The Ring begins at Chlodwigplatz and ends at Ebertplatz, following the contours of the old city wall. It forms a giant semi-circle around the center of town and supplies one with ample sources of amusement. You could spend months just going from place to place along this road without getting bored. This guide follows the Ring from South to North through the various quarters, then further out to Nippes and Ehrenfeld.
The center of the Südstadt is Chlodwigplatz, and a network of streets and lanes extends from it, hiding a multitude of bars and theaters. Good drinks can be found at the
Cologne's main student hang-out is found around Barbarossaplatz and Zülpicher Platz. Masses of bars and pubs are located here, and it is hard to decide where to leave your money. There are also plenty of good clubs in the area like
The Hohenzollernring is another busy area for bars. It is also home to many bistros and restaurants, and excels in inexpensive Italian cuisine. Quite a few Mexican restaurants can be found near here, such as
One cocktail bar after another. You won't stay thirsty for long in the Friesenviertel. With an emphasis on elegance, there is a tendency towards slightly more expensive restaurant-bars such as
The best way to find the Belgian Quarter is from Rudolfplatz. The names of the streets will let you know you're in the right place. This is an interesting part of Cologne with attractive old buildings and expensive apartments. Many bars and restaurants have made this their home, hoping to bring in the media crowd. Easy listening sounds and the feel of the '60s are to be found at
The closer you get to Ebertplatz, the more sparse the bars, but there are still a few gems to be found, like the classic
Nippes isn't quite so central, but still has a lot to offer. The
Lots of students live in this area. What was once a bit run down has since been revived as an area of cultural activity. Lots of bars and cafés can be found in the side streets off the long Venloer Straße, which runs right through Ehrenfeld.
Cologne is not a beautiful city in the classic sense, wide streets and outstanding architecture are scarce, except of course, in the case of the cathedral. What makes Cologne interesting and attractive is its denseness. It is not very hard to explore the different areas of the city in one morning. At the same time, Cologne is also a young city and its charm is partly due to the diversity of ethnic groups calling it their home. This is also reflected in the variety of restaurants - culinarily speaking almost every country of the world is represented here. The influence of a young clientèle and students have, however, had the most pronounced effect in forming the gastro-landscape of the city. Therefore, the dominant form of entertainment is not only at restaurants but also bars and coffee shops.
Even though the nightlife areas are situated close together, each has its own atmosphere and clientèle. The focal point of Cologne's nightly entertainment used to be the South of the city, but has gradually shifted to the center and now the North, around the Ebertplatz, has gained the upper hand in nightly entertainment. The majority of new restaurants and bars in this area have no cause for complaint as far as volume of custom goes; however, this development does not mean the veteran areas have now fallen by the wayside, they may just be a bit quieter nowadays.
This area around the Chlodwigplatz, still has a certain appeal - although not necessarily for wild nightlife. A lot of good restaurants are located in this area. The well-established La Patata on Alteburgerstraße is as popular now as it ever was. The Galestro, star of Cologne's pasta universe, can still hold its own.
Student life rules around Zülpicherplatz. Along Zülpicherstraße the glittering array of bars is only interrupted by a few snack bars. Just a side street away from this backbone of student nightlife, is a downtown oasis of culinary delights.
This area, between Rudolfplatz und Friesenplatz, becomes the playing field of media folks after dusk, artists and those who are on their way to becoming one or the other. By day a rather peaceful neighborhood with coffee shops and galleries, by night it becomes a veritable Eldorado for restaurant enthusiasts and clubber. Even though the interesting part of Friesenstraße is only 200 meters (656 feet) long, you will find everything you need for a night well spent: Sushi, Tapas, Kölsch and beautiful people, the latter can be frequently encountered at places such as Arkadia. The Stadtgarten is the place for small but high quality concerts and boasts the most popular downtown beer garden.
This marks the northern point of the semi-circle that forms downtown Cologne. If you are looking for proof of this area's trendiness then pay Elektra a visit. The Bosporus on Weidengasse is synonymous with excellent Turkish cuisine, however this area offers plenty of other opportunities to get a great Turkish meal in any one of the many snack bars.
Otherwise this area is not really blessed with good restaurants, but it is home to both Anders and Zeit der Kirschen.
This is another blue-collar neighborhood, which accommodates the Zum Kornbrenner—a great place to get to know the locals and a genuine traditional Kneipen. In addition to the aforementioned Turkish restaurant at Weidengasse, the Merhaba also offers perfectly executed modern Turkish cuisine.
What Cologne lacks in terms of grandeur, it makes up for in its charm and zest for living.
The large cinema complexes are all found on or near the Ring. Notable are the Cinedom, where premiers of international films are sometimes held, and the UFA Palast Kino Center between Rudolfplatz and Friesenplatz. There are plenty of smaller cinemas throughout Cologne. The Filmhaus and Lupe 2 usually show innovative and independent films. English language original versions are mainly shown in the excellent Metropolis, as well as at the Cinemathek.
Comedy is big in Cologne. Many German comedians make their debut here on the stages of the city's many theaters, such as the famous Kaiserhof Theater on the Hohenzollernring. Many other theaters feature comedy, for example, the Theater am Sachsenring in the Südstadt or the Atelier Theater on Roonstraße.
The Museum Ludwig is the city's main art museum. Right next door is the Römisch-Germanisches Museum, where you can marvel at ancient artifacts and excavations. There is also an abundance of smaller museums and galleries throughout the city. Still more art is to be seen on the walls of many cafés and bars, such as the Die Zeit der Kirschen. The unique Popdom is also worth a mention - an unusual museum of 1960s and 1970s design and pop music.
Classical Music is mainly presented in the Kölner Philharmonie; artists from around the world perform here. Concerts are held nearly every day. The WDR television and radio broadcasting company holds classical concerts in their auditorium studio at Wallrafplatz performed by the Kölner Rundfunkorchester. The many free chamber music concerts by students of the Hochschule für Musik Köln also have a good reputation.
Rock, Pop & Jazz
There are many concert venues in Cologne. The huge Köln Arena in Deutz deserves a mention, as well as the large E-Werk and Palladium in Mülheim, the Live Music Hall in Ehrenfeld and the Prime Club near Barbarossaplatz. Good gigs for less money are held mainly in the MTC on Zülpicher Straße and the Underground in Ehrenfeld. There is a big electronic music scene in Cologne, which is regularly featured at the Artheater. Jazz fans can find good live music in the Em Streckstrump in the Altstadt, which has held more than 10,000 concerts.
On the weekend, the many clubs along the Ring, between Zülpicherplatz and Christophstraße, hold big events for a mainly younger crowd, sometimes featuring well known DJs. During the week, it's a bit more relaxed. Most of the clubs have different themes, depending on the night. The price of admission varies considerably, but many don't charge any entry, for example the Underground.
The program at the Opernhaus Köln is very diverse, with emphasis on the old masters Verdi, Puccini, Mozart and Wagner. It is found in the center of town, along with the Scahuspielhaus. It's also nice that smaller opera fans are taken into consideration; the tent-like construction of the Kinderoper in der Yakult-Halle, or children's opera, enjoys great popularity.
Day in and day out the theaters of Cologne offer an impressive program of events from classics to modern theater of the 20th century. The main stages are the Schauspielhaus, the Schlosserei and the West-End-Theater. There are also many dedicated independent theaters. Good cabaret can be found at the Die Machtwächter. The tickets for independent productions are relatively inexpensive, and the Schauspielhaus offers a last-minute box office and discounts for students.
Cologne was founded by the Romans in 38 BCE. The Roman governor for Gallia, to which the Rhineland belonged at the time, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, induced the construction of forts and postal services to establish the Romans at the Rhineland.
The construction work, however, could not be done by the Romans alone. Therefore the Romans joined forces with the local Teutonic tribe of the Ubier. The Ubier, happy about their liaison with the powerful Romans, chose Cologne's city area as the new capital of their tribe and lived in harmony with the Roman conquerors.
At that time, Cologne was named "oppidum Ubiorum" (which means something like "fortified settlement of the Ubier") and was a Roman colony for veterans. The Roman legionnaires had to serve Rome for 20 years before they were entitled to receive annuity. They had the choice between a monetary compensation or real estate.
The later was preferred by many soldiers, whereby a rich upper-class of former Roman legionnaires and their Ubian wives was formed. The famous Roman general Agrippa upgraded the city, which was hardly recognizable until then to the metropolis of the Roman province Germania. One of his measures was to build a roman bathhouse, and he thereby induced some southern hedonism to the rather harsh surroundings. The ground work of the bath house was found underneath Groß St.Martin and can still by visited.
Cologne's breakthrough was made possible by Agrippina, Agrippa's granddaughter. It was her, who gave Cologne its name. At the age of 13, she was married for the first time in Rome and started a career through the beds of various Romans, before, at 34, getting married to her uncle emperor Claudius. As a demonstration of her power she leveraged Cologne to the status of a legal Roman colony. In 50 BCE the "fortified settlement of the Ubier" was named "Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium" and served as the capital and trade center of the Roman province.
Starting in 260 CE, Cologne was almost constantly besieged by the Franks, leading to the abandonment of Cologne by the Romans. The last Roman governor left Cologne in 425 CE.
Another important woman in Cologne's history is the holy Ursula. In the early Middle Ages Cologne was besieged by the Huns who ceased from Cologne only after the holy Ursula returned, accompanied by 11,000 virgins (according to the legend), from a pilgrimage to Rome and freed Cologne once and for all from the Huns. The retreat of the Romans created a power vacuum, which the Catholic Church was able to fill. In 800 CE, Cologne was declared archbishopric by Carl the Great, whereby the power of the Catholic Church in the city was manifested.
Therewith, the three major components of Cologne's history have been outlined: The multicultural mix of Romans and Ubiers, the female influence, and the Catholic Church.
In the Middle Ages, Cologne was a city of merchants and pilgrims. On the occasion of a crusade to Milan, the relics of the Epiphany were being "transferred" to Cologne by the archbishop Reinald von Dassel. Cologne thereby received another attraction for pilgrims, leading to the foundation of the cathedral in 1248. The city's main source of income was its status as the "Rome of the North" and its unique "Stapelrecht." The "Stapelrecht" obliged all ships traveling the Rhine to store their merchandise in Cologne. Cologne's citizens then had the preemptive right on these goods.
Due to a dwindling of the pilgrims and a general recession of the city, the construction of the cathedral was stopped in 1560 for the next 282 years.
In the meantime, the French in 1794 seized the city, which belonged to France officially in 1801. The French encountered a desolate Cologne. The glamor Cologne once possessed was gone. The Catholic Church owned two-thirds of the land, the roman sewerage was gone, and most of the population lived in poverty. The French took drastic measures. The immigration of protestants and Jews was allowed, the Catholic Church was expropriated, street lighting, sewers and waste disposal established and a hospital opened.
In 1815 France turned Cologne over to Prussia. Under Prussian government the cathedral was finished in 1880, after another 38 years of construction work.
During World War II, 72% of the city was destroyed. In 1975, after long and intensive reconstruction work, Cologne counted one million inhabitants for the first time in its history.