Any walk around the city will treat you to medieval architectural treasures. Start with the Rathaus (City Hall), which was built in 1330 with additions made in the Renaissance period, although it was severely damaged during World War II, it has been fully restored, and its intricate column details and vaulted arches are a treat. The three remaining city gates (of the original 12), give you a sense of what medieval defensive fortifications looked like, and are still used today for various purposes. The Overstolzenhaus, formerly an aristocrat’s home and now used by the Cologne Media College, dates to the 1220s, and is an exquisite example of Romanesque architecture.
The Museum Ludwig displays modern art with a heavy emphasis on Pop Art, the largest outside the United States. The museum also has extensive collections devoted to the Russian avant garde from 1906-1930 and the works of Pablo Picasso.
The Museum für Angewandte Kunst (Museum of Applied Art) collects art as it impacts our everday lives, with a collection ranging from the middle ages to the present, including goldsmithing, furniture, textiles, glasswork, porcelain, graphic design, and fashion.
A fun way to take in the sites of the city and region can be a cruise along the scenic Rhine River. Three companies offer different routes and tickets can be purchased from the Cologne Tourist Board. A typical journey takes in the sites of the Old Town before heading north or south along the scenic routes to bucolic farming and wine communities. Evening tours accompanied with music and dining are also available.
Cologne was originally founded by the ancient Romans more than 2,000 years ago, and Rome's legacy still stands in the city. The Praetorium are the ruins of the residence of the city’s Roman governor, which was discovered underneath Cologne City Hall. The still-intact sewer system there is a marvel of Roman engineering. The Roman Tower dates to the 1st Century AD and formed part of the original Roman fortifications of the city. It’s famous for the well-preserved mosaic decoration.
The history and artifacts of the Roman era are preserved in the Römisch-Germanisches Museum (Romano-Germanic Museum). Exhibits detail the culture and everyday life of Roman and medieval Cologne, as well as artifacts of the barbarian tribes. The Roman glassworks and barbarian jewellery are highlights.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, the Schokoladenmuseum (Museum of Chocolate) is a must. Various exhibits explore the history of chocolate, how it’s made, and even its uses in industrial products (who knew?) After your tour, indulge at the museum’s Rhinebank Terrace Café, where you can enjoy delicious cakes, pastries, and homemade drinking chocolates while watching river barges pass. There’s even a beer garden serving local brew and traditional bratwurst (sausage).