A Sniff of Cologne

Kölner Dom and Things to Do in Cologne

"Visiting Kolner Dom is one of the important things to do in Cologne, Germany"

Cologne, Germany

A bit jet-lagged, but excited about beginning a week in Europe, we traveled to Cologne (Köln) Germany by train from Frankfurt. In case you’re wondering, Eau de Cologne was created here by an Italian, Johann Maria Farina, about 300 years ago. As we got close to the station, a young local woman behind us enthusiastically pointed out the towers of Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) ahead. The Dom’s official name is Dom St. Peter & Santa Maria and it is the largest cathedral in Germany.

Amazing detail of Cologne Cathedral exterior, Cologne, Germany

Amazing detail of Cologne Cathedral exterior

Although expecting an impressive work of Gothic architecture, we were still struck by the Dom’s enormity and intricate detail as we exited the train station where the north side of the cathedral is accessed. Weighted down with our bags, we quickly took a few photos and hurried to our hotel, eager to get back to the cathedral after a lunch of schnitzel and a glass of locally-brewed Kölsch beer at a nearby brauhaus.

The cathedral was almost always in view, whether we were in a café across the Rhine, walking around Old Town Square, or heading to the train station. We never ceased to be awed by its imposing presence.

Construction was started on the building in 1248 and continued until the early 16th century. Countless times I asked myself, “How did they do it?” Inside the Dom, there are treasures everywhere you look — ornate chapels, altars, prayer stalls, relics, and statues. The gorgeous and eclectic stained glass windows vary in age from the 14th century to the most recent one installed in 2007.

Stained glass windows in Cologne Cathedral

Stained glass windows in Cologne Cathedral

We saved a climb to the observation deck of the south tower for early the next morning in order to beat the crowds. About a third of the way up, we realized that the camera was back in the hotel room. How could a travel blogger possibly forget to bring a camera? But it was too late to go back. At least we were able to take a few cell phone photos that you see here. We continued on the winding stairway just barely wide enough for someone to pass coming down. An occasional small window let in light and helped to alleviate claustrophobia.

At about two-thirds of the way up is the belfry where you can exit the stairway and walk around the bells, including the main one called St. Peter’s bell.

Continuing up the spiral staircase, we reached an open area with wide views from large openings in the tower. In the center of the space was a metal staircase with several flights of steps. The further we climbed, the more we had feeling of being in mid-air as we looked out over the city. The last part of the climb is up a narrow, winding set of stairs to the small, fenced observation deck.

Looking out from inside Cologne Cathedral's observation deck

Looking out from inside Cologne Cathedral’s observation deck

City of Cologne from the top of Cologne Cathedral

City of Cologne from the top of Cologne Cathedral

Looking down on Cologne Cathedral's rooftops from the observation deck, Cologne Germany

Looking down on Cologne Cathedral’s rooftops from the observation deck

Cologne is also known for its museums and art galleries, but we only had time to visit the Romisch-Germanisches Museum next to the Dom. It has fantastic exhibits of statues, glassware, jewelry and many other objects from Roman and pre-roman eras that were found in and around Cologne and the Rhine Valley.

Roman statues at Roman - Germanic Museum

Roman statues at Roman – Germanic Museum

Crowns and jewelry artifacts at Roman - Germanic Museum in Cologne, Germany

Crowns and jewelry artifacts at Roman – Germanic Museum

Great St. Martin Church, one of twelve Romanesque churches in Cologne, was built in the 12th and 13th centuries. It stands in the Alter Markt (Old Town Square) above the restaurants and cafés along the Rhine.

Great Church of St. Martin, Cologne, Germany

Great Church of St. Martin

Our time in Cologne was certainly short, but sweet. There are more churches and museums to explore, and markets and brew houses to enjoy next time. And I’ll take the camera along on the cathedral climb.

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53 thoughts on “A Sniff of Cologne

    1. Cathy Post author

      Unfortunately, I did miss the Lindt Chocolate Museum — sounds like it would be right up my alley! Next time….

  1. Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista

    The cathedral looks amazing. I had no idea it was so big! Haven’t made it to Cologne but it sounds like a nice city to visit.

    1. Cathy Post author

      The cathedral really is stunning in person. I’ve seen other Gothic buildings, but this is so large and amazing in its detail.

  2. Allison

    Fabulous post! I have never been to Germany but it (including Cologne) is certainly on my list. I’ve just discovered your blog and really enjoy your photos and narrative. I look forward to visiting often and following your travels!

    1. Cathy Post author

      The stained-glass windows are gorgeous here and there are so many of them! We just couldn’t stop marveling at the level of detail inside and outside of the cathedral.

  3. inka

    Fond memories. I went to university in Bonn, so often visited Köln. Lovely to hear how much you appreciated the Dom and the city. Careful with the Kölsch..it’s very strong.

    1. Cathy Post author

      That’s interesting to know that you studied in Bonn. Enjoyed the Kölsch — but didn’t have too much (tended to stay with the German wines). 😉

  4. Sophie's World

    The cathedral in Cologne is very impressive, isn’t it… I remember seeing it for the first time, right outside the train station. I was quite unprepared for that, so it was a very cool experience.

    1. Cathy Post author

      I was taken a little aback when we first saw it leaving the train station, too. You just don’t quite expect to see it so large and so close right then.

    1. Cathy Post author

      I so much enjoy visiting Europe. I’ve seen Gothic architecture in many places, but the cathedral really surpasses everything I’ve seen — in size and detail.

  5. robin

    Another brilliantly titled post – you are the title meister!

    I would love to see Cologne, despite its being the home of Germany´s most boring beer – Kolsch

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thank you, Robin! Hope I can live up to the compliment. About the Kölsch — I enjoyed it, but since I’m not a big beer drinker I may have been easily pleased. 🙂

    1. Cathy Post author

      As a history buff, you’d absolutely the cathedral, Cologne and all of Germany for that matter! Glad you thought the phone pics turned out OK, too.

  6. New to Köln

    I debated going to the Köln Chocolate Museum. In fact, I arrived and they had stopped tours! A week later I was back in the city and went straight there. It’s a cool experience and makes you LOVE chocolate more! The restaurant is VERY good and their soup, desserts, and coffee were fabulous with a nice staff. The tower is an amazing workout but, beware of who is in front of you before you enter. Unfortunately, unfit individuals will slow your trip up the spiral staircase as it is narrow and barely allows one person through as you ascend! A French woman was having a tough time and poor thing, everyone behind her stopped every time she felt like she was going to faint. If you are claustrophobic, I would not recommend. But the almost mile trek was well worth it. BEAUTIFUL view – albeit, it frightened me when I looked directly below. I will be moving there soon. So, maybe I’ll use the tower walk as my personal workout! Cheers!

    1. Cathy Post author

      I must get to the chocolate museum next time — sounds great! The tower climb can be challenging — I saw several people who needed to take breaks along the way. The closeness and the heights can also be overwhelming — I had to work a bit to deal with that aspect myself!

  7. Andrea

    That’s an incredible cathedral! We’re looking forward to seeing many as we head to Europe this week. Unfortunately we probably won’t have time to visit Cologne so I’m glad I got to see your photos =)

  8. Laurel

    Beautiful photos! I have not been to Cologne yet, although I am planning a visit in November. The Cathedral looks every bit as beautiful as I imagine it would be.

    1. Cathy Post author

      You’ll love the cathedral, Laurel. Glad you’ve got a trip planned there. Hope you get to spend more time in Cologne than I did. Lots to see that I didn’t get to — sounds like the chocolate museum would be pretty cool!

  9. Grace

    So this is where you have been. Never been to Germany so this was an interesting look into one of it’s cities. I also like your clever title!

    1. Cathy Post author

      Yes, I can imagine how far your jaw dropped! Mine did, too even though I’ve seen some pretty impressive Gothic architecture.

  10. Sabrina

    So close to my home… I’m glad you had a good time 🙂 I took Marco up the cathedral when we first visited me in Germany. I had forgotten how long it took to get up there. I love visiting it though. Whenever I see the Dom, I know I’m getting close to family and friends. Did you like the Koelsch?

    1. Cathy Post author

      If I have a chance to go to Cologne again, I’ll have to ask you for advice about what to see next! I did like the Kölsch, even though I’m more of a wine drinker. My husband liked it, too – and he is a beer drinker.

    1. Cathy Post author

      Magnificent is definitely an appropriate word here! Didn’t see much of the city outside of the Old Town area, which I thought was very nice, although quite touristy.

  11. Ren

    When I walked outside the station and saw the Dom, I was absolutely in AWE. I didn’t spend enough time in Cologne (just a couple of hours in transit) but I liked what little I saw. Oh, and Kolsch is AWESOMESAUCE.

    1. Cathy Post author

      Thanks, Jackie. Yes, it is fun to look at the photos and reminisce. They also put me in a mood to get on a plane and go back!

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