Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city (after Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich), and is the largest city both in the German Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants.
Cologne is located on both sides of the Rhine River. The city's famous Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) is the seat of the Catholic Archbishop of Cologne. The University of Cologne (Universität zu Köln) is one of Europe's oldest and largest universities.
Cologne has several museums. The famous Roman-Germanic Museum features art and architecture from the city's distant past; the Museum Ludwig houses one of the most important collections of modern art in Europe, including a Picasso collection matched only by the museums in Barcelona and Paris.
The Cologne carnival is one of the largest street festivals in Europe. In Cologne, the carnival season officially starts on 11 November at 11 minutes past 11 a.m. with the proclamation of the new Carnival Season, and continues until Ash Wednesday. However, the so-called "Tolle Tage" (crazy days) don't start until Weiberfastnacht (Women's Carnival) or, in dialect, Wieverfastelovend, the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of the street carnival. Zülpicher Strasse and its surroundings, Neumarkt square, Heumarkt and all bars and pubs in the city are crowded with people in costumes dancing and drinking in the streets. Hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to Cologne during this time. Generally, around a million people celebrate in the streets on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday.
Cologne hosts 1. FC Köln, who play in the 2nd Bundesliga as of the 2013–14 season. They play their home matches in RheinEnergieStadion which also hosted 5 matches of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. The International Olympic Committee and Internationale Vereinigung Sport- und Freizeiteinrichtungen e.V. gave RheinEnergieStadion a bronze medal for "being one of the best sporting venues in the world". Cologne also hosts FC Viktoria Köln 1904 and SC Fortuna Köln, who play in the Regionalliga West (fourth division).
The city is also home of the ice hockey team Kölner Haie, in the highest ice hockey league in Germany, the Deutsche Eishockey Liga. They are based at the Lanxess Arena.
The city has hosted several athletic events which includes the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup, 2006 FIFA World Cup, 2007 World Men's Handball Championship, 2010 IIHF World Championship and 2010 Gay Games.