Cologne and Bonn

Cologne (Köln) –

Two things come to mind when you think of Cologne – the massive Cologne Cathedral with its twin spires that dominate the city’s skyline and Eau de Cologne - Kölnisch Wasser (Cologne Water) the famous perfume/fragrance Eau de Cologne and the number 4711.

Cologne Cathedral – the Kölner Dom construction began in 1248 but it was only really completed between 1842 and 1880 after King Friedrich Wilhelm IV stepped in to re-start the construction after centuries of neglect and/or lack of funds.

This is the biggest Cathedral in Germany and one of the biggest in Europe, its towers rising to 157 metres in height, the north tower just 7 centimetres higher than the south tower, with the length of the main Cathedral being 145 metres long, with the width of the nave being 86 metres across and a total floor space of some 8000 Square Metres. It is said that around 20,000 people could fit into the Cathedral, but hopefully they won’t all be there when you visit.

It is possible to climb the 533 steps in the South Tower for great views over the city and if you do this, you will also pass by Saint Peter’s Bell – the biggest free swinging bell in the world and some 23 tonnes in weight.

While the enormity of the Cathedral is one thing, it is the interior with its great stained glass windows, the altar and Cathedral Treasury that are probably the most interesting to see. Here there are paintings and religious relics dating back to the 4th Century in the Treasury and behind the main altar there is a sarcophagus that contains the bones of the three Kings who followed the Star of Bethlehem to the stable where Jesus Christ was born.

The story is that in 1164 Archbishop Rainold von Drassal  took these three sets of bones, as part of war reparations from Milan, bringing them back here to Cologne to be placed in this Sarcophagus. It is a remarkable story.

During World War Two, the old city of Cologne was heavily bombed and some 72% of the old city was destroyed, but although the cathedral was hit, it survived with little damage.

The Tourist Office is located near the Dom too on Kardinal Höffner Platz.

While the Cathedral is certainly the main drawcard in Cologne, there are many other churches too, and if you like to see Church Architecture there are a number of churches in the city, many dating back to the 11th and 12th century. Many were also damaged during the bombing in World War Two, but almost all have been restored since then.

The Eau de Cologne story dates back to 1709 when an Italian perfumer, Giovanni Maria Farina (1685-1766) developed a citrus based fragrance that he described as like “an Italian spring morning of mountain daffodils and orange blossoms in the rain”. It soon became a popular fragrance for Royalty and its notoriety and the name of ‘Farina’ and his “Eau de Cologne” spread throughout Europe.

The 4711 Fragrance was created in the 18th Century by another Perfumer, Wilhelm Mülhens, who had tried to use the “Farina” name without permission and ran into trademark issues, so he named his perfume 4711, the Street number where the Eau de Cologne was made in a building called the Glockengasse Building. That building no longer exists, though the name remains as the name of a hotel in that location. The 4711 Trademark was registered in 1845.

There is however a fragrance Museum called the Farina Fragrance Museum and it is located at Obenmarspforten 21 near the Wallraf-Richartz Museum. Here they run tours that last about 45 minutes in the perfumery, but it is necessary to book online – see  Most tours are conducted in German but also sometimes in French or English. You can also buy Perfumes, soaps and other special items in the Perfumery Store located here too.

Cologne is located on the River Rhine –

 Cologne has history dating back to Roman days with the old City centre (Aldstadt) being next to the River, with bridges crossing over it. In summer it is possible to take a short cruise on the River and see the city from the water, perhaps also enjoying a Kölsch Beer, made here in Cologne too.

A number of the bigger Rhine River Cruise Boats also stop here in Cologne too travelling from further up-river.

The Rhine is a massive river system and has been used for centuries to transport people and goods and these days you will see both passenger cruise boats as well as barges carrying goods along the River. Also see Cruising the Rhine – section on this website.

There are a number of Museums here in Cologne – and these are some of them –

  • Museum Schnütgen – Cäciliens Staβe 29-33 – Religious Art, Textiles, Prints
  • Museum für Angewandte Kunst – Ander Rechtschule – Decorative Arts, jewellery, porcelain, furniture, weapons, architecture
  • Ludwig Museum – Heinrich-Böll-Platz – Modern Art and many Picasso works of art
  • Wallraf-Richartz Museum – Obenmarspforten 40 – Medieval to modern art. Located near Farina Fragrance Museum.
  • Kolumba Museum – Kolumbastraβe 4 (near Fragrance Museum too). Located in ruins of St Kolumba Church. Lots of Religious Art, Tapestries, Textiles, History
  • Kathe Kollnitz Museum – Neumarkt Passage. A vast collection of German Artist, Kathe Kollitz (1867-1945) paintings, drawings and sculptures.
  • Romano-Germanic Museum- RoncalliPlatz 4. A great amazing collection of Roman artefacts found around the Rhine River from the time that the Romans lived here. Also look for the Praetorium – at Kleine Budengasse 2 below the old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus) where some of the ancient Roman building work has been found.
  • EL DE Haus – AppellhofPlatz 23-25 – This museum is in what was a Gestapo headquarters during the Second World War, and has lots of material related to those times when people were interrogated, imprisoned and tortured here.
  • Deutsches Sport and Olympia Museum – Im Zollhafen 1. A museum that tells the story of German sporting achievements and history.

As with many German cities there is good transport with buses, trams, U Bahn and S Bahn trains – and you can buy a Cologne Welcome Card that provides you with 1 or more days of transport and discounts to various venues too.

For Shopping – head to Hohe Straβe, Schildergasse – the shopping Mile, to Breite Straβe, Ehren Straβe or the Belgian Quarter to venloer Straβe – between the ring roads of Roon Straβe and Moltke Straβe. You will find lots of clothing shops and other shops, along with great places to find a pastry, chocolate, pancakes, coffee, beer and other food. Cologne also has good nightlife too with bars and many nightspots and theatres as well as a number of sporting, cultural events and exhibitions that happen during the year. Check with the Tourist Information to see what is happening when you are in town.

Cologne is also very close to the city of Bonn – the Capital of West German before unification and it is just ½ an hour away – 30 kilometres.

Before heading to Bonn, you might consider seeing the Palaces of Brühl and spending a day there. It is about half way to Bonn – so only a short distance. You can get there by train or a short drive.

Here in Brühl there is the Schloss Augustusburg and the Falkenlust Hunting Lodge – both listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. If you love seeing amazing Rococo décor and formal French style gardens with their parterre style and fountains from the 1700’s, these two Castle/Palaces and their gardens will absolutely delight you. The Castle of Augustusburg was built around 1725 for Clemens August of Bavaria (1700-1761) the Prince-Elector and Archbishop of Cologne, while the Falkenlust Hunting Lodge was built between 1729 and 1737 for him to practice his hunting skills using his trained Falcons.

Also in Brühl there is the Max Ernst Museum, showcasing the remarkable art of Max Ernst (1891-1976) who was born here in Brühl.

For something completely different, you might look to stay in Brühl and enjoy shows and the theme park of Phantasialand – which has roller coasters, hotels, restaurants, themed areas (Chinese, Mexican, African…), action rides and lots of activities year round, including an Ice Rink in winter. See

Bonn – the City where Beethoven was born

Is one of my favourite cities in Germany and in summer just strolling around the old part of the city, maybe having a beer or enjoying a pancake, it is easy to just relax and take in the atmosphere of this great city with its classic buildings around the MünsterPlatz and nearby streets.

Like most German cities there is a tourist bus (Bonn Touren) that will take you to a number of the main sights to see, a Tourist Information Centre (WindeckStasse am Münsterplatz) and there is a 24 hour Bonn Regio Welcome Card that you can buy to give you discount to a number of museums and free transport for the inner part of the city or a more expensive card (Trams, buses, rail and even some cruises) that allows you to travel in a bigger region of the city and surrounds. You can buy the card (individual or family) at the Visitor Centre. There is also a Bonnticket – for concerts and other cultural and sporting events too. Again, check this out with the Visitor Centre.

Bonn is quite a cultural centre with a large University and Government Departments – and the Bad Godesberg part of the city has many beautiful diplomat homes. The city is easy to get around and you might also consider hiring a bike to ride in one of the many parks.

Bonn is the city where Ludwig von Beethoven (1770-1827) was born and his house is open to the public to see and hear some of his music. He lived for much of his life in Vienna and is buried there. The house is located at Bonngasse 24-26 and there is a statue monument of him in the Münsterplatz, near the 13th century Münster Basilica church with its 92 metre high spire. The Basilica was built on the site of a Roman Burial Ground.

In the centre of the City is the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) and marketplace, but one place not to miss is the Bonn Botanical Gardens next to the Poppelsdorf Palace (Meckenheimer Allee 171. There are 11 greenhouses here and great gardens to see with around 11,000 different species, including the world’s biggest Flower – the Titan Arum flower. This is a rare sight. The outdoor gardens change with the season, but year round this is a great garden to see.

One of the most interesting churches is the 12th century Doppelkirche Schwarzheindorf Church where the worshipers were segregated between the Upper Class and the Lower Class with separate pews areas. This church is at Dixstrasse 41 in the suburb called Schwarzrheindorf (on other side of the Rhine River from the old town (Altstadt).    

There are a number of Museums, most along what they call the “Museum Mile” and these are just some of them –

  • LVR Landes Museum – Colmantstrasse 14-16. This is a big museum with a great collection covering a wide range of interests, from Paintings, sculptures, Roman coins and jewellery 
  • Museum Konig – Adenauerallee 162.  A Natural History Museum in a classic building
  • Kunst Museum – Freidich-Ebert Allee 2. A modern Art gallery/Museum
  • Haus der Geschichte de Bundesrepublik Deutschland – Willy Brandt Allee 14. An interesting museum tracing historic events in German History since World War Two.
  • Arithmeum – near the Hofgarten (Palace Garden), Lenné Stasse 2. A Science and Technology Museum, with machines related to counting and Mathematics.
  • Deutschen Museum – in Science Centre, Ahrstrasse 45. An interactive science and technology Museum, part of the big Deutsch Museum in Munich.

Bonn, like Cologne is also on the River Rhine, and one of the most interesting places to see is the Drachenburg (Dragon Rock) Castle at Königswinter – that you can get to in summer by boat, U Bahn (line 66), car of tour bus. When you buy a Bonn Welcome Card – ask if it covers to trip to Königswinter.

The castle is located 321 metres above sea level and overlooks the River and Valley below it. It is open from the 27th March to 5th November (summer) and it has lots of turrets and grand rooms inside to see. The Foundations of the castle were set down in 1882, but it has had a chequered history – as a home, boy’s school, Training School for Nazi youth in World War Two, and then at the end of the War, it was occupied by US Soldiers. The rooms, gardens, terraces and views make this a great place to see and there is also a cog-railway line – the Drachenfelsbahn that travels up the steep slopes to the Castle and further up above the castle too.

The other castle to visit in Bonn itself is the Gotesburg Castle where the first stage of its construction began in 1210. The castle round tower keep is here to see, with a restaurant and function rooms here too.

Bonn was the home of the West German Parliament between 1949 and 1999, but the best place to get an understanding of this time period is visiting the Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland – listed above. The West German Parliament met in a building called the Plenary Hall building and this is now a Conference Hall – and located on AdenauerAllee, away from the City Centre.  To see more of the Government Sector and follow what they call “The Path of Democracy” – see the website    

As in many other cities in Germany, cycling is popular, but if you do walk on a cycling path, you will no doubt hear the ring of a Cyclist’s bell warning you to move out of the way as they cycle past. For an easy ride, head to one of the Parks, and there are also cycling paths beside the River Rhine and also the Ahr and Erft River valleys. The Red Wine Trail
( Rotweinwanderweg) takes you along a track that passes the many terraced vineyards in the Ahr River Valley. There are also other short and longer cycling and walking tracks in the area too, so enquire at the Tourist Office to know more. One of the Pathways, the ‘Rheinsteig’  goes from Bonn to Wiesbaden – a distance of 320 kilometres, so it takes several days of walking to complete the journey, passing through vineyards and a number of villages along the way.

Germany’s oldest National Park, the Siebengebirge, is also close to Bonn too.

One of the highlight events during the year is the ‘Rhine in flames’ festival on the first Saturday of May, when around 60 illuminate boats sail from Linz to Bonn, with fireworks and other happenings along the river villages too. The ideal is to be on one of the boats, or high up to look down onto this spectacle.

Bonn has many shops - department stores, specialty shops, arcades and boutiques with Bad Godesberg, Beuel and Hardsberg Streets being some of the main streets to look for. From May to October that is also a massive Flea Market on the third Saturday of the month at the Rheinaue Leisure Park – a beautiful park in the summer months and in winter you will find in-line ice skating happening here too.

For restaurants and bars – in summer head to the Rhine and you will find lots of places to just sit and relax overlooking the River in open-air beer gardens. You will also find many places around the Old Stadthaus Town Hall and the Poppelsdorf Palace with many bars, pubs and places to eat in what they call the “Endenich Cultural Mile”. In the Südstadt area there are also many restaurants with rows of Wilhelminian houses here too. These are the houses with the stepped gable rooflines. You will see many of them along the Poppelsdorfer Allee and streets nearby.

Certainly travelling in the summer with its long eventide hours of light allows you to see and do more, but you will always find things to do in Bonn, a really beautiful city to visit.

Happy Travels

Geoff Stuart

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