Cologne or Koln? koeln? Is it the same?

Updated on January 25, 2024  


When traveling in Europe, it's not uncommon to come across cities that have different spellings in English than they do in their native language.

Cologne, or Köln in German, is one such example. This beautiful city in western Germany is known for its rich history, stunning architecture, and vibrant culture.

However, many English speakers may not realize that the correct spelling of the city's name is actually Köln, not Cologne. The city's name can also be written as koeln, with all lowercase letters.

You might be taking the train through Germany on your way to Cologne, not realising that you should have gotten off at Köln. In this article, we aim to clear up the confusion of these 2 names.

Understanding The Name Cologne/Köln

Origins And History Of The Name

The name Cologne has its origins in the Roman Empire. The city was founded in the year 50 AD as Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium by the Roman General Agrippa, who was the son-in-law of Emperor Augustus. [1]


The name Colonia referred to the fact that the city was a Roman colony, while Claudia Ara Agrippinensium was added to honor Agrippa's wife, Claudia.

Over time, the name Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium was shortened to Colonia Agrippina and then to Colonia. The name Köln is believed to have been derived from the Latin name Colonia, as the city was known as Colonia in Old High German.

During the Middle Ages, the city of Cologne became an important trading center and one of the largest cities in the Holy Roman Empire. The name Köln was used more frequently during this time, and it gradually replaced the Latin name Colonia.

Today, Köln is the fourth-largest city in Germany and a major cultural, economic, and political center. The name Köln has become internationally recognized and is associated with the city's rich history, cultural heritage, and vibrant lifestyle.

Differences In Language And Usage

The fascinating distinction between Cologne and Köln lies in the differences in language and usage. Both names refer to the same beautiful German city, but they vary according to your linguistic perspective.

The name can be considered an exonym, a term used for a geographical feature when referring to it in another language. [2]

These variations demonstrate how languages have evolved in response to changing cultures and historical contexts.

Here are some examples of exonyms: 

  • Munich, Germany - known as München in German
  • Paris, France - known as Paris in English, but as Paree in French
  • Firenze in Italian is Florence in English
  • Japan - known as Nihon in Japanese, but as Japan in English
  • Rome, Italy - known as Roma in Italian
  • Moscow, Russia - known as Moskva in Russian
  • Beijing, China - known as Běijīng in Mandarin Chinese, but as Peking in some European languages

As Germany's main spoken language replaced the Ripuarian dialect over time, local residents began using German more frequently than their original native tongue.

However, you may still encounter people referring to it by its traditional name within regional circles or during cultural events that celebrate local heritage.

Interestingly enough, some people write "Koln" as an alternative variation when keyboards or fonts do not support umlauts (the two dots above 'o' in Köln).

Common Misconceptions And Misunderstandings

One of the most common misconceptions surrounding Cologne, or Köln as it's known in Germany, is that its name has nothing to do with the famous fragrance.

In fact, Eau de Cologne, a type of perfume, originated from this very city and shares a strong connection with it. [3]

It seems that misunderstandings extend even further than just fragrances; another common mistake is mixing up the official language usage for this enchanting city.

While English speakers refer to it as "Cologne," Germans call their own city "Köln."

This can lead to confusion among travelers who may not realize they're actually talking about the same destination!

By understanding these misconceptions and appreciating their roots in history and language differences, visitors will undoubtedly have a richer experience while traveling through Germany's fascinating fourth-largest city.

Why You Should Visit Cologne/Köln

Vibrant Culture And History

Cologne, or Köln as known to locals, boasts a rich cultural heritage and history that dates back centuries. This city is home to the largest Gothic church in northern Europe, the Cologne Cathedral or Kölner Dom.

During the Middle Ages, Cologne became one of the largest cities in Europe due to its strategic location on trade routes linking northern and southern Europe. The city's historical significance has been well-preserved with several museums showcasing artifacts from different eras.


Visitors can also experience medieval cities' charm by exploring landmarks such as City Hall Tower (Rathaus) and Old Town Square (Alter Markt).

Beautiful Architecture

The stunning Gothic architecture of Cologne/Köln is reason enough to put this German city on your travel list.

The centerpiece of the skyline is undoubtedly the Cologne Cathedral, a towering masterpiece that took over 600 years to build and is considered one of the most important examples of Gothic architecture in Europe.

Its ornate facade and intricate details are breathtaking, with its twin towers reaching up 515 feet into the sky.

cologne-cathedral-koln dom

But it's not just the cathedral that showcases beautiful architecture in Köln - there are numerous other historic buildings and landmarks like Hohenzollern Bridge, Old Town Hall, or St. Martin Church which offer visitors an opportunity to admire exquisite design up close and learn more about Germany’s rich history and culture.

Rich Cuisine And Traditions

Cologne/Köln is known for its rich cuisine and traditions, making it a must-visit destination for foodies and culture enthusiasts.

The city's local brasseries (Brauhäuser) serve up traditional dishes like Himmel un Ääd (mashed potatoes with applesauce and sausage), Reibekuchen (potato pancakes), and Kölsch beer.

You can also take part in festivals and celebrations such as Karneval (carnival season) or explore historic museums that showcase the city's folklore and traditions.

Authentic Local Experience

One of the best things about visiting Cologne/Köln is experiencing its authentic local culture. The city is known for its friendly and welcoming people, who are happy to share their traditions with visitors.

To get a taste of the local cuisine, head to one of the city’s many breweries or taverns and try some classic dishes like Kölsch beer and Himmel un Ääd (potatoes mashed with apple sauce and black pudding).


One must-visit attraction for an authentic local experience in Cologne is the Botanischer Garten Köln. This botanical garden boasts stunning landscapes that will leave nature lovers awestruck.

Visitors can explore different gardens featuring various plant varieties from all over Europe, Asia, Africa, North America as well as South America – making it an educational yet fascinating place to visit.

Unforgettable Memories

A trip to Cologne (Köln) is sure to leave you with unforgettable memories. As a unique city in Germany, it has so much to offer travelers looking for an authentic cultural experience.

But that's not all - Cologne offers an array of historical landmarks, such as ancient Roman ruins and medieval buildings, making it a perfect destination for history buffs.

Its vibrant culture can be experienced through its traditional cuisine and traditions that have been preserved over time.

Whether it's indulging in some delicious Rhenish wine or participating in one of their many festivals and events throughout the year – there's always something new to discover.

Conclusion: Cologne or Koln?

In conclusion, whether you prefer to call it Cologne or Köln, this historic German city has something for everyone.

From its stunning Gothic architecture and rich Roman history to its vibrant culture and delicious cuisine, a visit to this cultural hub is sure to be an unforgettable experience.

Don't forget to try the local beer, Kölsch, and explore landmarks like the Museum Ludwig with its impressive collection of Picasso artworks.

Key Takeaways

  • Cologne is the English name for the city, while Köln is how the locals call it.
  • The name Cologne/Köln originates from the Roman outpost "Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium," established in 50 AD on the Rhine River. It also has strong connections to fragrances, particularly Eau de Cologne, which was pioneered by Wilhelm Mülhens in the early 18th century.


1: LatLon-Cologne: History of Cologne, retrieved from
2: Definition and Examples of Exonyms and Endonyms, retrieved from
3: The History of Perfume and Cologne | Czech & Speake London, retrieved from