Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral and view over Rhine River

The awe-inspiring cathedral of Cologne is almost as old as the city itself, with a story that dates back to the Middle Ages. Standing tall through times thick and thin, the Cologne Cathedral is nothing short of a Gothic masterpiece.

An introduction 

The Cologne Cathedral, or Kölner Dom in German, is one of the country's most visited and recognized landmarks. Serving as the seat of the archbishop of Cologne, this High Gothic cathedral is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. The cathedral is the second-tallest structure in the city and is frequently used as a point of orientation thanks to its visibility throughout the city center. While there is no noticeable difference between the building's two towers from the ground, the northern tower is a little more than two inches taller than its southern counterpart.

The origins of the cathedral date back to 1248, when its stone foundation was first laid. The cathedral was intended to replace a previous building that was not considered adequate to house the holy relics of the biblical gift-bearing magi, which were brought to the city from Milan in 1164. After almost 300 years of construction, building was halted in the 16th century, leaving the cathedral unfinished until the project was revived in 1840.

Since its completion in 1880, the cathedral has withstood heavy bombing that caused extensive damage during World War II. While air raids flattened the rest of Cologne, requiring repairs that are in some cases still underway, the cathedral's lofty spires remained standing.

Roman Catholic Gothic cathedral Cologne

The views

The platform on the south tower, which stands over 300 feet high, offers panoramic views across Cologne. When the weather cooperates, you can see as far as Siebengebirge, a hill range nearly 70 miles away. Whether you're heading up or finding your way back down from the platform, steal a glance at the bell chamber. One of the bells, named for St. Peter, is the biggest freely swinging church bell in the world.

Aerial view of Cologne Germany

Interior highlights

It's easy to spend hours gazing at the cathedral's interior. Light streams through the large windows, especially along the south aisles. The cathedral windows were designed in Bavarian and Renaissance styles, among others, with some of stained glass and others pigmented.

The treasury houses a collection of textiles, relics, sculptures, illuminated manuscripts and artworks, some of which date back to the fourth century. You'll find the Sarcophagus of the Magi behind the altar – the original cause of the cathedral's existence, it remains an outstanding example of Medieval craftsmanship with its depiction of biblical scenes in bejeweled gold-and-silver relief. Purportedly holding the skulls of the three wise men, it has drawn countless pilgrims over the centuries.

Nearby you'll also find choir stalls richly carved from oak and no fewer than nine chapels, each of which showcases impressive artworks. The Gero Cross and Jeweled Madonna are two of the most popular pieces among worshippers and art lovers alike. You can learn more about the treasury on the public guided tours, available on Thursday afternoons.

up look of Cologne Cathedral choirs and interior

© Robert Wirrmann / flickr

Visiting details

The Cologne Cathedral is a convenient 10-minute drive from our Radisson Blu Hotel, Cologne - the perfect base for your romantic weekend or family weekend trip. The cathedral is open daily throughout the year but might be closed for special events. Visiting times vary for certain parts of the building, including the treasury and south tower.

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