You want to discover Cologne like a local? For twelve years I lived in the cathedral city. I'll tell you my best Cologne tips: to hotels, the most beautiful parts of the city, sights, activities, shopping and real insider tips Cologne for food (with cafes and restaurants for vegetarians and vegans). Real insider tips and recommendations for a great Cologne weekend or a longer city break!
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Cologne tips for sightseeing
My beloved Cologne has over a million inhabitants . It is the fourth largest city in Germany after Berlin, Hamburg and Munich.
Before I get to the insider tips: There are a few classic sights in Cologne, which are on the wish list for most tourists.
- the Cologne Cathedral directly at the main station is the landmark of the city.
- the old town of Cologne with the colorful houses and restaurants on the Rhine
- the Rhine , where you can take a boat trip
- the Kranhäuser am Rhein
- Love Castles on the Hohenzollern Bridge, which you can cross on foot
- the museums such. For example, the Museum Ludwig am Dom
- the breweries with their Kölsch beer
- the chocolate museum Cologne
- the Cologne Carnival
- Christmas market Cologne - of which there is a large selection
Here you can find Cologne tours at Get your Guide
Must See: Classic Cologne sights in pictures
Cologne insider tips: City trip alternative - off the beaten path
You would like to discover Cologne differently on your own? In addition to the popular sights, there is so much more to do during a short break.
This entry to the secrets Cologne is part of my article series with insider tips travel by locals, about to Dusseldorf, Berlin, Paris, Barcelona, Mallorca, Brooklyn, Sydney or Yucatan in Mexico.
In this article I tell you my highlights, also in alternative and hipster quarters of Cologne.
What you need to know: The city was heavily destroyed during the Second World War and then rebuilt. That's why you'll only rarely find beautiful old houses such as those in Hamburg.
But the city has a big heart and is therefore very lovable: the people are usually relaxed, cosmopolitan and friendly , always ready for a conversation.
On the carnival days completely Kölle completely freaks out. Then clowns, sailors and bears are bustling in the city. Work is unthinkable. Cologne is very proud of Carnival, Kölsch beer and the 1st FC Cologne .
Cologne Insider Tips: Street Art, Shopping Food
Shopping in Cologne? That is possible! In the city center you will find the usual chains. There are beautiful small and special shops in Ehrenstraße, in the Belgian Quarter or in Ehrenfeld.
You can also discover a lot of street art . B. in the district Ehrenfeld. You are museum or theater fans? Cologne offers a wide cultural offer. I am always drawn to the many beautiful cafes and restaurants .
How long should you plan for a first visit to the cathedral city? A weekend is good! Because Cologne is manageable size . You can reach much on foot, otherwise with the subway or if necessary a taxi.
Best Cologne tips for hotels
I always book my hotel rooms through Booking.com . There I look for location, price, reviews and photos. I can recommend you these hotels in Cologne:
I really liked this 3 star hotel. It is centrally located and quiet, is nicely decorated, offers a delicious breakfast buffet, great value for money and excellent reviews. Learn more.
This hotel has fabulous reviews from a total of over 2,100 guests. If you are lucky, you can see the Cologne Cathedral from the hotel room - see picture above. The retro-space style hotel offers many lovely details. Down in the lobby, a nice café and fun shops are waiting for you. Learn more.
This tastefully decorated hotel is very popular: it has very good reviews from over 3,200 guests. Here you will find a restaurant with Cologne specialties and international dishes, a bar with terrace, a sauna and a gym. The pillow in cathedral form or murals with kölschen motifs show the connection to the cathedral city. Learn more.
Insider Tips Cologne Essen
As a local I love the combination of hearty and sweet . My grandma made the world's best Sauerbraten with raisins and gingerbread.
Or how about "Himmel un Ääd" - with applesauce (from the sky) and potato-musm (from the ground), in addition there is blood sausage (Flönz). Or would you prefer a ricotta cake with applesauce?
Do not worry: in Cologne there is something for every taste ! Whether down-to-earth or fine cuisine, German or exotic dishes, burgers or vegetarian. With my Cologne tips you will find a wide selection below.
Best travel time for a short break Cologne
At carnival in February / March , Cologne's joie de vivre becomes really visible for about a week. If you have the opportunity to join in the celebration - do it!
Cologne in summer offers many highlights such as flea markets, food festivals, beach bars, beer gardens or swimming lakes.
But even in winter you can experience a lot here, eg. For example, the Christmas market Cologne . There is a huge selection of Christmas markets here, there is something for every taste.
Tips Cologne for a brilliant weekend!
How do you best go on a short trip to Cologne?
- Have breakfast in one of the nice cafés
- View of Cologne enjoying from one of the viewpoints
- join a tour to let a guide show you the most beautiful places
- Allow enough time for shopping, restaurants and one or two Kölsch in the evening
The best Cologne travel guide
Helpful in the planning of your Cologne city trip are these guides you can find on Bol.com:
Bruckmann travel guide: 99 x Cologne , as you do not know it
Travel guide: This is your first time in Cologne? Then I recommend one of the tours. Because the guides can show you special corners and tell stories.
I like a panoramic boat tour , as you can book at Get your Guide. So you see from the Rhine z. As cathedral and old town, while you learn exciting information about Cologne.
I especially like the humor at Kölle. During the comedy tour on the bus you will experience a comedy show about Cologne during the tour. So you discover all the important sights of the city in a funny way.
At the Brauhaus Tour you will take a tour of various breweries. Of course you try the Kölsch.
Cologne tours at Get your Guide
Cologne tips: View of the Cologne Cathedral
My heart is still beating higher when I see the cathedral. Even after living in this city for twelve years.
You can not miss the cathedral. Because when you come out of the main station, you are right in front of it. But there are two other great viewpoints:
You have a fantastic view of the cathedral and Rhine from the Cologne Triangle on the other side of the river - see photo above. Because the building is over 100 meters high. From the panorama platform you can enjoy the 360 degree view, z. For example, at sunset or at night on the lights of the city. Unfortunately, photos are only possible through a high glass pane. Admission for adults is 3 euros.
Kaufhof parking garage P2, floors 14 + 15, to St. Agatha 19 - 25
In summer, my tip is this beach bar on the roof of a skyscraper - overlooking the cathedral. I'm a big fan of the sunshine days and have often been here with a friend: walking across the white sands to a beach chair or loungers. Relax in the sun, with relaxed music and cool drinks. One of my absolute favorites among the hidden gems Cologne!
Cologne tips: Hippes Belgisches Viertel
My favorite district in Cologne is the Belgian Quarter, it is like Ehrenfeld a cool hipster district. In summer, life takes place outside, but you can also enjoy the winter here.
Because there are many cafes, restaurants and sweet shops. For example on Venloer Straße, on Brüsseler Straße or around Brüsseler Platz.
Venloer Str. 19
I lived in this corner for a long time. The cozy little café with gallery was my second living room. Even today you can find me here often.
Because food and coffee are delicious and it is just very comfortable. Here I work on texts, read in the designed magazines and meet with friends. We have been here many times for Sunday breakfast.
Also the cake lures me a lot, like the Carrot Cake. The Portuguese custard tart Pasteis de Nata I have also discovered here. And banoffee pie, a banana and caramel cake. Or do you prefer waffles with warm cherries?
Another tip: the huge and delicious salads. How about a salad with goat cheese, pear, mint, caramelized nuts and honey mustard dressing?
Antwerp St. 39
Here I regularly press my nose flat on the shop window. Madame Miammiam has magical pies, tarts and biscuits.
For example, with motifs from Cologne or to match the season. Are you still looking for an edible gift or wedding cake? Then you are right here!
Limburger Str. 14
Just a few steps further you can undertake a journey to Down Under. Since my visit to Australia I love the Tim Tam biscuits and the alcohol-free Ginger Beer. Both are available here.
As well as boomerangs, plush bombats and other Australia merchandise. G'day, mate!
Brussels str. 67
If you are looking for gifts for your loved ones or yourself - in one of Cologne's hipster stores you'll find it!
There are many great books and beautiful postcards, deco items and clothing. There is something for children as well as for adults.
I always prefer the Finnish label Marimekko. Unfortunately, usually too expensive for me, but the things with their colorful patterns are just too nice!
Maastrichter Str. 40
You can find unusual things for children and adults here. Often, I have already rummaged for gifts.
How about a hot dog pin, a flamingo watering can or a seahorse lantern? I also found the T-shirt for children with the inscription: "I count to three, then this is carnival!".
Venloer Str. 4
This is my favorite child in Cologne. I'm crazy about the butter chicken, I usually eat naan bread and mango chutney.
In summer you can sit outside on the street, in winter in the warm interior. At the weekend it can get crowded, then book better in advance.
Do you want to go for a walk? But the city garden is great!
In summer we lie here on the meadow, while over us green parrots fly. Where they come from is still not clear.
Here is also the most beautiful Christmas market Cologne for me: small, cozy and unusual.
You can eat something in the restaurant Stadtgarten (Venloer Str. 40), which has a great beer garden in the warm season. The Stadtgarten Burger tastes so good! It is juicy, rich and has as a side dish fries with aioli. I can also recommend the Veggie Burger or the Flammkuchen.
Directly on the city garden you will find this beautiful little massage parlor. I like spa treatments. Therefore, I have had Thai massage many times in Thailand, here she is also very good.
Unlike Bangkok, you can not just walk in, but make an appointment in advance. This is usually possible at short notice.
Cologne tips for Ehrenfeld
My second favorite quarter in the cathedral city is Ehrenfeld. From the Belgian Quarter you can walk here in 15 minutes, which I have done many times.
The Venloer Str. Is not very nice, I think. I like the smaller Körnerstraße better. But there are great cafes on both streets!
Ehrenfeld is one of the hipster districts of Cologne and magically attracts creative people. For example, agencies and magazine publishers are here. As in the Belgian quarter, many younger people are traveling.
You like street art? Then you can look at works like ROA here. Otherwise, there are many Turkish shops, here I always buy Baklava.
In Philippstraße 1 is my favorite Cologne restaurant.
The "see the sea" has a beautiful beer garden in summer. In winter you can take a seat inside, watch ocean projections and maybe even get a seat in the beach chair.
Everything I tried here tasted great! Like the baked goat's cheese with honey, thyme and rosemary. The fries with guacamole, tomatini, jalapenos and cheese. Carsten loves Wiener schnitzel with warm potato and cucumber salad.
Venloer Str. 202
Since my travels to Stockholm I am addicted to cinnamon buns. And they are freshly baked here in many variations.
- classic cinnamon bun
- with walnuts and maple syrup
- Winter cinnamon bun with dates, figs, gingerbread spice and chocolate - divine!
You can see how bread, cake and cinnamon rolls are made behind the glass in the bakery.
At and behind the long bar the delicacies are out. You order here and bring food and drinks to your table.
In summer you can sit outside on the street, the places are much sought after. In winter it is nice and warm inside. Wind lights, blankets and soft music create a cozy atmosphere.
Many mothers with their young children come here. I often meet friends or read magazines while I drink my Galao Milk Coffee.
Venloer Str. 206
My third Stammcafé next to the "coffee cake" and the "time for bread". The Cafe Cafe is small and cozy. Take a look at the cake counter and you're lost!
With Carsten and friends I have already tried many varieties, all super delicious. Carrot Cake, Red Velvet Cake or Cheesecake you get here in luscious portions.
The rich breakfast is also worthwhile, for example for a cozy Sunday morning.
Venloer Str. 239
Cozy as a living room is this café with its vintage furniture. Here I usually order a cuddle, the sandwich reminds me of my childhood.
Venloer Str. 233
Are you a fan of clean eating, vegetarians or vegans? In this Urban Jungle with a wall full of hanging plants you will be served healthy and delicious food.
Food and drinks are not cheap, but worth it! My favorite: The Salmon Bowl with wholegrain rice, sesame spinach, avocado, edamame and teriyaki sauce.
On one of my last visits I was not happy with the food, the rice was dry. Maybe a slip-up? But the smoothies are just heavenly.
Do you like vintage shops as well? Polyestershock has something special, for example from the 60s or 70s. Whether clothes, shoes or handbags.
Venloer Str. 384
Delicious vegan food you get in this small restaurant with 20 seats. I'm more often with friends here, in the summer you can sit outside.
The extensive menu features Asian dishes such as summer rolls, salads, soups and sushi.
I usually order the Thai pasta dish Pad Thai. And I love the Mole Cake: chocolate cake with coconut cream and bananas.
Venloer Str. 400
Are you looking for a really cozy café in Cologne? The robin is relatively small with 20 seats. A floor with mosaic pattern, wooden tables and brick walls radiate coziness.
I like the Galao milk coffee with cinnamon and honey. You could also get Matcha Latte or a fresh mint ginger tea from the nice waiters.
In the morning there are various breakfasts, including some vegan. In the afternoon, cakes, brownies and biscuits beckon. For example vegan Carrot Cake, Sacher Torte or peanut cream cake.
Neptune Square 1
The 1912 building looks great from the outside. Inside you will find a beautiful spa landscape with many saunas and baths. Best of all: The rooftop terrace overlooking Ehrenfeld, a Japanese zen garden with pools.
I was already here for a massage, I liked that a lot. And it's also a fitness club, I've also done yoga here before.
Cologne Tips: Neumarkt Ehrenstraße
The Neumarkt is a centrally located square in Cologne. Here is always a big Christmas market Cologne instead.
I sometimes get off the subway here because the Ehrenstraße with its shops is close. Around the Neumarkt there are a few interesting shops.
When I get an appetite for Stroopwafels, Liquorice or Vla in Cologne, I get that in this Dutch shop. It is a bigger kiosk, but has a good selection.
At St. Agatha 41
Great Britain is one of my favorite travel destinations. But you can also find delicacies from the USA in the English Shop, a few minutes from Neumarkt.
How do scones, vinegar crisps or ciders sound? English->
This is my favorite for Thaifood. You can order Tom Kha Gai soup, red Thai curry or Pad Thai noodles here. Fresh, tasty and in large portions.
But other Asian dishes such as sushi, summer rolls or Sate are also on the menu. Also vegetarian and vegan.
In the summer you are sitting outside on the Ehrenstraße. In winter, the glass front offers a view of the action.
Book your Cologne weekend or short break now:
Bruckmann travel guide: 99 x Cologne , as you do not know it