7 reasons why Cologne could be Germany's coolest city

Greg Dickinson

written by
Greg Dickinson

updated 03.05.2024

If you’re looking for a city with fairytale architecture and gas-lit cobbled alleyways, you should probably stop reading now. Book a flight to Prague or Paris and be done with it.  Cologne (or Köln) is at first glance underwhelming in its postwar geometricity — with more bustling roads rather than pedestrian-friendly pathways.  But what the city lacks in aesthetic appeal it makes up for in character. Here are seven reasons why you should go to Cologne for your next city break.

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, 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 microbrewery in Ehrenfeld has a wide range of brews and runs popular tasting sessions and tours. 

This part of the world is known for its beer culture and for good reason. 


German Kölsch Beer, Cologne © yotily/Shutterstock

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.

If you find yourself in Neuerenfeld, one Cologne's trendiest neighborhoods, you'll want to stop by Essers Gasthaus. Their wine list, while not massive, features a top-notch selection of German-Austrian wines with new selections being added frequently.

Another favourite wine bar is Bar Rix — a classic wine bar established in 2018 that offers over 300 different labels on their wine list. 

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.

Known for its lively atmosphere, Ehrenfeld is home to a diverse mix of residents, including artists, musicians, young professionals, and families. The streets are lined with colorful graffiti, trendy cafes, independent boutiques, and art galleries.

Ehrenfeld’s main artery, Venloer Strasse, is known for a thriving nighlife scene. From cozy pubs serving craft beers to chic cocktail lounges and underground clubs hosting live music and DJs, there's something for everyone after dark.

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.


Jack in the Box, Cologne  © Greg Dickinson

4. Because there’s a post-apocalyptic event space

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. 

"Jack in the Box" in Cologne refers to a popular nightclub (rather than the fast-food chain) that hosts everything from flea markets to gigs. With eclectic decor and frequent themed parties, this is a great place to dance with a friendly crowd. 

 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.

Cologne: view towards the city centre with cathedral and Hohenzollern Bridge

Cologne: view towards the city centre with cathedral and Hohenzollern Bridge © GNTB/Francesco Carovillano

5. Because you can see the city from a different angle on the Rhine

Whether you walk alongside it, cross it, or hop on a boat down it, you can’t visit Cologne without checking out the Rhine.

The most accessible part of the river is the pretty Rheingarten, lined by some of the most pleasingly German-looking buildings that you’ll see in the city centre – all housing tourist-trap cafés and restaurants. Lounging on the grass or people-watching on the promenade seem to be how the locals pass time around these parts.

Nearby, the Hohenzollernbrücke railway bridge (the busiest one in the world, no less) is one of Europe’s gazillion ‘love-lock’ bridges, but lower that eyebrow – it’s actually pretty impressive. On the south side of the 800-metre bridge there is around two tonnes worth of locks. In some parts, space has run out and the locks start to climb the bridge’s steel railings like poison ivy (or something more romantic).

6. Because there’s ping pong and cocktails in the Belgian Quarter

The chic Belgisches Viertel (Belgian Quarter) escaped the wartime bombing that flattened much of Cologne’s Altstadt, leaving a collection of beautiful Art Nouveau apartment buildings that give an impression of what the city would have looked like a hundred years ago.

Centre of the action is Brüsseler Platz. During the day people come here to sip milschkaffe at a café, play ping pong on one of the fixed tables around St Michael’s Church or attempt to escape from a room at Team Escape on the north side of the square.

At night the area throngs with under 30s. Those looking for a cocktail can while away their month’s wages in understated Little Link. Anyone who wants to ‘be seen’ will head to Arty Farty Artspace (their words, not mine), while everyone else hangs out in the square like there’s no tomorrow.


Street with old houses in the heart of Cologne © LALS STOCK/Shutterstock

7. And finally… because flights there are ludicrously cheap at the moment

Even if you’re a purist when it comes to budget airlines, it’s pretty tough to turn down the RyanAir and Germanwings flights to Köln/Bonn Airport – starting from as low as £49 return from London and similarly affordable from other European cities.

You will find more suprisingly attractive destinations in our guide to the best things to do in Germany.

Planning your trip to Germany

Skip the hassle of planning and booking, and allow our local travel experts to create a personalised trip for you. Here are some examples of our tailor made trips:

  • Self drive from the Rhine Valley to Bavaria (7 days): Explore the heart of Germany on a road trip from Heidelberg to Rothenburg to Nuremberg, concluding in Munich. 
  • Best of Germany (12 days) : Enjoy guided tours in Berlin and Dresden, followd by Schloss Neuschwanstein, and the Black Forest.
  • Explore Saxony (8 days): One of Europe’s most versatile destinations for art and culture.

Or browse our other existing itineraries for inspiration.

Greg Dickinson

written by
Greg Dickinson

updated 03.05.2024

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