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Cologne History

That Cologne reinvented itself after being bombed to near oblivion in WWII is a huge testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

Yet the history of Cologne extends further back than the dark days of the 20th century of course. The city began life as a Roman colony (hence its name) and was a key strategic site.

Catholicism flourished in this part of the Roman Empire and in 1248 construction began on a mighty cathedral worthy of housing the relics of the Three Kings themselves.

Work continued up to 1473 and yet still the Dom wasn’t done. Nevertheless, it was the world's tallest building, attracting pilgrims from all over Europe.

Work picked up again in the 19th century and the completion date is largely regarded as being 1880.

Yet a lot had happened to Cologne during that time, most conspicuously the frequent skirmishes with the French.

Following the French Revolutionary Wars, Cologne came under French control. The University of Cologne was closed and all local residents were granted French citizenship.

Perhaps most notably, the French administration scrawled 4711 across the doorway to the Eau de Cologne household and inadvertently went on to launch an international brand.

After the French came the Prussians, and following defeat in WWI, the British moved in for a while. Wartime fortifications were converted into green belts (Grüngürtel) and the University of Cologne was opened anew in 1919.

By the end of WWII, Cologne was swept up into West Germany and began to thrive. The Old Town was repaired along with many Romanesque churches.

Recently, Cologne has been making its name in the media game, founding an Academy of Media Arts, an International Film School and a Media Park over the last few decades.

Excellent transport links have made the city one of the easiest places to access in western Germany.

Did you know?
• Almost 90% of the Old Town was destroyed during WWII.
• Launched in 1967, Art Cologne was the first international art fair of its kind.
• Five FIFA World Cup matches were played at Cologne’s RheinEnergieStadion in 2006.

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Featured Hotels


Savoy Hotel

The individually designed rooms in the Savoy are themed around different world destinations. So whether you're slumbering in the San Tropez suite or sleeping in the Samurai room, this smart boutique hotel allows you to travel the world without wandering any further than the wardrobe. It also has an excellent restaurant and spa facilities.

Excelsior Hotel Ernst

This grand dame of accommodation in Cologne continues to impress with its sweeping spiral staircases, great service and central location. Rooms come in beige and earth tones or calming blue and white. Taku, one of Cologne’s most exciting restaurants, is housed here and the Piano Bar offers an interesting range of cocktails.

Hyatt Regency Cologne

If you're looking for luxury and arresting views, Hyatt Regency Cologne fits the bill perfectly. The spacious, well-appointed rooms look out onto the Rhine and towards looming towers of the Dom. It also has an indoor pool, fitness club and spa, and a restaurant housed in a panoramic glass atrium.

Grand Hotel Schloss Bensberg

Visitors are easily dazzled by the Grand Hotel Schloss Bensberg. Housed in a renovated baroque palace, each of the 120 rooms and suites maintains a sense of grandeur while supplying all the mod cons. Look out for the midnight blue ceiling above the swimming pool and spa. It's a way out of town but the payoff for that is the easy access to horse riding and golf.

Centro Hotel Conti

Rooms at this cheerful hotel in the Belgian quarter are on the basic side, with a bed, small cupboard and small TV. The decor is no-frills as well, but it is good value and sits above a great Thai restaurant. It is also close to other restaurants and shops and has its own car park.

Hotel Engelbertz

A family-run hotel in the centre of Cologne, the Engelbertz has clean rooms, each equipped with a satellite TV. But do come prepared for some noise after dark as revellers stumble home outside.