CGN Panorama 2

Photo: Dieter Jacobi / KölnTourismus GmbH

Further Reading


Cologne Cathedral




Cologne / Köln

Cologne is Germany’s fourth-largest city by population and although it is not North Rhine-Westphalia’s capital, it is the state’s largest city and one of the most popular destinations for tourists from around the world. Famously known as being the capital of carnival, for its location along the scenic Rhine river, a vibrant art scene and its Cathedral, Cologne attracts more than 4 million visitors per year.

The city has a long history, going back to the year 50, when the Romans founded Colonia, which sonn became a major hub for trade and transportation. Given the enormous influence of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, Cologne’s importance in politics and economy grew rapidly, thanks to it being the seat of an archbishop. In 1164, the Roman Emperor Frederick I gave the relics of the Three Wise Men to Cologne, where they remain a major tourist draw, being on display at the Cathedral. Within the Holy Roman Empire, Cologne remained a free city, which meant for the archbishops that they were mostly forced to stay out of the city, as they usually were from the Bavarian Wittelsbach dynasty. This situation led to a number of conflicts between the church and the city. After Bonaparte’s victory in the war against Rome, Cologne and the surrounding areas became French until 1815, when the region became a part of Prussia after the Congress of Vienna. Again, conflicts between the church and the worldly rulers ensued as Prussia was mostly Protestant and cared little for the interests of the Catholic church. In 1880 the Cathedral was finally finished, after the construction had been paused for more than 300 years. By 1914, Cologne’s population had grown to more than 700,000 and the city became a major center of industrialized production. Yet, it survived enemy attacks during World War I without lasting damage.

That changed in World War II when Cologne, being home to a military command headquarter, was heavily bombed. The city core was almost completely destroyed and more than 20,000 inhabitants were killed during the raids. In the newly-founded Federal Republic after the war, neighboring Bonn was chosen as Germany’s capital while Düsseldorf, also only a few kilometers away, was made state capital of North Rhine- Westphalia. Cologne’s former mayor Konrad Adenauer, once dismissed by the Nazis, became the country’s first chancellor. The city’s population quickly grew back to pre-war numbers in the following years and in 2010, Cologne crossed the one-million mark.

As the number of people within the city grew, it established itself as a major location for the media and insurance industries. There are several media outlets in the city, ranging from small, specialized publishing houses to Germany’s largest commercial TV channel and a number of news corporations. The largest employer, however, is the European headquarter of the Ford Motor Company. The Konrad Adenauer airport, shared with the neighboring city of Bonn, is home to the corporate headquarters of German carrier Lufthansa, yet the airport – although well connected to the Munich and Frankfurt hubs – is mostly important for its cargo operations rather than as a passenger airport.

Despite Cologne being the home of numerous museums, art institutions and cultural events, most people here will tell you that the most important element of the city’s cultural scene is the Carnival. The carnival season lasts from November 11 until Mid-February and for people who dislike carnival, it is advisable to stay away from Cologne in the last days of the season. During these days, Cologne becomes the self-proclaimed capital of carnival (although that claim is disputed by eternal rival Düsseldorf) and hundreds of thousands  will dance and drink in the streets and bars, clad in costumes. Carnival is a major part of the Cologne culture which is also expressed in a locally spoken dialect and in a specific variety of beer called “Kölsch”, which is only made by Cologne breweries and hard to find in other parts of Germany.

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