A weekend in Cologne, Germany’s fourth biggest city and my all-time favourite. Why? I ask myself that question too sometimes. It was definitely love at first sight for me and Cologne when I went there for the first time at 16 on a chaotic but wonderful school trip. Since then I’ve been back to the city by the Rhine – for an internship, to study and finally to work. Over the course of the last 15 years I’ve travelled a lot and lived in seven cities, but Cologne has remained my number one love. The city has an atmosphere that is difficult to describe but it captivated me nonetheless. Curious if you could feel the same? Head off to Cologne with my 7 insider tips for a weekend on the town. Viva Colonia!
The beautiful cathedral in Cologne
7 INSIDER TIPS FOR A WEEKEND IN COLOGNE: SHOPPING AND SLEEPING IN THE CENTRE
Cologne is great for shopping! But stay away from the busy shopping streets Hohe Strasse and Schildergasse – unless you’re looking for the big chain stores. Ehrenstraße., while a bit more expensive, is a lot more beautiful. No no, don’t worry, this isn’t the place for Chanel, Gucci etc. This is where you’ll find the ‘hip’ stores and brands such as„Kauf dich glücklich“, „American Apparel“, „Cheap Monday“ and more.
Close by, right in the Friesenviertel, you’ll find the Lindner Hotel City Plaza, a great place to stay if you’re staying for a night or the entire weekend. In addition to its perfect location, the hotel offers great value for money – a gym, a yummy breakfast buffet, a modern lounge, good places to eat and a lot more amenities. I tested it out and set off to explore the Friesenviertel (and shopping) from here – it was a lot of fun and I made quite the successful haul.
Lindner Hotel City Plaza in the Friesenviertel – thank you for your support
Stylish Lobby in the Lindner Hotel City Plaza
Street Art in the Friesenviertel
7 INSIDER TIPS FOR A WEEKEND IN COLOGNE: THE COOLEST AREAS AND HOW TO AVOID THE TOURISTS
In Cologne, the majority of tourists stick to the areas around the cathedral, the Rhine and the old town – definitely all areas worth seeing. But Cologne has so many more interesting quarters on offer (or Veedel in the local dialect). My favourites are the southern part of the city (Südstadt) around the Chlodwigplatz. This is the place to go for hip cafes and restaurants, old houses and that typical ‘Cologne’ charm. The Belgian quarter around the Brüsseler Platz has been popular for years and rent has risen accordingly. Countless hip boutiques rub shoulders here. Shopping isn’t exactly cheap but wandering through the streets and sitting outside one of the many cafes for some people watching is definitely worth the trip here. My Number 1 quarter though is Cologne Ehrenfeld. This part of the city is not very central, which is why you don’t just end up here by accident. If you have two or three days in the city, you should definitely plan a visit. I lived here for almost two years and consider myself an honorary Ehrenfeld citizen. Ehrenfeld is a bit of a poster child for gentrification – transitioning from a working class neighbourhood with social problems to a popular, colourful and multicultural spot. Many of the houses have been transformed into pieces of art, the quarter’s countless cafés outnumber those in all the other quarters and Cologne’s (alternative) nightlife here is outstanding. Oh Ehrenfeld, seeing you makes me so happy.
Train station in Cologne Ehrenfeld
7 INSIDER TIPS FOR A WEEKEND IN COLOGNE: CROSSING THE RHINE ON COLOGNE’S FAMOUS BRIDGES
Seven bridges cross the Rhine in Cologne – and some of them are smack dab in the middle of the city. There is no better view of the city than from a bridge, so make sure to cross the Rhine on foot. It’s worth it just for the different perspective of the city. The Deutzer Brücke or the Hohenzollernbrücke are worth the trek. By the way, the latter is home to the famous love locks. Once you reach the end of the bridge on the Deutzer side, you will be granted a breathtaking view of the cathedral.
7 INSIDER TIPS FOR A WEEKEND IN COLOGNE: TASTY FOOD AT LOW PRICES
Cologne has what feels like thousands of restaurants. The city is a multicultural hub and you can find almost every cuisine. I’m a vegetarian and gluten-intolerant, so I’m always on the lookout for restaurants that offer both of these options on their menus. Here are two:
- Location: In the wonderful Südstadt, very close to Chlodwigplatz
- Menu: Everything is organic with lots of vegetarian and vegan options. You can also find a selection of gluten-free dishes here.
- What’s special: I recommend the daily brunch buffet. There is also the cheaper option of a speed brunch, meaning that you only have an hour to eat – plenty of time for lunch, right?
- Location: In Südstadt, by Chlodwigplatz, just round the corner from Ecco
- Menu: Fresh Korean dishes for low prices.
- What’s special: This is more of a food stall and is perfect for a snack rather than a fancy dinner. The price is right, the employees are friendly and Korean cooking is still a unique find in Cologne.
7 INSIDER TIPS FOR A WEEKEND IN COLOGNE: WHERE TO FIND THE BEST COFFEE
Just like restaurants, you will find a ridiculous amount of coffee shops in Cologne. Here you can find a curated selection of my favourite spots.
- Location: In hip Ehrenfeld, on Venloer Strasse, the quarter’s high street
- Menu: There’s a new menu every week with a selection of small, tasty dishes.
- What’s special: Tiny and cozy. And completely veggie!
- Location: Close to the city centre, right on the border of Neustadt-Süd and Sülz, directly opposite the entrance to Bahnhof Süd (train station)
- Menu: Sandwiches, salads, soups and more. The coffee is cheap and great!
- What’s special: The interior design is a perfect mixture between hip and cozy. The best thing about this place is the service. The guys here are super nice, even at 7am.r.
- Location: Ehrenfelder Bahnhof (train station)
- Menu: Typical coffee house. Also offers small dishes like salads and curries, plus a changing weekly menu.
- What’s special: Goldmund is the perfect spot for book lovers. As a literary coffee shop it is full of bookshelves and promotional flyers for in-house events. During the summer, the beer garden is the perfect spot to enjoy the sun.
7 INSIDER TIPS FOR A WEEKEND IN COLOGNE: WHERE TO PARTY
Know the feeling? You’re a tourist in a strange city and you end up going out where other groups of people directed you or your guidebook led you, then they play the last song, the lights are turned on…but you’re still not ready for bed. What now? We all know where to head for the after party back home, the bars and clubs that stay open when everything else has shut down. In a new town, these places are hard to find. If you’re lucky, you’ll meet some locals who can show you where to go – if not, it’s bedtime. To make sure you’re not stranded on a night out in Cologne, I have two tips for you:
This basement club is quite the institution. Every night this place is full of people ready to party. Officially open from midnight, it makes no sense to arrive here before 4….or sober, for that matter, unless you can take it. Venus Celler means alcohol in the air, music that includes German classics and bad pop songs and people that might be better off at home, couples making out and guys hoping to get into the kissing game. Regardless, this place is an institution in Cologne’s nightlife and a visit can certainly be entertaining.
This bar is located in the hipster area – the Belgian quarter. Until 1 or 2 it’s your run of the mill bar until the first people start dancing. From 4 onwards it’s pretty crowded and dancing resembles push and shove (the music is mainly electronic and Hip Hop). It’s easy to meet people and people are not as run down as in Venus Celler.
7 INSIDER TIPS FOR A WEEKEND IN COLOGNE: WHEN IN COLOGNE…
Carolin has adopted Cologne as her hometown when she fell in love with the place 7 years ago. While she lives in Sülz, Carolin is super active and can be found all over town. Here are her insider tips for the city.
Where to drink the best coffee:
Where to find the best food:
Caro’s best kept secret is the Pastabar at Barbarossaplatz. Everything is homemade and the meat is sourced from local farmers. Her favourite dish here is the homemade tiramisu. The restaurant is as small as it is popular so make sure to book a table..
Where to buy cool things:
You like lemonade? If so, go to Limo Dealer in the Belgian Quarter or in Zollstock. You can find all sorts of lemonades here!
Where to meet new people:
To meet with old friends or make new ones, Caro recommends the “Mäuerchen”. It’s a pretty unspectacular wall on Zülpicher Strasse, close the tram station Dasselstrasse. On warm summer nights, half of the city meets here to laugh, talk and drink. The local beer supply (Kölsch) is guaranteed by a one of the food stands right across from it.
Where to dance till the sun comes up:
Caro definitely recommends Ehrenfeld. Start drinking at the Hängenden Gärten and then go dancing in Underground, an institution in Cologne’s alternative party scene. There’s two dance floors, a foosball table and, during the summer months, a beer garden in the courtyard.