Art City Break Cologne
Meeting Point for Pop Art and Saints
It’s a new month again, spring is in the air and the best season for art city breaks is about to start. For this month’s round of ArtSmart articles, the choice for us members of the ArtSmart Roundtable fell on writing about ‘art cities’ around the world. We use the occasion to introduce the German city of Cologne, one of the best art city destinations in the country, closely behind the capital Berlin.We also like to introduce you to the newest member of our Roundtable: Lizzie of Wanderarti. Lizzie not only writes about art cities, but also showcases works of different artists.
For new readers not familiar with The ArtSmart Roundtable: we are part of a group of art-focused travel bloggers who write about a new art-travel related topic every month. Once you’ve read this article, make sure to also check out the contributions from the other members, there will be stories from the North American West Coast, about a hidden gem from the Balkans and a travelling dog visiting cities around the globe… So yes, you should get curious – links at the bottom of this post.
What Makes An Art City Stand Out?
Before we delve into what Cologne has to offer, let’s define what the ideal art city break would actually look like for us personally. It is actually a big part of our focus on this site, so it’s a topic we often reflect over. Although a good museum on its own can make a destination worthwhile travelling to, it’s not only the museums that make a real art city stand out. The basis for a perfect art city break for us lies in a mixture of different elements. To make it simple, here are some random thoughts around this.
- Although we have a slight preference for photography and modern & contemporary art, we also think that museums with the art of the old masters or about the history of a city always add to the mix. The latter often makes you understand a city immediately much better and might put things you see around the streets and squares in perspective. On top of it, you will discover things you wouldn’t have got to know while just walking through the city.
- While we really enjoy visiting the flagship museums, we find it as inspiring to see the work of local artists in galleries and design shops.
- As much as we like to visit museums and galleries, we like having some good outside sight-seeing opportunities too, like a cute historic centre, some nice modern architecture, or for example a lush-green park (if it’s a sculpture park even better!) for those nice and sunny days.
- If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know that we’re big street-art fans. Finding a good portion of street-art throughout town, like in the Belgian city Ghent, is a real added bonus for us.
- Although we certainly don’t mind using a city’s public transport to see all the highlights (sometimes there’s no choice really), we do enjoy it a lot more when all the main attractions are at walking distance from each other, as this gives you the opportunity to absorb the local atmosphere much better, rather than jumping from one bus or subway train to the other.
- After a long day of walking around a city and admiring all highlights, feeding your brain with new inspiration, it’s time to treat your body, fill your empty stomach and relax a bit. Although we are not big food connoisseurs, we can’t deny we enjoy a good meal at the end of the day. Myself being a non-meat eater this is at times challenging, so the more choices a city offers in this respect, the better.
- While we still regularly book budget accommodation and have nothing against staying in a simple, clean room, we feel a stay in a bit more fancy, design place does give a weekend away something extra.
So how does Cologne qualify as an art city destination? Pretty well, we think. Here are just some of the factors contributing to it.
Art City Break Cologne Evaluated
Being Germany’s fourth largest city (after Berlin, Hamburg and Munich) with a population of over a million inhabitants, you would perhaps expect that you need to use public transport quite often to get from one highlight to the other in Cologne. This is however not the case at all. In fact, the main highlights are all quite close to each other and you can easily walk from one attraction to the other, while enjoying parts of the historic city or views over the Rhine, the famous river running through Cologne. And it all starts the moment when you walk out of the train station.
With more than 30 museums and over 100 galleries we bet you’ll not be able to visit every single one of these venues in just one weekend, unless you just run in and out from one to the other. These numbers do, however, give an idea of the art scene in Cologne, considered as one of the best in Germany.
Romano Germanic Museum
Wallraf-Richartz Museum & Fondation Corboud
Only a couple of blocks away from the cathedral you’ll find the Wallraf-Richartz Museum & Fondation Corboud. This museum houses the works of European painters from the 13th to the early 20th century, ranging from classic Medieval art to Baroque masters to the works of the impressionists. It’s here you’ll find among others Stefan Lochner’s Madonna in the Rose-bower, also referred to as the ‘kölsche Mona Lisa’, next to Rembrandts and Monets.
Farina Fragrance Museum
Just across the Wallraf-Richartz Museum you’ll find the Farina Fragrance Museum. If you ever wondered where the name ‘eau de cologne’ comes from and wish to smell (or buy) the real deal, dive into the history of scents and visit this museum, which is the birthplace of the original ‘eau de cologne’. It may be less of a highlight for some of us, but considering its history and its place in world history, it’s fun enough to spend some time here too.
While walking from one museum to the other you’ll find yourself in the historical centre with its cobblestoned streets and cute, traditional houses, many of which are housing restaurants or traditional breweries (Brauhaus in German) today. The term ‘historical’ is a bit misleading though, as the largest part of the city centre was destroyed during World War II. After the war only some of the traditional houses were rebuilt, although with German preciseness, explaining why you hardly notice that the buildings are not originals.
Skulpturen Park Köln
Although we’ve personally seen very little street art in Cologne ourselves – apart from some sculptures like the one of Tünnes and Schäl – since we were mainly in the old city centre during our stay, we have heard good stories about the street art scene in Cologne. In fact, the city has its own street art festival, called Cityleaks, which will be on for the third time in September 2015. You can likely expect us visiting back then. When you’re not able to visit the festival, but do like to discover some new street art, make sure to check-out the Ehrenfelt and Belgische Viertel, where there’s supposed to be plenty of street art.
- Christina – Washington DC: An Art & Culture City
- Alexandra – The Art and Travel Dog
- Lizzie – Puppetry, Street Performers, and Local Creators: Art Festivals in Ljubljana
- Murissa – Vancouver’s Art Scene
- Jenna – Two Very Different Museums in San Francisco