Cologne's Southern Altstadt (Old Town)
Groß St Martin
Cologne's Southern Altstadt, or southern old town, is well worth a visit, for it has many places of interest. Chief among these is the Groß St Martin (Church of St Martin) which was the largest church in Cologne until the completion of the Cologne Dom. It is a Romanesque church with a fortress-like square tower and four octagonal turrets, originally built from 1150 to 1250, which remains a major feature on the Cologne skyline. The church was once a Benedictine monastery church, built on what was then an island in the Rhine. It was virtually destroyed during World War II and the reconstruction has a stark, almost naked interior.
Historisches Rathaus (Historic Town Hall)
The Historisches Rathaus (Historic Town Hall) was severely damaged during World War II as well, but rebuilt soon after. It has a lovely Renaissance pavilion and a 60-meter (198-foot) Gothic tower, erected in 1407, with a carillon playing at noon and 5 pm. The impressive Gothic Hansesaal and the rest of the interior can only be seen in conjunction with a guided tour. The area was part of a Jewish ghetto stormed in 1349. A Mikwe (Jewish Bath) from around 1170 can be seen under a glass pyramid in front of the Rathaus.
The Wallraf-Richartz-Museum – at Foundation Corboud, Martinstraße 39 – is the oldest museum in Cologne. It was started with a major art collection donated by Wallraf Richartz in 1824 and has since grown to one of the largest collections of classical paintings in Germany. Highlights include an impressive medieval painting collection, paintings by Rubens and Rembrandt, and paintings and sculpture by Romantic, Realist, and Impressionist artists. The large graphic arts collection (75,000 items) can be seen on special request. The museum was housed for decades in the same building as the Ludwig Museum, next to the Dom, but recently moved to its own modern building between the Rathaus and the Gürnzenich. If time is limited in Cologne, make this gallery a priority.
Behind the museum is the Gürzenich, a 15th-century Gothic hall used for celebrations. The annual Karneval celebrations start from here.
St Maria ImKapitol
A few blocks farther south is the St Maria ImKapitol, located at Kasinostraße. It was constructed in 1040-65 and is an excellent example of Ottonian-Romanesque architecture. This triple nave basilica was the first to use a trefoil chancel – this cloverleaf-like feature is typical of Cologne Romanesque. The crypt runs almost the full length of the nave and is the second-largest in Germany after Speyer. The interior is richly decorated – particularly note the original wooden doors from 1060 at the west end of the south aisle and the 1523 Renaissance choir screen.
Nearby, on a peninsula in the Rhine, is the Imhoff-Schokolade-Museum, Rheinauhafen 1a, a hugely popular museum devoted to chocolate. In addition to an interesting display on chocolate and its role in society, it has a scaled-down, operational chocolate manufacturing plant with demonstrations. Free sampling opportunities, however, are limited.
Deutsches Sport und Olympia Museum
Adjacent is the Deutsches Sport und Olympia Museum (German Sport and Olympics Museum), Rheinauhafen 1, with an exhibition on the development of sports over the past 2,500 years. Naturally, the emphasis is on German sports and athletes of the 20th century.
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