Set on a wide sweep of the River Rhein, Cologne like many German cities was heavily bombed during World War Two. Also like may German cities a lot of the old sections were carefully and realistically rebuilt, while other areas gave birth to more post-modern looking architecture.
The end result is an eclectic looking city. Despite this, perhaps because of it, Cologne makes an interesting destination for photographers. The wide expanse of river affords excellent views for cityscapes, while the narrow streets of the old town are great for street and candid photographers.
Today we are going to take a look at what to shoot in Cologne.
With an international airport a few kilometres from the city centre and a well served central train station, Cologne is an easy destination to reach from most parts of Europe. Budget airlines such as Wizzair serve the city from multiple locations.
From further afield direct flights into Frankfurt and a three-hour train ride will bring you to the heart of the city.
Like most German cities, Cologne is well served by local transport. Overground trains, the S-Bahn and a light railway U-Bahn allow you to get around the city easily. However, the centre of the city is compact enough to get around on foot.
The Iconic Locations
Arguably the icon of the city is Cologne Cathedral. It stands high and proud in a relatively low-level city and can be photographed from numerous locations.
Getting up close and personal some great shots can be had from Roncalliplatz to the south of the structure. This modern plaza contrasts sympathetically with the gothic spires of the cathedral. The entire cathedral is surrounded by a modern plaza and also numerous artworks which can be used as a juxtaposition to the building.
Surrounding the cathedral on the south and west is the Museum Ludwig and Kolner Philharmonie both housed in the same modern building.
Shooting from the pedestrian path beside the river gives a great contrast between the ultra modern and the ancient. From the riverbank, on both sides of the Rhein, you can shoot another of Cologne’s icons, the Hohenzollernbrucke. This is a multi-arch, multi-tracked railway bridge that spans the Rhein in front of the Cathedral.
Perhaps the most famous shots of Cologne are taken from the East bank of the Rhein beside the Hohenzollernbrucke and incorporating the Cathedral on the opposite bank.
The best location is on the viewing platforms to the side of the bridge and the best time to shoot is during the blue hour when both the bridge and cathedral are spectacularly lit.
The bridge itself has a wide pedestrian walkway with hundreds of thousands of love locks adorning the frame. On summer’s evening, this is a great location for shooting people and silhouettes looking back towards the cathedral.
Back on the west bank of the Rhein, the area south of the cathedral is the restored old town of Cologne. Featuring colourful Hanseatic style architecture and pretty squares this is a great place to wander with your camera at any time of day.
Its centrepiece is the Catholic Church of St Martin, which is best shot from the pretty park on the riverbanks.
Just South of the old town is the modern Deutzer Bridge. In itself nothing spectacular but from it, you can get some excellent cityscape shots that incorporate the old town, St Martin and the Cathedral.
Dawn is a good time to shoot here as the sun rises behind you casting a soft yellow light on the pastel shades of the old town.
Just south of Deutzer Bridge is Rheinauhafen. This is the renovated dockland area and will appeal to photographers of modern architecture where canyon like buildings provide a contrast to the architecture of the old town.
North of the city on the west bank of the Rhine is Skulpturenpark. With free admission, this pretty park is a great place to shoot modern works of art from people such as Anish Kapoor.
Further Afield, Cologne’s location makes it ideal for trips to other Rhein cities. The nearest is Dusseldorf to the north and Bonn to the south, both worth a photographic trip if you have a longer stay in Cologne.
Like many German cities, Cologne is a heady mix of the old, the restored and the ultra-modern. While not as photogenic as nearby cities such as Paris and Amsterdam it is still a place well worth visiting as a photographer.
Cityscapes, architecture and street photographers will all enjoy what this western German city has to offer.