Cologne, a 2,000-year-old city spanning the Rhine River in western Germany, is the region’s cultural hub. A landmark of High Gothic architecture set amid reconstructed old town, the twin-spired Cologne Cathedral is also known for its gilded medieval reliquary and sweeping river views. The adjacent Museum Ludwig showcases 20th-century art, including many masterpieces by Picasso, and the Romano-Germanic Museum houses Roman antiquities
The city's medieval Catholic Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom), the third-tallest church and tallest cathedral in the world, constructed to house the Shrine of the Three Kings, is a globally recognized landmark and one of the most visited sights and pilgrimage destinations in Europe. The cityscape is further shaped by the Twelve Romanesque churches of Cologne, and Cologne is famous for Eau de Cologne, that has been produced in the city since 1709, and "cologne" has since come to be a generic term.
There are many institutions of higher education in the city, most notably the University of Cologne, one of Europe's oldest and largest universities; the Technical University of Cologne, Germany's largest university of applied sciences; and the German Sport University Cologne. It hosts three Max Planck science institutes and is a major research hub for the aerospace industry, with the German Aerospace Center and the European Astronaut Centre headquarters. It also has significant chemical and automobile industry. Cologne Bonn Airport is a regional hub, the main airport for the region is Düsseldorf Airport.
Cologne was founded and established in Germanic Ubii territory in the 1st century CE as the Roman Colonia Agrippina, hence its name (Augusta Ubiorum was also used). "Agrippina" was later dropped (except in Latin), and "Colonia" became the name of the city in its own right, which developed into modern German as Köln. "Cologne", the French version of the city's name, has become standard in English as well. Cologne functioned as the capital of the Roman province of Germania Inferior and as the headquarters of the Roman military in the region until occupied by the Franks in 462. During the Middle Ages the city flourished as being located on one of the most important major trade routes between east and western Europe (including the Brabant Road, Via Regia and Publica). Cologne was a free imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire and one of the major members of the trade union Hanseatic League. It was one of the largest European cities in medieval and renaissance times.