As one of Germany’s largest and most historic cities, Cologne is also one of the country’s busiest tourist destinations, not least with river cruisers. Cologne sits on both banks of the iconic Rhine River and it should come as no surprise that there’s a huge choice of Rhine river cruise itineraries which visit the city. Founded by the Romans in the first century AD as a province capital, the city enjoyed being a centre for trade in the middle Ages but is still perhaps best remembered for being one of Germany’s most heavily bombed cities during the allied air raids of the Second World War. Only five per cent of the city’s population survived and very few of its buildings, though the subsequent rebuilding over the years has left visitors with one of Germany's most compelling cities to explore.
Cologne’s star attraction is undoubtedly The Dom. The city's spectacular cathedral, it was once the tallest building in the world and apart from being a gothic masterpiece, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the country’s most visited attraction. It famously withstood being hit by 14 allied bombs during the Second World War, yet was regarded by the allies as a navigational landmark later in the war, which could explain its survival. Today, you can see it restored to its former glory and though its famous twin towers are attraction enough, inside you’ll find soaring naves, 60-foot stained glass windows and some incredible architecture.
Hohenzollern Bridge is an altogether more modern Cologne landmark. It’s famous for being the place where thousands of couples have affixed padlocks as a sign of their commitment to each other; a trend which has since been replicated on numerous bridges worldwide. It’s the ideal way to cross the Rhine as foot passengers are welcome and it also offers some great views of the river. On the subject of views, for the very best aerial one, don’t miss the chance to take a trip up the Koeln Triangle. It’s a skyscraper with an observatory, viewing platform and restaurant and offers the ultimate panoramic vista of Cologne.
Cologne is very much Germany’s cultural hub, boasting over 30 museums and if it's history or art you want, you won’t have to look very far. The Wallraf-Richartz Museum is a mecca for art-lovers, housing a wealth of works from the 13th to 19th centuries, while Museum Ludwig houses one of the largest Picasso collections in the world. Aptly located, the Fragrance Museum will tell you all about the history of eau de Cologne, while the Roman-German museum houses an impressive collection of classical art.
Nature-lovers will be pleased to know the city’s not without its green space too. The beautiful Botanical Gardens date back to the 19th century, are situated close to the Rhine and are open daily, while Melaten-Friedhof is a peaceful, leafy cemetery popular with both visitors and locals because of the fascinating history and tranquil atmosphere that it offers.
Cologne really comes into its own at Christmas, when the Dom becomes an unforgettable backdrop to the city’s enchanting Christmas Market. Book a river cruise during this time and you’ll experience the city at its most magical and memorable.