Near Cologne’s famous cathedral, the Hohenzollern Bridge is worth strolling across, not only for views of the Rhine, but to see the 40,000 padlocks that adorn its iron railings. // © 2011 Janice Mucalov
Straddling the Rhine River, Cologne is famous for its UNESCO World Heritage-listed cathedral. The magnificent Gothic landmark is Germany’s number-one tourist attraction, welcoming more than 6 million visitors a year. But there are other reasons to visit Germany’s fourth largest city. Cologne is also home to museums (including one dedicated to chocolate), sightseeing river cruises, Roman archaeological ruins and the highest concentration of pubs of all German cities.
Clients will likely want to start by visiting the cathedral. One of the biggest churches in the world with spires soaring 532 feet high, it houses the relics of the Three Wise Men. It took 632 years to build — the foundation stone was laid in 1248 — and more than 80 craftsmen still work year-round to maintain it. A highlight is the beautiful new stained glass window, made by a Cologne artist in 2007, which covers more than 1,000 square feet in the south cross nave.
Near the cathedral, the Hohenzollern Bridge is worth strolling across, not only for views of the Rhine, but to see the 40,000 padlocks that adorn its iron railings. For the past three years, couples have been hanging padlocks on the bridge as a sign of their love, then throwing away the keys in the Rhine. The padlocks, both large and small, old and new, are artistically decorated and lovingly engraved (“Aline and Christian” or “Stephan and Simone”) — and it’s quite a sight to see them glinting, all different colors, in the sunlight.
Archaeological Zone and the Jewish Museum Cologne
Since 2007, excavations have been ongoing by the town hall square, uncovering more than 2,000 years of history. The excavation site was the former home of the Roman Governor’s Palace and later, during the Middle Ages, one of the largest and oldest Jewish quarters in Middle Europe. Tours of the site are offered on Fridays, and the Roman sewer conduits are open to visitors from Tuesday to Sunday. The Jewish ritual bath, containing a 55-foot deep shaft, can be visited on request. In the future, a new museum will display the 200,000 artifacts found here.
Farina Perfume House
In 1709, the perfumer Johann Farina honored the city of Cologne with his new fragrance, Eau de Cologne. Today, clients can still buy the original orange-and-bergamot scented perfume — used by illustrious customers such as Mozart, Napoleon and Mark Twain — in the world’s oldest existing perfume house. Clients can also learn about the production of essences through a tour of the fragrance museum, conducted by “the perfumer Farina” clad in a Rococo costume. Curios on display include cabinets filled with historic perfume bottles, a silver cup from which noble customers drank and a cedar wood perfume barrel from the early 18th century.
Lunch at Gilden im Zims
Clients can’t visit Cologne without downing the local lager-style beer, called Kolsch. Poured into small beer glasses (not big beer steins) to keep the beer cold, the beer drinker’s glass is traditionally refilled automatically, until the drinker places a coaster on top of the glass to signal that he or she is done. At Gilden im Zims, a cozy beer hall, clients can try a light and fresh Gilden Kolsch with a hearty lunch of pork schnitzel and sausages with fried potatoes.
KD River Cruise
A pleasant way to digest lunch — and take in the Rhine scenery too — is a one-hour river cruise. In summer, locals sunbathe on the green riverbanks and cycle along river trails.
The world’s first and only chocolate museum houses some 2,000 exhibits in a vast glass and metal building, making it a memorable experience for clients with a sweet tooth. The chocolate production area is a particular treat. Melted hot chocolate is stirred in large steel tanks. And a big robotic arm dumps packets of wrapped chocolate squares onto a conveyor belt, which are then boxed by workers in white uniforms. There’s also a popular, 10-foot high chocolate fountain. The staff dips wafers into the melted, velvety chocolate and hand them out for tasting.
Dinner at Hopper
Clients interested in a fine dinner need look no further than Hopper, built in an old chapel. The can indulge in a dinner of brook trout and sweet white asparagus in the Linden-tree shaded courtyard.
Cologne Marriott Hotel
Just a few minutes’ walk from the cathedral, main train station and the Rhine, the modern 365-room Cologne Marriott Hotel, with its sunny yellow interiors and extra-spacious guestrooms, is an excellent choice for a four-star hotel in the city.