Cologne is the fourth biggest city in Germany which has a long and significant history. Over 2000 years have shaped the cultural and architectural appearance of contemporary Cologne. But also its position as a seat of secular and ecclesiastical power, its close location to the river Rhine as well as to the west-east route of commerce contributed to the city’s reputation. Today Cologne is an important trading centre and a great communication junction. Besides Cologne, which is known and loved for the Carnival, is chosen as headquarter location for many different companies, amongst them many media and publishing houses and the automobile, chemical and food industry. But also the sector of research, fairs, insurances, banking and industrial companies have a significant meaning for the character of the city. With more than 43.000 students Cologne also possesses one of the biggest universities of the country. Visiting Cologne is always worth it not only because of the impressive monuments and sights like the Cathedral but also because of the numerous museums, galleries, art fairs and its lively music and art scene. Apart from that Cologne is a stronghold for the gay scene. The Christopher Street Day which takes place on the first Sunday of July is Germany’s biggest festival of gay and lesbian life.
Cologne lies in the transition zone from the mild maritime climate to the warm continental climate. The winters are in general very mild with about 2,4°C and slightly warm summers with 18,3 °C in mid July. The average rain fall is 798 mm is normal for Germany.
The official language in Cologne is German but most of the people speak „Kölsch“, a dialect that is spoken not only in the city but in the whole surrounding region. The most common foreign languages that is widely understood is English.
Like most of the Rhine region, the most common belief is Catholicism. About 42 % of the population are Catholics, 18% are Protestants, 10 % are Muslims and about 30 % belong to other religious groups or are undenominational.
The currency used in Germany is the Euro. Notes come in denominations of €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5 and the coins in use are €2, €1, € 0.50, € 0.20, € 0.10, € 0.05, € 0.02 and € 0.01.
Usually tips are already included in the bill but it is common to leave a Tipp of 10 – 15 %.
Tips are common in restaurants, cafes and bars but also for taxi drivers, in hotels or at the hair dresser.
From January 2007 the VAT increases from 16% to 19%. In some shops which are signed with the „Tax Free“ shopping sign, the VAT can be reclaimed by visitors from outside the EU. In order to do that you have to fill a tax-cheque by the time of purchase. At the airport your purchased items need to be taken to the customs clearance where the customs official will provide a tax stamp which can be cashed at any of the airport banks in a variety of currencies.
To call Germany you first have to dial +49 and then for Cologne (0)221. On most of the inner city places are public telephones which can be used with telephone cards or coins. Telephone cards are available with a value of € 5 or € 10 Euro in post offices, telephone and train station shops as well as kiosks.
As in most of the German cities there are plenty of internet cafes. Some of there are listed here:
ViaPhone Internetcafe: Marzellenstr. 3-5, 0221 139960
Cyberb@r: Breite Straße 103-135,
CyberCafe: Sachsenring 29-31, 0221 9320491
Future Point: Richmodstr.13, 0221 2067206
Internet Cafe Colony: Zülpicher Str. 38-40, 0221 2720630
But there are even many hot spots which enable people to use the WLAN of their laptops, PDAs or mobile phone (or any other suitable devices) in order to access the internet. A list with hot spots in Cologne can be found here:
Fire Brigade: 112
Ambulance Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund Köln e.V.: 19 2 12
Ambulance: Die Johanniter: 0221 890 09 0
Malteser Hilfsdienst e.V.: 0221 - 94 97 60 00
Shops on the Hohe Straße and Schildergasse are open on weekdays from 10 am to 8 pm and on Fridays even until 10 pm. Supermarkets are usually open from Monday to Saturday 8 am to 8 pm. The post office and the Postbank are open weekdays from 9 am to 6 pm and on Saturdays from 9 am to 1 pm. Most of the banks open at 10 am and close at 6 or 7 pm during the week and at 4 pm on Saturdays.
1. January (New Year’s Day)
1. May (Labour Day)
Feast of Corpus Christi
3. October (German Unification Day)
1. November (All Saints’ Day)
25. Dec Christmas Day
26. Dec Boxing Day
Cologne is a very touristy city and therefore there are many minor crimes such as pick pocketing. You should be carefully watching your belongings. But there are even some more severe criminal acts especially during the Carnival and street festivals. The criminal rate amongst young people is quite high. The police promises, nevertheless, that the city will be the safest metropolis in Germany by 2009.
The main attraction in Cologne is without doubt the 157m high cathedral which is the oldest one in Germany. The construction of the Cathedral started in the 13th century and took six centuries before it was completed. Most of the remaining sights are located around this sublime monument in the city centre. The nicest and the most popular part is certainly the Old Town with its small alleys and colourful historical houses which thoroughly rebuilt after the destruction of WW II. This spot is centre of attraction for most tourists not only because of its beauty but also thanks to the abundance of traditional restaurants which have been in family hands for centuries. Romantic backyards such as the Ostermannplatz only wait to be discovered by Cologne’s eager tourists. Dotted around the city centre are 12 superb examples of Romanesque churches. The biggest one, St. Martin, which also has its place in the Old Town, was built Roman foundations and its silhouette ranks among the most dominant of Cologne’s skyline.
Walking along the Rhine can be an entertaining and relaxing adventure. Many cafes and restaurants line up, artists perform at river banks and boats take people for a ride. A 15 minutes walk southwards along the river brings you to the Imhoff-Stollwerck chocolate museum. The most northern sight is the church of Santa Ursula. Other attractions worth a visit are the botanical garden, the zoo or the city hall.
Visiting Cologne is easy and affordable with the Köln Welcome Card which gives discounted admission to most attractions and excursions. Free public transportation is included as well. The card can be purchased at the tourist information centre.
Cologne Tourist Board (Kölntourismus)
Opposite the cathedral entrance, Unter Fettenhennen 19
This is the main tourist office in the city. There is also an office at the airport, Terminal 2, arrivals level and at the Kölnmesse when trade fairs are on.
The history of the city of Cologne from the late Middle Ages to the present day. From “Eau de Cologne” and the Cologne carnival to topics such as popular religiosity, intellectual life and artisans’ guilds almost all the aspects of urban life are documented with illustrative objects or works of art.
The Roman-Germanic Museum
The museum belongs among the most loved in Germany because it houses artifacts from the Roman times, such as, the Dionysus mosaic, Poblicus’ tomb and worldwide the largest collection of Roman glass.
Devoted to modern art from the beginning of the 20th century.
Includes the most important collection of old Cologne paintings worldwide, art of the Baroque period including major works by Rubens and Rembrandt and, in the 19th century section, paintings from the Romantic period, Realism and Symbolism.
Collection of Buddhist painting and wood sculptures, Japanese screen painting, coloured woodcuts, lacquer work, Chinese religious bronze objects, ceramics, furniture and calligraphy is regarded as one of the most important in Europe.
Museums of ethnology.
Permanent exhibition can only include objects of North American Indians and Inuit, art from Thailand, Cambodia, India and Tibet, an ensemble of gamelan instruments from Central Java, artefacts from ancient Egypt and gold and silver work from Indonesia and ancient Peru.