Good things come to those who wait. Ten years after planning began for the Rhine Boulevard on the right-hand side of the Rhine River in Deutz, it was finally completed at the end of 2016. Between the Deutzer and Hohenzollern Bridges, the ‘Schäl Sick’ (local dialect for ‘the wrong side’) boasts its biggest trump card: the view of the ‘right’ side. And what better place to start a bike ride?
From here you can take in a view of both old and new Cologne: the Cathedral, the colourful houses of the Old Town and the Romanesque Great Saint Martin Church with the glass-clad Kranhäuser apartment and office buildings to the south.
Our cycle route takes you the other way, northward under the Hohenzollern Bridge. This is where trains packed with soldiers left for the frontline during the two world wars. Today, the bridge is covered in love padlocks.
Behind the trade fair building with its redbrick façade and the distinctive tent roof of the Tanzbrunnen begins the Rheinpark, created for two national horticultural shows in 1957 and 1971. Despite being left to decline over the decades, the 50s-style Park Café is still worth a look. Since 2012, a local initiative has been advocating its renovation and the listed building will be reopening in summer 2017.
Cologne has beautiful riverside beaches, but swimming there is not recommended
After passing under the Zoo Bridge — where you can cross the Rhine by cable car from April to October — you’ll arrive in the more natural Jugendpark. Down by the river there is a pebble beach, which gets crowded in the summer. But due to the unpredictable currents, swimming is not recommended.
Push your bike over the small steep bridge, known among the Cologne locals as “Katzenbuckel” (which means cat’s arched back), where you will reach the neighbourhood of Mülheim. Once a city in its own right, it became part of Cologne in 1914. Struggling with structural change in the early 1980s, it has since tried to reinvent itself as an event and media location.
Continuing along the riverbanks, you will come to the Mülheim Bridge, painted in the same classic Cologne green as all the bridges. And it’s not just Mülheim’s locals who meet up here at the “Mülheimer Mäuerchen” wall in the evening to enjoy a bottle of beer from the kiosk and soak up the day’s last rays of sunshine.
Mülheim is home to Cologne’s most impressive bridges
At the Mülheim water sports club you’ll need to carry your bike up a couple of steps and take a left. Pass by the white 1950s residential estates and the old water tower, where you’ll reach the last stop on the right banks of the river: the Schlosspark Stammheim. The palace was destroyed during the Second World War and replaced by a light-hearted sculpture garden.
To extend the tour, continue on about 15 kilometres north and take the ferry across the river from Hitdorf (in the summer it runs every 15 minutes until 8 pm and costs 2 euros per person). From there you can cycle back along the Rhine on the broad, well-maintained bike and pedestrian paths along the tree-lined river basin, passing by the oil terminal and the Ford factory.
The shorter version of this cycle ride leads back to Mülheim along the waterfront. If you have time, take a left behind Mülheim’s water sports club, another left onto Mülheimer Freiheit and then right onto Keupstrasse. This takes you into Cologne’s Turkish district where you’ll find some great restaurants and lots of shops. In 2004, the area regrettably made the headlines as the site where a nail bomb, made by the right-wing terror group NSU, injured 22 people.
Via the Wiener Platz square, cross the Mülheim Bridge over to the other side. The easiest way down to the left bank of the Rhine is to take the staircase. By bike, a little detour is needed.
Along a modern cycling path with great views of the Rhine meadows below, the path takes you back into the city centre. Past the AXA building — at 147 metres tall, it was the highest building in Germany between 1973 and 1976 — a small detour just before the Zoo Bridge into the Botanical Garden, the Flora, offers a short respite from cycling. The main building has been beautifully restored and reopened in 2014 as an event venue. Beyond the bridge lies Cologne’s contemporary Sculpture Park.
Pedal your way past the Bastei, a former restaurant built in expressionist style in 1924 by the architect Wilhelm Riphahn, before ending your tour at the Hohenzollern Bridge next to the Musical Dome. Another example of Cologne’s unpredictable architecture, jokingly referred to as “the blue bin bag” by many locals, it was actually intended to be temporary, but celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2016. As we said, good things come to those who wait!
(by Christian Steigels)