine; very quiet and peaceful; very close to the old town restaurants.

Tip:
The entrance is slightly hidden at the rear. You may also go downstairs into the basement to see some old Roman foundations which the church was built on.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Fri: 9am-12:30pm; Tue-Sat: 1:15pm-5pm; Sat: 9:30am-12pm; Sun: 1:15pm-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
Historic Town Hall

4) Historic Town Hall (must see)

Located directly on the Rhine, Cologne's old town captivates with its unique atmosphere. Visitors can expect a unique mixture of restaurants, shops, breweries and squares, embedded between old houses and small alleys, with a historical flair.

The area around the former Benedictine Abbey of St. Martin, the Alter Markt and the Heumarkt has always been a very lively district, in which living, working, trading, entertainment, culture, religion and tourism mixed. The stacking houses (based on the stacking law that Cologne received in 1259) and the naming of the small streets (butter market) are still reminiscent of the lively life in the Middle Ages, which brought wealth and prestige to the city of Cologne.

Anyone walking through the old town should look very carefully: stone grimaces with centimeter long tusks adorn numerous house walls in Cologne's old town. Various legends are circulating about the origin of the alleged shame masks (which you can read here). In addition, there are high water marks on the walls of the houses, which testify to many a historical flood.

There are also other smaller squares and alleys in the old town and are worth a visit: The fish market and Jupp-Schmitz-Platz, for example. ***PH***

Among the landmarks in Innenstadt are Cologne Cathedral, the twelve romanesque churches of Cologne (St. Andreas, St. Aposteln, St. Cäcilien, St. Georg, St. Gereon, St. Kunibert, St. Maria im Kapitol, St. Maria Lyskirchen, Groß St. Martin, St. Pantaleon, St. Severin and St. Ursula) and the 14th century Cologne City Hall (Kölner Rathaus).

The City Hall was constructed by Wilhelm Vernukken between 1569 and 1573. He was a well-known master builder. This building is also referred to as loggia and is a standing example of a typical Renaissance era construction. Originally, the function of loggia was to act as a link between the citizens and the city council. Even today, in many aspects, it functions in the same manner. Previously, latest rulings used to be informed to the citizens during the morning address at the loggia. Now, it acts as an informal link between Cologne citizens and the council. It houses part of the city government, including the city council and offices of the Lord Mayor.

It is Germany's oldest city hall with a documented history spanning some 900 years. The history of its council during the 11th century is a prominent example for self-gained municipal autonomy of Medieval cities. Today's building complex consists of several structures, added successively in varying architectural styles: they include the 14th-century historic town hall, the 15th-century Gothic style tower, the 16th-century Renaissance style loggia and cloister, and the 20th-century Modern Movement atrium. The so-called Spanischer Bau is an extension on Rathausplatz but not directly connected with the main building.

On the upper floor parapet, you can find an exquisite sculpture that depicts the struggle between a lion and mayor Gryn. This sculpture was created to symbolize the council’s power. The tower of the city hall was constructed by the Cologne Guilds between 1407 and 1414. The height of this tower is 61 meters and there are a total of five floors. Three lower floors are tetragonal shaped and the two upper floors are octagonal. At the upper floors, you can find a popular wooden sculpture with a grotesque face called "Platzjabbeck" and 130 impressive stone statues. When the tower clock strikes twelve, the grotesque faced statue sticks out its tongue.

Other impressive features of the City Hall you must not miss include the Gothic shaped Hansasaal, which is the meeting room and the heart of town hall, the eight figures of prophets located at the north side, council chairs and the wood inlay doorways.

Why You Should Visit:
Oldest town hall in Germany; a complex of different architectural styles, pleasant to see. The stone-paved area is perfect for a walk.

Tip:
Nice views from the other side of the river, along with the bridge and the cathedral.
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
Hohe Strasse (High Street)

5) Hohe Strasse (High Street)

Cologne is a city packed with exciting shopping areas catering to a variety of shoppers from across the world. One of the big shopping streets in this city is Hohe Strasse. Since the year 1963, this pedestrianized street has been closed to traffic.

Right from the time of the Romans when Cologne was a large village, Hohe Strasse served as a stop for people on their way to Xanten from Rome. This street can therefore be considered to be a historical path.

Hohe Strasse is a shopping experience not to be missed on your trip to Cologne. Here you can find a variety of different establishments including souvenir shops, high street stores, emporiums and boutiques selling home ware, jewelry, shoes, clothes and much more.

This open air shopping mall extends for about a kilometer offering many exciting bargains for avid shoppers. After you enjoy purchasing what you want in Hohe Strasse, you can continue your shopping spree on the Neumarkt and Schildergasse. Here you will find many more home ware, toy shops and fashion stores offering interesting items.

On your trip to Cologne, set aside one full day to browse around shops at Hohe Strasse that offer a unique shopping experience.
6
Schildergasse Shopping Street

6) Schildergasse Shopping Street

A trip to Cologne is incomplete without a visit to the famous Schildergasse shopping boulevard. The street dates back to Roman times, where it was the city's Decumanus Maximus. During the Middle Ages it was home to artists who painted coats of arms where the street got its name from (Schild meaning Shield). With 13,000 people passing through every hour, it is the busiest shopping street in Europe. The Schildergasse is a designated pedestrian zone and spans about 500 meters from Hohe Straße on the Eastern end to Neumarkt on the Western end. People visiting Cologne definitely include a trip to Schildergasse in their itinerary.

At Schildergasse, you can find reputed chain stores and brands apart from individual retailers. Some of the popular landmarks on Schildergasse include the Renzo Piano-designed Peek and Cloppenburg’s Weltstadthaus and the ancient Protestant Church of St. Antoniter. Another popular shopping mall is Hohe Straße. Some of the popular tourist areas of interest close to Schildergasse include the Schnutgen Museum, Kathe Kollwitz Museum, Church of St. Cacilien Basilica and Rautenstrauch Joest Museum. On your trip to Cologne, walk through this exciting shopping street. You will find so many interesting things here making it hard for you to hold on to your wallet.

Why You Should Visit:
One of the most popular shopping streets in Europe, with seemingly endless possibilities to eat and drink, plus all the famous German, European and US brands.
Sight description based on wikipedia
7
4711 House of Fragrances

7) 4711 House of Fragrances

4711 (pronounced "forty-seven eleven" or "siebenundvierzig elf") is the Eau de Cologne brand of Mäurer & Wirtz and is produced in Stolberg near Aachen, Germany. At the beginning of the 18th century, Italian expatriate Johann Maria Farina (1685-1766) created a new fragrance and named it Eau de Cologne ("water from Cologne"), after his new residence, Cologne. In the course of the 18th century, the fragrance became increasingly popular. Mülhens opened a small factory at Cologne's Klöckergasse (name changed in the 19th century to Glockengasse) and began manufacturing his own version of the fragrance. In later years, his grandson Ferdinand Mülhens chose a new name for the firm and their product. He chose the number 4711, a number that the city of Cologne had assigned to Wilhelm Mülhens' future residence on the eve of the French Revolution.

Why You Should Visit:
The only shop where you should sample & buy 4711 in Germany. Many scents to choose from!

Tip:
You can create your own perfume or just look for different types of souvenirs for family and friends.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 9:30am–6:30pm; Sat: 9.30am–6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
8
NS Documentation Center

8) NS Documentation Center (must see)

EL-DE Haus, officially the NS Documentation Center of the City of Cologne, is the former headquarters of the Gestapo and now a museum documenting the Third Reich. The building was at first the business premises of jeweler Leopold Dahmen, and the building takes its name from his initials. In 1934, the Nazis rented the building from him and turned it into the headquarters of the secret police, the Gestapo. Surprisingly, the building survived the Allied bombing of Cologne during World War II, while 90% of the city was destroyed.

After the bombings, the basements of the building, which had been used as prison cells and torture rooms for forced laborers and political enemies, were used to store wartime files and paperwork. Inscriptions made on the walls of the prison cells by inmates can still be viewed today. The building was the site of many executions, as well as deaths due to overcrowding and poor hygienic conditions.

In 2006, the Documentation Centre on National Socialism was awarded the Best in Heritage award, which is given to select museums. The only other German museum to have won the prize is the Buddenbrook Museum in Lübeck.

Why You Should Visit:
A very well documented and informative museum. The basement floor focuses on the Gestapo prisoners and their experiences, while the top floors are focused on the history of Nazism.

Tip:
Do get the audio guide; otherwise, you will miss a lot.
Go downstairs first and make your way up.
Free lockers for bags.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 10am-6pm; Sat-Sun: 11am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
9
Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral)

9) Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral) (must see)

Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom, officially 'Hohe Domkirche St. Peter und Maria') is a Roman Catholic church in Cologne, Germany. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne, and is under the administration of the archdiocese of Cologne. It is renowned as a monument of Christianity, of German Catholicism in particular, of Gothic architecture and of the continuing faith and perseverance of the people of the city in which it stands. It is dedicated to Saint Peter and the Blessed Virgin Mary. The cathedral is a World Heritage Site, one of the best-known architectural monuments in Germany, and Cologne's most famous landmark. It is visited by 20.000 people every day. Visitors can climb 509 stone steps of the spiral staircase to a viewing platform about 98 m (322 ft) above the ground. The platform gives a scenic view over the Rhine.

Construction of Cologne Cathedral began in 1248 and took, with interruptions, until 1880 to complete. It is 144.5 meters long, 86.5 m wide and its towers are approximately 157 m tall. The cathedral is one of the world's largest churches and the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe. Cologne's medieval builders had planned a grand structure to house the reliquary of the Three Kings and fit its role as a place of worship for the Holy Roman Emperor. Despite having been left incomplete during the medieval period, Cologne Cathedral eventually became unified as "a masterpiece of exceptional intrinsic value" and "a powerful testimony to the strength and persistence of Christian belief in medieval and modern Europe".

Why You Should Visit:
Simply jaw dropping in size. You may never see another church so detailed and so large.

Tip:
Take a look at the beautiful mosaics on the floor in the Cathedral's rear part.
You may also climb up to the top for a great view, or find the underground parking with plenty of parking places and see the original foundations exposed there.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-9pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
10
Museum Ludwig

10) Museum Ludwig (must see)

The popular Museum Ludwig in Cologne was established following a contract signed by Mrs. And Mr. Ludwig on 5th February 1976 donating their art collection to the city of Cologne. Irene and Peter Ludwig, through this contract, agreed to hand over 350 modern artworks from their extensive collection. Located at the building on Bischofsgartenstrasse, Museum Ludwig features a range of contemporary art pieces that reflect the essence of twentieth-century approach. It includes works from Pop Art, Abstract and Surrealism, and has one of the largest Picasso collections in Europe. It also features many works by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.

Originally, Dr. Josef Haubrich, a lawyer in Cologne amassed the core collection of paintings on display at this museum. In 1946, after World War II, he presented his Expressionism collection that includes works of popular artists such as Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Erich Heckel, August Macke, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Otto Mueller. A selection of 100 paintings was displayed at the Old University of Cologne in October 1946. A 21-year-old student of art history, Peter Ludwig, was greatly impressed by this collection of art and decided to start collecting art and make it available to the public. This is the story behind the first ever gift of artworks from the Ludwigs to the city of Cologne in 1976. This collection includes works of Russian avant-garde artists: Malevich, Popova, Exter, Larionov, Goncharova and Rodchenko, dated 1905 to 1935. The building is also home to the Kölner Philharmonic. The Heinrich-Böll-Platz, a public square designed by Dani Karavan, is above the concert hall at the north-east of the building. If you love art, you must not miss a visit to the wonderful Museum Ludwig in Cologne.

Why You Should Visit:
Perhaps the most exciting museum to see if you're passing by Köln. Floor after floor, one room leads to another, and each work of art receives the needed space to come to life and impress you.

Tip:
Easy to get to (100m) from the main station and there are free lockers for bags.
Don't miss the bookstore at the entrance; it is not the usual souvenir shop, but a seriously good selection of art books in several European languages.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 10am-6pm; Sat-Sun: 11am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
11
Hohenzollernbrücke (Hohenzollern Bridge)

11) Hohenzollernbrücke (Hohenzollern Bridge) (must see)

Hohenzollern Bridge is one of the eight bridges on this river and is an iconic structure. The bridge was constructed between 1907 and 1911 over the river Rhine after the old bridge, the Cathedral Bridge ('Dombrücke'), was demolished. It was named after the House of Hohenzollern. This three humped bridge survived the onslaught from Allied bombers during World War II. When the allies invaded Germany, the bridge was blown up by the Germans as a block to slow down the advance of the allies. Cologne was then ravaged by war and this bridge sadly collapsed. Later on, Hohenzollern bridge was reconstructed. With a total length of 409.19 meters (1,342.5 ft), originally, the bridge was both a railway and street bridge, however, after its destruction in 1945 and its subsequent reconstruction, it was only accessible to rail and pedestrian traffic.

Today the bridge stands in all its grandeur across the river Rhine and is a popular place for romantic interludes. Couples come here to enjoy the breathtaking view of the riverside skyline of this wonderful city. Here they walk hand in hand with their loved ones despite the noise around. Romance is in the air and you can find metal fences with padlocks that feature lovers names etched on them through the entire length of the bridge. Tourists also come here to enjoy the unique atmosphere and to soak in the spectacular view.

Why You Should Visit:
One of the best walks in Cologne, with great views of the city and the Cathedral.

Tip:
Visit in the late evening, as you will see the whole city in lights and enjoy a completely different experience than daytime.
Sight description based on wikipedia
12
KölnTriangle Panorama (Triangle Observation Deck)

12) KölnTriangle Panorama (Triangle Observation Deck) (must see)

KölnTriangle is a 103.2 metres (339 ft) tall building in Deutz, Cologne, and a prominent landmark in Cologne. The building was designed by Dörte Gatermann of Cologne-based architecture firm Gatermann + Schossig and completed in 2006. Its south facade consists of a double-facade, allowing natural ventilation even on high floors.

KölnTriangle is headquarters of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The top floor and roof house a publicly accessible observation deck with panorama views all over Cologne, in particular Cologne Cathedral, directly opposite the Rhine. The high rise building is one of the most prominent landmarks in Cologne today. The building has 9 stories and it features the triangle observation deck at 100-metre height, from where visitors can enjoy an amazing view of the city.

Cologne Triangle is surrounded by other high rise buildings and skyscrapers. Originally this tower had only seven floors. Construction was stopped for quite a while due to issues with the approval process. After construction resumed in November 2003, 3 more floors were added to it apart from a winter garden and the observation deck. Cologne Triangle is a local favorite known for its aesthetics and for Mongo’s, the Mongolian restaurant that serves delicious food. According to some, triangle observation deck offers the best view of the famous Cologne Cathedral. From here you can also enjoy a breathtaking view of the river Rhine and its bridges. Just stand on this viewing platform and allow the wind to ruffle through you. Listen to the faint noise of the bustling city below and stimulate your appetite with the tantalizing smell of Mongolian food wafting from the restaurant.

Why You Should Visit:
For only €3, this is a must-do in Cologne.

Tip:
Nice view in the late hours!

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 11am-11pm; Sat-Sun: 10am-11pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Cologne, Germany

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Shopping Tour

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Travel Distance: 1.5 Km or 0.9 Miles
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Cologne's Historical Churches Walking Tour

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Travel Distance: 3.9 Km or 2.4 Miles