27km (17 miles) N of Bonn, 40km (25 miles) S of Düsseldorf, 188km (117 miles) NW of Frankfurt
Cologne (Köln), the largest city in the Rhineland, is so rich in antiquity that every time a new foundation is dug, the excavators come up with archaeological finds. Today there is much to see from every period of the city's 2,000-year history. However, Cologne is also a vibrant, modern city and is fast becoming the fine art capital of Germany, with museums dedicated to postmodern art, old masters like Rembrandt and a hopping gallery scene.
Things to Do
Cologne's centerpiece is the French Gothic Dom (Cathedral) with its towering twin spires. Inside, admire its crowning jewel, The Shrine of the Three Magi -- the gilded sarcophagus of The Three Kings. Next door, stop by for a dose of Roman History at the Römisch-Germanisches Museum (Roman-Germanic Museum) or explore American Pop art at the Museum Ludwig. After, hit the Chocolate Museum, south of the center, where you'll learn about its origins as you enjoy fabulous samples.
Cologne has become home to a thriving community of emerging, avant-garde artists. Gallery hop along St. Apernstrasse, east of the center near the Neumarkt (a square), and pop into Galerie der Spiegel, one of the first to hit the scene in the 1950s and still the most prominent. If you're in town in December, explore the stalls selling handcrafts and gingerbread at Christkindlmarkt, Europe's most famous Christmas Market. It wraps around the Dom, which at night sparkles in holiday splendor.
Entertainment & Nightlife
Kölsch beer is the drink of choice in Cologne, a light and slightly bitter concoction available at more than a dozen local breweries. Sip it at the lofty Früh am Dom, a rustic beer hall next to the cathedral, or head to the loveliest quarter in town, the Zülpicher Viertel, which buzzes with even more pubs and bars. Alternatively, relax with classical music at the Kölner Philharmonie (Cologne Philharmonic), a round, elegant concert venue in the city center.
Restaurants & Dining
Head to the Old Town, just south of the Dom and spend an evening at the antique-filled Das Kleine Stapelhäuschen, a convivial wine tavern that faces the old fish market. This tavern is the place to feast on the region's signature dish, sauerbraten (braised beef marinated with vinegar) with potato dumplings. Or splurge on top-shelf international fare such as Angus steak with asparagus and truffle jus, at the wood-paneled Hanse Stube in the city center.
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