A church and museum rolled into one: Cologne Cathedral is not just one of the largest and most prominent cathedrals in the world, it is also home to fascinating and moving old art treasures of former beauty. It truly is a World Cultural Heritage Site.
Europe's once most famous pilgrimage church still majestically towers above Cologne city centre to this day. Pilgrims still come here, even after 750 years, but it is mainly tourists, worshippers and art connoisseurs from around the world who visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site (classified as such in 1996). The cathedral is wondrously adorned in major art treasures, including the winged altar at the heart of St. Mary's Chapel, which was painted in 1442 and is a masterpiece from the late Gothic Cologne School of Painting. Visitors are advised not to come to the cathedral during Advent or Lent, as the wings of the altar are closed during these periods.
The one-of-a-kind Shrine of the Three Kings is the largest, most artistically significant, and, in terms of its content, most ambitious reliquary of the Middle Ages. The Milan Madonna is utterly captivating. The original is said to have come with the relics of the Three Kings, but legend has it that it was destroyed during the fire in the Old Cathedral. The colourful stained-glass windows are spectacular. The oldest one dates back to the 13th century, whereas the newest is just ten years old. The low C note of St. Peter's Bell – the world's largest free-swinging bell – is moving, as is the pleasant sound of the Angelus Bell, the oldest preserved peal in the Western world. Take a seat in the choir stalls – where German emperors and the Pope once sat – and lap up the sound of the bells...
Opening hours: November to April: 6am to 7:30pm; May to October: 6am to 9pm; tours of the cathedral available on Sundays and bank holidays: 1pm to 4:30pm
Nearest train station: Cologne