At the end of last year (yes, 3 months ago; I am the bottle neck on this one – Lucy), Bron, Danèe and I headed to Köln to hit everything christmas and in general visit the friendliest city in Germany. Whether this is a fact we made up (Cologne being the friendliest city in Germany) or whether it is widely known it is unclear, but from our end it still rings true. With 3 days, four Christmas markets, one large finale type party and a handful of friendly faces to meet – we had our days numbered.
These are our general rules for Cologne, with a handful of recommendations – which may or may not be helpful.
I’m going to be honest, we didn’t even bother looking into hotels. From our standpoint: Airbnb is always the better option. Not that we ever really made full use of the kitchen, and not that our place was much bigger than a hotel room but it had the privacy factor on lock. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great having a once a day cleaning service and a front desk (Hotels), but we found ourselves right in the thick of it, without the heavy hotel price tag and without the constant faff of busy accommodation solutions.
These are our top 3 (+1) Airbnb places which we bookmarked and had “local” approved:
- Downtown Designer Duplex: Good for 2 people, perhaps you can negotiate more ~90€
- Belgian Quarter Apartment: Fits up to 5, appears unoffensive and spacious ~78€
- Hip Vacation Apartment: To be fair, I hate the word hip, but this one fits 9 (!) and has lots of nice reviews ~150€
- Bright Studio in Top Location: WE STAYED HERE ! Perfect for the 3 of us,& in a super easy spot for casually walking the city ~49€
TIP: Check the below map for the “Where’s” in Cologne.
WHERE EXACTLY TO STAY/ LIFE TIPS
Thank god to friends, really. Cologne is not a big city, so actually maybe it wouldn’t matter where you stayed because it’s scale is rather manageable. That said – we got this rather nifty map from a friend with a couple of notes, and a couple of general city rules (below).
NOTES: The red area is the place to be. The Orange area is (more or less) where my friend lives, in case that is relevant for anyone.
RULE 1#: Live on the left side of the Rhine
This didn’t really get explained to me much. But my guess is that the left is gentrified and the right isn’t, yet.
RULE 2#: Stay away from the Ring
The Ring is sort of like if Reeperbahn and Kudamm were to get together and make one epic shopping and drinking strip. It’s pretty gross, ugly big bars with no soul and ugly people probably on bux parties or generally just being disgusting. This is not your place, and if it is – kindly exit the website.
RULE 3#: Watch your drink(s)
The population increases probably not two fold, but a lot over the weekend and with this in any city comes unsavoury characters. The general rule, which multiple Cologners advised, is WATCH YOUR DRINKS. Rohypnol seems to be the drug of choice which is terrifying.
Three observations about Cologne’s eating scene:
1. There’s a brunch culture. And (on weekends) all the cafés we went to served breakfast all day. #winning
2. Slow service. Cologne is the city for lazy dining. We recommend making a meal at home if you don’t have time to kill .
3. Book a table, early. A long, lingering dinner is all good when you get seated at 6pm. Late night feeds i.e. I’m ready for dinner, it’s 9pm isn’t an option in Cologne. Generally, restaurants close at 10pm.
YO! | Neue Maastrichterstr 2, 50672 Cologne
YO! was our first pitstop in the city. And probably the very first time we clued onto the fact: service is slow. We were starving and ready to devour a Jurassic size lump of bacon. Instead we salivated over everyone else’s breakfast on Instagram and took photos of the cute crockery that had been laid out for us for at least 40 minutes. Their breakfast is your pretty standard German brunch fare: cold cuts to cheese to fruit salad & yoghurt – we manage to cover the lot between the three of us.
Food envy happened when old mate at our neighbouring table got the grilled ham and cheese, with a fried egg, open sandwich vibe – but you live and learn. All in all it was a nice cafe, with cool vintage vibe and located on a beautiful street so we’d go back, plus they’re open until 1am every night so your Sunday brunch could easily turn into a Sunday sesh.
TIP: Order the grilled ham, cheese, fried egg number. And then tell us what is was like.
CAFE SEHNSUCHT | Körnerstr 67, 50823 Köln
Café Sehnsucht translates to Cafe Longing in English, and this you will do. We promise it’s worth it though. The choose-your-own-adventure style menu is awesome and made up of four sections – bread, plates of cold meats/salmon/cheese, omelettes and paninis, and lots of sides including bacon, mushrooms, cheese etc. Perfect for friends with special dietary requirements. Or you can pick off the main breakfast/lunch menu which features salads, soups and a heavenly looking french toast with bacon ensemble.
All reports said the coffee was damn good too. If the coffee doesn’t wake you up, the buzz from groups of people yapping, munching and drooling over the cake cabinet will.
TIP: Book ahead or go early.
We were also given the following Kölsch recommendations:
– Drink Kölsch: Grab a Kölsch beer at one of Cologne’s old-school breweries: Gaafel am Dom, Fruh Brauhaus, and Peters Brauhaus.
– Eat Kölsch: Try Kölsche Kavier (black pudding), Hämmche (pork knuckle) and Halver Hahn (rye bread with Dutch cheese, butter and mustard) at one of the following establishments: Päffgen Kölsch, Bier Esel, and Lommerzheim.
TOTAL CONFUSION…and whatever comes next
Ok, so it’s a little shite of us including a party which wrapped up in December, however this series run by the Kompakt tied crew of Michael Mayer, Tobias Thomas and Ralph Christoph is definitely worth mentioning. And hell, party people find it hard to sit still for long right? We were lucky enough to time our visit with the crew’s final party, held at Studio 672 (the night’s original home).
The venue was huge – and totally packed – and the vibes were some of the best we’ve experienced in 2014. People were REALLY moving and dancing with strangers (this needs to happen more in Berlin), the tunes were a predictably celebratory house and techno mix (and ganz lecker), the DJs were into it (DJ Koze, Michael Mayer, Tobias Thomas, Sven Howland, Roosevelt) and while we bailed at an early hour, we’re told the pace was kept and kicked on well into the next AM.
TIPPS: keep an eye out for any of these guys that were involved in Cologne’s longest running house and techno night, as they more than know what they’re doing when it comes to party machen and we predict any future nights they run will also be a very good thang.
Having hit a winner the night prior with Stadtgarten / Studio 672, our Saturday night choice for a ein paar Weins was Zum scheuen Reh. For us, it didn’t really stand out; however if you’re on the prowl the pick-up game here was intense, maybe this could be your vibe. Probably more up our straße, we pulled together a few stronger go-to’s all tried and tested by current and former Kölner (danke Em, Marius, Milly and Tristan).
Sixpack, in the Belgian Quarter because the drinks and people are interesting, and it’s open late (essential for anyone on a Berlin clock)
Arty Farty, also in the Belgian Quarter, because it doubles as an art space, the crowd are chilled and they regularly hold a variety of events
Tausend Bar, also in the Belgian Quarter, also open late, with small space for dancing (if you feel the urge).
TIP: 2nd times the charm: AVOID ANYTHING ON THE RING. We were given this tip in advance, and saw it for ourselves when there. Unless you like your clubs and bars trashy (in a VIP section / bottle service kinda way) and your crowd sleazy, these places won’t be your vibe. Walk a few streets in and find yourself in the safety of the Belgian Quarter and you’ll be fine.