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Country Germany Local Name Köln
Population ~965.000 State North Rhine-Westphalia
Time zone GMT +1h, GMT +2 (DST)
Geographic coordinates
Latitude    50°52'02" N
     Longitude 07°08'37" E
Height 77 m above sea level
See map at
Religion 45% Protestant
     37% Roman Catholic
18% other
Size ~405 km2 (~156 miles2) Data from 2000
Cologne (German Köln), is the fourth largest city in Germany and largest city of the North Rhine-Westphalia state (German Nordrhein-Westfalen). It is one of the most important European inland ports, and considered the economic, cultural, and historic capital of the Rhineland. Its location at the intersection of the Rhine (German Rhein) river with one of the major trade routes between eastern and western Europe was the foundation of Cologne's commercial importance. In the Middle Ages it also became an ecclesiastical center of significance and an important center of art and learning. Cologne was badly damaged during World War II. Today, it is the seat of a university and the see of a Roman Catholic archbishop. Its cathedral, the largest Gothic church in northern Europe, was designated a World Heritage site in 1996; it is the city's major landmark and unofficial symbol.
The emblem of Cologne.


Roman Cologne

Cologne is the oldest major city in Germany. The name Cologne stems from the Roman empress Agrippina. The wife of the Emperor Claudius (she persuaded him to adopt her son Nero) elevated her birth town "Colonia" to the status of a city in the year 50 A.D. Today, traces of the Romans are still to be found everywhere in Cologne: the Dionysus mosaic in the Römisch-Germanisches Museum, sections of the Roman city wall and the Roman water system, which formerly brought fresh spring water to the Roman city from the Eifel region. The Roman road network is still reflected to this very day in the layout of the city streets. The Hohe Strasse, a shopping street between the cathedral (Dom) and Neumarkt square, can look back over a two-thousand-year history of economic and social life.

Archbishopric of Cologne

The Romans also brought Christianity to Cologne, and the city very soon became a seat of a bishopric. In the year 785 Charlemagne founded the Archbishopric of Cologne and also bestowed secular powers upon the church dignitaries: the Archbishop of Cologne became one of the most powerful feudal lords in the Holy Roman Empire. Since the 12th century, Cologne has been the fourth metropolis in addition to Jerusalem, Byzantium and Rome to bear the designation "Sancta" (holy) in the city name: "Holy Cologne, faithful daughter of the Roman church by the grace of God". In 1164, Rainald von Dassel, Imperial Chancellor and Archbishop of Cologne, brought the relics of the Three Kings to Cologne. A mighty cathedral, the "largest structure north of the Alps" was to be erected as a burial church in their honour. The foundation stone was laid on the 15th August 1248. However, the Dom was not completed until 1880, after building work had been discontinued in the mid-16th century. Twelve large Roman collegiate and monastery churches, in addition to the world famous Dom stand as a major architectural testimony to the "spiritual" influence of the times: Groß St. Martin, St. Maria Lyskirchen, St. Severin, St. Kunibert, St. Gereon, St. Pantaleon, St. Maria im Kapitol, St. Aposteln, St. Andreas, St. Ursula, St. Cäcilien and St. Georg. Since 1985 all the churches have been almost completely restored.

The Middle Ages

In 1288, Cologne citizens defeated the archiepiscopal army in the battle of Worringen and drove the archbishop as secular leader out of the city for good: he continued to reside in and around Bonn. The archiepiscopal residences of Schloß Augustusburg and Schloß Falkenlust erected in the 18th century near Brühl are now part of the world's cultural heritage. In 1396, the Cologne guilds proclaimed their own constitution with a mayor and city council. Nevertheless, Cologne did not finally receive the status of a free city until 1475. At this point, Cologne had become one of the most densely populated and wealthiest cities in the German speaking area. It played a major role in the Hanseatic League and was an important exhibition center at the time. The first municipal university in Europe was founded here as early as 1388. Extant remnants of this period include the Overstolzenhaus, an imposing Roman town house now the seat of the Cologne Media College, the gothic city hall and the Gürzenich hall. The period had its dark side: after a long series of pogroms, the Jews fled the city in 1423 to the right bank of the Rhine. In the 16th century, Protestants were persecuted and in the 17th century, many women in Cologne fell victim to witch-hunts. Legend tells the eleven black tears in the city emblem symbolize 11.000 virgins that were killed by Attila the Hun and his army besieging the city.


The history of "Holy Cologne" and the free city of Cologne ended in 1794 with the bloodless occupation by the soldiers of the French Revolution. The university was closed, church assets were confiscated and monasteries and religious congregations were secularized. Protestants were given the same rights as Catholics, and Jews were allowed to resettle in Cologne. Even the archbishop was allowed to return to Cologne in 1821. In 1815, the Vienna Congress annexed Cologne and the Rhineland to the Kingdom of Prussia. During the subsequent decades, Cologne became the largest and most important Prussian city alongside Berlin. In 1822 and for the first time again since the Romans, the city received a bridge, albeit temporary, over the Rhine. One year later, the first Rosenmontag procession organized by the Cologne Carnival Festival Committee was held, with Rhenish scorn being aimed particularly at Prussian authoritarianism. With annexation to Prussia, Cologne finally entered, albeit tardily, the industrial age. Famous names such as Felten & Guillaume, the Stollwerck chocolate factory or Klöckner Humboldt Deutz AG bear witness to the economic upsurge of subsequent decades. The latter's founder, Nicolaus August Otto revolutionized the engine and automobile industry with the invention of the internal combustion engine in 1874. With Helios AG, Cologne was also the head office of the largest manufacturer of AC electrical machines, transformers and lighting installations in Germany. In 1824, the Cologne mathematician and physicist Georg Simon Ohm had laid new foundations for research into electricity with the "Ohm's Law" formula (voltage = intensity x resistance). The transport network increased in density and Cologne became an major hub, with railways operating in the Rhineland since 1839. In 1859, the new main station and adjacent railway bridge - now the Hohenzollernbrücke - was opened. Cologne harbour became the final destination for shipping traffic on the Rhine. In 1881, the mediaeval city wall was demolished and the city's circular boulevards were laid out in the form of wide, imposing avenues. Construction of the Dom was resumed with powerful support from the Prussian Court and its completion was celebrated in 1880 as a national event. The Dom also formed an excellent motif for the still budding art of photography. The first photographic panorama of a German city shows Cologne in 1856 - featuring, of course, the Dom, viewed from across the river in Deutz. At this time, Cologne was the center of rigorous public debate concerning the "social question", which was conducted by two illustrious protagonists: Karl Marx, who edited the newspaper "Neue Rheinische Zeitung" in the 1840's and Adolf Kolping, who founded the first fellowship to assist the exploited, hungry and often unemployed trade apprentices.

Weimar Republic

The First World War slowed, but did not interrupt, the surge of development in Cologne. By that time, following numerous incorporations, Cologne's population had swollen to over 600.000 inhabitants. In 1917, Konrad Adenauer became the Lord Mayor and served office until he was removed by the National Socialists in 1933. During his tenure, he presided over the refoundation of the university, extension of the outer green belt with Müngersdorf stadium and construction of the KölnMesse exhibition and trade-fair center. Many of the current parks and green areas date from this period. An event of somewhat regional significance at that time transformed Cologne into a media capital in 1926: Westdeutsche Rundfunk AG established its head office on the banks of the Rhine and opened its first broadcasting house. In 1930, Henry Ford laid the foundations of Cologne Ford Works. As a fitting tribute, the first German motorway between Cologne and Bonn was opened to traffic in 1932.

National Socialism and the Second World War

On the 13th March 1933, Cologne's National Socialists stormed the city hall and deposed the mayor, Konrad Adenauer. Cologne became the headquarters of National Socialist leadership within the administrative district of Cologne-Aachen. In 1935, the Gestapo moved into its new headquarters in the city center. Today a museum, the EL-DE-Haus now serves as reminder of the crimes of the Gestapo. Few people resisted the Nazi regime. Even Cologne carnival revellers became involved in Nazi racial hatred: in 1935, floats with anti-Semitic and racist slogans took part in the Rosenmontag procession. In 1936, the German Army invaded the previously demilitarized Rhineland. From 1937 onwards, racial persecution also occurred in Cologne: four synagogues were destroyed and many Jews, gypsies and dissidents fell victim to the inhuman system. The last of a total of 11,000 Jews from Cologne and the surrounding area were deported to the extermination camps in 1943. In early 1940, sections of the German Western Army gathered in Cologne before the invasion of the Netherlands, Belgium and France. After the offensive began, Cologne was the target of an Allied bombing raid for the first time on 13th May 1940 and the raids increased in number as the war progressed. The last, and one of the most devastating bombing raids hit the city on the 2nd March 1945. By the end of the war, more than 90% of the city center had been destroyed and the number of inhabitants had decreased from 800,000 to around 40,000. After liberation by the US army, one of the first newspapers summarized the situation as follows: "The city is one of the biggest heaps of rubble in the world". It was not until 1959 that Cologne's population reached pre-war levels.

The Fifties and Sixties

Reconstruction began immediately after the war ended. The Rhine bridges were restored or rebuilt: the Deutzer Brücke was opened to traffic in 1948 as the first newly built post-war bridge. Vacant lots in the city center were filled and restoration of the historic center was embarked upon. It was not until 1972, however, that the historic city hall was restored. Extension of the highways progressed more rapidly. In 1965, the motorway ring around Cologne was completed: this was the first time that a European city had this type of traffic system. Today, the highest volume of traffic in Germany is recorded over this stretch of motorway. The city center was also redesigned in terms of traffic engineering: the Cologne tram and underground system entered service in 1968. As everywhere in Germany, reconstruction of the city was accompanied by major cultural interests. In Cologne, debates about the culture and politics of the post-war era were the main focus of the "Wednesday discussions", organized by the bookseller Gerhard Ludwig in Cologne railway station between 1950 and 1956. No subject was left untouched. One year previously, Ludwig had erected the first "railway station bookshop" on the same site. In 1950, the Photokina (an exhibition about photographic technology) opened its doors for the first time. Whilst the initial focus had mainly been on products made in Germany, the trade-fair had developed by that time into the largest international exhibition for technology involving still and motion pictures. Cologne celebrated another world premiere in 1967: Reduced Art Cologne in 1984, it is the leading international art exhibition and has spawned many imitators. At the same time, it represents Cologne's rise to the status of a European art (dealing) metropolis. Many gallery owners and artists subsequently settled in Cologne. By the end of the eighties, there was one gallery for every 5,500 citizens - a world record. Donations of contemporary art works, including I particular pop art, flooded into the Ludwig Museum, newly opened in 1986. In 1962, the Deutschlandfunk radio service began broadcasting. Cologne therefore became the location of four transmitters, once the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) had moved in 1954 from Hamburg to the Rhine.

The Seventies and Eighties

The number of inhabitants of Cologne approached the one million mark. In 1974, the Römisch-Germanisches Museum opened on the redesigned Dom square. Renovation of the entire historic center was completed in 1986 with construction of the Rhine bank tunnel and opening of the new Wallraf-Richartz Museum/Ludwig Museum and the Cologne Philharmonic Hall. The writer Heinrich Böll received the Nobel Prize in literature in 1972 and was finally appointed a freeman of the city of Cologne in 1983. A phase of growth for private television channels and the media business began with dissolution of the state-owned broadcasting monopoly. In 1988, the first privately owned television company went on the air from Cologne. By the turn of the Millennium, Cologne was home to the largest number of television broadcasting stations of any other European city. In 1980, Pope Jean-Paul II visited the city to mark the 100th anniversary of the completion of the cathedral. In the same year, the Tutankhamun exhibition in Cologne City Museum attracted a record number of over 1 million visitors. In 1986, the Federal Monopolies and Mergers Commission ruled that only beer brewed in Cologne may bear the name Kölsch. Previously, 24 Cologne breweries had agreed on a "Kölsch Convention".

History At the Dawn of the New Millennium

  • In 1991, the Rosenmontag procession was cancelled for the first time since the Second World War due to the Gulf War.
  • 30th October 1993: Opening of the Imhoff Stollwerck Museum (chocolate museum)
  • 1996: The Cologne Musical Dome near the main railway station opened with a production of the musical Gaudi. Following the bankruptcy of the Dome's management company one year later, another promoter assumed control of the venue and successfully launched the musical "Saturday Night Fever".
  • 1998: Germany's largest all-purpose venue, the KölnArena, opened. Owing to its silhouette, it has been nicknamed the "lunch basket".
  • 1999: Double Summit in Cologne.


Banking and trade are important elements in Cologne's economy since the Middle Ages. Engineering, metalworking, chemicals, and the pharmaceutical industry are also important. Other manufactures include engines, chocolate, and eau de cologne.


  • For over 300 years the "Kölnisch Wasser 4711" or "Eau de Cologne" was produced by traditional Cologne company Muelhens. This famous product owes its name to the system of numbering Cologne's houses used by the French revolutionary troops at the end of the 18th century.
  • Chemical industry, with 80 companies and almost 60.000 employees, is the major industrial sector in Cologne. Almost one third of the total turnover of the manufacturing industry in Cologne derives from this sector.
  • With a 20,000 strong workforce, Ford AG is Cologne's largest employer and has chose the city as the location for its European HQ.
  • Following in third place in terms of turnover behind the chemical and vehicles-production industry is engineering, which enjoys a long and distinguished tradition in Cologne. In 1878 Nikolaus Otto invented the combustion engine in Cologne. Currently, the engineering sector employs a total workforce of 18,000 people in the region. Half of the products are exported.


Back in the Middle Ages Cologne's merchants engaged in trade with Sicily, England, Scandinavia, Flanders and Bohemia. Today, Cologne is home to a diverse range of foreign-owned and domestic companies. No other German city plays host to such an abundance of trade organisations as Cologne. Almost 20 trade federations representing wholesale and export companies, and 25 retail trade associations are headquartered in Cologne. Visitors to Cologne may easily bump into a camera team and be canvassed for a survey, or stumble on to a film set during the shooting of a series or feature film. There is always something being filmed in Cologne, as confirmed by the 1,500 or so filming permits issued by the City of Cologne in 1999 alone. With one third of all German TV productions being shot here, Cologne is Germany's TV capital city. This is due in part to WDR, the largest regional broadcasting company within the nation-wide ARD network, and to RTL, Europe's largest private broadcaster in terms of turnover. WDR has a daily output of 144 hours of radio, 35 hours of TV. To serve Cologne's broadcasting stations, some 350 independent production companies have set up business in and around the city, the majority in the past few years.


Cologne is an intersection of several major highways. The Köln-Bonn Konrad Adenauer International Airport (CGN) is located 14 km south-east of Cologne. Together with the access to the Rhine river and a major railway station, Cologne is a central traffic node in western Germany.


Cultural Monuments and Museums

Numerous cultural monuments from the past 2000 years, such as the famous Roman Dionysus mosaic, the mediaeval Overstolzenhaus and the Gürzenich hall, or modern structures such as the opera house (1957) and the Media park (from 1989 onwards) are to be found at the foot of the cathedral. The characteristic elements in the history of the City of Cologne: commerce, transformation and transport, religion and veneration of the saints and modern art are combined within a highly confined area in the city center, embodied by Cologne central railway station (1890 - 1894) and its restored glass and steel structure, the cathedral itself and the adjacent museums (Ludwig Museum, Römisch-Germanisches Museum). The Ludwig Museum is the most famous of the eight municipal and the many ecclesiastical and private museums in this cathedral city and provides an overview of major international works of 20th century art. The Römisch-Germanisches Museum gives an impressive account of the history of the Romans along the Rhine. With the Rautenstrauch-Jost Museum, the city also has the only ethnological museum in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The very wide range of private museums ranges from impressive sacral art in the Diocesan Museum or the St. Peter art center, the photographic collection of the SK Cultural Foundation with the pictures by the Cologne photographer August Sander and extends to the POPDOM museum for pop and design of the 60's/70's and the German Sport and Olympics Museum. The private Imhoff-Stollwerck Museum of Chocolate located in the Rheinauhafen provides a sweet interlude and contains everything worth knowing and tasting about the history of chocolate.


Since the sixties, Cologne has been an important German art (trade) metropolis and is the place of residence of artists such as Gerhard Richter, Jürgen Klauke, Rune Mields or H.A. Schult, Bernhard Schultze and the "banana sprayer" Thomas Baumgärtl. More than 100 galleries present the entire spectrum of international art and the international art trade. Twice a year, the gallery owners issue an invitation to their "premiere days", on which new exhibitions are opened simultaneously in all the galleries and other art centers. The Art Cologne (at the KölnMesse exhibition center) is the oldest of all German art exhibitions, starting in 1967 with 15,000 visitors. It  is considered a barometer for international trends and is held regularly in early October. In early spring, the West German Art Exhibition (WKM) and the kunstKöln art exhibition take place, with a traditional emphasis is on 19th century painting, in addition to a wide range of furniture and craftwork. The kunstKöln art exhibition is the most recent Cologne exhibition. It combines presentation of original printed graphics, artist books, photographic and sculptural publications, multiples and art brut. The museums complete the range of attractions for art enthusiasts. In addition to the Ludwig Museum or the Museum for Oriental Art, a large number of private collections exist, for example in the Diocesan Museum, the Cologne Käthe Kollwitz Museum or the St. Peter art center. There is also a sculpture park created by the couple of collectors Eleonore and Michael Stoffels near Cologne Zoo.


The Philharmonic Orchestra auditorium offers classical music with the world's most famous orchestras, such as the Berlin or Munich Philharmonic orchestras or the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, but also hosts guest musicians such as Placido Domingo, Udo Lindenberg, Liza Minelli or Miles Davis. The Musical Dome offers light entertainment, e.g. the musical "Saturday Night Fever". International stars from rock, pop and opera are regular guests at the KölnArena, the largest show and music hall in Germany. The Stadtgarten, Subway, E-Werk, Live-Music Hall or the Palladium have made their names in different musical styles and genres. The municipal opera house offers a wide repertoire including classical and romantic opera. Concerts are also held regularly in the numerous churches in Cologne. There is also a famous rock scene, represented by groups such as " BAP", the " Bläck Föös" or " de Höhner".

Theatre and writing

The most famous Cologne theatre bears the name "Millowitsch" theatre. The folk theatre has been a Cologne institution since 1848 and Willy Millowitsch, who died in 1999, was considered the very personification of everything "Kölsch" ( typical of Cologne). The city had already erected a monument to him during his lifetime and appointed him a freeman of the city. Even older than the "Millowitsch Theatre" is the Hänneschen Theatre. The puppet theatre, founded in 1802, entertains the audience mainly with humour and scripts in the local "Kölsch" dialect. Cologne now has a lively theatre and cabaret scene. The Nobel prize winner, Heinrich Böll is, of course, indisputably the author in Cologne. His unpublished works are now housed in the Heinrich-Böll Archives in the City Library.

Historic buildings and places

  • Cologne Cathedral : Cologne cathedral with its two spires, 157 m. in height, has been the city's most famous landmark for centuries and one of the most well-known architectural monument in Germany. It took 632 years until construction of this largest German cathedral was completed. After the laying of the foundations in the year 1248 and making rapid progress initially, construction work gradually came to a standstill. It was only with 19th century romantic enthusiasm for the Middle Ages and the commitment of the Prussian Court that construction work resumed in 1842. In 1880, completion of the cathedral was celebrated as a national event. The relics of the Holy Epiphany found their last resting place in the cathedral. The Sarcophagus of Epiphany (dating from the 13th century) surpasses all comparable golden sarcophagi in Western Christendom, in terms of scale and magnificence. Other outstanding works of art are to be found in the cathedral treasure chamber.
  • Roman North Gate : Foundations and the side arch of the Roman north gate are to be found on the cathedral square.
  • Praetorium : The foundations of the residence of the city's Roman governor (1st - 4th century) were uncovered under the Rathaus (city hall). A visit is like "an elevator trip back to Roman times" - according to the title of a perennial best-seller on the subject. From the entrance to the Kleine Budengasse, there is also access to a waste-water canal, exemplifying the engineering skills of Roman builders.
  • Roman Tower : North-western corner tower of the Roman fortifications; well-preserved mosaic decoration (Zeughausstraße/St. Apernstraße).
  • Krieler Dömchen : In the smallest and oldest remaining Cologne church erected around the year 900 on the Suitbert-Heimbach-Platz, three Carolingian memorial stones from the cemetery tell of a church that previously stood on the same site and was destroyed by the Normans.
  • Roman Churches : Cologne is a city of churches. As in no other German city, twelve large Roman collegiate and monastery and convent churches are located in the confined area within the boundaries of the mediaeval city wall, churches which rank among the most important in Western Europe: Groß St. Martin, St. Maria Lyskirchen, St. Severin, St. Kunibert, St. Gereon, St. Pantaleon, St. Maria im Kapitol, St. Aposteln, St. Andreas, St. Ursula, St. Cäcilien and St. Georg. Concerts are held regularly in the churches.
  • City Hall, Hansasaal : The city hall was built in 1330, with the Renaissance arcade (16th century) and tower (15th century) being added later. The building complex suffered extensive damage during the Second World War and underwent reconstruction until 1972. (Alter Markt).
  • City Gates : With the Severinstor, the Eigelsteintor and the Hahnentor, three of the total of twelve city gates from the mediaeval city ortifications (1180 - 1220) have been preserved and are still used today for various purposes. The smaller Ulrepforte and restored sections of the city walls are to be found along the Sachsenring circular boulevard.
  • Overstolzenhaus : Romanesque patrician's house (dating from around 1220). The house is used today by the Cologne Media College.
  • Old Town Houses/Fish Market : Town houses (14th - 17th centuries) in and around the Old Market Square and the Martinsviertel district (historic center).
  • Gürzenich Hall : Representative and dance hall of the citizens of Cologne (15th century). Today, it is an international congress center and the City of Cologne's "parlor".
  • Zeughaus : Formerly a municipal arsenal (1594-1606); now Cologne City Museum.