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 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.
Kölner Dom & Altstadt
Any visitor to Cologne should definitely take the time to explore the Altstadt (Old Town). There are still many old houses and lanes, and reminders of the city's long history. Starting from the Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral), walk across Roncalliplatz, with the Römisch-Germanische Museum to the left. Across the square you'll see Früh am Dom and the Heinzelmännchenbrunnen. Make your way down the Hafenstraße, which leads from Roncalliplatz to the Philharmonie. The huge cobblestones are from the Roman era. Go straight on and you'll come to the Alter Markt. The old marketplace is lined with cafés and pubs—particularly pleasant in summer. On the eleventh day of the eleventh month of each year, crowds gather here to Ring in the Karneval. In the middle of the square is the Jan-von-Werth Fountain. Only a few of the buildings have actually been standing since the Middle Ages. One of them, the house Zur Brezel zum Dorn, was constructed in 1580. Stop into at least one of the traditional Kölsch pubs, which are an essential part of the Altstadt experience!
Altes Rathaus & Rheinpromenade
Before exploring the many narrow lanes that lead down to the Rhine, climb the stairs to the Alte Rathaus, the old city hall. In front of the Rathaus is the Mikwe, the Jewish baths, which have been excavated and can be viewed through the glass pyramid. Now make your way toward the Martinsviertel. The quarter surrounding the church of St. Martin is home to plenty of romantic small streets. Many a charming little corner is waiting to be discovered near the Salzgasse, Rote-Funken-Plätzchen, the Buttermarkt and the Fischmarkt. Emerging from the network of tiny streets, you'll appreciate the panorama of the Rhine promenade. It's worth walking across the river on the Deutzer Brücke—the bridge provides the best view of the old houses and the magnificent Dom.
Rheinseilbahn & Rheinpark
The prelude is a ride with the Rheinseilbahn from its station at the Riehler Straße, best reached with the U-Bahn lines 15 and 16 to Zoo/Flora, to Mühlheim on the other side of the Rhine. When the weather is good, the view over Cologne from out of the little gondolas is breathtaking and one of the most beautiful point of views on the old part of the town and the cathedral. Next to the cable railway is the Claudius Therme. This wellness bath is fed by thermal waters, providing everything from sauna to mudbaths. Now relaxed, follow the Rhine upstream through the Rheinpark, the green lung of Cologne on the right hand side of the River and an eldorado for rollerbladers and joggers, to the Rheinterrassen. The atmosphere is reminiscent of the 1950s but especially on the weekends, when a mixed crowd can be found enjoying the unique view of Cologne's skyline. For about EUR 1 per person the ferry will take you from the Rheinterrassen to the promenade on the left hand side of the Rhine, just below the cathedral. The Schokoladenmuseum is located on a small peninsula, about 30 minutes from the pier. Sponsored by the Stollwerck company, a local manufacturer of fine chocolates since 1839, the museum is a paradise for the chocolate enthusiast.
Hohe Straße & Hahnentor
Apostelnstraße, Ehrenstraße, Friesenwall and Mittelstraße are forming the round course for fastidious shoppers in Cologne. A little bit off the racket of the Schildergasse/Hohe Straße pedestrian zone, this mecca for the trend setter offers a variety of designer stores and little boutiques, interrupted only by strategically well-situated coffee shops and restaurants. St. Aposteln at Neumarkt, one of the twelve great Roman churches in Cologne, marks the starting point for the beginning of the tour. Make a stop at Gummi Grün. This store—for generations now—sells everything somehow related to rubber. It's one of a few stores along the way that are typical for Cologne. The Kunstkaufhaus features works of established and young artists. The Buchhandlung König, at the corner of Apostelnstraße und Breite Straße, is well know as the best address for sophisticated and hard-to-find books. The Broadway awaits you for a relaxing coffee break. This small movie theater offers the best view on the trendy and beautiful crowd of the Ehrenstraße. Whereby the Ehrenstraße serves the mid-prize category and the parallel Mittelstraße features more precious labels such as Gucci, Fogal, Versace, Armani etc. Before turning left at the end of the Ehrenstraße you should follow your nose into the Käsehaus Wingenfeld. It's the last of the three aforementioned out-of-place stores. Continue towards the Friesenwall and the Hahnentor. It was built in the 13th century and is one of Cologne's oldest city gates. It used to be, and in a way still is, the main entrance for Cologne merchants.