Cologne is considered one of the top cities in Germany for culture. The city is well know for its cathedral and other treasures, but also for the presence of Museum Ludwig and its outstanding modern masters and pop art collection. Soon, the city will have a dedicated Jewish Museum and brand new City History Museum… set in a former department store.

Cologne‘s museum scene is one of the most important in Germany. The metropolis along the Rhine river has some 25 museums to present to visitors. Many have reached world-fame such as the Roman Germanic Museum, the Cathedral Museum and the two art collections in the Museum Ludwig and Wallraf-Richartz Museum.

More are now coming: in front of the historic Town Hall, excavations have been conducted by archeologists before the start of a spectacular new museum. The archaeological site has unveiled the ruins of the Roman proconsul’s palace – the Praetorium – as well as the first Cologne Jewish quarter. This is where the a new museum of international significance is currently being built at the heart of the city centre: MiQua. LVR-Jewish Museum – in Cologne’s Archeological Quarter.

Germany’s largest medieval Jewish Quarter

The name MiQua is short for “Museum in the Quarter”. It refers to the 6,000 sq m of excavation work taking place right underneath the town hall square in the city’s Archaeological Quarter.

More than two thousand years of Cologne’s history have come to light here, from the monumental Praetorium where the Roman governor once resided to the medieval Jewish Quarter and the Christian Goldsmiths’ Quarter.

Above these archaeological monuments, a new museum building will house both permanent and temporary exhibitions, offering insights into the archaeology below ground, including the medieval Synagogue and the ritual Jewish bath, the Mikveh, which is also reflected in the name MiQua.

The Jewish Museum will set a distinctive accent both architecturally and in urban planning. It is actually built around the medieval quarters’ excavation. A 600-metre tour under the town hall square will guide visitors through the 6,000 sq m of exhibition space, integrating numerous original features of Germany’s largest medieval Jewish Quarter.

With opening planned in late 2024, the museum is being run by the LVR, Rhineland Regional Council. However, the Praetorium and a temporary exhibition are already open to the public.

Construction site of MIQUA museum, Cologne
MIQUA museum in Cologne city centre will display Ancient Rome and Jewish history from 2024 (Photo : LC/Cleverdis)

A former luxury department store to be home to the city museum

A few streets away, another museum is taking shape in the city centre: the new Cologne City Museum. The current city museum used to be located in the former armoury. It was built between 1594 and 1606 as a municipal arsenal. However, in 2017, the historical structure suffered severe water damage. A reopening of the permanent exhibition at the old location was ruled out due to the major damage of the old armoury.

The collections are now due to join the most unusual location for a museum – a former fashion house. Set in 1842, the Sauer fashion department store was built in 1986 as a family business.

The department store’s layout reflects the typical post-modern idea of the time. The architecture and an interior design with the highest quality materials made the fashion house an important example of the often opulent kitsch of post-modern 1980s architecture.

The store closed back in 2016. Architects are now interpreting the empty space for the museum’s new concept. Large parts of the former fashion house are to be kept.

The museum’s team took the opportunity of the relocation of rethinking and retelling Cologne’s urban history. The result will be an innovative exhibition concept: the new permanent exhibition will be barrier-free, open, diverse, participatory, modern, surprising – all in one (very different) place. The new City Museum is due to open in the Q2, 2022.

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