Founded by Cologne local Benedikt Taschen, this publisher puts out anything from $40 books about record covers or iconic t-shirts to super-deluxe $15,000 books about Mohammed Ali. Taschen started out as a comic book collector and decided early on to devote his business to super niche markets. A single book will take up nearly all of your baggage allowance; still, even just looking around is a sumptuous feast.
Located on Ehrenstrasse, one of the two posh shopping streets in Cologne, Walther König bookshop offers the traditional mix of their own books (such page-turners as The Worldwide History of Beads), new releases, and a used and rare book section. No airport paperbacks here, just non-fiction with a decent English selection.
Buchhandlung Klaus Bittner
A bookshop in the American model that offers children’s books, bestsellers, and *gasp* e-books, Klaus Bittner is unique among small booksellers in that it doesn’t try to pretend that the modern world doesn’t exist. The comfy chairs and room to browse shouldn’t be confused for Indigo! or Chapters, but it is a good halfway between the church vibe other shops cultivate.
In addition to the usual exhibition catalogues, posters, magazines, photographs, and ephemera normally found in an art bookshop, Stefan Schuelke offers special editions from the 1960s-1980s and contemporary art. Every couple of months or so, there are events devoted to artists, authors, or topics of special interest. Staff at the shop are very happy to help with search requests and help develop collections.
For the super-Deutsch bookshop experience, spend an hour or two at Somanas. This self-styled esoteric bookshop will make the philosophy and aesthetic sections of a normal bookshop seem like it is for kindergarteners. Aside from books, the shop stocks tantric oil and meditation pillows, because you can’t read all the time.
Antiquariat Ulrich Doege
Book lovers who are into signed books, illustrated books, French literature, Gotheana, or books written by hermits will love Antiquarian Ulrich Doege. It is possible to buy the books online, but when it comes to old books, there’s nothing quite like holding a possibility in your hand and giving it a good old sniff before committing.
Die andere Buchladen
Nestled on a side street in Sulz, a leafy inner suburb in the southwest of the city, just over the road from Ulrich Doege, Die andere Buchladen (the other bookstore) takes its title from a quote by Rimbaud. The inventory follows from there. Long a 1960s, wild child hotspot, the shop takes pains to stock books and magazines that aren’t available elsewhere. “Our passion for critical and ambitious literature is as unbroken as our libertarian debates.”
With over 80,000 used books crammed in the 110-square-meter shop, Zentral Antiquariat is well worth the short journey outside of Cologne. Browsing is encouraged, and there are often readings and art exhibitions. Easily reachable by S-Bahn from the Central Station or Deutz, go on a sunny day and stop in at the Japanese Gardens on the way home.