Cologne and the Ruhr

Photo by Rick Ligthelm

Cologne and the Ruhr Itineraries

Cologne for First-Timers

Explore history, culture and the arts in two cities, then escape into the rural Ruhr Valley

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The Ruhr region (Ruhrgebiet) in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia is Germany’s most densely populated and heavily industrialised region. Yet, unlike many European industrial areas, it still has enormous might and potential. So it’s wealthy too and this money has been put to excellent use developing a more attractive side to the region by promoting modern culture an architecture yet still preserving history wherever possible. This is particularly the case the region’s older cities: Cologne (Köln), Bonn, Aachen and Xanten which all originated in Roman times – and all justify a spot on an itinerary through the region.


Cologne stands out for having a particular glut of splendors, particularly the colossal Gothic cathedral, though there’s much impressive Romanesque art in other churches too. The city’s also famed for its annual carnival, when the local populace – known in any case for being jovial and easy-going – really let rip.


Neighbouring Bonn is another historic city and famous for being both West Germany’s unlikely capital between 1949 and unification in 1990, and as the birthplace of Beethoven.


Meanwhile Aachen, still celebrates its 8th-century heyday as the administrative hub of Charlemagne’s vast European-wide empire – the Holy Roman Empire’s equivalent to today’s Brussels.

Rural North Rhine-Westphalia

Outside the big cities much of North Rhine-Westphalia is rural, with numerous impressive abbeys dotted throughout the region and surprising amounts of hiking and biking in the Teutonburg Forest and in the Northern Eifel mountains, and the Sauerland. So if you’re looking for day trips into the countryside, you’ll never need to look far.

To learn more about the Ruhr region of Germany, check www.germany.travel. And, until we find the perfect destination specialist (if that’s you, please contact us), we’ve sourced a great itinerary for Cologne the German National Tourist Board; see below.  


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