The magnificent Dom, or cathedral, is the most visited monument in Germany. Building work started in 1248, and was not completed until 1880. This impressive building is Germany’s largest cathedral, with the world’s largest free-swinging bell in the belfry. An observation platform 95 metres high, and 509 steps up, gives excellent views of the city, and the surrounding countryside. Underneath the building extensive excavations have taken place, and revealed the foundations of earlier Roman and Carolingian buildings.
In Cathedral Square remnants of the Roman North Gate remain with Roman script CCAA (Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium) still clearly legible. This once magnificent gate consisted of three gateways, one of which was rebuilt above ground in the early 1970s, the rest is easily, and free of charge, accessible in the underground car park under the square. The wall surrounding Roman Cologne was built shortly after the town was turned into a Roman city in 50 AD. It was four kilometres long, and almost eight metres high.
Where Zeughausstraße and St. Aperstraße meet stands a Roman tower. It is the north western tower of the Roman fortification. It survived through the centuries, and built into the side of a house during the 19th century. The city of Cologne purchased it from the state in the late 19th century, and preserved the beautiful mosaics inside.
Cologne went from being a Roman walled city to a medieval walled city. The medieval city wall was 5.5 kms long and was built during 12th and 13th centuries. Purchased from the State by Cologne City council in 1881, it was largely pulled down, but occasional stretches remain. One of these is the Hahnentor, an impressive eight metres high and six metres wide gate saved from demolition. It is one of Cologne’s oldest city gates. During World War 2 it was destroyed, but has been rebuilt since, and now houses an exhibition centre for young Cologne artists.
Modern-day Cologne has some impressive architectural features of its own to celebrate: in 1925 Cologne’s first high-rise building and Europe’s then highest skyscraper was built. The Hansahochhaus, a fine example of 1920s architecture, boasts a 65 metres high tower, and is nowadays a business building.
The Kölnarena next to Exhibition centre is Germany’s largest music and events theatre. It plays host to big concerts, exhibitions, featuring more than 100 event days annually. It is located conveniently close to the main railway station, the cathedral, and the Old Town, with excellent bus and tram connections.
Cologne has many parks and long green avenues. The Zoo houses over 7,000 animals with large roaming areas for bears and big cats, creating an oasis of peace within the city. The botanical gardens are found opposite zoo, and features plants from all over world, providing a peaceful setting for a relaxing and informative afternoon which can be finished with an excellent meal in the restaurant at the very heart of the gardens. The impressive Sculpture park on the bank of the river Rhine, has a permanent exhibition of 30 sculptures by well-known artists, such as Cragg, Förg, and Suvero.
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