Kölner Dom and Things to Do in Cologne
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Oh, we loved Cologne!! But you must have missed the Lindt Chocolate Museum – definitely worth a visit with their free samples and the fabulous shop.
Unfortunately, I did miss the Lindt Chocolate Museum — sounds like it would be right up my alley! Next time….
Looks like a fabulous start to your trip Cathy. Love the photos. Look forward to reading about the rest of your experiences.
Thanks, Leigh. It was my first time in Germany, too – great place to start!
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.
The cathedral really is stunning in person. I’ve seen other Gothic buildings, but this is so large and amazing in its detail.
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!
Thanks, Allison! Glad you found the site. This was my first visit to Germany and I can’t wait to go back.
Dumb question, is Cologne also known for cologne?
Yep — Eau de Cologne was invented in Cologne!
Wow, those stained-glass windows are so intricate. Love the architecture and details in this buildings!
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.
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.
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). 😉
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.
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.
Great pictures, nice that you are in Europe! Gothic architecture is truly impressive.
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.
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
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. 🙂
That cathedral looks awesome! I am a huge history buff and love places like that! Nice phone pics too! 🙂
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.
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!
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!
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 =)
I think you’ll have a wonderful time in Europe! I can’t get enough of it, myself. Hope to get back soon.
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.
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!
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!
Thanks, Grace! 🙂 This was my first trip to Germany. Definitely want to return.
I love Cologne! It was the first European major city that I visited – so you can imagine how far my jaw dropped when I first saw the Kolner Dom! On our last trip there we climbed the stairs to the top, incredible views
Yes, I can imagine how far your jaw dropped! Mine did, too even though I’ve seen some pretty impressive Gothic architecture.
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?
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.
love this cathedral went a few years back its simply magificent wasn’t keen on city though
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.
Great article 🙂
Thank you! 🙂
Love that stain glass- gorgeous!
The stained-glass is amazing — from the oldest to the newest! Beautiful.
wow .. looks Impressive !! a huge cathedral with great architecture 🙂 loved this post ..nice pics
Thank you very much, Sheril. It was a very impressive place, indeed!
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.
The Dom is one of those places that really deserves the adjective “awesome”! The Kolsch was pretty good, too. 🙂
What an amazing cathedral I love old architecture and churches
So do I — and there’s no shortage of them in Europe. But the Dom is extra special.
I can Still smell the city by looking at the picture.
Me too! 🙂
Great photos! Isn’t it fun to ‘time travel’ back some place through your photos?
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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