Festivities this year have been overshadowed by security concerns, prompting police to double the number of officers on patrol to more than 2,000 in an effort to reassure the public after an unprecedented series of robberies and sexual assaults mostly targeting women at New Year.
Police say the attacks were mostly carried out by foreigners, fuelling debate in Germany about the country’s ability to cope with the huge number of migrants that have arrived over the past year.
Special safety points where people can go if they feel threatened have been set up at major squares.
Henriette Reker, Cologne’s mayor, has pledged to prevent a repeat of the New Year’s attacks.
Still, some revellers said the city felt emptier than in previous years, though the wet weather could have been to blame.
The New Year’s assaults sparked a nationwide uproar, the removal of Cologne’s police chief, and a heated debate about integration.
Cologne prosecutors have received 1,037 criminal complaints over the New Year’s events.
Criminal proceedings have begun against 50 individuals, of whom 11 are in custody. Several are asylum-seekers.
Last week a 13-year-old Russian-German girl admitted lying about being kidnapped and raped by migrants.
She had vanished on January 11 in Berlin and resurfaced 30 hours later with injuries on her face, telling her parents she had been attacked by men of Middle Eastern or north African appearance.
But she later admitted she had been scared of going home after the school had contacted her parents over an incident at school.
Her initial story sparked protests.
The far-right National Democratic party also demonstrated in Marzahn.