The Germans call it Koln. We call it a must-hit for epic eats, incredible shopping and plenty of brilliant beer…
Okay, so you’re in Germany. No, no, just imagine it for a second. You’re in Germany, and your belly’s full of incredibly good food.
Your liver’s processing some of the best beer to ever pass your lips. Your eyes are currently gazing on some of the best street art in Europe, and your feet are still tired from an all-nighter on one of the coolest nightclub scenes in the world.
And yet, Berlin is a six-hour drive away?
You bet it is, son. Because it’s low-key Cologne you’re getting stuck into, and not the done-to-death capital.
If you haven’t brushed up on your geography skills in a while, Cologne is the one in west Germany that sits on the Rhine and our advice is, don’t leave that scenario to your imagination for much longer.
Here are our five water-tight reasons that prove the capital’s reign as Germany’s coolest city is finally up. Book yourself a flight to Cologne (get in on the new British Airways new routes from London Gatwick for around £30 each way that takes under an hour and half – easy as) and see why it has legit claims to Berlin’s throne…
1. The beer is so good it’s legally protected
Knocking back Kölsch in Cologne is up there with ‘a swift 9am Guinness in the departure lounge’ as one of the richest of holiday drinking traditions.
While Berlin’s taps are fizzing with chaotic new craft beers, Cologne’s crisp, homegrown sessionable pale ale is so steeped in heritage that it now carries a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) – meaning if it’s not brewed in the city, it’s not Kölsch, baby.
And when it comes to finding a spot to wrap your smackers around it, you’re drowning in amazing options.
If it’s a party vibe you’re after, pull up a seat at Peters Brauhaus. If you like your Kölsch served with metre-long bratwursts, head for Haxenhaus. Or, if you prefer your establishments to be blessed by the highest order, know that the late, great Anthony Bourdain approved of Malzmühle Brewery as “democratic, utilitarian and welcoming to all with a powerful thirst”.
2. The souvenirs are next level
If you’ve not brought back a selection of teeth-rotting sweets with wacky names for your office, have you really been on holiday?
Cavity creators aside, you’ll be returning home from Cologne with more than just a heavy desire to get back out there again at the soonest possible moment.
The shopping opportunities are incredible, and cater to the Holy Trinity of Middle-Class Hipsterdom by the bagful.
There’s The Good Will Out, an independent cornucopia of all the hyped-up trainers that have the internet drooling; The Coffee Gang, with its own-roasted java blends that take our title of best speciality coff coff in Cologne; and finally, a surprising plethora of incredible record stores, including Parallel, Magasin 2 and, our favourite, Groove Attack, for all your super-obscure hip hop and rap vinyl needs.
3. You don’t need to be a perma-pout to get into clubs
Berlin’s techo-haven Berghain is as famous for what goes on inside its dark walls as it is for its insanely long queue. It’s probably the only club in the world that’s managed to make a celebrity of its doorman (a tattooed behemoth by the name of Sven Marquardt) and his insanely inscrutable and terrifying door policy.
D’ya really need that on your holiday? D’ya really fancy dressing like you’re at a Shoreditch funeral, wearing the sulky pout of a Fashion Week front-rower to maybe rave the night away?
You don’t have to in Cologne.
Get your fix of Euro-techno at the city’s coolest club, Gewölbe – a maze-like institution that blasts sets from the underground’s most in-demand names well into the ungodly hours.
4. The city prides itself on inclusivity
Cologne has a tight claim for being home to Germany’s biggest and best LGBTQ scene, what with its utterly spectacular carnival every February, and its Christopher Street Day which attracts more than half a million revellers to the city centre every July.
But if you’ve landed at a different time of the year, fear not – the gloriously inclusive and celebratory scene parties on all year round, in many shapes and sizes.
First, fuel up at the gay-friendly Café Rico for the best brunch in town. Then take your pick from the drag parties of KattWinkel, the campy club décor of Die Mumu, or, right next door, the super-hip late-night tapas trappings of IRON.
Or, y’know, all three, if you’ve got the stamina of a caffeinated superhero.
5. The galleries spill into the streets
Cologne is where art’s old world and new school collide, and the results are flippin’ magnificent.
As the home of the planet’s oldest art fair, Art Cologne, you don’t need a Masters Degree in Well Ancient Paintings to correctly guess that this city boasts a huge variety of galleries to chin-stroke your way around. Every taste is covered, from the pop art-heavy and Picasso-stuffed Museum Ludwig, to the self-explanatory Museum of East Asian Art.
But it’s the street art that’s got us most excited.
Sure, Berlin’s graffiti is world-renowned, but for large-scale murals you’ve not seen on your friends’ Instagram feeds already, explore the streets around Ehrenfeld. The gritty after-work hang-out district for cool professionals has been invaded by the inky stylings of international artists such as Faith47, Herakut and ROA. Likewise the Belgisches Viertel, which displays its art on street level and inside dedicated urban art galleries.
Book your trip to Cologne via a brand-new flight route at ba.com/gatwick for £30 each way based on a return fare.
Limited availability. Prices are available each way based on a return ‘Basic’ Euro Traveller fare from London Gatwick only, and include taxes, fees and charges. Correct as of 1 October 2018 but subject to change at any time. Departing from London Gatwick to Cologne on select dates between 12 November 2018 – 2 December 2018 and between 7 January 2019 - 20 January 2019. See ba.com/gatwick for details.