Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Historic Cologne (Köln) Running Route

Click here for route map 
Length: 8.6 km (5.3 miles), terrain flat

Cologne Running Routes:
Historic Sights 
Green-Belt  
Rhine River Route
   
For more running routes, see Route List.

Cologne is one of the oldest towns in Germany, founded by the Romans over 2000 years ago. And there are enough historic sights to connect a lot of them together into one run. And a big part of the route will be along the scenic Rhine waterfront, so there will be enough nature added in.

Dom entrance
This route will start in front of the amazing Cologne cathedral (the "Dom"), visit a few Roman artifacts, then head south up the river to the old Prussian forts, then loop back along the medieval city walls before heading back through the center of town again.

NOTE: There are paths along both sides of the Rhine River in both directions from the Köln center, lined with several nice parks. So you can't go wrong by just running along the river. Every bridge, even the railroad bridges, has a pedestrian walkway over the river.

The Historic Cologne Route
Standing on the square in front of the Cologne cathedral is an experience in itself. The gothic facade and twin towers are massive, and it was once the tallest building on earth. Make sure that you don't leave Cologne without touring the insides of the church. The gigantic space inside, with beautiful stained-glass windows, and the reliquary of the magi (three wise men), and the crypt are impressive from every angle. The cathedral took 7 centuries to build, and survived basically intact through the World War II bombing raids, taking 70 direct hits, but still surviving.
Detail from the Dom front doors
Standing there, looking at the front side of the church, turn to your right and run past the fountain on the right side of the church and then turn left to run straight towards the Römisch-Germanisch (Roman-Germanic) Museum, next to the cathedral.

Looking into the Roman museum
The museum has a lot of well-preserved roman artifacts, mainly grave monuments. Luckily, you can see lots of it just by looking into the glass windows. One temple-like mausoleum dominates the exhibit. Outside the museum building there are also lots of carved stones on display. The museum is in the heart of the original Roman town, which had the first bridge across the Rhine. This settlement formed the spearhead of the Roman's long, and ultimately unsuccessful, struggle to subdue the German tribes across the river.

Make a loop around the small museum building. On the side next to the Dom you can see the cathedral's stone masons' workshops down in the courtyard next to the church. The masons have to constantly replace weathered stones on the facade, a never-ending process.

Roman street paving: were there skateboarders in the Roman days?
Back at the plaza, turn left and go a few steps to take the old Roman street sloping down towards the river, now a favorite hangout for skateboarders. The stone structure on the right is a remnant of the Roman sewer system (yes, they had sewer pipes 2000 years ago!).

Run downhill to the river and then turn right to run south along the water. This is the old town area, full of waterfront restaurants and pubs. This is the best place to hang out on a nice summer evening.

Promenade along the Rhine
But before going straight down the river, we'll take a little loop through the old town to get a flavor of it. The few blocks directly along the river are the most interesting.

St. Martin's in the old town
When you see the romance-style St. Martin's church come up on the right, turn right and run up the street to the left of the church, on Lintstraße. The houses are typical of the lower Rhine, and very similar to the style in Holland, with their high windows.

The street ends in a couple of blocks at the Alter Markt (Old Market), full of more restaurants and pubs. Turn left here and run the block to the next market square, Heumarkt (Haymarket). Immediately turn left again and run down the little lane, Salzgasse, downhill towards the river again. This area is also full of restaurants, pubs and clubs. Salzgasse ends at Buttermarkt, where you turn right and run through the rest of the old town for a few blocks.

Courtyard behind Salzgasse
The old-town buildings end at a plaza just before the bridge, Deutzer Brücke, that goes over to Deutz (pronounced "Doits") on the other side of the Rhine.

Before the bridge, cut over to the water's edge and then run under the bridge, heading up-river to the south. We'll keep running along the riverside until the turn-around point.

After a few blocks, you'll see the old harbor island coming up ahead, with the rounded-glass front of the Chocolate Museum at the tip of the island. Cross the old metal bridge over to the island and run over to the new promenade along the river here. It's nicer and quieter than the street along the mainland.

Running towards chocolate museum
The harbor was just a run-down industrial area a few years ago, with no way to run along the water, but has been redeveloped with new offices and apartments and warehouse conversions. Cologne, like a lot of cities with big, industrialized waterfronts, have (hallalujah) rediscovered the areas as great places to live and work.

After some blocks, you'll pass the old Bayenturm tower from the old city walls, on the right side. You are now leaving the medieval town center of Cologne. We'll get back to run along part of the wall on the way back.

You will see the metal arches of the railroad bridge coming up ahead. Just after the last riverfront building before the bridge, turn right and cross the street (Agrippinaufer) at the pedestrian crossing. You'll see a round, red-brick fort straight ahead, in a woodsy park. The fort (called the Rheinschanze) was part of a ring of fortifications built by the Prussians after they got ahold of this area following the Napoleanic Wars. The Germans were forced to demolish most of the defences after World War I.

The Rheinschanze fort
Nowadays, the area has been turned into a beautiful park. So run through the archway on the left side of the fort, into the park behind it. On a nice day it will be full of people playing boules, picnicking or just hanging around.

Circle the little fort and come back out at the front entrance again. Now run directly away from it on Titusstraße. Another park lines the right side. A block later, the street comes to an oval square, where you turn onto Mainzer Straße and run 2 more blocks until you come to the big Ring street, with its tram line. The ring street forms a half-circle surrounding the old city walls.

Cross the ring street and run one more block to the wall itself. You will come to the Bottmühle, an old windmill tower surrounded by a green grounds. In the old days, it was common to use the city-wall towers as windmills. Today, a youth group, the "Falken" use the tower.

Actually, along this section, there isn't any wall to see, just the old towers.

Now turn left on Severinswall and follow it 2 blocks to the old city gates, the Severinstorburg. Pass the gates, as the street name changes to Kartäuserwall. The street isn't very spectacular, but it's quieter than the ring road.

Metallic guard at Ulrichturm
When you pass the next old tower, the Ulrichturm, the street opens up into a park on the left side. Now run towards your left, along the ring street here, so that you can see the section of old city walls coming up. There is a length of about 200 meters of wall here, giving you a good impression of the old defences.

Wall section with watchtower
After the park, run one more block along the ring street, then turn right on Am Weidenbach, and head into the center of town. After a block you'll pass the old St. Pantaleon church and a park. Keep running straight, past a stumpy tower-ruins, as the street name changes to Kleiner Griechenmarkt, then Fleischmengergasse. This neighborhood isn't beautiful, but is typical for Cologne. Most of the city was flattened in the war, and was replaced by fairly simple buildings afterwards.

The street comes out at the east end of the Neumarkt square, where several tram lines converge. Run straight to the back side of the square and turn right on the pedestrian shopping street, Schildergasse. This is the main shopping area in the town center. Just follow the street eastwards back to the old town, staying on the right side, Gürzenichstraße, at the spot where it forks.

When you come to the first really old building, a big gothic-looking thing with battlements running along the roof, turn left on Quatermarkt. The building, the Gürzenich, is a 550-year-old venue where kings and kaisers have held receptions, and it's still used as a venue today.

Archaeological dig at the Rathaus
In a block you'll come to an open square in front of the old city hall (Rathaus). The square is a giant archeological dig at the moment. Among other houses, a medieval synagogue was located here, and the site is being turned into a Jewish museum.

Go past the digs, and turn right to look at the facade of the town hall. The first part is a reproduction of a roman building, built in the kaiser-era. The kaisers liked reaching back historically to the Roman times: the word "kaiser" comes from "caesar", and for a thousand years the German kings held the title "Emperor of Rome" in the Holy Roman Empire.

On the left side of the city hall, you'll find its gothic tower, rebuilt after the war.

Rathaus gothic tower
After the city hall, keep running on Bürgerstraße, and you are almost back at the start of the run. In 2 blocks, the street ends at Am Hof, with another gothic building on the corner. Turn left to run 1 block and then you'll see the plaza next to the cathedral on your right. Just run up the steps onto the plaza, past more skateboarders, and you're back at the Dom and the roman museum.
These guys were playing Pachelbel's Canon at the Dom