Top five bars in…Cologne, Germany

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Germany’s fourth-largest city is a hotbed of exciting bars and clubs, with bartenders from all around the world flocking to a city that offers drinking experiences for everyone’s tastes. By James Lawrence.

*This feature was originally published in the April 2019 issue of The Spirits Business

Let’s collectively banish the tired cliché of Germans as humourless workaholics whose lives revolve around the office. Germans may work hard, but they play damn hard too – and nowhere is this more apparent than in Cologne. Originally founded by the Romans, Cologne, or Köln in German, is one of the oldest settlements in the country, and today is its fourth­-largest city. The area’s inhabitants are known for their liberalism and joie de vivre; it’s easy to forget about work and responsibilities during a raucous night out in the Altstadt (old town) or over the course of Carnival.

In a city where a love of partying is rivalled only by Berlin, it pays to be discerning. Whatever you feel like, you can have in Cologne, for this wonderful destination boasts more bars per capita than any other German city. For decades, the Altstadt was the epicentre of the city’s nightlife, and while in recent years it has been superseded by trendier and less touristy districts, it remains one of the best places to enjoy Cologne’s beer halls, or ‘brauhauses’. Sampling Kölsch – a light, hoppy beer that is served cool in skinny straight glasses – is an obligatory part of any trip to Cologne. Just remember the etiquette: in traditional German beer halls you don’t order beer so much as subscribe – the waiters will keep topping you up until you place a beer mat on top of your glass. But if you really want to party like a local, head to student-­heavy Zülpicher Viertel, trendy Friesenplatz or Belgisches Viertel, which has a thriving alternative scene.

Some of the city’s most upmarket cocktail bars are attached to five­-star hotels, yet a growing number of world­-class venues can be found off the beaten track, in secluded streets north of the train station. It’s hardly the most salubrious part of Cologne, but it ensures that brilliant haunts such as Toddy Tapper are kept blissfully free of tourists.

Click through the following pages to see our top bars in Cologne, Germany. 

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