The twin spires of the Dom, Cologne Cathedral, dominate the skyline.They are the first thing you see as you drive into the city.The view from the riverwalk after dark is spectacular and it is even more dramatic from across the Rhine. It rivals any cathedral I’ve ever seen including Westminster and Notre Dame for sheer beauty and presence. It’s claim to fame beyond its sheer magnificence, is the Shrine of the Three Kings, as in “We three kings of Orient are, bearing gifts we travel so far.”
There is more to Cologne than just the Dom, plan to visit some of Cologne’s other churches. Four or five are within walking distance of the Dom. You will hear a lot about the legend of St Ursula and you can also visit the grave of Albertus Magnus. St Kunibert’s is what I saw when I looked out my hotel window, but the exterior doesn’t prepare you for the beauty of the interior. We went at lunchtime and the organist was practicing on their magnificent pipe organ. It dominates a whole section of the church.
It’s amazing to see that the frescoes have survived when you realize from the pictures in another section of the church how much was destroyed by the Allied bombing of Cologne. The interior is painted in white, gray and terracotta. It is built in the Romanesque style with a wonderful vaulted ceiling.
It was sad to see all the clear glass in the windows and try to imagine what it must have looked like with stained glass. In the back there is a huge bronze candelabra that is made with Jesus on the cross. Part of the cross goes up into the candle holders. It stands over 6-feet tall. January is a great time to visit Cologne, as all the churches still have their Christmas decorations up.
Cologne has an excellent art museum and also a history museum within the shadow of the Dom. You can see what I mean by the Cathedral dominating the town. It really is everywhere that you look. They have done a very good job of making sure that no buildings overshadows it.
I am going to suggest that you take a guided tour. You can buy tickets at the Tourist Office facing the Dom. There is also an American Express Office nearby if you need to cash travelers checks. Our tour guide spoke English and German, he alternated. It was a little confusing at times but he was very nice. We crossed the river and got out of the bus on the other side. We had about 10 minutes to take pictures and walk around.
We chose the Hotel Buchholtz as our base in Cologne. You ring the bell to gain entrance to the lobby and there you are welcomed by Carole the owner or the ever present Heidi.
Our rooms were wonderful. They were 2 rooms connected by an arch. We had a very comfortable bed and good lighting. Everything was very clean and the bathrooms are modern. Breakfast is included and is buffet style mixed with service from Heidi. There are 6 juices and 6 cereals on the sideboard as well as all types of fruits. Then you got a meat-and-cheese plate and breadbasket, as well as yogurt if you wanted. Heidi would also cook you an egg to order and toast. We never needed to buy lunch. There is a small bar that is always available and in the afternoon we would sit there for drinks and peanuts. It was a wonderful experience, and I would stay there again.
Cologne has it’s own International airport and we were able to get there from New York with one connection in London at Heathrow. You need to take a cab in from the airport but the charge was less than taking a van.
This is a great walking city. There is a large pedestrian shopping area with the best prices we found anywhere in Germany and the riverwalk felt safe to us even at night. We spent as much time walking around as we could. The Rhine is magical at night. We didn’t rent our car until we were ready to leave the city since it would have been a burden while we were there.
Two days really isn’t enough time to do justice to Cologne. I would advise at least 4 days. There is a Cologne City Pass that you can buy that will get you into museums and on the public transportation as well as giving you a tour of the city.