Summiting Cologne’s Gigantic Gothic Cathedral

Cologne’s Cathedral, also known as the Dom Cologne, is Germany’s most-visited landmark- and it’s certainly impressive from the ground, but even more impressive from the top.

But to get to the top? One must endured 509 lung-burning, steep, positively medieval steps packed to the gills with other tourists.

The Dom Cologne

At first I thought, “No big deal, I used to own the Stairmaster in college.”

But by about step 100, I was muttering, “Fake it ’til you make it,” under labored breath. At least I was burning off some latkes from the night before.

When we finally made it the top, we were able to catch our breath long enough to enjoy the festive vistas of the snow-covered city; from the icy Rhine River to the cheery red-tented Christmas markets.

Cologne Cathedral

The Dom Cologne

The Dom Cologne

I made this journey to the top of the Kölner Dom with Marina, my Couchsurfing host from Corfu, as well as Julika, a fellow travel blogger/history buff from Sateless Suitcase who is studying to become an art historian. (Might I just add that I will never visit a medieval church sans the company of a well-trained and personable art historian ever again?)

The Dom Cologne

Being as this was a girl’s only trip to the top of the cathedral, we made sure to take lots of artsy portraits.

The Dom Cologne

The Dom Cologne

Due to Julika’s impressive knowledge of the cathedral, we learned lots of fun facts we would have never learned otherwise. The white tower at right was built in the 1950s (to great controversy in the art world) after the Allied Forces bombed Cologne during World War II.

Cologne Christmas Market

Once Julika mentioned that, I noticed that the tower did stick out garishly from the rest of the medieval architecture.

Then we made our way inside to see the cathedral’s enormous the bell, which clanged LOUDLY right next to our poor, unprepared ears.

The Dom Cologne

The Dom Cologne

Cologne’s cathedral took more than 700 years to build, and is in fact the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe (it has room for a congregation of 20,000!). And it was built well; during World War II the cathedral suffered hits from seventy bombs but stood tall while the rest of Cologne was flattened.

The Dom Cologne

Later we explored the interior of the cathedral (which I have no pictures of because I am still stupidly using my camera’s built-in flash.)

“This cathedral is considered very special because it has five naves,” said Julika. Um, English may be my first language, but uh… what’s a nave? (Here’s the definition in case you were wondering; I’m still not entirely certain.)

So if you’re ever in Cologne, definitely visit the Dom Cologne cathedral– your shapely thighs will thank you later.

What is the coolest cathedral that you’ve seen in Europe… or beyond?

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

11 thoughts on “Summiting Cologne’s Gigantic Gothic Cathedral”

  1. Wow, I can’t believe how gorgeous your photos turned out! And I loved the depiction of our umm, heroic climb :)
    Had so much fun meeting you – and I’m totally up for a repetition at Sainte-Chapelle (minus those endless stairs :))!

  2. No elevator option? The cathedral in my hometown, Coventry, was bombed to smithereens in WWII but the ruins still stand and look really good, if ruins can ever look good, that is.

  3. Ahhh you were so lucky to have Julika as your guide! I would love to learn a thing or two about medieval architecture from a soon-to-be art historian :D (I didn’t know what a nave was either!)

    Cologne’s cathedral looks stunning, I think the most impressive cathedral I’ve seen in Europe is St. Vitus in Prague – I love his Gothic good looks!

  4. It has been 15 years since I was last in Cologne and I see it is time for a revival… beautiful pictures. And yes, and art historian at hand is always handy. My sister restores stone material, from tomb stones to castles, thus had training in art history too and I LOVE exploring any impressive architecture with her! My favorite cathedral is probably the one in Krakow, Poland, on the castle hill overlooking teh Vistula river. It’s gorgeous!!

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