8 Remarkable Historical Sites in Cologne, Germany

Updated on September 8, 2023  


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Welcome to the vibrant city of Cologne, Germany, where rich history and stunning architecture intertwine at every corner. As you stroll along the Rhine River or wander through Old Town Cologne, you'll encounter numerous historical sites that showcase the diverse cultural heritage of this fascinating destination.

From UNESCO World Heritage sites like the iconic Cologne Cathedral to ancient Roman antiquities and somber World War II monuments, there's an abundance of captivating stories waiting to be unveiled across these impressive attractions.

Top Historical Sites To Visit In Cologne, Germany

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral, a Roman Catholic church standing proudly in Cologne, Germany, is the largest Gothic cathedral in the country and serves as an architectural masterpiece for enthusiasts to marvel at.

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site for eight centuries, it offers visitors an unparalleled glimpse into the past while showcasing some of the finest examples of Gothic architecture.

cologne-cathedral-historical sites

Construction on Cologne Cathedral began back in 1248 but wasn't officially completed until 1880, illustrating both dedication and patience on behalf of those involved in its creation. [1]

The cornerstone was laid during the Feast of Assumption of Mary -- an event that imbues this historical site with deep religious significance.

When visiting Cologne Cathedral, we recommend taking time to appreciate not only the exterior but also all that lies behind closed doors. Participating in a guided tour can provide invaluable insights into history while enhancing your knowledge about both Roman Catholicism and Germany's rich cultural past.

Roman-Germanic Museum

Although not technically a historical site in Cologne, the Roman-Germanic Museum is a place choke full of history. This remarkable institution highlights the archaeological heritage of the region while focusing primarily on artifacts from Colonia, one of the major Roman settlements in Germany.


One particularly striking exhibit within the museum is an impressive Dionysus mosaic which was discovered during construction work in 1941. Showcasing exquisite craftsmanship with its intricate detailing and vibrant colors, this ancient piece serves as testament to Cologne's rich Roman history. [2]

Interestingly enough, not only does this iconic artifact reside at the museum - it also acts as its very foundation! Thus preserving crucial elements of archaeological significance such as villa ruins beneath its basement floor for public access and appreciation.

Hohenzollern Bridge

One of Cologne's most iconic landmarks, the Hohenzollern Bridge spans the Rhine River and offers stunning views of the city. Constructed between 1907 and 1911, this architectural wonder consists of three adjoining truss arch bridges with three arches each.


As you stroll across this historic bridge, you'll notice an abundance of "love locks" covering its railings. These locks symbolize eternal love and are left by couples from all around the world to mark their devotion to one another.

Visitors to Cologne should definitely include a leisurely walk across this magnificent truss arch bridge on their itineraries.

St. Gereon's Basilica

St. Gereon's Basilica is a must-visit historical site in Cologne, Germany. This Roman Catholic church is dedicated to Saint Gereon and was built in 612 AD as a decagonal-shaped nave similar to the Aachen Cathedral. [3]

What makes St. Gereon's Basilica unique is its rich history and stunning architecture that will take your breath away.

Whether you're religious or not, visiting St.Gereon Basilica should be on your list of things to do when in Cologne because of its beauty and awe-inspiring design that reflects ancient times' artistry for all travelers who wish to witness some rich cultural heritage sites while exploring Germany!

Great St. Martin Church

Another one of the top historical sites to visit in Cologne is the Great St. Martin Church. This medieval church was originally built as a chapel in 690 and later transformed into a Benedictine monastery in 708.


With its imposing quarter-tower top and clover-like shape, it's hard to miss this architectural gem.

What makes Great St. Martin Church even more fascinating are the Roman ruins found underneath it. Visitors can explore these ancient artifacts while learning about the rich history of Cologne.

It's truly an immersive experience that combines religion, architecture, and culture all in one place.

Cologne City Hall

The magnificent Cologne City Hall has a rich history dating back over 900 years and is located in the heart of the city center between Town Hall Square and Old Market.

historical site in cologne-city-hall

The Cologne City Hall is not only known for its beautiful architecture but also for its historical significance. It was once home to political figures who governed the town during medieval times, making it an important cultural heritage site in Germany.

When exploring this historic landmark, be sure to bring your camera with you! The halls' impressive design will leave you in awe of German history while giving you a glimpse into ancient German culture.

Praetorium Cologne

Praetorium Cologne is an underground archaeological site that offers visitors a rare glimpse into Cologne's rich Roman history. Once the seat of the Imperial Governor of Cologne during the Roman occupation, Praetorium has been carefully preserved to showcase its historical significance. [4]

Upon entering Praetorium, travelers will be transported back in time as they discover fascinating details about how Rome once ruled over this area. The well-preserved ruins include ancient walls, floor mosaics and pillars bearing inscriptions that date back thousands of years ago.

For those who love archaeology and want to learn more about the city's past, a visit to Praetorium is an absolute must-see attraction while exploring Cologne’s top historic landmarks.

Altstadt (Old Town)

The Altstadt, or the Old Town, is the historical center of Cologne and a must-visit destination for travelers interested in European history. This cultural heritage site boasts stunning medieval architecture that will take your breath away.


It's home to many Gothic churches, including the majestic Cologne Cathedral - one of Germany's most famous landmarks. The Archeological Zone, the Old St. Alban Memorial, and the Stapelhaus are some of the historical sites located in the Altstadt.

Located west of the Rhine river and at the heart of Cologne city center, visiting Altstadt gives visitors an opportunity to witness firsthand what life was like in medieval times.

Cologne residents particularly cherish this area due to its unique blend of old-world charm with modern-day amenities such as shopping centers and restaurants.

Cologne's Rich History And Culture

Cologne's rich history and culture can be explored through its Roman influence, medieval period, World War II impact, and post-war reconstruction. Find out how the city evolved over centuries and discover the stories behind some of its most iconic landmarks.

Roman Influence In Cologne

Cologne's rich history and culture are deeply rooted in its Roman influence, making it one of the oldest cities in Germany. The Romans founded Cologne in 38 B.C.E., granting it the status of a Roman colony. [5]

One prime example of this is the magnificent Roman-Germanic Museum. This museum houses an extensive collection of artifacts from ancient Rome as well as original mosaics and frescoes from some of Cologne's most famous landmarks.

You can also take a walk along remnants of the ancient city walls or visit one of several historic churches like St. Maria or St. Ursula.

Whether you're interested in architecture or just want to learn more about Europe’s past, Cologne has plenty to offer travelers seeking a deeper understanding of our world's cultural heritage through its connections with Ancient Rome.

The Medieval Period In Cologne

The Medieval Period in Cologne was a time of great growth and prosperity for the city. Cologne flourished as an important trade route between Eastern and Western Europe, with merchants bringing a wealth of goods and ideas to the city.

The Gothic architecture that characterizes much of Cologne's historical sites, such as the famous Cathedral, dates from this period.


During the Middle Ages, Cologne was also home to a thriving Jewish population. Evidence suggests that Jews lived in Cologne during Roman times when it served as an administrative center for provincial government officials.

The medieval period saw continued growth and development within the community, with Jews living both within and outside the walls of old town Cologne.

The medieval period also played a vital role in shaping modern-day politics in Germany. During this time, provincial administration structures emerged across many German cities like Cologne - structures that would ultimately serve as models for today's bureaucratic systems throughout Germany and beyond.

Cologne During World War II

Cologne has a rich history that cannot be complete without mentioning its experience during World War II. The city was heavily bombed, with 93% of it destroyed by the Allied forces.

US forces entered the city on March 6, 1945, and Cologne's Gothic cathedral loomed above the ruins. [6]

There are numerous historical sites related to WWII in Cologne that travelers can explore. One such site is Stollwerck Chocolate Factory, which served as an air-raid shelter for thousands of people during bombing raids.

Exploring Cologne during World War II is not just about visiting bomb sites and ruins; it's also about learning from the past and appreciating human resilience in times of crisis.

Post-War Reconstruction In Cologne

After World War II, Cologne was left in ruins with over 90% of its buildings destroyed. The city had to undergo significant reconstruction efforts to rebuild the infrastructure and revive tourism.

This led to a transformation of the cityscape, characterized by post-war architecture.

The rebuilding process aimed at preserving the historical significance of iconic landmarks while still embracing modern urban development. For instance, when rebuilding Cologne Cathedral after sustaining heavy damage during WWII, Gothic architectural style was maintained in its restoration process.

Today visitors can explore new parts of the city thanks to post-war restructuring while still experiencing remnants of its rich history through restored sites such as Praetorium Cologne and Altstadt (Old Town).

Tips For Exploring Historical Sites In Cologne

Plan Ahead And Book Tickets In Advance

If you're planning a trip to Cologne, Germany and looking to explore the city's rich historical heritage, it is important to plan ahead and book tickets in advance. This will help you avoid long queues at popular attractions like the Roman-Germanic Museum, Hohenzollern Bridge or St.Gereon's Basilica.

Checking the official Cologne museum websites for ticket availability and other important information can help you plan your itinerary better.

By planning ahead, not only will you save time but also money as many museums offer discounted rates for those who purchase tickets online or buy them well ahead of time.

In short, enjoying your trip through all of Cologne’s amazing attractions must start with some basic legwork; researching websites, weighing booking options far beforehand than anticipated touring times & getting advanced discounts on certain entrance fees or guided tours definitely pays off!

Take A Guided Tour To Learn More About The History

Exploring historical sites in Cologne can be more meaningful and memorable when you take a guided tour. Guided tours provide an opportunity to learn about the unique history and culture that surrounds each attraction.

For instance, booking a guided tour of Cologne Cathedral allows visitors to understand its place in history as the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe, with construction dating back to the 13th century. [7]

Guided tours also offer added value by tailoring experiences according to your interests. Educational tourism companies like Context Travel offer specialized tours such as “Roman Cologne” or “Cologne from Above,” which focus on specific topics like Roman History or current urban transformations respectively.

In summary, whether it's Roman history at Praetorium Cologne or exploring architectural wonders like Great St.

Dress Appropriately For The Weather And The Site

When exploring historical sites in Cologne, it is important to dress appropriately for both the weather and the site. Summers can get hot, while winters can be chilly and damp.

So, make sure you check the seasonal weather forecast before your trip to pack comfortable clothes accordingly. For example, light cotton shirts or dresses would be perfect for summer days spent at outdoor sites like Hohenzollern Bridge or Old Town.

Moreover, many of Cologne's historical sites are religious buildings such as cathedrals and basilicas that have a dress code requiring visitors to cover their shoulders and legs - especially if they plan on entering the cathedral itself.

In addition to dressing practically for comfort and culturally appropriate manners when touring historic attractions in this German city, don't forget that there are many beautiful photo opportunities available too!

Making sure you have a camera handy allows you to capture beautiful architecture and stunning views all across town without missing any picturesque moments along your travels.

Bring A Camera To Capture The Stunning Architecture And Views

You won't want to miss capturing the stunning architecture and breathtaking views of Cologne's historical landmarks on camera. From the towering spires of the Cologne Cathedral to the romantic Hohenzollern Bridge, there are countless photo opportunities in this picturesque city.

Make sure you bring your camera along as you explore medieval churches like St. Gereon's Basilica or admire the Gothic-style Great St. Martin Church.

Taking pictures is an excellent way to remember your trip to Cologne's historical sites long after it ends.

As you wander through ancient ruins at Praetorium Cologne or stroll down winding cobblestone streets in Altstadt (Old Town), make sure to keep your eyes open for unique architectural details that can sometimes go unnoticed without careful observation.

Respect Cultural Norms And Customs

When exploring historical sites in Cologne, it is essential to respect the city's traditions and customs. German culture is unique and holds great importance to its people.

For instance, religious symbolism is highly respected in Cologne, and visitors should avoid behaving disrespectfully in churches or other religious monuments.

Furthermore, understanding local traditions can add depth to one's experience when exploring historical sites.

One significant example of this is Carnival season celebrated annuallywith street festivities involving masquerades balls parades among other things; Carnival has deep roots in history that date back centuries ago.

A costume is essential if you want to participate, but note that the people of Cologne take dressing up seriously. The search for the perfect outfit starts months before, and people spend a fair amount of time, effort, and money on a costume, and some even have them professionally tailored.

Conclusion: Historical Sites in Cologne

In conclusion, Cologne is a city rich in history and culture with many historical sites to visit. Its famous landmarks like the Cologne Cathedral, Roman-Germanic Museum, and Hohenzollern Bridge are must-see attractions for travelers.

The medieval period and World War II played significant roles in shaping the city's history, which visitors can explore through museums and guided tours. When visiting these sites, it's important to dress appropriately, book tickets ahead of time, and respect cultural customs.

Key Takeaways

  • Cologne, Germany is home to many historical landmarks that showcase its diverse cultural heritage from Roman influence, medieval times, World War II impact, and post-war reconstruction.
  • Some top historical sites visitors should explore include the iconic Cologne Cathedral, the Roman-Germanic Museum, Hohenzollern Bridge, St. Gereon's Basilica, Great St. Martin Church and Praetorium Cologne.
  • Visitors to these sites should plan ahead by booking tickets in advance and taking guided tours to learn more about their rich history. It's also important to dress appropriately for the weather and site while respecting cultural customs.


1. What are some must-visit historical sites in Cologne, Germany?

Some of the top historical landmarks and attractions in Cologne include the Cologne Cathedral, Roman-Germanic Museum, Hohenzollern Bridge, Great St. Martin Church and City Hall.

2. How can I make the most out of my visit to these historical sites?

To get the most out of your visit to these historic sites in Cologne, consider hiring a knowledgeable guide or joining a guided tour. Pay attention to details such as architecture and artwork while exploring each site and learn about their significance through available exhibits or audio guides.

3. Are there any admission fees for visiting these historical sites?

Admission fees vary among different locations but many historic sites offer free entry or discounts for children, students and senior citizens. It’s best to check with each individual site ahead of time for their specific pricing information.

4. Why are historical sites important in preserving local culture and heritage?

Historical sites help preserve the unique cultural identity and heritage of a place by showcasing its history through architectural features, artifacts and stories that have been passed down over time. They also serve as valuable educational resources for visitors wanting to learn more about a destination's past traditions, customs and significant events that continue shaping its present-day society today.


1: Cologne Cathedral - UNESCO World Heritage Centre, retrieved from https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/292/
2: Römisch-Germanisches Museum Köln | History, retrieved from https://roemisch-germanisches-museum.de/History
3: St. Gereon's Basilica, Cologne, Germany - SpottingHistory.com, retrieved from https://www.spottinghistory.com/view/7632/st-gereons-basilica/
4: Praetorium - Roman Governor's Palace, retrieved from https://www.museenkoeln.de/archaeologische-zone/default.asp?s=4380
5: Cologne - The Washington Post, retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/travel/1985/05/12/cologne/8fc851bd-93d6-4663-94f6-c6374a96b2f5/
6: In the Ruins of Cologne | The National WWII Museum | New Orleans, retrieved from https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/articles/ruins-cologne
7: Here Are The 10 Greatest Gothic Cathedrals To See, retrieved from https://www.thecollector.com/greatest-gothic-cathedrals/

About the Author

Stephan Drescher, founder of germanytravel.blog, is a German travel expert and insider, providing trusted tips and advice for a perfect trip to Germany. Born & bred German.