If you asked Cologne residents a few years ago what was the city´s best attraction, they would have named the Cathedral, the Rhine, the museums and the Romanesque churches.
Today there´s an obvious new addition to the count, the Rheinauhafen former river harbour, which has been remodelled by the Häfen und Güterverkehr Köln (HGK) and the city council in a joint project that started 1998, about 100 years after the port first opened.
The reconstruction of this once bustling cargo handling center, which stretches two kilometers from the city center to the popular southern city district, is currently Cologne´s biggest public building project.
The remodelling is creating a lively and attractive district of Cologne in an area that had lost its importance as a harbour over the years.
Over an area of 210,000 sq meters, new and architecturally ambitious buildings stand next to laboriously restored old buildings such as the Siebengebirge (a 170 m-long building with seven gables) or the harbour office. Today the port is home to a successful mix of residential accommodation, offices, service providers, restaurants and cultural venues.
A very special eye-catching part of the new Cologne riverside skyline is the three so-called Kranhäuser.
These are buildings shaped like giant cranes that, with arms stretching over the water, look similar to the harbour cranes formerly used for handling cargo and containers.
Two of these three buildings, Kranhaus 1 and KRANHAUSplus – both about 60 m high – have already been completed and are used as prestige office blocks.
The most northerly of the three spectacular edifices, a residential block called Pandion Vista, will be ready for its first occupants at the end of 2010.
You´ll have to hurry if you´d like to live in one of the exclusive owner-occupied apartments, which are between 60 and 280 sq m in size.
They have a breath-taking view of the Rhine, Cathedral, old city and the Rhine bridges but most of the apartments are already sold.
When this third Kranhaus is finished, work will begin on the final undeveloped part of the Rheinauhafen, with the aim of completing Cologne´s newest city district in 2011.
Cologne people have already discovered the new quarter and stroll or jog on the river promenade, enjoy the sun on the outdoor terraces of the cafés and restaurants or visit the art galleries.
When locals are next asked about the city´s attractions, perhaps one or two will mention Rheinauhafen even before Cologne Cathedral.