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Cologne city guide: where to eat, drink shop and stay in this underrated German destination

A lovely, beer-loving city perched on the banks of the Rhine and dominated by a Unesco-listed cathedral, Cologne combines all of Germany’s greatest bits. But it’s usually (unfairly) overshadowed by Berlin and Munich. Here’s how to take advantage of a weekend in North Rhine-Westphalia’s largest, liveliest metropolis.

What to do

Summit the Dom

Climbing the southern tower of the cathedral (often called the Dom) is a good way to get your bearings. You’ll additionally get sensible views of the Hohenzollern Bridge (a fantastic street, rail and pedestrian bridge which is Germany’s most closely used railway bridge, with greater than 1,200 trains crossing each day) and of the Rhine snaking previous the city centre. The cathedral was accomplished in 1880, over 600 years after development began.


Some of Cologne’s greatest museums encompass the Dom, too. Our choose is the Römisch-Germanisches Museum – till not too long ago, it could possibly be discovered in the shadow of the cathedral, on the previous website of a Roman villa, however its assortment has been moved to the close by Belgian House at Cäcilienstraße 46, where it’ll stay till 2025. Exhibits give attention to the archaeological heritage of Cologne and the encompassing space, and embrace a stone arch engraved with the city’s one-time initials, CCAA, which stood for Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium (strive saying that after a mouthful of Kölsch, Cologne’s native beer). Don’t miss the bust of Emperor Augustus, carved out of black glass and completed with a turquoise coating.

Admire its concrete masterpieces

Cologne is usually written off as an industrial concrete jungle, however for a special perspective on the destination, go for an perception into the German Brutalism motion, courtesy of the architects-turned-guides who lead Guiding Architects’ specialist tours. Over two hours, you’ll start to see the city’s concrete behemoths in a special gentle. Our favorite cease is St. Gertrud church, which was impressed by hovering mountains and designed by Pritzker-prize-winning architect Gottfried Böhm.

(Mäurer & Wirtz)


Learn about Cologne’s most well-known scent

Centuries in the past, eau d’Cologne was a mixture of urine (chucked out of home windows) and sweat (washing was as soon as frowned upon). This former filthiness led to the creation of the 4711 Eau de Cologne. In 1792, Wilhelm Mülhens obtained the recipe for a aromatic water from a monk, earlier than establishing shop in the early 1800s on leafy Glockengasse, which is where you’ll discover the House of 4711 (, each a boutique and museum. Exhibits embrace the slimline 4711 bottles designed to slot into the boots worn by Napoleon’s troops, and the large vary of perfumes on sale is a reminder of the model’s trendy makeover. Our recommendation? Skip the unique scent and choose up a bottle of 4711 Acqua Colonia Goji & Cactus Extract, as an alternative.

Where to stay

As a base for riverside wandering, you possibly can’t beat the Hyatt Regency Cologne, perched on the banks of the Rhine and only a quick stroll from the cathedral and previous city. Make certain you cease by its Legends Bar,  where the partitions are lined with images of musical icons – strive the Forever Young cocktail, a dreamy mix of bourbon, basil and ginger beer. Sounds odd, however it works. Doubles from £134, B&B.


We’re additionally huge followers of Ruby Ella, a design lodge which opened in Hohenzollernring (Cologne’s leisure district) in early 2021. There’s additionally a packed calendar of occasions, starting from cabaret reveals to poetry slams. Doubles from £82, room solely.

Where to eat

Cologne has some implausible brauhäus (beer home) eating places where köbes (waiters) sprint from desk to desk carrying round trays with slots for beer glasses. One of the oldest is the 700-year-old Brauhaus Sion. It’s well-known for its lovely stained glass, huge expanses of ornate wooden panelling and hearty braumeister-tellers (beer grasp plates), which embrace a pork knuckle drenched in a mushroom and beer sauce. 

To crank up the cosiness, head to Bei Oma Kleinmann (which roughly interprets as “with Grandma Kleinmann”), a residing room-like restaurant which dates again to 1949. The title pays tribute to its first landlady – the late Paula Kleinmann, whose grandson ran the bar till 2003. The present house owners have hardly modified a factor, so count on chintzy wallpaper, vintage chandeliers and framed quotes from granny Kleinmann. The schnitzel choice is famous; we advocate the one drenched with mushroom cream sauce.

Houses and park in Cologne, Germany

(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Where to drink

Kölsch is a scrumptious, golden beer brewed in Cologne and the most effective place is to get pleasure from it’s on the Kölsches Brauhaus, in the shadow of the cathedral. The beer’s served in 200ml glasses (bartenders will scrawl the quantity you’ve had in your beer mat), and you possibly can both dine in the beer backyard or in rooms such because the Wappensaal, where the partitions are lined with the historic coats of arms from Cologne’s guilds.

For cocktails, think about the Belgian Quarter’s Little Link, where creations are made with every little thing from porcini mushroom whiskey to blackberry caviar. Turn mixologist by signing up for one of many bar’s cocktail-making programs.

Where to shop

You’ll discover the excessive road manufacturers on Schildergasse and Hohe Straße – large, pedestrianised boulevards shut to the cathedral. Mittelstraße is the place to go for luxurious labels, and Ehrenstraße has a mixture of every little thing, starting from impartial boutiques to Käsehaus Wingenfeld, a cheese specialist which dates again to 1896, and where you possibly can join cheese workshops or just browse the 300 sorts of cheese (and admire the shop’s cheese-themed frescos).

Kölsch is the native brew

(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

For sustainable homeware and style equipment, head to the Fairfitters idea retailer, where you’ll discover lovely, sustainable items made by German designers. Our favorite gadgets are the purses made by Pikfine, a Cologne-based label based by sisters Nora and Clara, whose model is constructed on sustainability – their leather-based gadgets are vegetable tanned, their jewelry is constructed from recycled treasured metals and nearly every little thing is made in Germany.

Or cease into the Keep Loving boutique based by Elmira Rafizadeh, a German actress with Iranian roots and an enormous Instagram following. On the southern fringe of the city centre, it’s where you’ll discover lovely baggage, sun shades and jewelry. A fortunate few can snap up one of many gadgets from her collaborations with luxurious manufacturers just like the purse label Aigner.

Nuts and bolts

What foreign money do I would like?

The Euro.

What language do they communicate?

German, though English is extensively spoken.

Should I tip?

About 10 per cent is normal for good service in eating places.

What’s the time distinction?

Cologne is one hour forward of the UK.

How ought to I get round?

It’s walkable, however you possibly can select from trams, buses or the underground community for getting additional afield. Buy a KölnCard (€9 for twenty-four hours) to get free transport in addition to 50 per cent off a number of sights.

What’s the most effective view?

From the open-air observation deck on the 29th floor of the Köln Triangle, simply throughout the river from the cathedral.

Insider tip?

If FC Köln are taking part in, you possibly can’t beat the environment on the Geißbockheim (“Billy Goat”), a bar and restaurant on Franz-Kremer-Allee which owes its title to the soccer membership’s horned mascot. There’s a particular goat theme right here (the horned creatures adorn every little thing from napkins to bar stools), and archive images give an perception into the membership’s historical past, in addition to Cologne’s.

Getting there

Trying to fly much less?

You can get from the UK to Cologne by taking the Eurostar – merely change at Brussels-Midi/Zuid earlier than taking an ICE prepare onward to the city’s station, Köln Hauptbahnhof. Alternatively, take the ferry from Harwich or Hull to the Hook of Holland, simply exterior Rotterdam, and hop on the prepare to Cologne.

Fine with flying?

Ryanair and Eurowings each fly direct between the UK and Cologne.

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