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Cologne (in German Köln) is the fourth largest city in Germany after Berlin, Hamburg and Munich. It is located in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia and is one of the most important European urban areas with more than ten million inhabitants.
Cologne is a beautiful city and lies on the banks of the Rhine. Tourists are drawn to the city known for its cathedral (Kölner Dom), the seat of the Catholic Archbishop of Cologne. Cologne is an important cultural center of the Rhineland, with more than 30 museums and hundreds of galleries. The University of Cologne is one of the oldest universities in Europe.
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The coordinates of Cologne are 50 ° 57 'North latitude and 6 ° 58' East longitude. The city lies on both banks of the Rhine in the North Rhine-Westphalia region at an altitude of 65 meters above sea level. Picturesque hills lie to the east and west of the city. The Rhine Valley runs southeast in the direction of Bonn.
Cologne is one of the hottest cities in Germany. It has a moderate maritime climate with relatively mild winters and warm summers. The average temperatures in the Cologne area are 2 °C in January and 18 °C in July. Average rainfall is 796.2 mm per year. The average number of rainy days is around 120 per year. Cologne is regularly threatened by floods on the Rhine. The city has set up a service to protect itself from the floods.
The first settlement on the site of today's center of Cologne was founded in 38 BC by the Ubii, a Germanic tribe. The Romans colonized Cologne in AD 50. The city became the capital of the Roman province in 85 AD. Important Roman remains were found in present-day Cologne, especially near the Rhine bank. An ancient Roman ship was discovered here in 2007.
Cologne's location on the river Rhine at the junction of the main trade routes between east and west was the basis of Cologne's growth. Cologne was a member of the Hanseatic League and became a free imperial city in 1475. The economic structure of medieval and early modern Cologne was determined by its location.
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The city's most famous monument and the symbol of its inhabitants is Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom). Construction of this remarkable Gothic church started in 1248 and was completed in 1880. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1996. The cathedral houses the shrine of the Three Kings and is said to have the relics of the Three Biblical Magi.
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Twelve Romanesque churches are unique examples of medieval church architecture. The origins of some of the churches go back to Roman times. St. Gereon's Church was originally a chapel in a Roman cemetery. All these churches were very badly damaged (with the exception of St. Maria Lyskirchen) during the Second World War. The reconstruction was completed in the 1990s.
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Medieval houses from the inner city are of particular interest to tourists. The town hall (Kölner Rathaus) from the 12th century is the oldest town hall in Germany and is still in use today. The Renaissance style loggia and tower were added in the 15th century. Other famous houses are the Gürzenich, the Haus Saaleck and the Overstolzenhaus.
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The semicircular shape of the inner city was originally defined by a 6 km long defensive wall, which was completed in about 1200. The medieval defensive walls once contained 12 city gates of which only three survived: the Eigelsteintorburg on Ebertplatz, the Hahnentor on Rudolfplatz and the Severinstorburg on Chlodwigplatz. The wall enclosed the city and protected about 40,000 people. At the time, Cologne was bigger than Paris. In the 1880s the medieval fortifications were demolished and replaced by a chain of ring roads (Ringstrassen).
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Cologne has many famous museums, which are a must to visit. The most important are: The Roman-Germanic museum with art and architecture from antiquity. The Ludwig Museum has one of the most important collections of modern art in Europe, including a Picasso collection that is matched only by the collections in the museums of Barcelona and Paris. The Schnütgen Museum of Religious Art is housed in one of the city's twelve Romanesque churches, the Church of St. Cecilia.
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One of the largest street festivals in Europe is the Cologne Carnival. It attracts thousands of tourists every year in November when it officially starts with the proclamation of the new Carnival season. The party itself is in February and attracts many more visitors.
Last updated October 2020
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