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Cologners love their neighbourhoods. There are 86 official ones in the city and plenty of smaller, informal designations. Each one has its own character, formed by those who used to live there, who live there now and who are moving in. Rich or poor, Cologne’s Veedels – the Kölsch word for neighbourhood – are vibrant places in which it’s well worth having a wander, and some cake. Here are five of the most interesting.
Ehrenfeld has been part of the City of Cologne since 1888. These days it is known as a lively artists’ quarter with loads of warehouse clubs, art galleries, theatres and dive bars. It can be reached on the Ubahn with lines 3, 4 and 5. Once there, grab a coffee at Van Dyck, the local roasters or Café Sehensucht and proceed on foot around the neighbourhood, popping in to the many interior design boutiques like Utensil and Lederer. Before you head out for the the evening’s entertainment, stop in for a restorative couple of hours at the fantastic Neptunbad. No bathing suit required.
Mülheim became a town in 1322 and joined the City of Cologne in 1914. To get there, head over the river on the 18 line from the main station or the 4 from Freisenplatz and get off at Wienerplatz. A five minutes’ walk later, you’ll be on Keupstrasse, the epicentre of Cologne’s lively Turkish community. Get the best döner of your life before having a walk round the neighbourhood streets. If you’re lucky, there will be a wedding or two in progress. There’s nothing else like it. In the evening, take in a play at the Schauspielhaus or a concert at the Kulturbunker.
Probably Cologne’s coolest-and-proud-of-it neighbourhood – the Belgisches Viertel is ground zero for fashion boutiques, and shops carry lots of strangely marvellous things you never knew you needed, but now seem essential. Get off at Frieseoplatz or Rudolfplatz or walk 20 minutes from the main station. The centre of the neighbourhood is the church yard in Brüsslerplatz, which is summer transforms into a lively Biergarten.
Now one of the most fashionable places to live in Cologne, Nippes is at its heart a working-class neighbourhood. Traditional pubs like the Goldener Kappes sit cheek by jowl next to trendy boutiques and organic grocery stores. Leipzigerplatz offers a peek of what the neighbourhood would have looked like before bombing destroyed everything in WWII. A cake stop at Café Eichhörnchen or TörtchenTörtchen is never a mistake. The rows of small, brick workers cottages festooned with window boxes in the Sechzigviertel are something unique in Cologne. Get there with the 12 or 15 line, getting off at Lohsestr or Florastr.
Nestled behind the bustling student street Zülpicher Str, Rathenauplatz is also a slice of unbombed Cologne. Buildings on a grand scale surround a park complete with beer garden. Get some of the best tapas in the city at Meister Gerhard or see what a real Cologne pub is like at Hellers Brauhaus after doing a bit of shopping at the independent (and affordable) boutiques on Engelbertstr before taking in a film at Off Broadway. Get there on the 12 or 15 at Rudolfplatz or Zülpicherplatz or the 9 at Dasselstr.