Our insider shares his tips on how to make the most of the German city this season – from boutique hotels in the Belgian Quarter to family-run breweries.
Home to some of Germany’s – and the world’s – finest Christmas markets, Cologne certainly nails the wintry vibe. Local resident Tobi Breit co-owns the Bumann & Sohn bar in the trendy Ehrenfeld district. Far from just a drinking den, it hosts live music and events through the year, including one of the city’s coolest contemporary Christmas markets. We sat down to talk all things festive, including hotels and hotspots to take you through the seasons.
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“Ehrenfelder Christmas Market has been held at Bumann & Sohn for the last six Decembers. It’s small and cosy, but also sells more modern things than traditional markets. Most exhibitors and visitors are from Ehrenfeld, so many people who know each other love meeting up here each year. We’re the only dance bar in the district and over the course of the evening it changes from bar to nightclub. Plus, entry is always free.”
“Die Wohngemeinschaft is the most unusual hotel I know. It’s located in Cologne’s Belgian Quarter, the city’s creative heart. Each room has its own theme: one is done up like a forest, another one like a spaceship, another like an exotic tiki room. There’s a theatre on site, too, where you can see concerts with local musicians as well as international acts. The whole place has been set up with great attention to detail.”
“This is a German chain with hotels in many cities, but each one is different. Cologne’s version is in a unique rotunda building near the Belgian Quarter with design inspired by the 1960s. I really like the rooftop bar – it has panoramic views of Cologne, including our famous cathedral. The Neni restaurant is also well worth a visit. They serve meze, shawarma and steak, and have a wine list with many German wines.”
“A family-run business for over 110 years, this is a mixture of a brewery and a restaurant with good traditional cuisine. The crowd is very local and the style is quaint and old-school, but still chic. When I go I like to order the ehrenfelder senfrostbraten – a pork roast coated with mustard and a hearty onion crust. Or try the cordon bleu, a saddle of pork filled with ham and cheese, served with fries and salad.”
“One of the most popular things to do in Cologne in winter is watch a game at our stadium, the RheinEnergieStadion. You have to experience the unique matchday atmosphere of our football team, 1. FC Köln. But if you would rather try something sporty for yourself, have a go at ten-pin bowling (known as kegeln) in a pub, where you can drink traditional kölsch beer at the same time. These pubs have cheap drinks and usually very cheap food too.”
“In Ehrenfeld, we have a lot of small boutiques and unique stores. You won’t regret visiting this second-hand store on Geisselstrasse, which has amazing vintage pieces, including 1980s sweaters and handmade dresses. If you like to shop, there is plenty more around here. Next door is a lingerie boutique, Pop Lingerie, and the next street over, Körnerstrasse, has everything from local coffee roasters to jewellery and clothing.”
“When it’s winter, locals like to visit Christmas markets with their friends. Afterwards, they normally like to go to a bar to warm up. After I go to the Stadtgarten Christmas market, which is one of the city’s newer markets near the hip Belgian Quarter, I like to visit Zum Scheuen Reh for its cosy and trendy atmosphere. In the mood for fancy drinks and a cool ambience? Try Rosebud, where highball cocktails are made with love.”
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