The perfect three-day itinerary for city-breakers who like their bratwursts big, their Kölsch cold and their parties pumping…
Making Cologne your next getaway? A travel power move you should be dead proud of.
Not only should you pat yourself on the back for not following the herd (and predictably ending up in Berlin again). You’re also about to find out what few people have discovered before you: how this Rhine-hugging west German gem has come to be known as ‘Germany’s Fun Zone’.
We’re talking endless rivers of pale ale, countless ways to dance through to sunrise/sunset, hip shopping opportunities aplenty, plus a super-cool art scene to sink your teeth into – if your jaw’s not already exhausted by the tank-sized portions of pork you’ll be chewing through.
All that, and more, is detailed in our exhaustive (and quite exhausting) weekend guide to getting the most from Cologne – your new favourite city…
Here’s the single most important piece of survival intel you need for Germany’s coolest, friendliest, most exciting city: in Cologne, the only way to stem the never-ending flow of local beer to your table (whether you’ve asked for it or not) is to place a beer mat on top of your glass.
So proud are the Colognians of their Kölsch – a sessionable and crisp pale ale – that not only will they go out of their way to fill you with the stuff, but also offer an insurmountable number of spots for you to get your lips around it.
As soon as you step off a gloriously reasonable from-£30-each-way flight with British Airways direct from London Gatwick, and then the 15-minute train to the city centre, you should crack into the cold ones.
We say, dump your luggage at the gorgeously gothic, uber-trendy and perfectly positioned The Qvest hotel (from £81 a night), and hightail it to family-owned Brauerei zur Malzmuhle (just a seven-minute cab ride away).
There, you’ll drink like a local (fresh Kölsch after fresh Kölsch) and eat like a German prince – mettbrötchen (raw minced pork sandwiches), Halve Hahn (gouda on rye), Himmel und Erde (blood sausage, fried onions, mashed potatoes, apple sauce), and other hefty booze-soakers that’ll have you reaching for the ZZZs as soon as your head hits the pillow.
Given your turbo feed the night before, you’d be wise to turn your breakfast into brunch; even more so with two of Cologne’s finest mid-morning eateries just a 10-minute walk from your hotel.
If you’re after a hipster hangout, then hit up Noa – a minimalist, post-industrial bolthole that offers early-morning cocktails and a whacking great four-course brunch menu.
Or, make like a local and seek out Café Rico, arguably the best in the city with the bustling atmosphere to prove it. After your feed, it’s all about getting your art on.
Cologne is often compared to San Francisco, in part for its population of creatives and artists, and as such there’s a gallery here to suit every taste.
Museum Ludwig covers modern and pop art and Galerie Boisserée takes care of graphic design, while the gritty, cool district of Belgisches Viertel feels like one big outdoor exhibition of top tier local and international graffiti.
Incidentally, it’s also the area in which you’ll be spending most of your Big Night Out in Cologne. Grab a (you guessed it!) Kölsch and (you guessed it!) enormous plate of assorted porkstuffs at the Brauerei Päffgen, then start your assault on the early hours with a trip to either Six Pack, a trendy, hidden-away drinking institution that’s always rammed by midnight and goes on until sunrise; Gewolbe, which challenges Berlin’s infamous Berghain in the techno stakes; or IRON, for a taste of Cologne’s huge, incredibly welcoming and upbeat LBGT+ scene.
There’s no rush to get up in the morning – the heaven-sent, life-improving caffeine at super-cool The Coffee Gang gets a-flowing from 11am on a Sunday, with plenty of homemade cakes to help light the fuse under a sugar rush that you can ride until your flight home.
That ride should see your party-worn body slowly exploring the coolest shops Cologne has to offer. Spots to punch into your Maps include Citta di Bologna for high-end brands such as Rick Owens; Herr von Eden for homegrown tailoring; The Good Will Out for super-hype trainers; and Monsieur Courbet for more obscure streetwear options.
The latter also harbours a delicious secret in its basement – it’s where you’ll find Groove Attack, the legendary place to slake your thirst for hard-to-find rap and hip-hop vinyl, and the epicentre of Cologne’s surprisingly ace slew of record stores (alongside Underdog for punk and hardcore, Kompakt for electro and Parallel for almost everything else).
Then, all that’s left to do is grab some sweet treats for your office from the Imhoff Chocolate Museum – the top museum attraction in the city – and you’re good to go home.
Book your trip to Cologne via a brand-new flight route at ba.com/gatwick from £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.