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Cologne History, Germany

Along the River Rhine in Germany stands one of the country’s biggest cities, Cologne. It is one of the oldest in Germany, bursting with historical and cultural treasures. It has evolved over its many centuries of existence, but its past always remains something to look back upon. This article explores Cologne in its early beginnings to the present day.

Early History

In what is the center of Cologne today, the Oppidum Ubiorum was the site of the first urban settlement in the city. It was founded by the Germanic tribe called Ubii in 38 B.C., and was acknowledged as a city by the Romans in 50 A.D. with the new name Colonia Claudia Ara Agripinensium. It had one of the longest water pipelines of the roman empire, with remnants still to see in the landscape. It remained the capital of a Roman province until it was occupied by the Franks in 459 A.D. The Archbishop of Cologne, elected by Charlemagne in 785, was given secular powers and became one of the most powerful lords in the Holy Roman Empire.

Middle Ages

As Cologne was located on the River Rhine, it found itself in the middle of trade routes. This played a huge role in Cologne’s economic growth. Although the city was granted as a Free Imperial City in 1475, the Archbishop still maintained the right of capital punishment. The free city was separate and distinct from the Archbishopric of Cologne. Archbishops were usually not allowed to enter the free city.

Being a free city, Cologne maintained the right and obligation of maintaining its own military force. Soldiers, called Rote Funken, were a part of the Army of the Holy Roman Empire. It was a small force and completely perished in combat during the wars of the 17th and 18th centuries.

The 19th and 20th Centuries

Cologne had acquired numerous surrounding towns and its inhabitants had grown in number - about 700,000. The famous Cologne Cathedral, which began building in 1248, was finally completed in 1880. Industrialization had changed the city and sometimes came at the expense of much of its historical heritage.

After World War I, the British were in occupancy of the city until the year 1926. It was in the same year that Cologne was transformed into a media capital for the country. During World War II, Cologne endured numerous raids and much of it was devastated by the war. The population was reduced tremendously, with most citizens fleeing to rural areas.

Post-War and Present Day

In 1947, architect and urban planner Rudolph Schwarz designed a master plan for the rehabilitation of the city. There were extensive plans for building roads and construction of several new thoroughfares. Reconstruction of several iconic churches took place, such as St. Gereon, Great St. Martin, and St. Maria im Capitol.

Cologne’s economy prospered during the 1980’s and 1990’s. This came because of the surging growth of media companies. The Media Park caters to these companies and creates a strong visual focal point. It includes the Koln Turn, which is one of Cologne’s most prominent high-rise buildings. In 1998, Germany’s largest all-purpose area, the Koln Arena, opened and has since then been tagged as “The Lunchbox,” due to its shape.

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Read our members' reviews about Cologne

  • MadSuhThings to do in Cologne
    review by MadSuh posted more then 30 days ago
    Cologne is one crazy large and fun town that may be worth a visit when in Germany. Its closely located near Düsseldorf as well, so there are plenty of places you can visit. Cologne is nicely set by the Rhine River so there is plenty to do during the summer months. Furthermore, the city...
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Read our members' travel tips about Cologne

  • WazlingThe roman auqeduct
    travel tip by Wazling posted more then 30 days ago
    If you are at Cologne and you are interested in history, but you also want to go on a walk, you should visit the remnants of the roman auqeduct of the city. It was once one of the biggest in the roman empire, only some at africa were...
  • WazlingRoman germanic museum at the city center
    travel tip by Wazling posted more then 30 days ago
    If you are at Cologne, you definitely should visit this museum, if you´re interested in history of ancient romans and similar epoch´s. It shows you a wide variety of local history and also the city itself and the surrounding area has...
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Cologne City Ratings

  • Rating60%
    City Rank294
  • History & Culture: rated for 50%
  • Night Life & Entertainment: rated for 80%
  • Family & Fun: rated for 50%
  • Outdoors Activities: rated for 100%
  • Food: rated for 40%
  • Sightseeing: rated for 50%
  • Shopping: rated for 50%
  • Public Transportation: rated for 60%
  • Must visit this place: not rated
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