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Cologne (, , ) is Germany's fourth-largest city (after Berlin, Hamburg and Munich), and is the largest city both in the Germany Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants.

Cologne is located on both sides of the Rhine River. The city's famous Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) is the seat of the Catholic Archbishop of Cologne. The University of Cologne (Universität zu Köln) is one of Europe's oldest and largest universities.

Cologne is a major cultural centre of the Rhineland and has a vibrant arts scene. Cologne is home to more than 30 museums and hundreds of galleries. Exhibitions range from local ancient Roman archeological sites to contemporary graphics and sculpture. The Cologne Trade Fair hosts a number of trade shows such as Art Cologne, imm Cologne, Gamescom and the Photokina.


Roman Cologne

The first urban settlement on the grounds of what today is the center of Cologne was Oppidum Ubiorum, which was founded in 38 BC by the Ubii, a Cisrhenian Germanic tribe. In 50 AD, the Romans founded Colonia on the Rhine and the city became the provincial capital of Germania Inferior in 85 AD. The city was named "Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium" in 50 AD. It was turned into a heavily armed fortress (opposing the French and Belgian fortresses of Verdun and Liège) with two fortified belts surrounding the city, the remains of which can be seen to this day. The military demands on what became Germany's largest fortress presented a significant obstacle to urban development, with forts, bunkers and wide defensive dugouts completely encircling the city and preventing expansion; this resulted in a very dense built-up area within the city itself.

During World War I Cologne was the target of several only minor air raids and survived the hostilities without significant damage. Until 1926 Cologne was occupied by the British Army of the Rhine under the terms of the armistice and the subsequent Versailles Peace Treaty. Contrary to the harsh measures taken by French occupation troops, the British acted with more tact towards the local population. The mayor of Cologne from 1917 until 1933 and future West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer acknowledged the political impact of this approach, especially that the British had opposed French plans for a permanent Allied occupation of the Rhineland.

As part of the de-militarization of the Rhineland the fortifications had to be dismantled. This was taken as an opportunity to create two green belts (Grüngürtel) around the city by converting the fortifications and their clear fields of fire into large public parks. However this project was not completed until 1933. In 1919 the University of Cologne, closed by the French in 1798, was refounded. This re-foundation was considered a replacement for the loss of the German University of Strasbourg that became part of France with the rest of Alsace. Cologne prospered during the Weimar Republic (1919–1933) and progress was made especially in respect to public governance, city planning, housing and social affairs. Social housing projects were considered exemplary and copied by other German cities. As Cologne competed for hosting the Olympics a modern sports stadium was erected at Müngersdorf. When the British occupation ended, civil aviation was allowed once again and Cologne Butzweilerhof Airport soon became a hub for national and international air traffic: second in Germany only to Berlin Tempelhof Airport.

The democratic parties lost the local elections in Cologne in March 1933 to the NSDAP and other right wing parties. Thereafter Communist as well as Social Democrats members of the city assembly were imprisoned and Mayor Adenauer was dismissed by the new holders of power. However, compared to other major cities, the Nazis never gained decisive support in Cologne and the number of votes cast for the Nazi Party in Reichstag elections was always below the national average. By 1939 the population had risen to 772,221 inhabitants.

World War II

During World War II, Cologne was a Military Area Command Headquarters (Militärbereichshauptkommandoquartier) for the Military District (Wehrkreis) VI of Münster. Cologne was under the command of Lieutenant-General Freiherr Roeder von Diersburg, who was responsible for military operations in Bonn, Siegburg, Aachen, Jülich, Düren, and Monschau. Cologne was home to the 211th Infantry Regiment and the 26th Artillery Regiment.

During the Bombing of Cologne in World War II, Cologne endured 262 air raids by the Western Allies, which caused approximately 20,000 civilian casualties and almost completely wiped out the centre of the city. During the night of 31 May 1942, Cologne was the target of "Operation Millennium", the first 1,000 bomber raid by the Royal Air Force in World War II. 1,046 heavy bombers attacked their target with 1,455 tons of explosives, approximately two-thirds of which were incendiary. This raid lasted about 75 minutes, destroyed 600 acre of built-up area, killed 486 civilians and made 59,000 people homeless. By the end of the war, the population of Cologne had been reduced by 95%. This loss was mainly caused by a massive evacuation of the people to more rural areas. The same happened in many other German cities in the last two years of war. At the end of 1945, the population had already risen to about 500,000 again.

By that time, essentially all of Cologne's pre-war Jewish population of 11,000 had been deported or killed by the Nazis. The six synagogues of the city were destroyed. The synagogue on Roonstraße was rebuilt in 1959.

The outskirts of Cologne were reached by US-troops on 4 March 1945. The inner city at the left bank of the Rhine was captured on 6 March 1945 in half a day, meeting minor resistance only. Because the Hohenzollernbrücke was destroyed on retreat by German pioneers, the boroughs at the right bank of the river remained under German control until mid of April 1945.

Post-war Cologne until today

Despite Cologne's status of being the largest city in the region, nearby Düsseldorf was chosen as the political capital of the federated state of North Rhine-Westphalia. With Bonn being chosen as the provisional capital (provisorische Bundeshauptstadt) and seat of the government of the Federal Republic of Germany (then informally West Germany), Cologne benefited by being sandwiched between two important political centres. The city became and still is home to a number of Federal agencies and organizations. After reunification in 1990, Berlin was made the capital of Germany.

In 1945 architect and urban planner Rudolf Schwarz called Cologne the "world's greatest heap of rubble." Schwarz designed the master plan of reconstruction in 1947, which called for the construction of several new thoroughfares through the downtown area, especially the Nord-Süd-Fahrt ("North-South-Drive"). The master plan took into consideration the fact that even shortly after the war a large increase in automobile traffic could be anticipated. Plans for new roads had already, to a certain degree, evolved under the Nazi administration, but the actual construction became easier in times when the majority of downtown lots were undeveloped.

The destruction of 95% of the city centre including the famous Twelve Romanesque churches like St. Gereon, Great St. Martin, St. Maria im Kapitol and several other monuments in World War II meant a tremendous loss of cultural treasures. The rebuilding of those churches and other landmarks like the Gürzenich event hall was not undisputed among leading architects and art historians at that time, but in most cases, civil intention prevailed. The reconstruction lasted until the 1990s, when the Romanesque church of St. Kunibert was finished.

In 1959, the city's population reached pre-war numbers again. It then grew steadily, exceeding 1 million for about one year from 1975. It has remained just below that until mid 2010, when it exceeded 1 million again.

In the 1980s and 1990s Cologne's economy prospered for two main reasons. Firstly, a growth in the number of media companies, both in the private and public sectors; they are especially catered for in the newly-developed Media Park, which creates a strongly visual focal point in the Cologne town centre and includes the KölnTurm, one of Cologne's most prominent high-rise buildings. Secondly, a permanent improvement of the diverse traffic infrastructure made Cologne one of the most easily accessible metropolitan areas in Central Europe.

Due to the economic success of the Cologne Trade Fair, the city arranged a large extension to the fair site in 2005. At the same time the original buildings, which date back to the 1920s are rented out to RTL, Germany's largest private broadcaster, as their new corporate headquarters.



Cologne is subdivided into 9 districts (Stadtbezirke) and 85 city parts (Stadtteile):

Innenstadt (Stadtbezirk 1)
Altstadt-Nord, Altstadt-Süd, Neustadt-Nord, Neustadt-Süd, Deutz
Rodenkirchen (Stadtbezirk 2)
Bayenthal, Godorf, Hahnwald, Immendorf, Marienburg, Meschenich, Raderberg, Raderthal, Rodenkirchen, Rondorf, Sürth, Weiß, Zollstock
Lindenthal (Stadtbezirk 3)
Braunsfeld, Junkersdorf, Klettenberg, Lindenthal, Lövenich, Müngersdorf, Sülz, Weiden, Widdersdorf
Ehrenfeld (Stadtbezirk 4)
Bickendorf, Bocklemünd/Mengenich, Ehrenfeld, Neuehrenfeld, Ossendorf, Vogelsang
Nippes (Stadtbezirk 5)
Bilderstöckchen, Longerich, Mauenheim, Niehl, Nippes, Riehl, Weidenpesch
Chorweiler (Stadtbezirk 6)
Blumenberg, Chorweiler, Esch/Auweiler, Fühlingen, Heimersdorf, Lindweiler, Merkenich, Pesch, Roggendorf/Thenhoven, Seeberg, Volkhoven/Weiler, Worringen
Porz (Stadtbezirk 7)
Eil, Elsdorf, Ensen, Finkenberg, Gremberghoven, Grengel, Langel, Libur, Lind, Poll, Porz, Urbach, Wahn, Wahnheide, Westhoven, Zündorf
Kalk (Stadtbezirk 8)
Brück, Höhenberg, Humboldt/Gremberg, Kalk, Merheim, Neubrück, Ostheim, Rath/Heumar, Vingst
Mülheim (Stadtbezirk 9)
Buchforst, Buchheim, Dellbrück, Dünnwald, Flittard, Höhenhaus, Holweide, Mülheim, Stammheim


Cologne is one of the warmest cities in Germany. It has a temperate–oceanic climate with relatively mild winters and warm summers. Its average annual temperature is 10 °C: 14.5 °C during the day and 5.5 °C at night.

Flood protection

Cologne is regularly affected by flooding from the Rhine and is considered the most flood-prone European city. A city agency (Stadtentwässerungsbetriebe Köln, "Cologne Urban Drainage Operations") manages an extensive flood control system which includes both permanent and mobile flood walls, protection from rising waters for buildings close to the river banks, monitoring and forecasting systems, pumping stations and programs to create or protect floodplains and river embankments.

Political traditions and developments

The long tradition of a free imperial city, which long dominated exclusively Catholic population and the age-old conflict between the church and the bourgeoisie (and within it between the patricians and craftsmen) has created its own political climate in Cologne. Various interest groups often form the basis of societal socialization and therefore beyond party boundaries. The resulting network of relationships, the political, economic and cultural links with each other in a system of mutual favors, obligations and dependencies, also called Cologne coterie. This has often led to an unusual proportional distribution in the city government and degenerated at times into corruption: in 1999, revealed "waste scandal" over kickbacks and illegal campaign contributions, not only the entrepreneur Hellmut Trienekens in prison brought, but did throw almost the entire leadership staff of the ruling Social Democrats.

The city was connected because of their Catholic tradition in the Empire and the Weimar Republic established the center, joined soon after the war, the political majority of the CDU to the SPD. This ruled for 40 years, in part, by an absolute majority of Council. Because of liberal traditions Cologne was always a stronghold of the FDP, because of its tolerant social climate and the Greens. Both parties do - with varying degrees of success - the increasingly popular parties disputed the majority.


Lord Mayor of Cologne is Jürgen Roters of the Social Democratic Party. As a common candidate of the SPD and the Greens, he received 54.67% of the vote on 30 August 2009 at the municipal election. He has been Lord Mayor since 21 October 2009.


City Councillors are set to a five year term and the Mayor has a six year term.

Make-up of city council

Social Democratic Party25
Christian Democratic Union25
Green Party20
Free Democratic Party9
pro Cologne5
The Left4
Free Voters1


The inner city of Cologne was completely destroyed during World War II. The reconstruction of the city followed the style of the 1950s, while respecting the old layout and naming of the streets. Thus, the city today is characterized by simple and modest post-war buildings, with few interspersed pre-war buildings which were reconstructed due to their historical importance. Some buildings of the "Wiederaufbauzeit" (era of reconstruction), for example the opera house by Wilhelm Riphahn, are nowadays regarded as classics of modern architecture. Nevertheless, the uncompromising style of the Cologne Opera house and other modern buildings has remained controversial.

Green areas account for over a quarter of Cologne which is approximately 75 m² of public green space for every citizen of the city.


Cologne had 4.31 million overnight accommodations booked and 2.38 million arrivals in 2008. The city has 70 clubs and other party spots. The city has "countless" bars, restaurants and pubs., which includes carnival parades, football, and beer.


As the largest city in the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region, Cologne benefits from a large market structure. In competition for location factors with Düsseldorf, the economy of Cologne is primarily based on insurance and media industries, while the city is also an important cultural and research centre and home to a number of corporate headquarters.

Among the largest media companies based in Cologne are Westdeutscher Rundfunk, RTL Television (with subsidiaries), n-tv, Deutschlandradio, Brainpool TV and publishing houses like J. P. Bachem, Taschen, Tandem Verlag and M. DuMont Schauberg. Several clusters of media, arts and communications agencies, TV production studios, and state agencies work partly with private and government funded cultural instititutions. Among the insurance companies based in Cologne are Central, DEVK, DKV, Generali Deutschland, Gothaer, HDI Gerling and national headquarters of AXA Insurance and Zurich Financial Services.

Lufthansa, the German flag carrier, and Lufthansa CityLine have their main corporate headquarters in Cologne. Largest employer in Cologne is Ford Europe, which has its European headquarters and a factory in Niehl (Ford-Werke GmbH). Toyota Motorsport GmbH (TMG), Toyota's official motorsports team, responsible for Toyota rally cars, and then Formula One cars has headquarters and workshops in Cologne. Other large companies based in Cologne include the REWE Group, TÜV Rheinland, Deutz AG and a number of Kölsch breweries. Cologne has the country's highest density of pubs per capita. A third of all German TV productions are produced in the Cologne region. 1. FC Köln plays its home matches in RheinEnergieStadion which also hosted 5 matches of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. The International Olympic Committee and Internationale Vereinigung Sport- und Freizeiteinrichtungen e.V. gave RheinEnergieStadion a bronze medal for "being one of the best sporting venues in the world".

  • Liverpool, England, since 1952
  • Lille, France, since 1958
  • Liège, Belgium, since 1958
  • Rotterdam, Netherlands, since 1958
  • Turin, Italy, since 1958
  • Burgas, Bulgaria since 1991
  • Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg, since 1958
  • Kyoto, Japan, since 1963
  • Tunis, Tunisia, since 1964
  • Turku, Finland, since 1967
  • Neukölln, Germany, since 1967
  • Tel Aviv, Israel, since 1979
  • Barcelona, Spain, since 1984
  • Beijing, China, since 1987
  • Cork, Ireland, since 1988
  • Thessaloniki, Greece, since 1988
  • Corinto/El Realejo, Nicaragua, since 1988
  • Indianapolis, United States, since 1988
  • Volgograd, Russia, since 1988
  • Treptow-Köpenick, Germany, since 1990
  • Katowice, Poland, since 1991
  • Bethlehem, Palestinian Territories, since 1996
  • Istanbul, Turkey, since 1997
  • Cluj-Napoca, Romania, since 1999
  • Batangas, Philippines
  • Saskatoon, Canada
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, since 2011

Additionally, the districts of Rodenkirchen, Lindenthal and Porz continue to maintain individual town-partnerships, established during their time as independent municipalities.

Born in Cologne

Notable people, whose roots can be found in Cologne:

  • Adenauer, Konrad (5 January 1876 - 19 April 1967), politician, mayor of Cologne (1917–1933, 1945) and first West German Federal Chancellor
  • Agrippa, Heinrich Cornelius (1486–1535), alchemist, occultist, and author of Three Books of Occult Philosophy
  • Agrippina the Younger (6 November 15 - between 19 March and 23 March 59), Roman Empress (wife of Emperor Claudius) and mother of Emperor Nero
  • Birnbaum, Heinrich (1403–1473), a Catholic monk
  • Blum, Robert (10 November 1807 - 9 November 1848), politician and martyr of the 19th century democratic movement in Germany
  • Böll, Heinrich (21 December 1917 - 16 July 1985), writer and winner of the Nobel prize for literature in 1972
  • Bruch, Max (6 January 1838 - 2 October 1920) composer
  • Calatrava, Álex (born 14 June 1973), Spanish professional tennis player
  • Donnersmarck, Florian Henckel von (born 2 May 1973), Academy Award-winning director and screenwriter
  • Ernst, Max (2 April 1891 - 1 April 1976), artist
  • Gossow, Angela (5 November 1974) The lead vocalist of the Swedish melodic death metal band Arch Enemy
  • Heidemann, Britta (born 22 December 1982), épée fencer and Olympic medalist
  • (4 May 1927 - 16 March 1991), actress and singer
  • (born 2 August 1969), actress
  • Kier, Udo (born 14 October 1944), actor
  • Jutta Kleinschmidt (born August 29, 1962), offroad automotive racing competitor
  • Klemperer, Werner (22 March 1920 - 6 December 2000), Emmy Award-winning comedy actor
  • Klibansky, Erich (28 November 1900 - 24 July 1942), Jewish headmaster and teacher
  • Kober, Adolf (3 September 1870 - 30 December 1958), Jewish rabbi and medievalist
  • Gaby Köster (born 1961), German actress and comedian
  • (born 2 June 1952), actress
  • (born 23 August 1941), actress and singer
  • Krupp, Uwe (born 24 June 1965), professional (ice) hockey player
  • Kühn, Heinz (18 February 1912 - 12 March 1992), Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia (1966–1978)
  • Lauterbach, Heiner (born 10 April 1953), actor
  • Liebert, Ottmar (born 1 February 1961), musician
  • Millowitsch, Marie-Luise (born 23 November 1955), actress
  • (born 1 February 1949), actor, playwright and theatre director
  • Millowitsch, Willy (8 January 1909 - 20 September 1999), actor, playwright and theatre director
  • Niedecken, Wolfgang (born 30 March 1951), singer, musician, artist and bandleader of BAP
  • Neuhoff, Theodor von (25 August 1694 - 11 December 1756), briefly King Theodore of Corsica
  • Offenbach, Jacques (20 June 1819 - 5 October 1880), composer
  • (1 October 1876 - 6 August 1936) composer
  • Petras, Kim (born 27 August 1992), singer
  • Prausnitz, Frederik William (26 August 1920 - 12 November 2004), American conductor and teacher
  • Päffgen, Christa aka Nico (16 October 1938 - 18 July 1988), model, actress, singer and songwriter (see Velvet Underground) and Warhol Superstar
  • Raab, Stefan (born 20 October 1966), German entertainer and host of ESC 2011
  • Rüttgers, Jürgen (born 26 June 1951), Minister-President of North Rhine-Westphalia 2005-2010
  • Stockhausen, Markus (born 2 May 1957), musician and composer
  • Trips, Wolfgang Graf Berghe von, Formula One racing driver
  • Vondel, Joost van den (17 November 1587 - 5 February 1679), Dutch poet and playwright
  • Weimar, Robert (born 13 May 1932), legal scientist and psychologist

See also

  • Stadtwerke Köln, the municipal infrastructure company, operator of the city's railways, ports and utilities.
  • History of the Jews in Cologne

External links