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Described by UNESCO as a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, the Cologne Cathedral or the Kölner Dom is an awe-inspiring world heritage site. The construction of this Gothic cathedral started in 1248 and took 632 years, and when it was finally completed in 1880 it was one of the world's tallest buildings. The Dom stands at an imposing 157 meters (505 feet) high and you'll need to be in good shape if you want to climb one of the towers, although the view from the top is definitely worth the effort. There is no cost to enter the cathedral, but there is a fee to visit the Treasure Chamber or climb the tower. The Cologne Cathedral is a well-known historic landmark that can't be missed.
The Hahnentorburg on Rudolfplatz is one of the three medieval gatehouses which remain standing from the city's medieval fortifications. This western gate, along with its two towers, was built in the early 13th-Century and was used as an entrance for royal visitors who came to the city to pay homage to the Cologne Cathedral's Shrine of the Three Kings. The Hahnentorburg was damaged during World War II but it was restored to its former glory and is now an impressive city landmark. Visitors can pass through this historic gateway while admiring this medieval treasure's intriguing architecture.
Located in an impressive building, Imhoff Chocolate Museum is a fantastic museum where visitors can learn about the history of chocolate mainly from the time of ancient Maya and Aztec cultures. Visitors are taken through the history of cocoa beans from various countries, the crushing and processing of the beans and finally the main product. Visitors also get to sample these sweet treats which are simply tasty and delightful. There is a grand cafe and a lovely chocolate shop from where visitors can savor on various chocolate delights and even purchase some.
On the south-eastern border of Cologne lies the Schloss Wahn, a stunning structure that was originally designed as a moated castle in the 14th-Century and featured a residential tower and gatehouse. In the mid-18th-Century, the family who owned the castle expanded the property, turning it into a moated palace. In 1820, the property was bought by Baron von Eltz-Rübenach and his family who still own the property to this very day. Sadly, the castle was badly damaged during World War II, as so many historic structures were. After the war, renovations were undertaken and today the property is used as a restored manor house that houses the Theaterwissenschaftliche Sammlung of Cologne University.
Built in the 15th-Century by Rembold of Plettenberg, the Burg Wissem is a grandiose structure that stands in the town of Troisdorf. While it suffered damage in World War II, the structure has been renovated and looks as beautiful today as it did when it was built in 1435. The main halls and rooms of the castle has now been converted into an illustrations museum that showcases different drawings of landmarks located across the city. One half of the building is also dedicated to a research association that deals in recognizing and preserving historical monuments. Visitors can also explore some of the smaller buildings that still house original furnishings and beautiful period-piece decorations.
Situated on the Michaelsberg and overlooking the town of Sieburg, the Michaelsberg Abbey is a former Benedictine monastery belonging to the Subiaco Congregation, which is the largest congregation in the Benedictine Confederation. Founded in 1064 by Archbishop Anno II, the abbey succumbed to a fire in the 18th-century and was rebuilt to its current baroque building complex. In 1803, after the dissolution of the abbey, the building was used as an army barrack, a mental hospital and as a prison. In 1914, the abbey again fell under the care of the Benedictine convent during World War II. In 2010, the community voted to close the abbey due to its declining financial situation. Today the abbey is open to public visitations and can be explore on a guided tour or on your own.
Set atop a hill and overlooking a river valley below, the 19th-century Schloss Drachenburg of Königswinter seems right out of a Grimm brothers' fairy tale. Constructed for a wealthy German broker who never managed to live there, the castle today is a popular tourist attraction with its stunning architecture, beautifully landscaped parks, breathtaking views and magnificently designed interiors. Ceilings adorned with hand-painted frescoes, luxurious furniture and four-poster beds fit for princesses decorate the interiors, helping visitors to imagine they have stepped into a fairytale. Visitors can explore the castle on their own or take a guided tour to learn a bit more about the history of the place. Open throughout the spring, summer, and fall months to visitors, the castle is also available to rent for private events.
The remains of this railroad bridge are home to a museum dedicated to its construction and history. The bridge, which was built during World War I to bring soldiers and material to the Western Front, was one of the last bridges over the Rhine to be captured by Allied forces during World War II in a battle known as The Miracle of Remagen. The top floors of the remaining towers contain the museum, which, in addition to screening a documentary, contains historical exhibits of war ephemera with photography, full-size bombs, and a field telephone.
The Andernach Geyser is the world's highest cold-water geyser, shooting pressurized geyser water 196.85 feet (60 meters) up into the air. Stop by the Geyser Center where you can see multimedia shows and explore interactive displays to learn about the natural process of geyser formation. Next, hop on the center's boat for a short ride to the Namedyer Werth peninsula, which is the site of a forest on the banks of the River Rhine, and is home to many endangered species of birds as well as being the location of this unique geyser. Watch the impressive eruption then head back to the visitor's center on the center's boat. There are only four times that the boats go out throughout the day, so be sure to check ahead to find out when the boats will be shipped off.
The Ehrenbreitstein Fortress sits atop a mountain with the same name. The fortress was built on the mountain top between the years of 1817 and 1828 by Prussian forces, though another fortress had stood on this same spot until 1801 when it was destroyed by the French. Of course, early people had also seen the benefits of building on top of the impressive Ehrenbreitstein mountain; some archaeologists believe that structures may have been built on this same site as early as the 9th-Century BC. The fortress that visitors can see today was never attacked while the Prussian military owned it. It was, however, occupied by U.S. troops during the Occupation of the Rhineland. Having escaped destruction in World War II, the fortress served as a variety of establishments before being made into a museum in 1956. Visitors can take a cable car up to the fortress where they can wander around the grounds and explore the many rooms on docent-led tours.
A popular landmark, Limburg Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral dedicated to Saint George. Also referred to as Georgsdom, the church was built on 'Limburger Rock' in 910 for King Louis the Child. However, this 10th-Century structure has mostly vanished, with only a few remains having been found under the nave of the cathedral that stands today. The present Romanesque building is thought to have been constructed during the early 12th or 13th Century, though the actual date of construction is unknown. Archaeologists do know, however, that the church was consecrated by the archbishop of Trier, Theoderich von Wied, in 1235. The church building features imposing twin-tower facades and seven striking spires. The interiors are decorated with spectacular Evangelist rosette, pointed arches, archivolts, glass windows and blind arches. Guided tours of the cathedral are available for visitors so long as they schedule the tour ahead of time, as tourists are not allowed to simply wander into the church.
Runkel Castle is a stupendous fortress situated in the very heart of the renowned city of Runkel in Germany. This fortress is one of the most popular haunts for tourists and locals alike. Overlooking the glistening blue waters of the Lahn river, this age-old beauty is a solitary structure dominating the viridescent Lahn river valley. The castle was constructed in the 12th-Century and has been owned by numerous aristocrats and families of power since its inception. At present, a chapel, museum, and offices are housed within its premises. The site still serves as a residence for Metfried, Prince of Wied, and his family. This site is definitely a must-visit for anyone who loves history or who wants to feel like they've stepped into a fairytale.