How can I find out what’s going on?
Independent, informative and, despite having 40 years under its belt, still very much in tune with the times: Cologne’s Stadtrevue (stadtrevue.de) magazine has stood out on the city’s monopolised press landscape since 1976. A highlight is the daily events calendar that can also be viewed online and covers pretty much all club nights, readings, plays and concerts taking place in the region that day. The only other place you’ll find as much detailed information is on the City of Cologne’s official portal (koeln.de). And there’s also a good overview of the city’s museums and current exhibitions on museenkoeln.de. Cologne music blog “Hey” (letsgethey.de) lets you in on the coolest parties and concerts and the creative bloggers from “We Are City” (wearecity.de) are always clued up on the best local shopping and culinary hotspots. If it’s good coffee you’re after, check out the great café blog “Mal hier Mal dort” (malhiermaldort.com).
We also speak English
The English-speaking expat community in Cologne may be smaller than that of Berlin, but it still has a decent choice of activities. Starting with the offer of the city’s cinemas: Metropolis at Ebertplatz (metropolis-koeln.de) only shows films in English (some with subtitles), and Off-Broadway on Zülpicher Strasse makes a big effort to screen films in their original language. Find out which films are showing in which language on the Stadtrevue’s cinema calendar (stadtrevue.de/kinokalender/filme). You’ll find the best selection of English books at the Mayersche bookstore at Neumarkt. But there’s a better choice of magazines and newspapers at the English Shop (english-shop.de), which also stocks a wide selection of English and American food items, located at An St. Agatha, a side street of the busy Schildergasse. Generally, you’ll easily get by speaking English here — in German schools the subject is compulsory so most people speak it pretty well.
Book tickets in advance
Whether you want to see a sporting event in the Lanxess Arena or take in a classical concert at the Philharmonie, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find the best seats with the city’s regional ticket provider, Kölnticket. All of its approx. 100 booking offices in Cologne and surroundings are listed on the internet under koelnticket.de/vorverkaufsstellen, and of course you can also order online. The central ticket collection point is the somewhat modest-looking box office in the underground tram station at Neumarkt. Concert tickets can also often be purchased directly from the organiser. For example, together with KölnMusik, the Philharmonie has its own booking office on the ground floor of the Mayersche bookstore at Neumarkt. And you can now also purchase the fast-selling tickets for events at the club/bar King Georg near Ebertplatz directly from the kiosk outside it.
Admission to museums
Most of the big museums in Cologne are run by the city. With the Museumscard (18 euros for one person, 30 euros for two adults and two children), you can enjoy two whole days of free admission. Students, trainees and handicapped visitor are entitled to the usual discounts, provided they can prove their eligibility. On the “Langer Donnerstag” (Late-Night Thursday), the first Thursday in the month, anyone whose primary place of residence is Cologne is entitled to free admission to the permanent collection of the municipal museums (with the exception of public holidays). And it’s also interesting for non-locals: from 5 pm, admission to the Museum Ludwig costs just 7 euros for the collection and the special exhibition(s). Extended opening times (until 10 pm), special lectures and guided tours round off the programme. You can also make additional savings if you buy your tickets online: in this case, tickets for the Museum Ludwig double up as a VRS ticket for public transport in and around the city.
Cologne’s different fare zones and tariffs are a minefield. But the most important rule is: if you want to use the city’s public transport network, you’ll need a ticket from the KVB, Cologne’s transport operator. These are available for buses and over and underground trams from the stationary ticket machines or during your journey on the tram itself. But we recommend you always have enough small change with you as the machines accept neither notes nor cards. For shorter routes, you’ll just need the short-distance “Kurzstrecke” ticket (covering the stop you get on at plus another four), which is also available as a cheaper four-trip ticket that can be used by multiple passengers at the same time. The only cheaper way to get around the city is by renting bikes from Deutsche Bahn (Call A Bike) or the KVB (Nextbike) at a cost of 1 euro for 30 minutes. Both providers require you to register in advance. But if all that sounds too complicated: at the Radstation bicycle rental on Breslauer Platz at the back of the train station, a City-Bike costs 10 euros/day and 8 euros/day from the second day. If you prefer to be driven around, taxis are your best bet. If the yellow sign on the roof is lit, the taxi isn’t occupied and you can flag it down. Uber and other app-based driver services aren’t permitted in Germany.
How to get to Cologne
If you’re arriving by plane, you can choose between two international airports within close proximity. Although Cologne/Bonn Airport, which is just 15 kilometres from the city centre, is a lot smaller than its rival in Düsseldorf, it does have a great claim to fame: it served as the original inspiration for Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports”. Feeling frustrated at being stuck there on a layover for several hours and forced to listen to its banal sounds, he was inspired to come up with something better. Whether the acoustic ambience at the airport has since improved remains to be seen. But at least the transport connections are nothing to grumble about. It takes just 15 minutes to get from Cologne/Bonn Airport to Cologne’s central train station by S-Bahn, the rapid transit railway. For trains, the Thalys is very popular among travellers from Paris or Brussels due to its frequent service. Cologne is also easy to reach from London thanks to the Eurostar connection via Brussels.
Cologne for vegans
Surviving in Cologne as a vegan isn’t particularly difficult. As well as the obligatory soy milk, most cafés and lots of ice cream parlours meanwhile have a vegan offer. Café Hibiskus on Ritterstrasse offers exclusively vegan quiches, soups and delicious cakes every day in pleasant vintage surroundings. For a proper meal, we recommend a visit to the oldest vegan restaurant in the city, Signor Verde close to Cologne-South train station. Bunte Burger in Ehrenfeld offers a strictly vegan menu of delicious burgers. The two branches of Well Being near Rudolfplatz and Neumarkt are specialised in vegan Vietnamese cuisine, while Mataim in Nippes serves up fresh vegan falafel to a hip-hop soundtrack. But if you prefer a side serving of punk rock with your vegan food, head to Trash Chic in Kalk for burgers and fries in a rustic setting. And the best places to stock up on everyday vegan essentials, from soya drinks to toothpaste, are the branches of organic supermarkets Denn’s, Basic or Alnatura, but you’ll also find a small range of vegan products at many branches of the drugstore DM and the supermarket REWE.
Cologne for the LGBTQ+ community
Every year, one million people gather in Cologne on the first weekend in July to take part in Germany’s largest Pride parade. For several days, the city plays host to a number of parties and events to support the LGBTQ+ movement. Despite this, in recent years Cologne has had to hand over its crown as ‘the gay capital of Germany’ to Berlin. But aside from the annual parade, the LGBTQ+ community is more of an integral part of everyday life in Cologne than in the capital. And that’s a good thing. The centre of the community is the area around Rudolfplatz and on nearby Schaafenstrasse you’ll find one gay bar after the next. Many of the city’s commercial clubs run at least one queerfriendly night and there are also ‘womenonly’ parties for lesbians. LGBTQ+- friendly nights with ‘safe spaces’ regularly take place at the Autonomous Centre at Eifelwall. And in general, Cologne’s authorities, police and doctors are very aware of the needs of the LGBTQ+ community and can be approached openly with any concerns.
(by Katja Peglow and Christian Werthschulte)