Where the Locals Go In Cologne
The capital of the German state North Rhine-Westphalia and the largest city on the Rhine, Cologne seems to have it all, from its picturesque riverside promenades. Did you know that Cologne is one of the German cities that claims the title of “Italy’s northernmost city”? This is mainly because of its Mediterranean weather and Catholic heritage, but locals say it’s because the people in Cologne are warm and sociable – much like the reputation of the people in Italy!
The city comes alive every winter at the 11th minute of the 11th hour on the 11th day of November at the Cologne carnival, bursting with vibrant colours and energy, usually lasting until February. In addition to experiencing this exciting local event, these tips by Cologne locals will give you a real taste of this city. Oh, and don’t forget to pick up a bottle of Eau de Cologne to take back home – a visit to this city is incomplete without diving into the fragrant history of a certain citrus perfume!
How to get to Cologne by train: Cologne is very well connected by rail within Germany. Frankfurt to Cologne takes an hour by train, while Berlin and Munich are about 4.5 hours away. Hamburg is 4 hours away. Major cities outside Germany – Paris, Luxembourg, Amsterdam and Brussels – are also around 4 hours by train. Take advantage of the Global Pass and Interrail German Rail Pass to explore more of the region!
Neighbourhood gathering point
Complementing its temperate summers, Cologne boasts plenty of outdoor community gathering spaces. Rathenauplatz is local Marcel’s favourite. This park, full of tall, leafy trees, is mainly used as a neighbourhood hangout and meeting point, but it’s also a popular public viewing spot for international football events and has a boules field.
The local community takes great care of its public garden, complete with a lovely book-swap shelf. If you’re looking for a spot that feels welcoming even when it's crowded, this is your place. Simply pick up a snack from one of the surrounding shops & restaurants and settle down on a bench or on the grass to enjoy a beautiful evening!
A postcard for every taste
Did you know that Germany’s biggest treasure trove of postcards is right here in Cologne? W. Königs Postkartenladen opened its doors in 1981 as a branch of the well-known Walther Königs publishers and booksellers. It now stocks and sells about 50,000 postcards in the shop. On the first floor, you’ll find a modern gift and souvenir shop, but the second floor is where you can find the true treasure – there are hundreds of postcards, new and old, designed by acclaimed artists from all over the world. Take your time and browse through the extensive vintage collection of yellowed, hand-written index cards, black and white postcards, as well as cards with fine art prints. You’re bound to find a souvenir you just won’t be able to leave behind!
Α bar in a ‘shared apartment’
If you’re planning to stay in Cologne overnight, consider staying at this hostel-bar. Wohngemeinschaft means “shared apartment”, and it includes a common living area and 16 different rooms. Wohngemeinschaft is full of wacky relics, such as the old Hippie Volkswagen Bus in one of the common spaces. With its fair prices, cool ambience, live music nights, travel presentations and language exchange evenings, it not only attracts open-minded and social travellers, but also a lot of locals!
Reclaiming the neighbourhood kiosk
Cologne has a thriving community culture of büdchens, also known as kiosks. Some say that these kiosks are as central to Cologne’s identity as the cathedral or the Rhine. If you’re craving a coffee, ice cream or sweets, drop in to one of the 1,000 büdchens that dot the city. You are very likely to become engaged in a friendly conversation with Cologne locals on your visit – “büdchen-hopping” is considered a favourite local pastime!
Julia recommends visiting the büdchen located at the corner of Remigiusstrasse and Lotharstrasse in Sülz. This is the büdchen she grew up around, and she has many fond memories of how it was revived by the neighbourhood. Another lovely feature of these little gems: they are often sites for mini events like small concerts and art exhibitions, making them the perfect spaces to experience the highlights of daily life in Cologne.
A modern traditional restaurant
If you’re looking for a cozy place to satisfy big hunger pangs, local Stephan recommends paying a visit to Bei Oma Kleinmann. The restaurant specialises in schnitzel in all its shapes and forms, and they even have a few vegetarian varieties! They also have weekly seasonal specials like chanterelles, asparagus and roast goose. Because of its popularity, you might want to make a reservation beforehand.
A true underground rock ‘n’ roll bar
Ehrenfeld has gained a reputation for being the coolest, punk-est (or, let’s face it, one of the more Berlin-like) of Cologne’s neighbourhoods. If you want to explore the district’s underground music scene, make a beeline to the Sonic Ballroom. Other nearby venues in Cologne have taken more of a pop-rock approach, but this one continues to remain true to its underground spirit.
Memorials to armed resistance against Hitler
While you’re still in Ehrenfeld, look for murals and memorial plaques next to the train station dedicated to the Edelweißpiraten, a group of young people that organised to oppose the predominance of the Hitler Youth. Thirteen of them, including several teenagers along with their leader, Hans Steinbrück, were executed without trial in a public hanging on 10 November 1994 in the same area where the memorials stand today. Every summer, the city hosts the Edelweißpiratenfestival, a music and culture festival held in the Friedenspark in the south of the city, as another tribute to them.
Cologne’s best viewpoint
If you’re in Cologne, chances are you will want to take a picture of the beautiful Rhine and its riverside promenade, along with the Dom (the Cathedral) and the rest of the cityscape. The KölnTriangle, a skyscraper on the Rhine, offers one of the most breathtaking, panoramic views of the river, the cathedral, the old city and other areas of Cologne. The viewing platform at the top also offers information on the sights across the city. Local Stephan guarantees that it’s the best view of Cologne!
For more local favorites across Europe, check out Spotted by Locals.
Header image by CC0 PIXABAY
Edited by Anjali Chandawarkar, Eurail.
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