Köln, Germany’s third largest city isn’t very interesting to the tourist. It’s one grand sight, the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, and a couple museums, this is about it. The problem is that it was heavily bombed in WWII, and rebuilt in modern style rather than restoring the old city. There is little left of the old city outside a bunch of churches, which the Allies tried not to bomb. What little there is of the old city is along the river bank below St Martin’s Church.
The Cathedral, under construction for 600 years, is 478 ft. long from the front doors to the start of the Alter, and 143 ft. high. The 515 ft. high spire has an observation deck at 300 ft. - climb 500 stairs. The vast size of the building is best appreciated from the intersection of the transept and the nave. Note the inlaid flooring around the Alter area. The gold box– it took 39 years to craft– at the back of the Choir (Alter area) supposedly holds the bones of the three wise men.
Clearly off the tourist track, the men’s lobby restroom at the Hotel Dom on Dom Platz (cathedral square) is a high point, a must see for both sexes. If I describe it, it will ruin the surprise, so all I will say is you should stand as indicated by the feet outlined on the floor, facing the wall, and don’t miss it.
Shopping: There is a large shopping area along the pedestrian streets Hohestrasse & Schilder Gasse (two large enclosed malls). A couple blocks from Domplatz on Hohestr, the J. Henkles store had a clearance table with items less than half price – that beat Costco. Look for the 4711 perfume stores (one near J Henkles), the company that invented Eau de Cologne (translated from French: Cologne water).
Our tour took us along the river bank for the impressive view of the tower of St Martin’s church, built on what was then an island in the Rhine and then for an overly long visit to the Cathedral. Some of the time should have gone to a trip to the old city hall, a Gothic gem nearby. A section of the old Roman sewer raised from 30 ft. below modern ground level stands at the corner of the new town hall square, something our guide, standing across the street from it, did not point out.
WWII bombing devastated the city, and it was rebuilt in contemporary style rather than restoring the old buildings, with a few exceptions. Most of the surviving old buildings except churches are found along the river side park just below St Martin’s church. There are nice views of the old houses and the skyline from here and from the nearby bridge.
A couple museums near the Cathedral round out what there is to see in Koln today. The Chocolate Museum’s gift shop sells an incredible variety of chocolate concoctions.