As river cruises steadily gain more fans, so do certain itineraries. One of my favorite river cruise itineraries is a Rhine River through Germany. Aside from dozens of spectacular cliff-hugging castles along the Rhine, there are also modern cities worth a day’s visit. One of these bustling cosmopolitan centers is Cologne, Germany. And some museums in Cologne are, well, different.
Cologne’s city center, once an important Roman cultural center, (yes, the Romans were everywhere!) is within easy walking distance from your river cruise ship. Every time I’m on a Upper Rhine river cruise, I love to revisit these interesting, important and even delicious museums in Cologne.
The Chocolate Museum
Just a short, 5 minute walk from the river boat dock is the Schokoladenmuseum. It’s the oddly-shaped metal colored building that overlooks the harbor. There are three delightful components in the museum; the chocolate museum itself which features a history of chocolate and antique chocolate-making related equipment, a chocolate bakery and beverage restaurant and of course, a huge retail shop with chocolate for sale from all over the world.
The Fragrance Museum
Just across from where the river ships dock in the old town, is the Fragrance Museum. It’s located in the building where in 1709, John Farina (actually an Italian-turned-German, named Giovanni Maria Farina) created Eau de Cologne, a fragrance he named for his beloved city. I can almost guarantee that you’ll buy a bottle of the citrus-y and aromatic 1709 Original Eau de Cologne.
A treasure trove of Impressionist, Renaissance and Gothic works, art historians will want to head over to the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, also located in the old town. Opened in 1861 in a building donated by Johann Heinrich Richartz, the first exhibit was collection of medieval art donated to the city of Cologne by Franz Ferdinand Wallraf.
Today, the museum’s collection spans the ages from the early 1400’s through Impressionism and into Post-Impressionist paintings. Important works from the Baroque era include those of Rubens, Rembrandt and Bouche.
NOTE: The Roman-Germanic Museum is closed for a general renovation. Significant finds on the history of the city are moving and will be on show in the Belgian House (Cäcilienstraße 46, near Neumarkt) from spring 2019 onwards. The opening date will be announced in time.
The museum opened in 1974, over the site of a 3rd century Roman villa. While digging for an air raid shelter in 1941, construction workers discovered the remains of the villa, which included a perfectly preserved Dionysus mosaic in the villa’s basement. Considered an archeological museum, the Roman-Germanic Museum on display are many artifacts found in this one Roman settlement area on the Rhine, including an extensive collection of Roman household items, coins, glassware and jewelry.
Those interested in the largest Pop Art collection outside of the United States, be sure to stop by the Peter and Irene Ludwig Museum. Spanning the 20th century and into the 21st, the museum also displays Abstract and Surrealism period works by Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. Picasso fans should know that this museum holds one of Europe’s largest collections of works by Picasso.
Did you know?
Cologne was the site of the first Roman settlement and named Colonia Agrippina, named after the wife of Emperor Claudius. The name was eventually shortened to Colonia.
Plan your visit to museums in Cologne
Most river ships visit Cologne for only eight to ten hours. To hit the ground running, it’s a good idea to know in advance what museums and places of interest to visit while in port. The ships dock right in front of the old town so consider a guided walking tour first and then head out on your own to see as many of Cologne’s fascinating and tempting museums as possible. Check online for the latest opening times as well as admission fees, payable in Euro.