Gothic architecture, modern art and ‘singing beer’ give this cultural city its liberal atmosphere
You could think of Cologne as a sixth-form college to Berlin’s infinitely cooler art school. In comparison it feels as if it is all student cash bars and puppyish idealism, spider plants at every turn, and still a lot of love for the Beatles – Germany’s fourth largest city has been twinned with Liverpool since 1952.
Go into any street in the centre and you’ll see a glorious muddle of architecture, 19th-century mansions next to 1950s tiled houses and new-builds in steel and glass. Very little feels sacred here, apart from the Romanesque churches and, of course, the Dom – Cologne cathedral which mixes in Gothic arches with Gerhard Richter’s dreamy, pixelated, stained-glass windows. Built in 1248, it’s the fourth-tallest cathedral in the world. Cologne seems really good at never quite topping the statistics, although it does have Germany’s largest mosque, the Cologne Central Mosque, a modern design with its concrete and glass dome and glass walls.