The Hohenzollern Bridge
The Hohenzollern Bridge crosses the Rhine River near Cologne’s central railway station. The bridge is known as a romantic spot for couples who affix engraved “love lock” padlocks to the railings. The 1,340-foot (409-meter) bridge also offers one of the best vantage points for views of the city and river.
The bridge was originally built in 1911 and named after the Hohenzollern dynasty. The family ruled Germany until the 1918 revolution, when they were forced to abdicate. The bridge also played an important role for transport during World War II, when it suffered minimal damage despite being the target of constant air strikes. It was finally blown up by the German military itself in 1945, in an attempt to hinder Allied troops in their assault on Cologne.
The bridge was quickly rebuilt after the war, and was back in use by 1948. Today more than 1,200 trains cross the water daily. The bridge is also a popular tourist spot in fine weather. The end of the bridge furthest from Cologne Cathedral offers spectacular views.
The padlocks are part of a trend that began in 2008. The locks are usually engraved with initials or a message and then secured to the railings between the sidewalk and the tracks, before the key is thrown into the river. The gesture is thought to be a sign of love and commitment, and can be seen on bridges in other European cities such as Paris and Prague. Buy a lock, have it engraved in town and attach it to the railing. Or, walk the length of the bridge to enjoy reading the sweet, sad and sometimes strange messages etched into the locks.
Hohenzollern Bridge can be accessed by foot from behind Cologne Cathedral, and is a short walk from the Dom/Hauptbahnhof U-Bahn station. The bridge is open at all hours and free to cross.