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“Looking at the cathedral gives me a real sense of home” — Sonja Baumann is one half of the Michelin-starred chef duo behind Cologne restaurant Neobiota | Photo: Thomas Schäkel
“Looking at the cathedral gives me a real sense of home” — Sonja Baumann is one half of the Michelin-starred chef duo behind Cologne restaurant Neobiota | Photo: Thomas Schäkel

A day in the life of Sonja Baumann

|   day in the life

On her days off, the ­Michelin-starred chef enjoys strolls in the park, fine dining and day trips to nearby palaces

When I don’t have to work, there are plenty of things to do, places to eat and ways to relax in Cologne. I’m someone who enjoys being outside in the fresh air – weather permitting, of course.

As I live in the city centre, I’m lucky to have everything I need just a short walk away. One place I like to go to relax is the Pantaleonspark in the south part of town. It’s not far from my apartment, which is why I often head there when the weather is good and sit on one of the benches to read a book or listen to an audiobook while soaking up the sun. The Pantaleonspark, which was created after the war, has its roots in an old monastery of the same name. For a few years now it has also been home to a little community garden, where local residents can plant their own vegetables. It’s probably not the most attractive park in Cologne, but that also means it’s less crowded.

Whenever I want to go for a stroll, I usually head further into the Südstadt, across Chlodwigplatz and down to the Rhine promenade. Between the Severinstrasse and Bonner Strasse streets you’ll find a whole host of small cafés that also roast their own coffee. Try them out – there’s something for everyone!

I like walking by the water, which is why the Rhine promenade is a perfect spot. But it does get rather overrun in the summer and then it’s not quite so ­relaxing.

My route usually takes me along the upside-down L-shaped Kranhäuser office and apartment buildings, past the Chocolate Museum and towards Heumarkt. This is also where the boat trips start – something else that I can really recommend. Making my way through the hustle and bustle of the Rhine promenade, I continue straight ahead to the cathedral, an absolute must-see for anyone visiting ­Cologne for the first time. But even though I’ve lived here for a few years now, I still enjoy walking past and admiring it from up close. Even just looking at it gives me a real sense of home.

When I have time to eat out, I usually visit the restaurants of my chef friends. I can really recommend MaiBeck down by the Rhine, where the focus is on regional cuisine. Taku at the Hotel Excelsior Ernst serves up East-Asian cuisine and Metzger & Marie in the Agnesviertel district do the best meat dishes.

Needless to say, I also like to pay a visit to one of Cologne’s typical beer­halls every now and again: my favourite Brauhaus is the Brauerei zur Malzmühle at Heumarkt. They brew Mühlen Kölsch there – which, if you ask me, is the best Kölsch in the city. And the food is fantastic too, I recommend a Röggelchen with Mett (ground pork with onion on a crusty rye bread roll) with your first beer.

When I have more time, I also like to venture out of the city. There are some beautiful places to discover – like the Schlosspark in Brühl. Its two palaces, ­Augustusburg and Falkenlust, are among Germany’s most important examples of Baroque and Rococo architecture and can be reached quickly and easily by S-Bahn train.

I can also recommend taking a day trip to my native Bonn. The lively city centre and the green, expansive university grounds are well worth a visit. And if you fancy hiking, you can head to the nearby Drachenfels hill. Or if you want to take things at a more leisurely pace, you can go for a stroll or a cycle around the Rheinaue park.