wine and cheese

The river cruiser's guide to Cologne

Few know this city as well as the locals, but river cruise operators and their regular guests are close to uncovering the city’s secrets and points of significant interest far past that of the commonplace tourist destination. Nothing quite beats seeing a city from the water and that is why this river cruiser’s guide to Cologne is something unique, offering a brief overview of the must-see points of interest in the city whilst on a Cologne river cruise holiday.


Cologne has been offering Europe some of its best musical talent for many years, making their presence in the classical music sector well-known.

- The Kölner Philharmonie was established in 1986 and has been an integral part of Europe’s music scene ever since. Now visitors come from all over the world to catch the concerts and performances they play host, with the concert hall priding themselves on the diversity of the music genres that they support.

From symphonic and chamber music to jazz and folk, their varied repertoire has been their strength throughout their history, and with concerts held in their exquisite amphitheatre-style hall almost daily, there is plenty of opportunity for escorted Europe cruise guests to catch their favourite whilst stopping off in Cologne.


Much like their music, Cologne’s art is equally well-known throughout the world. With an art scene that is internationally renowned, Cologne boasts an incredible number of museums and galleries, over 100 in total.



- One of the best and most famous of the city’s art museums is that of Museum Ludwig. Founded in 1976 when art collectors Peter and Irene Ludwig donated 350 works of art from their private collection to the City of Cologne, the museum is now considered one of the country’s most important for 20th century art and contemporary art.

Here the museum gave three reasons why river cruise guests should visit their prestigious institution.       

       > “The most extensive Pop Art collection in Europe.”

       > “The third biggest Picasso collection in the world.”

       > “One of the best collections of German Expressionism.” – Museum Ludwig

- Similarly, the city’s art fairs are world-renowned. Cologne Fine Art is one of the oldest of its kind in the world and offers visitors the chance to experience the spectrum of both ancient and contemporary art styles. Taking place in November, its 2014 offering between the 19th and 23rd November promises to be like nothing ever before; with over 100 galleries and art dealers set to be present, it will be settling in as one of the world’s leading art and antiquities fairs. Here is what they said in response to why river cruise guests should visit their fair.

“Discover highlights from centuries of art and design history. Encounter extraordinary works from the most varied eras, cultural contexts and stylistic directions: Cologne Fine Art, one of the most renowned art fairs in the world for fine art and antiques, is a place for aesthetic experiences. Timelessly beautiful objects by well-known and unknown masters are waiting for curious discoverers in a stylish atmosphere.” – Cologne Fine Art

- Another institution that embodies that of Cologne culture and artistic talent is Kolumba,

Art Museum of the Archdiocese of Cologne. A work of art both inside and out, the building is as famed as the artworks that reside within. With innovative exhibits taking place regularly, there is always something new and exciting for both first-time visitors and those who have been returning frequently since the new building’s opening in 2007 and before.

Here is what Kolumba had to say about why river cruise guests should visit one of the oldest museums in Cologne.



“KOLUMBA is a triad of place, collection and architecture, it allows the visitor to experience two millennia of western culture in a single building. Comprising art from late antiquity to the very present, the whole ensemble is imbued with a still reverberating sense of history – visibly intensified through its distinctive architecture. The modern building is a harmonious combination designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor (2007) to merge both the Gothic ruins of St Kolumba and Böhm's chapel ‘Madonna in the Ruins’ (1950) with the unique archaeological excavation site (1973-76). Kolumba has been aptly termed ‘a museum of contemplation in which there is an ongoing dialogue between past and present’ (Sarah McFadden, Art in America).” – Kolumba


Cologne is known for a rich and vibrant history and one that has, at times, been tinged with tragedy, such as with World War II. To learn more about this enigmatic city, few institutions beat The Cologne City Museum.

- With information and engaging exhibits on Cologne’s war history and engineering fame, Cologne City Museum is a must on any trip to the city.

Here is what they had to say about their institution and why river cruise guests should stop by.

“Discover the most exciting and fascinating aspects of Cologne's 2000 year history at the Kölnisches Stadtmuseum (Museum of the City of Cologne) only some minutes from the shores of the River Rhine. In the historic Zeughaus (armoury) you will gain an insight into politics, cultural life, economics, and the everyday life of Cologne and its inhabitants.

On your tour you will first encounter things typical of Cologne: Klüngel (social networking), Kölsch (the local beer), Carnival and Eau de Cologne, Tünnes and Schäl (two popular stock characters from Cologne's traditional puppet theatre) and Cologne as an industrial town featuring Otto Motor or Ford Motor Company. Unique exhibits plunge you into the history of this cathedral city, from the late Middle Ages to the post-war period. In the second half of the permanent exhibition you will encounter themes from culture and the economy: Reformation and Jewish life, school and university, citizenry and civic pride, trade and transport.

The neighbouring Alte Wache guardhouse from the time of the Prussians houses special exhibitions on Cologne's art and history.” – Cologne City Museum


Next to its war history and cultural significance, there is another aspect that has put Cologne on the map – Eau de Cologne. With this fragrant substance given the city’s name it stands to reason that there are not only some of the best shops in which to purchase cologne or perfume, but also a whole museum dedicated to the product.

- Johann Maria Farina was the first to mix Eau de Cologne and The Fragrance Museum Farina-House now stands as a part of his factory and headquarters. With a replica distillery showing what Johann Maria Farina would have used to create this very first scent in the 18th century, it stands as an unrivalled insight into Eau de Cologne and its namesake. The museum is open Monday-Saturday 10am-7pm, Sunday 11am-4pm with tours, which are also available in English, lasting around an hour and costing just €5 per person. Booking ahead is recommended.

Here Farina Haus explains why river cruise guests should make the most of this incredible experience.

“The Farina Fragrance Museum is the birth house of the original Eau de Cologne. This fragrance was created by the Italian perfumer Johann Maria Farina in 1709 and he named it Eau de Cologne in honour of the city of Cologne.

The light, citrusy scent of his new creation was a contrast to the heavy perfumes people were used to at the time of the rococo. Farina said, his fragrance reminded him of an ‘Italian spring morning after the rain’. The fragrance became very popular among the aristocracy - everyone wanted to own a flacon this precious perfume. As there were no copyrights in this time, there were soon lots of copies and plagiarisms of the original Eau de Cologne - thus, the name Eau de Cologne became a synonym for light fragrances.

The original Eau de Cologne is nowadays still produced by the descendants of Johann Maria Farina. The well trained guides of the Farina Museum introduce visitors not only to the history of the original Eau de Cologne, but also to the process of perfume manufacturing.” – Farina Haus

- For a further insight into what made Cologne the centre of perfumery, 4711 Mäurer & Wirtz is a must. The Glockengasse, the ‘house of 4711’ the brand, is internationally renowned and displays the company’s rich heritage of being where the 4711 Original Eau de Cologne was first made in 1792.

This is just a selection of the must-see attractions and sights of Cologne. For even more, be sure to travel with an experienced river cruise operator.

Image Credit: themonnie (

This content was written by Angela Sloan. Please feel free to visit my Google+ Profile to read more stories.