Cologne, Germany is always worth a visit as it offers new things to discover with every trip. Whether you explore the city on a bike or on foot, you can experience the city’s most beautiful and culturally-enriching sites through the museums of Cologne.
From Roman Empire relics to the place where Eau de Cologne was born, as well as a museum solely dedicated to chocolate, and collections of some of the world’s greatest art pieces, exploring the city’s museums is like going on a treasure hunt.
For starters, here are some of the top museums in cultural Cologne:
Situated next to the Cathedral of Cologne, The Roman-Germanic Museum is mainly a collection of archeological artefacts from 1000 centuries of settlement history in Rhineland, as well as Cologne’s Roman heritage. The heart of the collection is literally the famous Dionysus Mosaic.
Built on a Roman villa’s foundations and around the 70 ft2 mosaic unearthed in 1941, the museum has since been open to the public. Other museum highlights include the largest Roman glass vessel collection in the world, the goldsmith art of Merovingians, stone weapons and tools from the Neolithic age, and the 50-ft tall tomb of Roman veteran legionary Lucius Poblicius that dates back to 40 AD.
Josef Haubrich donated his collection of modern art to Cologne at the conclusion of WW II. It included pieces by Emil Nolde, Marc Cha-gall, and Otto Dix. Three decades later, the city received 350 pieces of art as a gift from Peter and Irene Ludwig on condition that a new museum would be built by the city.
The Ludwigs’ donation laid down the foundation for one of Europe’s most significant museums of contemporary and modern art. The museum houses 900 Picassos, the biggest pop art collection outside the United States, and valuable works by Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and Alexander Rodchenko, among others.
A science center, Cologne’s Odysseum is an experience house of knowledge. It prides itself as a knowledge communication place, and metaphorically uses the epic Odyssey as a journey. It is a museum ideal for inquisitive children.
The museum sees human development as one open ended journey, and science as both progress and problem. Odysseum’s subject is the challenge of how to shape the future. You can experience the adventure of discovering the knowledge about the future through the various experience stations scattered on an area of 5,500 m2.
The Chocolate Museum is dedicated to, you guessed it right, chocolates! Its 4,000 sq2 m area contains everything you may want to know about your favorite confectionery.
Explore chocolates’ 5,000-year cultural history, and follow the journey of the cocoa bean – from the time it is roasted until it becomes a wrapped chocolate bar! Go through each step of the production process that culminates in a tall, 200-kg fountain of melted chocolate – ready for sampling!
NS Documentation Centre of the City of Cologne – old Nazi prison
Used as headquarters by Nazi Germany’s Secret State Police (more notoriously known as the Gestapo) from 1935 to 1945, the building now houses the NS Documentation Centre of Cologne.
You can pay tribute to the Nazi atrocity victims NS Documentation Centre. Exhibits document Cologne’s own experience under the Nazi regime. Former victims and prisoners wrote over 1,800 inscriptions and epitaphs while trapped inside the prison’s walls.
In the year 1824, art collector and university professor Ferdinand Franz Wallraf donated his collection of art works to the city. Johann Heinrich Richartz, a Cologne merchant, then provided the funds for a museum to contain the precious art pieces 30 years later; thus the museum’s name.
Cologne’s oldest museum features European art that spans many centuries – from the Middle Ages up to the 20th century – spread over the museum’s three floors, with each story dedicated to a particular period.
An ethnographic museum, Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum explores the similarities and differences of past and present world cultures. The museum has two areas: 1) Understanding the World, and 2) Shaping the World.
The exhibits take a look at all sides of different human cultures that include, religion, identity, and living concepts. The interactive multimedia shows let museum visitors immerse themselves in various cultures, and experience different perspectives.
Throughout the city of Cologne’s rich history – beginning with the oldest Roman settlements – churches have been built on the same place where the Kolumba Museum now stands.
During the medieval ages, Saint Kolumba parish was the biggest and most dominant in Cologne. To properly showcase the parish’s power, the magnificent Kolumba Church was built. It stood proud until 1943, when it was demolished tragically – together with the rest of Cologne – by an Allied forces’ air strike. The ruins have mainly remained untouched, except for a diminutive octagonal chapel built by Gottfried Böhm in 1949 to commemorate the bombing.
The oldest fragrance factory in the world lies just across the street from Wallraf-Richartz Museum. More popularly known as Eau de Cologne’s birthplace, Farina Fragrance Museum takes visitors to 3 centuries of fragrance history.
On display are art pieces, furniture, and various authentic objects from the original production site of Johann Maria Farina, an Italian perfumer who created the world renowned scent in 1709. Among his most notable customers were Kings Louis XV and Frederik the Great.
The Museum Schnutgen features a valuable medieval art collection in one of the oldest churches in Cologne. A lot of pieces in the collection, by themselves, are worth a trip already. These include the expressive St. George Crucifix, the unique filigree ivory carving Comb of St. Heribert, and the magnificent Parler Bust.
The gamut of the exhibits range from stone and wooden sculptures, valuable goldsmith artworks and stained glass to rare textiles and ivories. One distinctive museum feature is its wide, 1,000-year old exhibition space. The aura and stillness of the Romanesque St. Cecilia Church make experiencing the beauty and spiritual vibrancy of the art pieces possible.
German Sports and Olympic Museum
Experience a glorious trip from ancient Greece that will take you all the way to the present, while reminiscing the triumphs and defeats of sports history’s leading athletes.
The permanent exhibits feature medals, clothing, sports equipment that include the Benetton Renault Formula One race car of Michael Schumacher, as well as many other sports memorabilia. Themed areas are dedicated to the Olympiad, new trend sports, and German gymnastics, among others.
The Municipal Museum was built in Dutch Renaissance style back in the 1600s. The armoury was originally used as a weapons arsenal.
Today, it is home to Cologne’s Koelnisches Stadtmuseum that offers an insight into the economic, spiritual, and daily living in Cologne and its people – back from the Middle Ages up to the present day.
Cologne Cathedral’s Treasury is arguably Germany’s biggest and richest. Initially intended to be a collection of relics, which were deemed as the real treasure during the Middle Ages, the artistic and monetary value of the settings were not of primary importance.
Not the conventional type of museum of today, practically everything on display are still used ecclesiastically. Contents of the treasury reflect the changes in the history of the cathedral that through centuries survived robberies, and gained gifts from emperors, popes, and bishops.
Devote one visit to tour the museums of Cologne, both the popular and the secluded ones, and you’ll understand why the city is considered as one of the top tourist destinations not only in Germany, but the whole of Europe as well.
Arosa river cruise line offers Rhine and Holland river cruises from 4 – 8 nights and they start and end in Cologne. A pre or post night stay to visit the museums of Cologne would be a great addition to a scenic Rhine River cruise. Booking a short Advent (Christmas Markets) cruise this fall from Cologne, you get the added benefit of enjoying the 7 Christmas Markets that Cologne is known for.
Contact Europeanbarging to assist in finding the best special offers in booking a river cruise – and hotel accommodations to visit Cologne museums. 888-869-7907 firstname.lastname@example.org