Cologne: visitor but not tourist

June 2016

The lives that surround us today, the lives that surround our generation and our country, gives the opportunity to have friends all around the world. And we if we love traveling, traveling to unknown places to visit friends is just an advantage. An advantage because beyond enjoying the reunion, these friends will be your guides and take you to their usual places. That is what happened on our last trip.

Cologne was a name we knew from a long time for different reasons, but in the last 7 years because T lived there, and we still hadn’t had the chance to visit! This had to be fixed and this is how the trip starts (June 2016).

Cologne is one of the oldest cities in Germany, established as such almost 2000 years ago. In 1388 Cologne founded the first university in Europe and today is one of the largest in Germany with 44,000 students. Almost 90% of the city was destroyed by the bombings during World War II and although at that time they thought of abandoning it, in 1947  they started rebuilding it. It surrounds the Rhin river and it is the fourth largest city in Germany even with only a population of half a million inhabitants.

Green area around the city university

You won’t have been in Cologne if you haven’t visited its cathedral built between 1248 and 1880, laws have forbidden to built anything higher than the cathedral with a height of 157m and a capacity of 2,000 people. Even with its height, it is hidden between narrow streets right until you get to a square and then it is impossible not to look at it, not to be impressed. This gothic cathedral hosts the remains of the Three Kings and multiple stained glass windows.One of those stained glass windows is made by small squares and you could buy one under your name. Just before we left our first visit the organ started to be played in with a delightful chorus.

Around the cathedral there are lots of shopping streets and museums: the Romano-Germanic Museum or the Ludwig Museum, don’t forget the bridge that goes over the Rhin (Hohenzollern) full of locks of love or the green area (Weltjugendtagsweg) surrounded of traditional architecture of Cologne with many traditional restaurants and the famous German breweries and from which you can see St Martin the Great Church with a Romanic architecture.

Before visiting Cologne I reviewed every monument and museum to visit the city and was really impressed to see that there were around 15 churches to visit, a famous synagogue and still to finish building the larger mosque in Europe; but I wasn’t a tourist but a visitor so I decided to let my host guide me around and reduced the visits. Otherwise, it would have been exhausted.

I left with the impression that Cologne is a typical northern European city in terms of shopping avenues, full of coffee shops and how busy it gets. It is a must to try any of the cakes you’ll see and of course some of the traditional dishes of the area; a quiet city with a long tradition of biking around, something that we do miss of our stay in Copenhagen, beautiful to visit during the summer for a softer weather.


35km away from Cologne is the city of Bonn. Even smaller than Cologne was the capital of Germany after the World War II and up to 1990. Here we just walked around. Went to the Town Hall Square, the house where Beethoven was born, the statue of the musician surrounded by symbolic buildings such as the Post Office.

I would have liked to see the cherry blossom street (Heerstraße) although the flowers had already gone. Another of the attractive things we should go back to is the many (up to 12 in Cologne) Christmas markets in all the city squares, the lights and vibe could be a great option for the winter time.

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