1. Because it has a unique beer culture...
If you thought Germany’s beer culture was all about oversized steins of frothy lager clinking together, think again.
Here, the brauhauses serve up skinny 20cl glasses of Kölsch, a pale and hoppy beer that, a bit like Champagne, must be made in Cologne to be granted the title. Expect the köbes (waiter) to keep slapping cold beers onto your table until you admit defeat and place a beer mat over your glass.
Peter's Brauhaus by Daniel Farrell on Flickr (license)
Peter’s Brauhaus, Gaffel am Dom and Früh are the big names in the Altstadt and each offer a rousing, if slightly gimmicky, experience. For those who take their beer a bit more seriously, the Braustelle microbrewery in Ehrenfeld has a wide range of brews and runs popular tasting sessions and tours.
2. ...and a cool wine culture, too
Of course, it’s not all about beer in Cologne. The city also has a taste for wine – the nearby Middle Rhine Valley is home to some of Germany’s finest vineyards.
The standout spot for wine is Wein am Rhein. The ambience here is almost the complete opposite of a brauhaus; tranquil and sophisticated with thoughtful decorative touches, like the hundreds of drooping white pockets of material hanging from the ceiling. If you go for the four- or five-course weinschmecker menu, sommelier Melanie will explain how the wines complement each dish with a degree of passion as intoxicating as the house aperitif.
3. Because of the cool grit and graffiti of Ehrenfeld
Lazy travel writers describe anywhere remotely hipster-ish as “The Dalston of…” these days, but the similarities between East London’s coolest neighbourhood and Ehrenfeld are too great to ignore.
Ehrenfeld by Dietmar Temps on Flickr (license)
Ehrenfeld’s main artery, Venloer Strasse, affronts the senses with the fumes of its traffic and Turkish takeaways, with the odd boho café – squeezed between a pound store and an offy – pumping the irresistible aroma of roasted coffee into the street.
Occasionally you’ll be enticed away from the main drag by a residential street like Koernerstrasse, with its festive bunting joining the dots between boutique shops and charming brunch spots like Sensucht.
A little further north, poke your head down Senefelderstrasse to see Belgian-born graffiti artist ROA’s contribution to the district’s ever-growing exhibition of street art – a boney rabbit dangling from the roof of a building.
4. Because there’s a post-apocalyptic event space
Photo by Greg Dickinson
Further out of town still, Jack in the Box is well worth the trek. If you get lost and end up traipsing through a post-apocalyptic scrapyard, you’re on the right track.
The reward for your efforts is a dusty, sparse space – littered with upcycled freight containers – that hosts everything from flea markets to gigs. During the Street Food Festival, you can take your pick from food carts like Turbobao and Raph’s BBQ to the sound of a DJ spinning the likes of Fela Kuti and Mayer Hawthorne.