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Discover the history behind buildings in Cologne
This theme-based tour presents outstanding buildings that represent a variety of epochs. There’s a wealth of stories behind many buildings and squares in Cologne. On this tour you’ll learn about the history of Cologne’s architecture and its renowned architects.
You can see the cycling route directly at komoot: Urban Architecture.
Description of the route
The tour begins at the Bayenturm, which was built in the 12th century as part of the massive medieval city wall. This fortified tower was mainly used as a vantage point from which to watch over and protect the city. After its destruction during the Second World War, it was completely rebuilt.
After passing the city gate Severinstorburg you will cycle along a route parallel to the city’s ring road to reach the Ulrepforte, which is the smallest of Cologne’s twelve city gates. When the tower was renovated in the 19th century, the windmill that had graced it previously was taken down and a new roof was put in its place. Today the tower is owned by the carnival society Kölsche Funke rut-wieß vun 1823.
From here, the route takes you through the St. Pantaleon’s Quarter and Greek Quarter to the Old Town, Cologne’s traditional city centre, whose many one-way streets are open to cyclists in both directions. Don’t miss the opportunity to take a look at St. Pantaleon, which is one of Cologne’s twelve Romanesque churches, as well as the historic Water Tower and the complex of buildings around the ruined church of St. Alban. In combination with its neighbouring buildings — the Gürzenich, which is Cologne’s traditional banqueting hall, and the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum — the complex brings together examples of the architecture of the Middle Ages, the 1950s and the present day. If you are looking for bicycle-friendly accommodation within Cologne´s city centre, you will make a find in the Belgian Quarter, for instance at the hostel "die wohngemeinschaft".
You’ll see this mix of styles once again after you arrive at the Alter Markt. Cologne’s City Hall has undergone centuries of architectural transformation. During the Middle Ages, it was continuously expanded and modified. The pointed Late Gothic steeple was set atop the City Hall in 1414. The tower is decorated with sculptures of outstanding figures from Cologne’s history. This would be a good opportunity to take a break in the Alter Markt or along the narrow lanes of the Old Town.
After a short detour, you’ll reach Roncalliplatz and Cologne Cathedral. The construction of the city’s hallmark Gothic cathedral began back in the Middle Ages — in 1248, to be exact. However, it was not completed until 1880. Thus the cathedral was a construction site during the longest period of its existence, and it still requires continuous restoration work today. The famous window created by Gerhard Richter, which consists of brightly coloured squares of stained glass, contrasts with the cathedral’s Gothic architectural style.
The next lap of the cycling route takes you to the former Jesuit College of St. Mariä Himmelfahrt. After the cloister and the church were destroyed in the Second World War, they were completely rebuilt in their mixture of styles: Romanesque, Gothic and early Baroque. The black cube that stands next to it, which was built in 1976 according to plans drawn up by Joachim and Margot Schürmann, presents a sharp contrast.
The route continues northward to the city’s Botanical Garden, also called Flora. The garden landscape was designed by Peter Joseph Lenné in the “mixed German garden style” in 1864. Standing in the centre of this park complex is the garden palace, which is built of cast iron and glass and was designed by Max Nohl. Its architecture in the Historicism style combines elements of French Baroque, the Italian Renaissance and English landscape garden style. It’s a place of repose that invites visitors to relax and enjoy refreshments in the Flora’s garden café, Dank Augusta, before heading past the Cologne Zoo to the Rhine.
From the riverbank you’ll be able to see the Cologne cable car, Germany’s first aerial cableway across a river (bicycles are not permitted aboard). The cable railway was built for the National Garden Show in 1957. Originally intended only for the garden show, it was so popular that it was retained as an amenity for the people of Cologne.
Following the Rhine Promenade southward, you’ll pass several bridges across the Rhine that were built in the 1950s and 1970s. At seven points along the river, they connect the Cologne districts on the left and the right sides of the Rhine. Before your next stop at the Bastion, you’ll find Gruber’s Restaurant, which offers Austrian specialties also as takeaway treats.
Towering above the riverbank nearby is the Bastei, a semicircular building designed in the Modernist style by the Cologne architect Wilhelm Riphahn. This “floating” construction, which features a ring of windows, was its architect’s stylistic and professional breakthrough. After the Second World War, the Bastei was rebuilt in its original style of 1927.
After cycling onward and passing under the Hohenzollern Bridge, you’ll arrive at the Rheingarten. Take a look at the roof of the Museum Ludwig and then look back at the Rhine. You may notice that the roof construction of the museum mimics the waves of the river.
Further along the Rheingarten, you’ll have a fine view of the reconstructed panorama of Cologne’s Old Town. At the outdoor restaurants along the Rhine Promenade, you can enjoy a Halver Hahn (bread roll with cheese) and other more substantial “Kölsch” specialities, or just stop for a coffee. The Beirut Restaurant in the Old Town offers Arabian and Lebanese specialities to take away.
As you continue cycling along the Rhine, you’ll arrive at the Rheinauhafen. This used to be a historic harbour district, but today it successfully combines Modernist and contemporary architecture. The three spectacular crane towers called “Kranhäuser”, which were designed to resemble historic loading cranes, are a fixed feature of the Cologne skyline. The nearby building that is known as the Siebengebirge (seven hills) was the first reinforced concrete building in Germany. The Rheinauhafen ends at the glass building called Kap am Südkai (Cape on the South Quay).
You can end your tour here or have a final spin around the Bayenturm. After completing the tour, cyclists can relax and recuperate at the bona’me restaurant, which serves excellent Kurdish and Turkish hot dishes. You can also enjoy the Mediterranean cuisine of the Greek restaurant Limani, which offers a panoramic view of the Rhine. And there’s also a wide spectrum of eating places in the Südstadt district. You’re sure to find one that suits your taste around Chlodwigplatz or along Severinstraße or Bonner Straße.