Cologne provides the perfect backdrop to the 14th European ISSX Meeting. Founded by the Romans in 50 AD, Cologne has been and continues to be a center of art, culture, history, sports, and academia in Northern Europe. Supplement your time at the 14th European ISSX Meeting by exploring the city and its surroundings, discovering the soul of this jewel on the river Rhine. Review ISSX's Top Five must-dos in Cologne below to make your plans for visiting Cologne.
1. Visit the Cologne Cathedral
The Cologne Cathedral, or Kölner Dom in German, is the most recognizable symbol of the city. The seat of the Archbishop of Cologne, construction of the Dom began in 1248, taking over 600 years to complete in 1880. The Cathedral was heavily bombed by the Allies during World War II, but was left standing as an orientation point for other pilots. Today, the rebuilt Dom anchors the Old City of Cologne (Altstadt) and serves as a central landmark and meeting point for locals and tourists alike - not to mention being just steps from our meeting location.
Visitors to the Cathedral can go in to see the magnificent medieval architecture, the stained-glass windows, and the Shrine of the Three Kings - a golden reliquary supposedly holding the gifts given to the baby Jesus - for free throughout the day. Feel free to climb the Dom's bell tower for stunning views of the city, and visit the Cathedral's Treasure Chamber (Schatzkammer) to see the many holy relics and treasures of the Archdiocese of Cologne.
2. Go to one of Cologne's Museums
If you keep a spare interest in art or history in your back pocket, then Cologne is a great city for you. Cologne hosts museums of both world-renown and of unknown mystery. For history-lovers, the City Museum (Stadtmuseum) will tell you everything you want to know about Cologne's Prussian and German past. Meanwhile, the Romano-Germanic Museum (Römisches-Germanisches Museum) focuses on Cologne's time as a Germanic settlement and Roman colony.
For art connoisseurs, Cologne's Museum Ludwig has a spectacularly large modern art collection - including one of the largest Picasso collections in the world. The Wallraf-Richartz Museum will satisfy any lover of medieval, baroque, or 19th century art, while the Museum of Applied Arts gives visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the art of everyday design. Finally, the Kolumba art museum - housed in a building which holds the ruins of the bombed out St. Kolumba Church - has something for everyone; run by the Archdiocese itself, the museum holds drawings, paintings, relics, and sculptures from all art styles in no particular chronological order, giving visitors a unique museum experience they won't soon forget.
3. Take a Boat Ride on the Rhine
The river Rhine is the lifeblood of the city of Cologne. Having once turned the city into a major port for trade going out toward the North Sea, visitors and locals alike can be seen at all times of day or night walking or biking up and down the new quays on either side of the river. River cruises can be booked in advance or at the quay and offer splendid views of the city from an unconventional point-of-view. Relax with a traditional and refreshingly light Kölsch beer or a glass of crisp Rhenish wine as you go down the river Rhine, seeing what both the city of Cologne and the countryside surrounding it have to offer.
4. Plan a Day Trip to Düsseldorf or Bonn
The area around Cologne is filled with cities with their own history and character which would be perfect for a short getaway. Both Düsseldorf and Bonn provide visitors to Cologne with a great chance to go see more of the region's culture and experience something a little different from the city. Just north from Cologne, Düsseldorf is the capital of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Famous for its rivalry with Cologne, visitors can explore the city's Old Town, walk along the rivers Rhine or Düssel, and sit outside on the Königsallee. Be sure to order a traditional Düsseldorf-style Altbier beer - this is definitely not Kölsch territory! Düsseldorf is a short 40-minute Regional-Express train away from the Cologne Central Station.
Bonn is the former capital of West Germany, and despite its corporate and government reputation, deserves its place as a cultural center in its own right. Just a short U-Bahn or Regional-Express ride away from Cologne, Bonn has several large, well-known museums that are just must-sees - most notably the Haus der Geschichte, the German government's official post-1945 history museum. Visitors to Bonn can also walk in Beethoven's steps at the Beethoven House museum and visit the old Plenary Chamber of the German Parliament. Hikers should go and climb around the region's best-known mountain, Drachenfels.
5. Eat and Drink your Fill at a Traditional Kölner Brauhaus
A visit to Cologne can not be considered complete without sampling some of the local cuisine. The city is home to no less than thirteen breweries, each with its own version of the small, crisp beers called Kölsch. For a traditional Cologne gastronomic experience, try Früh am Dom. The Früh brewery, founded in 1908, serves Kölner specialties all day long, and will bring round after round of 0.2 liter beers to your table until you give the traditional sign that you're done - placing your beer coaster on top of your glass. Be sure not to lose that coaster though - waiters in Cologne mark how many beers you've had on it, so losing it could bring you an unwanted headache.