German cuisine is often equated with simply pretzels and beer, but what to do on a lazy morning in Cologne when you want to take your time over a good meal? Long-time restaurant owner Sascha Bayer shares his recommendations for the very best breakfasts and brunches in Cologne.
Cologne is well known for its stunning architecture, from the towering cathedral that greets every new arrival at the train station to the narrow streets crammed with small bars and shops. If you’re going to make it through a day of exploring this lovely city, you’ll need a strong start to the morning.
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Sascha Bayer has owned a restaurant in Cologne for seven years, but his more recent opening of LOUIS: The Breakfast Club at the end of 2019 reflects the surge of breakfast culture hitting the city. These are his favourite brunch and breakfast options in Cologne.
No longer is breakfast reserved for the early birds. If you’re late to bed and late to rise, you can still enjoy the all-day breakfasts, offered everyday of the week, at LOUIS. Sascha prides himself on providing healthy food, using as much local produce as possible, in a light and airy location. The modern, industrial-inspired decor characteristic of the many of the cafés in the Belgian Quarter is softened here by the wealth of plants. One showcase wall is even entirely covered in leaves, so you can enjoy your breakfast in the great outdoors no matter what the weather.
Sascha’s got a top tip for the caffeine addict in Cologne: “Kaffeesaurus roasts its own coffee, and there is a fine selection of bread and cakes that are baked in house as well.” Visitors can follow the coffee process from start to finish; it’s almost like a coffeehouse tour. As one of the biggest restaurants on this list, Kaffeesaurus often has at least a few tables free, despite its popularity. So, if you’re in town for a brief visit and haven’t had time to make reservations, this place is likely a safe bet for a satisfying morning meal.
“It’s more of a bakery than a restaurant,” Sascha notes, but this shouldn’t put you off; an authentic German breakfast often revolves around bread, cheese and sliced meat, so the humble loaf is a focal point. And you can get some of Cologne’s very best bread to accompany a morning feast at Bastian’s. “They bake their own bread,” Sascha explains. “It’s very tasty!” You can sit in the bakery if you fancy, and if the weather is good there’s some outdoor seating in front of the bakery. The sweet treats are just as good as the loaves, so leave plenty of room for a post-breakfast dessert.
“Café Rotkehlchen is such a nice, small, cosy place,” Sascha says. He’s certainly not wrong about it being small, so keep an eye out for the hand-painted black-and-white sign that guides visitors in from the street. Inside, rustic red-brick walls make for a homely feel with hand-drawn pictures decorating the menus. For authentic food that matches the authentic decor, look no further; it’s also got a good selection of breakfast dishes for those who are gluten-free, vegan or vegetarian. Café Rotkehlchen is a little further out from the centre of Cologne than some others on this list, but the journey is worth it; plus, it’s a lovely stroll through the quiet, peaceful neighbourhood.
With German cuisine being heavily meat-based, not every restaurant outside of the capital will have options for plant-based eaters – which is why ECCO is such a draw for vegan and vegetarian travellers. “There’s a large selection of tasty vegan food,” says Sascha. “And on the weekend, there’s a great brunch buffet.” On Saturday and Sunday, you can lounge over a leisurely brunch until 3pm; during the week, ECCO offers a Speed Brunch Buffet that closes at 10am.
If you’re looking for a chatty, friendly service and a prime example of a tasty German breakfast platter, be sure to stop in at Herr Pimock. “Pimock is a lovely place to have good food and relax,” Sascha says. “The atmosphere is very calm.” With wooden tables painted roughly in minty green, the snug feel of the restaurant makes for a great way to ease into your day. Though in the bustling Belgian Quarter, this café is tucked away down a sidestreet away from the crowds.
Sascha recommends Café Wahlen for its charming vintage vibes: traditional furniture, floral wallpaper and lacy decor give this café a delightfully retro feel. Wahlen is German for choice, and you’ll certainly be spoilt for choice here. It’s best known for its glass-fronted cabinets crammed with towering slices of cake – this is not a breakfast for the faint of heart, or those lacking a sweet tooth.
Salon Schmitz keeps it traditional with local produce done the German way: bread, cheeses, egg and meat. If you’re looking for a lighter option, Sascha highly recommends that visitors try the bircher muesli; originally from Switzerland, this dish has been perfected in Cologne. A mishmash of modern art prints and old-fashioned wallpaper make for unique surroundings in which to enjoy your brunch, and you should come hungry since the plates are large enough to crowd each other out on the quaint marble-topped tables.
If you value a photogenic breakfast as much as a flavourful one, Sascha knows the place. Café Buur is known throughout Cologne for its picture-perfect plates. “It’s always very packed and filled with people looking for the perfect shot,” he laughs. With the café not far from the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Park, you’ll also be able to snap some great shots from inside and out in this pretty area of the city. Despite often being full, the food makes up for the tight squeeze. Comfortable sofas and rustic wooden furniture lend a home-away-from-home feel, but be sure to reserve a table if you want to be sure of a meal here, as it often books up quickly.
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