Artisanal. Downtown Cologne is home to the city’s best patisseries. You’d be hard pushed to find such a high density anywhere else – or such high quality, for that matter. A prime example is this spacious café, where Mrs Eigel greets her customers personally with a cheerful smile. Her husband Nikolaus – the fifth generation of his family to run the company – heads up a team consisting of 12 confectioners and pâtissiers, who make around 40 different types of products every day, including homemade ice cream. We take a seat on the comfy coffeehouse chairs in the atrium, under a ficus tree. The cherry cake – cherries on a biscuit-like base with decorative meringue around the edges – is tart and juicy and doesn’t go overboard on the jelly despite the mountain of cherries. And the latte is just the thing to get our engine running.
Brückenstr. 1–3, cafe-eigel.de, outdoor seating
Vegan. Tarts, cakes, biscuits, ice cream, waffles – this variety of vegan desserts is unique for Cologne. The glass display cabinet usually has six different types of cake or tart to choose from, ranging from vegan Black Forest gateau to Keesekuchen (vegan cheesecake) and raw chocolate tart, along with all the usual coffee options. The iced latte is made with vanilla soy milk as standard and can also be combined with a scoop of your favourite ice cream flavour. There are also savoury dishes such as the Wednesday special: their take on the German classic Mettbrötchen that is made with rice waffles and tomato purée rather than the usual ground pork with onion. When the weather is good, you can park yourself on a cushion on the window sill. And if all the seats are taken, everything is also available to go.
Ritterstr. 52, cafehibiskus.de, outdoor seating
Regional. If you’re meeting up with a friend, this is the place to come. Thanks to the noise from the passing cars, the terrace isn’t quite as idyllic as it looks. But once you see the excellent selection of options including their various Brettchen (boards) which range from sweet and savoury (with wild game!) to vegan, you’ll soon forget about the noisy traffic. For a much-needed caffeine boost, we order a latte made with beans from local Cologne roastery Van Dyck. We order the vegan Grünes Brett (Green Board), which comes with a generous helping of bread, rolls, salad and spreads – and could even pass as a lunch option thanks to the added extra of pan-fried vegetables. If you’re really hungry, you can also opt for the scrambled eggs with bacon or cheese, accompanied by the aforementioned veg as a healthy side.
Deutzer Freiheit 72–74, heimisch.cafe, outdoor seating
Mediterranean. An industrial estate on the western outskirts of the city is the last place you’d expect to find a café. With its high walls and wood-beamed ceiling, it manages to retain the industrial charm of the old sand and gravel works. From a board on the wall, you can choose from a handful of mainly Mediterranean dishes of the day, such as pasta with pesto and chanterelle mushrooms or salad with feta and olives. After a brief glance at the cake counter, we opt for the chocolate mousse cake, a cappuccino, a latte macchiato and the homemade iced tea with green tea, lime and elderflower. The cake is wonderfully fluffy, creamy and not too sweet. Just like the iced tea, which – as the friendly waiter assures us – is made fresh by the litre every day. An unexpected but pleasant surprise is the audio book about Pablo Picasso playing in the toilets!
Girlitzweg 30, outdoor seating
Organic. Here, on the vibrant, bustling Körnerstrasse in Cologne’s popular district of Ehrenfeld, all is still well with the world – thanks in no small part to this café and its high culinary standards and high-quality ingredients. Organic and regional food is simply part and parcel of their menu. Another endearing factor is that the strong Van Dyck latte is served in a bowl, French-style. Our waitress is patiently training up a new member of staff, who brings us a hearty (albeit rather small) portion of bircher muesli with fruit salad and a delicious-looking French toast topped with maple and fruit syrup and icing sugar, which makes it incredibly sweet – but this is balanced out perfectly by the crispy bacon and tart fruit salad. When its time for elevenses, make sure you check out the cakes in the display cabinet.
Körnerstr. 67, sehnsucht-koeln.de, outdoor seating