Even in its time, the park, designed by the Cologne garden director Adolf Kowallek (1852 – 1902) and opened in 1889, was considered a masterpiece of German garden art.
The Volksgarten and the surrounding residential area could not be built until the inner fortification ring was abolished in the 1880s. Two elements of the weir system, the Lünette III, and the Fort IV, became part of the park. The so-called Orangerie, which today houses a theatre, was built in 1841 as an ammunition store.
The Volksgarten presents vast lawns for play and recuperation in a gently modelled landscape with undulating hills and valleys. The optical centre of this landscaped park is a big boat pond with a curvy shoreline that forms many little bays. The trees and bushes were planted along the shoreline in such a way that new picturesque views arise.
From 1887, the park was developed on the grounds of the former Fort IV built by Prussia between 1816 and 1825 and which was the first fort to be given up after the German-French war as it was too close to the city. Thus, the park was the first part of the inner green built converted from the fortification ring around Cologne. Parts of the fort are still conserved, such as the main building with its representative gate and the two circular towers, the remains of the Lünette in the east part of the park, and in between the rests of the ammunition dump which was built deep into the ground and later became the so-called Orangerie. The crescent-shaped protective barriers against explosions can still be clearly seen.
To this day the Volksgarten has not experienced any radical structural changes. However, some of the garden areas relevant for the aesthetic impact were destroyed in the postwar period or were lost regardless of the extensive restoration work in the 1980s.
Today the park is still distinguished by its manifold biodiversity of indigenous plants. The basic structure of the plantation is formed by plantain, chestnut, maple, beech and oak trees. They were grouped around the path junctions in alternating combinations. Their appearance is loosened up by the small number of lime trees, ash trees, birches and elm trees that are interspersed, thereby conveying an impression of lightness and fragility. As a decorative element some exotic species, such as magnolias, sweet-gums, Persian iron wood trees, robinias, Turkey oak trees, Japanese pagoda trees, black walnuts, and wing-nut trees, were planted on exposed locations in the meadows and near the water shore. Approximately 400 ancient trees from other woods were planted in the Volksgarten so that from the beginning the garden gained the character of an older area.
Many Wilhelminian or art nouveau type bourgeois town houses lie in the adjacent streets surrounding the Volksgarten. In spring especially, the magnolia trees show their splendour in the front gardens.
The Volksgarten is situated near the Sachsenring between the boulevard Volksgartenstrasse and the parallel Vorgebirgswall in the south. The visitor can walk along the avenues of the Volksgartenstraße, the Rolandstraße and the Teutoburgerstraße, through the small Friedenspark and the Römerpark to the new Rheinauehafen. From their one can cycle south along the banks of the river Rhine to the Gartenstadt Marienburg and from there continue to the Forstbotanischen Garten in Rodenkirchen.
Weingarten, Petra: Landschaftsgärten für Köln – Adolf Kowallek. In: Werner Adams / Joachim Bauer (Hrsg.): Vom Botanischen Garten zum Großstadtgrün – 200 Jahre Kölner Grün. Reihe: Stadtspuren. Denkmalpflege in Köln. Bd: 30. J.P. Bachem Verlag. Jahr ?
Gärten & Parks im Rheinland: Hrsg. Landschaftsverband Rheinland (LVR). 2007.
Owner/management: City of Cologne
Opening times: Daily, all year
Admission Prices: Free entrance
Parking: on streets
Seats and benches: yes
Accessibility: Main paths are fully accessible
Dogs: Dogs are to be kept on leash