Cologne (Köln) Pub Guide
Bars - Beerhalls - Beer gardens

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I look back with extreme embarrassment now at the rubbish I wrote about Cologne when I first put this page together. I apologise for misleading you. Nearly everything was distorted or plain wrong.

"What," you ask "sort of idiots would we be, if we took your guide seriously, now you yourself admit it was crap?" (I know, dialogue's not my thing, that's why I don't write plays. I'm not sure anything is my thing. . . . .Sorry, falling asleep at the keyboard again.) I'm not sure I can answer that one. Except say - you'll just have to trust me.
The city
Where do I find Pubs?
Cologne breweries
Pub Map
Pub listings
Beer Shops
Other German beer pages
Dom Köln (Cologne cathedral)The city
Of course, extensive remodelling of the city centre by the RAF didn't do the local beer scene a great deal of good. Of the 35 Brauhäuser in 1921, only a handful remain, even as pubs alone. Is this the reason why the altstadt is so quiet?

I'm not so sure now. Looking at all my material (and Kölsch is surprisingly well documented) it is clear that even before WW II Cologne had distributed many town--centre functions to the encircling districts. Really everything within the Ring should be considered as the centre.

It helps if you think of the city as having three parts:
  • the Altstadt (approx. Hauptbahnhof to Malzmühle)
  • the Innenstadt (the pedestrianised shopping centre, approx Hohestr - Neumarkt - Breitestr.)
  • the Ring (the rest of the area inside the Ring)
Cologne Traffic
I will stick by what I said about traffic in Cologne. Badly thought-out road schemes, which don't so much ignore the interests of the pedestrian as deliberately conspire against them, are still to be found. On my last visit they were fiddling about on the Heumarkt, previously one of the most frustrating spots. Hopefully the new road alignment will offer some improvement for the pedestrian.
Cologne pubs
Blue-clad waiters, or Köbes as they are usually called, are a feature of Kölsch brewpubs. Given their workload, it's not a job I would want to do myself. John Simpson describes the origin of their name and their particular brand of humour.
köln houded by the river Getting things wrong

Believe it or not, there are several other things I've got wrong in the past. Amazing isn't it? But when it comes to getting things wrong big-time, it's difficult to better my ex-boss.

The poor man thought (and probably still does) that he was a modern, efficient manager, respected by his staff. In reality, he was a buffoon spouting meaningless jargon, ridiculed behind his back.

I wasn't the only one who found it hard to listen to one of his management talks without bursting out in spontaneous laughter. It wasn't lack of commitment that stopped me attending his meetings: it was the inability to keep a straight face.
The Altstadt has many of the city's remaining historic pubs, including several former brewpubs (Früh, Sion, Malzmühle). Unfortunately, it's an area not greatly used by the locals and is mostly given over to tourists. A shame, because there are some excellent boozers in this part of the city.

A lot more outdoor seating has been added in recent years, especially in the area between the Alter Markt and the Rhine.
The Innenstadt, like the shopping districts of most large cities, isn't great for pubs. Plenty of the local population buying clothes, but not really much in the way of interesting beer drinking opportunities.
If you want to do your drinking squashed in a crowd of yuppies, then head further out. Pressed against the Ring are the districts where the beautiful young things go to pose.

It's not to my taste at all, honestly. I'm just letting you know in case your desires are perverted in that way. Should you need to satisfy this type of sick craving, there are plenty of opportunities between Friesenplatz, Rudolfplatz and Barbarossaplatz or in the "Belgisches Viertel" (just the other side of Hohenzollernring, where the streets are named after Belgian - or Dutch - towns).

Though even the determinedly old and crusty amongst us have one good reason for plunging into this yuppie hell - the Pfäffgen brewpub is almost within puking distance of Friesenplatz.
General tourist stuff
The KölnTourismus (Cologne Tourist Board) website should be able to provide any non beer-related information you need.

Public transport in the city is run by the Kölner Verkehrsbetrieb, who organise the trams, buses and metro lines.

Other attractions
What else is there to attract the visitor? The Römisch-Germanische Museum (Roman-German museum), which despite its hideous modernist exterior, provides an excellent record of the long history of Cologne. The Hauptbahnhof, is very pretty and, most usefully for the traveller, is slap bang in the city centre. A couple of the historic brewhouses have either survived the bombing or arisen from their ashes and are, for those of you as beer obsessed as I, worth taking a look at.

Finally, I would suggest purchasing a copy of "Prosit Colonia" by Franz Mathar. This excellent book catalogues Cologne's brewpubs and beerhalls. Compare the photos of pre-war Cologne with the modern city and reflect upon the tragedy of senseless destruction. (Especially when it's pubs and breweries that are getting blown up. I find the photograph of a pile of rubble on which someone has placed a neatly-painted sign saying "Barbarossa-brauerei" particularly poignant.)
Those little stupid Kölsch glasses - an anecdote
my glass of doppelbockOn my last trip to Cologne, I took my son Andrew to the Römisch-Germanische Museum. When we came out, there was still an hour and a quarter before our appointment with the rest of the family. It's not hard to guess my opinion of the best way to use that time. Occasionally, I can be very organised. I had a map, marked with pubs I needed to visit, as well as the map I carry around in my head at all times. How could I persuade Andrew to traipse around them all?

"How many pubs do you think I get around in 75 minutes, Andrew?"
"Four or Five"

It's a happy day for the parents when a child learns the value of money. Then they can be bribed. And often with laughably small amounts of cash. It's embarrassing, really, how little you need to offer. But not quite enough to stop me doing it.

The list of pubs in my head was getting no shorter.

"Pah! I bet I can do eight, no trouble. Five euros says I can."

Andrew is surprisingly knowledgeable about pubs and beer for his tender years. He's seen me knocking back pints in England, liters in Bavaria, 33 cls of Trappist in Belgium. He has a pretty good idea of how long it takes me to drink a beer. It's no wonder he thought that he was onto a winner. Whereas I, for the first time I could see an advantage in the irritatingly minute glasses they serve Kölsch in.

He wasn't looking so cocky after I knocked off Alter Markt Treff and Kulisse in five minutes. That was three more than they deserved. In Pfaffen, Andrew insisted I photograph the statue tables - no easy feat, in the gloomiest corner of the pub, with my camera. It wasted valuable drinking time. He isn't daft.

His optimism was brief. When I cheekily ordered a second in Bierhaus en d'r Salzgass (it is Päffgen Kölsch, straight from a wooden cask, after all), he knew the game was up. A quick exit from Sünner im Walfisch, thanks to a friendly, efficient waitress, took away his last hope. Four down, loads of time left. Confidently, I chose Biermuseum, where all draughts are 40 cl , as our next stop. A couple of minutes were enough to dispatch a Doppelbock (I was in too much of a rush to ask which).

Not even the 10 minutes we hung around in Haxenhaus zum Rheingarten before a surly waiter threw a menu at us, could perk Andrew up. Especially when, pissed off at being made to sit at the bar in a half-empty pub, I downed my expensive Kölsch (1.70, 20 cents more than the most I paid anywhere else) in one. By the time we hit Im Martinswinkel, he had lost interest in our bet. Like me, he's fascinated by history. He was soon drawn to the "look what carpet bombing does to an historic city" photos. You see them a lot in Cologne. I can understand why.

I made it with five minutes to spare. Even after doubling up in en d'r Salzgass and being ignored in Haxenhaus. One of the most pleasurable five euros I've ever earned. I got to drink my favourite Kölsch, visit two places in this guide I had never been inside before and find a new pub to add.

So the next time I begin to burst with frustration at being continually in need of a fresh beer because of those stupid, tiny Kölsch glasses, I'll remember that they can be, if only very occasionally, quite useful.


What is Kölsch?

In this section, time turned me into a liar. A drastic restructuring has left the city with only a handful of breweries. Though you might not realise the fact strolling around Cologne. The breweries may have gone, but their Kölsch brands live on, most of them now brewed at the former Küppers plant. It's a great pity.

So there goes Cologne's unlikely claim to beery fame - most breweries of any German town. Don't ask me who has taken on this honour - I'm reluctant to pin myself down again when events can so quickly make me look an idiot. I will pass on the handy information that between 1890 and 1910 33 new breweries were founded in the city. That's why they call the period "Gründerzeit".

Cologne does still have its own style of beer, the only one in Germany to have a sort of 'apellation controlée'. The style is called Kölsch after the local dialect word for 'of Cologne'. Even if they all come from one brewery, Kölsch still has to be brewed in the Cologne area. In the 1980's 24 (now mostly disappeared) breweries drew up a document called the 'Kölsch Convention' to protect the style from outside imitations.
Kölsch Convention

According to the 'Kölsch Convention', an agreement between the German government and brewers, a beer may only be called Kölsch if it meets the following criteria:
  • it is brewed in the Cologne metropolitan area
  • pale in colour
  • top-fermented
  • hop-accented
  • filtered
  • 'Vollbier' (11 - 14º plato}
barrels in Brauhaus en d'r Salzgas Köln

How does Kölsch taste?

A relative of the Altbier brewed in other parts of the rhineland, Kölsch is a survivor from the pre-lager brewing tradition of North Germany, belonging to the family of Rheinländische Bitterbier. This century, under pressure from newer, bottom-fermenting beers, it has undergone a good deal of change. Most notable of these, is the lightening of the colour to pale yellow, giving it the appearance of a pils. You could call it 'the ale that wants to be a lager' and I'm sure that would many, in a blind tasting, would classify it as the latter.

There is little ale character to be found, apart from a little fruitiness. It has a very soft, rounded character and can be quite sweet. Bavarian helles and Dortmunder export are closer relatives in flavour than Düsseldorf altbier. Not beers likely to acquire the devoted and obsessive following that lambiek, trappist ale or a particularly flavoursome bitter might, but of interest as an odd, hybrid style.
ursulakloster gasstätte barrelI don't want to sound too negative. Früh Kölsch is a lovely beer. I'll happily drink it, as long as those nice gentlemen in blue keep bringing it. Not to mention Päffgen Kölsch, one of Germany's top standard-strength beers. In many a Brauhaus, even those that no longer brew, beer is still served direct from a wooden barrel. Even small neighbourhood bars often have a small plastic cask of Kölsch on the bar.

Some breweries take advantage of the different rules for top-fermenting beer in the Reinheitsgebot by using a proportion of wheat malt. I assume to lighten the body or for head retention. I guess they had no other option when the use of rice was banned around 1900 when the Reinheitsgebot was introduced to this part of Germany.

For more about Cologne breweries (especially which ones still really exist) and their beers look here.
Kölner Brauerei Verband
The Cologne brewers' organistaion and upholders of the Kölsch-Konvention.

On their site, you can discover more about the history of brewing in Cologne and Kölsch (in German, I'm afraid). Both are very extensive and well-researched - amongst the best sites on beer history I've found on the web.

Take a copywith you
You can purchase a printed copy or pdf file of this guide (which includes pub guides to other towns in the vicinity) here:

Trips! (West)

Map Index

Cologne Pub Guide
Altstadt Pubs

Buttermarkt 39,
50667 Köln (Altstadt).

Tel.: 0221 - 257 7802
Biermuseum Köln exterior
Opening hours: Mon - Sun 14:00 - 03:00
Number of draught beers: 18
Number of bottled beers: 0
Regular draught beers:
Food: Beer €2.70 - 3.00 for 0.4l.
Biermuseum Köln exteriorThe name is a bit exaggerated, but there are many more draught beers than you usually see in Germany. Just a pity so many of them are pils.

It's in the impersonal, slightly depressing, bland style of so many German pubs. A few enamel brewery adverts cheer it up a bit. Not enough to tempt me to linger that long, though.

But sooner or later, if you spend more than 15 minutes drinking in Cologne, you'll get fed up with Kölsch. And those bloody stupid little glasses. Biermuseum offers relief from both. Draught beer comes in 40 cl glasses.
Rating: ** Public transport:

Früh am Dom
Am Hof,
50667 Köln (Altstadt).

Tel. (0221) 258 0389

Früh am Dom Köln exterior
Opening hours: Mon - Sun: 08:00-24:00
Number of draught beers: 1
Number of bottled beers: 1
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks, meals, beer €1.50 for 0.2l.
Früh am Dom Köln interiorIn 1898 P.J. Früh moved his brewery into this building, which had previously housed the Central-Theater. It survived three fires during the war and careful reconstruction has left it a rare reminder of the pre-war city.

Its other main claim to fame, is its very useful location no more than a 5-minute walk from the main railway station. If you're changing trains in Cologne, it's quite possible to nip there, have a couple of beers and be back on the platform inside half an hour (I have tested this scientifically, risking a night dossing on the platform).

The brewery itself is no longer housed here. It would be difficult to brew the 400,000 hl of beer that Früh produces each year on a site of this size. The main room has a medieval atmosphere and conjures up the image of a baronial dining hall. A little grand, but comfortable and not as intimidating as you would imagine.
Fröh am Dom Köln barrels
Adjacent to the beer serving area is a distinctly more mundane taproom. But you do get the entertainment of a stream of waiters loading their trays. Not forgetting the wonderful assortment of odd-sized barrels from which the glasses of fresh Kölsch are poured.

The pub has been extended into the building next door, where they target diners rather than drinkers. Every time I visit Früh they've found a new direction in which to expand - upwards, downwards, sideways - they'll need to use extra dimensions soon. From the second cellar down right up to the roof, everything is used. It's the only bar I know with both a lift and a cash machine. It definitely needs the first.

At least they've made a fair effort in the newer extensions to maintain the atmosphere of the original pub. Just as well, as there's a good chance that's where you'll be sitting if you arrive much after opening time. Otherwise, only luck or the foresight to book a table will get you a spot in the oldest room.
Rating: ***** Public transport:

Brauhaus Sion
Unter Taschenmacher 5,
50668 Köln (Altstadt).

Tel. (0221) 257 8540

Brauhaus Sion Köln exterior
Opening hours: Mon - Sun: 10:00-00:30
Number of draught beers: 1
Number of bottled beers: 0
Regular draught beers:
Food: Meals, snacks, beer €1.50 for 0.2l.

Brauhaus Sion Köln interiorSion wasn't as fortunate as Früh and ended the war as a pile of rubble. A new, larger brewpub was constructed on the same site, though there's been no brewing here for many years. The beer, like almost every other Kölsch, comes from the old Küppers plant.

I must say the interior, which I used to describe as "disappointingly unatmospheric", has greatly improved with age. Twenty years have worked wonders with the woodwork and the tile floor now appears practical rather than antiseptic. Or it could just be me.

It can't quite match the seemingly endless sequence of rooms in Früh, but Sion is still pretty spacious. Especially for us Amsterdammers. I've always been a fan of leaded glass and there are some good examples here. The miniature barrels adorning the hanging lights (see picture to the left) are a nice touch, too. It has the usual layout of these places, with a small taproom around the counter holding the barrels followed by a series of more restauranty spaces.

I was heartened to observe its very disparate clientele, with a healthy mix of agegroups, from small children to old grannies. All of them drinking Kölsch). Apart from the small kids, of course. Though the barman in Brauhaus en d'r Salzgass, when I sat at the bar with my ten-year-old son, did lift two fingers, meaning "do you want two Kölsch". Andrew is tall for his age, so I'll put it down to that.

Brauhaus Sion Köln barrelsThe foods very German and very good. As well as reasonably priced.

One of the pubs you really should visit when in Cologne, Along with Malzmühle, Früh and Päffgen.

Rating: **** Public transport:

Gaffel Haus
Alter Markt 20-22,
50667 Köln (Altstadt).

Tel. (0221) 257 7692
Fax (0221) 253 879

Gaffel Haus Köln
Opening hours: Mon - Sun: 11:00-01:00
Number of draught beers: 3
Number of bottled beers: 0
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks €3-5, meals €5-11, beer €1.30 for 0.2l
This is another rare survivor of the war, though it was completely gutted. It's just a shame that the Zur Bretzel brewery which it used to house is no longer with us. The 16th century building is now the city-centre tap of the Gaffel brewery.

The interior is richly decorated in old tiles, but the bar area is a bit too much like a standard modern crap German pub. Having a duff pop station on the radio behind the bar does little for the old world atmosphere. Further into the pub the parts more for dining have been more sympathetically treated.

Sadly, the beer is served on top pressure. I find the idea of a 'light' kölsch amusing. The standard version is hardly a heavy beer.
Rating: ** Public transport:

Brauereiausschanks zum Pfaffen - Max Päffgen
Heumarkt 62,
50667 Köln (Altstadt).

Tel. 0221 - 257 7765
Fax: 0221 - 257 9947

Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 12:00-24:00
Mon: Closed
Number of draught beers: 1
Number of bottled beers: 0
Regular draught beers:
Food: Meals €9-13, snacks €3-9. Beer €1.45 for 0.2l.
Brauereiausschanks zum Pfaffen barrelsYou can see that my beautiful photograph is already out of date. The pub is no longer called Altstadt-Päffgen. A dispute between members of the Päffgen leading to a change of name the beer sold. Which is a pain in the bum if you want to try Päffgen Kölsch, because they don't sell it any more. Look, you're not that unfit are you? It's only a kilometer or so to the Päffgen brewpub.

You don't need me to tell you that the exterior is very fine (see beautiful photo). Nothing has changed inside. It's still a charming old pub, which is one of the cosiest in the city centre. There's lots of wood, tiles and leaded glass.

The beer now comes from a brand-new brewery, built by the owners of this pub, which is located just outside Cologne. As you can see, it's served from the wood, as good beer should. Though not as good as Päffgen, the Kölsch is tasty and non-industrial.
Brauereiausschanks zum Pfaffen tableThe only slight reservation is that it is on the restaurant side of pub-restaurant, but that seems to be the case in most of the Cologne beer halls. On the other hand, the local dishes it sells are very tasty and reasonably good value.

There is a small standing area about half way towards the back, adjacent to the servery. The tables, rather amusingly, have the heads of bronze sculptures protruding through a hole in the middle. I'm crap at describing things. Which is why I took the photo you can see to the right.

There is a small beer garden at the rear.

If you're really after Päffgen Kölsch, Brauhaus en d'r Salzgass is only about 20 meters away.
Rating: **** Public transport:

Brauerei Zur Malzmühle
Heumarkt 6,
50667 Köln (Altstadt).

Tel. (0221) 210 117

Brauerei Zur Malzmühle
Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 10:00-24:00
Sun: 11:00-23:00
Number of draught beers: 1
Number of bottled beers: 0
Regular draught beers:
Food: Meals, snacks.
You may well curse town planners (and who hasn't done that, at one time or another?) as you make your way here. They've thrown obstacles of every kind - half a dozen pelican crossings and an industrial strength tram line - in the pedestrian's path. Your perseverance will be rewarded with probably the best pub in the Altstadt.

The second of Cologne's real brewpubs, it has been lovingly recreated from wartime ruins. It has a room either side of the entrance (in 1945 all that remained was the stone frame of the doorway). Wood-panelled walls and pine-topped tables give it a pubby feel. The beer is well-liked locally and with good reason - it's very nice indeed. Kölsch doesn't need to be bland. Good ones like this are what get me irritated with brewers making the duller versions. Päffgen is bitter, Früh is hoppy and Malzmühle is malty: that's how I would sum up the three distinctive examples. Though, all three are light-bodied and dry.

There's a decent selection of local food, but the emphasis is more on drinking. There are monumental views of the city in various periods of its history attached (hopefully securely) high on the walls.

Friendly service and the waiter, having noticed the thick English accent when I ordered, quipped "two beer or not two beer" when he brought my drinks. I'm still waiting to hear a barman in an English pub make a joke in German.
Rating: ***** Public transport:

Alter Markt Treff
Alter Markt/Lintgasse,
50667 Köln (Altstadt).

Tel.: 0221 - 257 77 90
Alter Markt Treff Köln
Opening hours: Mon - Thu: 16:00-01:00
Fri - Sun: 12:00-02:00
Number of draught beers: 1
Number of bottled beers: 0
Regular draught beers:
Food: Meals, snacks.
Alter Markt Treff Köln interiorOne of Gilden's city centre outlets. Lintgasse is the last alleyway off the Alter Markt (if you're heading South from the Dom) on the Rhine side.

It's a typical, modern German pub interior. Totally crap, high bench seating and high tables, no atmosphere and in some way vaguely depressing.

With a little more imagination and sensitivity, it could be a pleasant corner pub. Especially as it has a great location on the southwest corner of the Alter Markt. We can only hope.
Rating: * Public transport:

Alt Köln am Dom
Trankgasse 7-9,
50667 Köln (Altstadt).

Tel: 0221 - 137471
Fax: 0221 - 136885

Alt Köln am Dom
Opening hours: Sun - Thu: 11:00-24:00
Fri - Sat: 11:00-01:00
Number of draught beers: 1
Number of bottled beers: 0
Regular draught beers:
Food: Meals €8-18, snacks €3-8, beer €1.40 for 0.2l.
I've managed to miss off the photograph the most distinctive external feature of this pub: a strange astronomical clock. Now, the town hall in Prague is a fitting site for such renaissance whimsy. On a 1950's office block it doesn't have quite the same effect.

While plastic rustic does have its charms, I will make no attempt to convince you that this is the world's greatest pub. White plaster walls and fake black beams remind me too much of bad pub refurbishments for me to endure them long. The interior is huge, stretching far back from the street. You would be well advised to venture at least some distance into the heart of this darkness. For to the rear are the more tastefully appointed rooms, all stained glass and heavy carved wood. The first floor has more seating, just in case the 1500 places downstairs all get filled.

I wouldn't spend too much time on the tourist-trap adjoining the pavement. I always feel very strange when I watch Japanese tourists order food in a German pub. It's a strange emotion, mostly made up of pity but with a pinch of embarrassment, too.

Why have I included Alt Köln? Well, it's even closer to the Hauptbahnhof than Früh. It's in a very prominent spot and, with its clock and bells, quite hard to ignore. I've always wondered what it was like as a pub. Not great, as it turns out. So now you know.

***** I think this pub has closed *****
Rating: ** Public transport:

Unter Käster 14-16,
50667 Köln (Altstadt).

Tel. (0221) 257 4043
Kulisse Köln
Opening hours: Mon - Sun: 12:00-01:00
Number of draught beers: 1
Number of bottled beers: 0
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks.
Not too hard to find this pub - Unter Käster is a small street connecting Altermarkt and Heumarkt. Until 2001, "Brauhaus Giesler" as it was then called, was a genuine brewpub which somehow they managed to brew 70,000 hl a year on this tiny city centre site. Bought by Dom in 1998

After the brewery closed, a beer called Giesler Kölsch was brewed by Brauerei Peters & Bambeck in Monheim. Now even this appears to have disappeared. The outside still looks quite nice. The almost total absence of seating betrays their target market - the young and tasteless. If you're a sensitive soul, please don't go inside. It could spoil your day.

The few seats they have outside are pleasant enough.
Rating: * Public transport:

Große Budengasse 10,
50667 Köln (Altstadt).

Tel. (0221) 257 5966
Gildenhaus Köln
Opening hours: Mon - Sun: 08:00-03:00
Number of draught beers: 1
Number of bottled beers: 0
Regular draught beers:
Food: Meals €8-13, snacks €4-8.
I could try and pretend that the photo gives a false impression and that this is a little gem of a pub. But I'm not a barefaced liar. You probably get a fair idea of the lifelessness of this bar.

If you're shopping, you might well thank me for including this unexceptional kneipe. Everyone else: don't go out of your way to come here. Oh, they do have 0.4l glasses, which can be a relief after a while in Cologne. Dead soulless. It is a Brauereiausschank, amazingly.
Rating: *
Public transport:

Haxenhaus zum Rheingarten
Frankenwerft 19,
50667 Köln (Altstadt).

Tel: (0221) 25 77 966
Fax: (0221) 25 81 780

Haxenhaus zum Rheingarten Köln exterior
Opening hours: Sun - Thu: 11:00-01:00,
Fri - Sat 11:00-03:00
Number of draught beers: 1
Number of bottled beers: 0
Regular draught beers:
Food: Meals, snacks. Beer €1.70 for 0.2l.
Haxenhaus zum Rheingarten Köln rear exteriorAn ancient house close to the banks of the Rhine which specialises in medieval food and atmosphere. There are two entrances - one on the Rhine, the other on the street behind.

Its single square room is kitted out in typical Brauhaus-style, with long pine-topped tables and panelled walls. Against wall is an impressive carved thing, whose precise function I was unable to discern. I was pleasantly surprised. So many German pubs which look beautiful from the outside have crass, modern interiors.
Haxenhaus zum Rheingarten Köln interior
So far, so good. Not a bad place for a beer, I thought and sat at one of the tables. After about 10 minutes, a waiter finally came and threw a menu at me. "We only want to drink" I said. "You have to sit at the bar to drink." was his rather curt reply. If more than a quarter of the tables had been occupied and it hadn't been half past three in the afternoon, I could have perhaps understood this stipulation. As it was all of the above, he was just being a miserable twat. So, despite being rather pleasing on the eye, I'm only going to give it a single star.

Oh yes, and the Kölsch, at €1.70 for 20 cl, is the most expensive I've ever had in Cologne.

The menu includes something called "Trapistenlamm" - lamb in a dark beer sauce.

(Front exterior photograph by John Hein)
Rating: * Public transport:

Im Martinswinkel
Firschmarkt 9,
50667 Köln (Altstadt).

Tel: (0221) 271 7786
Fax: (0221) 201 9568
Im Martinswinkel Kôln exterior
Opening hours: Sun-Thur 11:00 - 23:00,
Fri-Sat 11:00 - 01:00
Number of draught beers: 2
Number of bottled beers:
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks €, meals €. Beer €2.30 for 0.3l.
Im Martinswinkel Kôln interiorMartinswinkel is at one end of a short row of old houses which (more or less) made it through the war. It's rather a pleasant street, with nothing other than a short expanse of greenery between it and the Rhine.

Inside, it unfortunately has the uninspired décor that is standard in German pubs. The leaded glass in the ceiling doesn't look too bad, but what the hell is that red telephone box doing there? But the staff are friendly and efficient. I've been in far, far worse places. And it sells one of the less-common brands of Kölsch, Ganser, even if it is just another from the Dom Brauerei.

What most caught my attention was a series of photographs, all taken from about the same angle, showing this part of the street before, during and after the war. A chilling reminder of the horrific destruction caused by the RAF's indiscriminate bombing of the city.

As you can see on the photo above, there's some outdoor seating. What you can't see, is its uninterrupted (at least apart from a road) of the river Rhine.
Rating: ** Public transport:

Brauhaus im Roten Ochsen
Thurnmarkt 7,
50676 Köln (Altstadt-Süd).

Tel. (0221) 920 710
Fax (0221) 920 7119

Paulaner im Roten Ochsen
Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 11:30-01:00
Sat: 10:00-01:00
Sun: 10:00-23:00
Number of draught beers: 4
Number of bottled beers: 3
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks €3-9, meals €9-15.
Sadly no longer a Paulaner outlet, Roten Ochsenis located by the Rhine just past the Deutzer Brücke. Conveniently, it's just around the corner from Malzmühle (follow the main road heading towards the river).

Like everywhere else in Cologne, it used to be a brewpub, until this part of town was turned into rubble in 1943. It was rebuilt during the 1960's in the tacky style typical of the period. The interior is in a vague Bavarian style, with long benches and tables.

The beer garden at the front, beneath mature trees, would be wonderful, if not for the heavy lorries thundering along the dual carriageway cutting it off from the Rhine.

It sells the usual Bavarian fare of half pigs, weisswurst, etc. Surprisingly, no pilsner is on sale

(Photograph by John Hein)
Rating: *** Public transport:

Peters Brauhaus
Mühlengasse 1,
50667 Köln (Altstadt).
Tel. (0221) 257 3950

Peters Brauhaus Köln
Opening hours: Mon - Sun: 11:00-24:30
Number of draught beers: 1
Number of bottled beers: 0
Regular draught beers:
Food: Meals €7-15, snacks €2-6, beer €1.35 for 0.2l.
Peters Brauhaus Köln beer gardenPeters is one of the remaining real Kölsch brewers, though they aren't based in Cologne, but in Monheim.

This is the brewery's showcase outlet, located in an alleyway just off the Alter Markt. The building used to be home to Brauhaus "Zum Kranz", which stopped brewing in 1898 and closed its doors as a pub in 1907. At the end of the war left little more than the facade remained. Peters reopened it in 1994, after having lovingly recreated a traditional Brauhaus interior.

They really have done a great job inside. The pub rambles around in a convincingly shambolic manner, with rooms of all shapes and sizes filling the substantial premises. Go in through the main entrance (which is the second one you come to when walking along Mühlengasse from the Markt) and you'll find a small taproom to your right. To your left you'll find space to seat an army or two. Pine-topped tables, leaded glass, panelled walls - it has all of the features you would expect. I'll leave it at that.

The beer garden, confusingly, is on the Altermarkt itself. But I suppose that gives you a bit more of a view than in the narrow alley where the pub sits. Fortunately, they shift the Kölsch quickly enough so that, despite the barrel's frighteningly exposed position, it's served at a pleasantly cool temperature.

It could have been something to do with the thermometer pushing up towards 40º C, but the Kölsch tasted particularly good under the shade of the umbrellas. I would definitely recommend coming here when the weather is warm.
Rating: **** Public transport:

Bierhaus en d'r Salzgass
Salzgasse 5-7,
50667 Köln (Altstadt).

Tel.: (0221) 800 1900
Fax: (0221) 800 1901

Bierhaus en d'r Salzgass Köln exterior
Opening hours: Mon - Sun: 12:00 -
Number of draught beers : 1
Number of bottled beers: 0
Regular draught beers:
Food: Meals €8-15, snacks €6-12, Kölsch €1.40 0.2 l
Bierhaus en d'r Salzgass Köln interiorA very handy-to-know outlet for the excellent Päffgen Kölsch in the city centre.

Guess what - this used to be brewery. Brauhaus Zur Täsch (as it was then called) brewed up until 1907, after which it continued simply as a pub. It finally closed in the 1970's, but has recently reopened.

The roomy interior looks as if it's been looted from a church. Very gothic. For furniture you'll find the brauhaus standard of pine-topped tables and long benches. There's a small beer garden at the rear.

The beer is, as it should be, served from oak barrels.

As with most of the pubs I like in Cologne, its seems to have no difficulty in attracting customers. A couple more decades of knocking off the rough edges could male it a classic. As long as they keep serving Päffgen.
Rating: *** Public transport:

Wirtshaus Schwejk
An Groß St. Martin 2,
50667 Köln (Altstadt).

Tel: 0221 - 258 0634
Wirtshaus Schwejk Köln
Opening hours: Mon - Sun 11:00 - 01:00 (April - September),
Mon - Sun 15:00 - 01:00 (October - March)
Number of draught beers: 2
Number of bottled beers:
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks €3-8, meals €7-18.
A Czech restaurant in a fairly nasty modern building slap in the centre of the Altstadt.

It has a reasonably sized (for the city centre) beer garden at the front.
Rating: ** Public transport:

Sünner im Walfisch
Salzgasse 13,
50667 Köln (Altstadt).

Tel.: (0221) 257 7879
Fax: (0221) 257 7809

Sünner im Walfisch Köln exterior
Opening hours: Mon - Thu: 17:00-01:00
Fri: 15:00-02:00
Sat - Sun: 11:00-02:00
Number of draught beers: 1
Number of bottled beers: 0
Regular draught beers:
Food: Meals, snacks.
Sünner im Walfisch Köln interiorWalfisch is a fine old step-gabled house, but it hasn't always been on Salzgasse. When the nearby Tipsgasse was abolished in a bit of 1930's planning, the house was moved brick by brick to its current spot. It was reopened as a Sünner Ausschank in 1996, after an expensive refurbishment.

The site does have a beery history, however, "Zum Kirchenbrauhaus" having been here until it closed in 1889. (Sometimes I get the idea it would be simpler to list the houses in Cologne which haven't been brewpubs at some point.) In the 1950's it was - excuse me while I spit - a wine bar.

They've done a far better job of recreating a Brauhaus feel than some other Altstadt pubs. It has a tiny, standup taproom next to the entrance and a further room with the pine tables you would expect. Small, but cosy. I'll be adding it to my standard Altstadt crawl. What greater praise is there than that?

The menu includes Cologne favourites such as "Halven Hahn" (read Michael Jackson if you want to know what it really is).
Rating: **** Public transport:

Cologne Pub Guide
Innenstadt Pubs

Breite Strasse 114,
50667 Köln (Innenstadt).

Tel.: (0221) 257 60 90
Fax: (0221) 257 62 85

Bieresel Köln
Opening hours: Mon - Sun - Thu: 11:30-24:00
Number of draught beers: 1
Number of bottled beers: 0
Regular draught beers:
Food: Meals €7-15, snacks €3-5, beer €1.35 for 0.2l.
Brauhaus Zum Esel brewed on Breite Strasse from the 15th century right up until the 1870's. Around that time the medieval building was replaced by a more modern structure and the responsibility for supplying beer passed on to the Sünner brewery.

Bier-Esel survived the war, though at some time in the 1940's it lost its top three storeys. Where is it? - it's on the last pedestrianised section of Breitestrasse, about where the shopping centre starts to peter out. If you peer at the photo above, you'll be able to spot two windows to the right of the door - that's where the standup taproom is. The rest is half-restauranty in that typical German way. The walls are panelled and - I'm consulting my notes now - there's handsome leaded glass. I assume that you have noticed during your perusal of the photograph that there is seating outside on the pavement.

I haven't eaten there, so I can't comment on food quality. It is, however, renowned (in Cologne, at least) for its mussel dishes.

My conclusion - a reasonably traditional pub in an unpromising area of town.
Rating: *** Public transport:

Brauhaus Reissdorf
Kleiner Griechenmarkt 40
50676 Köln (Innenstadt).

Tel. (0221) 219 254

Brauhaus Köln Reissdorf exterior
Opening hours: Mon - Sun: 16:00-24:00
Number of draught beers: 1
Number of bottled beers: 0
Regular draught beers:
Food: Meals, snacks. Kölsch €1.25 for 0.2l
Brauhaus Reissdorf Köln interiorFrom the inside you would never guess that were at the bottom of a modern block of flats. All the typical features of a Brauhaus have been recreated - panelled walls, pine-topped tables, surly barstaff. Sorry, the last one isn't typical.

There are a couple of rooms, randomly adorned with old copper things and prints. Continuing the copper theme, the top of a copper brewing kettle forms a little roof over the bar. I wonder if it's real? It has enough twiddly bits without decorative function to suggest that it is. I suppose it could have been put to worse uses, like being melted down for shell cases (which is waht happened to many Belgian breweries in WW I).

As I visited at a quiet time - early on a Saturday afternoon - I'll give them the benefir of the doubt on the atmosphere front. It was a bit dead, but the weather was unusually warm for the time of year. Perhaps all the charming local characters were sunbathing.

Reissdorf is one of the better commercial Kölsches and is helped here by being served by gravity from a small cask behind the bar.
Rating: ** Public transport: U-Bahn line 6 to Poststrasse.

Brennerei Weiß
Hahnenstr. 22,
50667 Köln (Innenstadt).

Tel. (0221) 257 4638

Brennerei Weiß Köln
Opening hours: Mon - Sun: 11:00-24:00
Number of draught beers: 1
Number of bottled beers: 0
Regular draught beers:
Food: Meals, snacks.
Supposedly Cologne's only gay Brauhaus.

(Photograph by John Hein)
Rating: Public transport:

Weissbräu zu Köln
Am Weidenbach 24/Pantaleonswall,
50676 Köln (Innenstadt).

Tel.: (0221) 231 823
Fax: (0221) 247 993

Weissbräu zu Köln exterior
Opening hours: Mon - Sun: 11:00-01:00
Number of draught beers: 3
Number of bottled beers: 0
Regular draught beers:
Food: Meals €6-13, snacks €3-9. Beer €3.50 for 0.5 l.
Weissbräu zu Köln interiorJust for variety, this is one building that managed to get through the war almost unscathed. Which is slightly irritating, as the "Obergäriges Brauhaus Johann Weiden " had stopped brewing in 1929.

Which you might have expected to be the end of the story. But in 1991 it was reopened (by a Bavarian company who run a chain of these things) as a brewpub. The combination of beers brewed - Kölsch and Bavarian-style lagers - make it quite unusual.

In case the dirty great copper kettle in the window hadn't already tipped you off, the panelling and pine theme confirms that this is a brewery.

So far, very typical for Cologne, now for the beer. What's this - a half litre steinkrug? Have a wandered through a wormhole into Bavaria? Very authentic and all that, but id doesn't really let me judge the hue of my Schwarzbier. I order a Kölsch and reality is restored - it comes in one of those silly little tubes. But I can't complain of its quality, which is rather good.

Weissbräu zu Köln kettleMy son Andrew was delighted to see that the Bavarian influence extended to the menu. He's been a big fan of Nürnberger Rostbratwürste since our visit to Nuremberg. Yum, yum. And not expensive, either.

Rating: *** Public transport: U-Bahn to

Cologne Pub Guide
Ring Pubs

Christianstr. 2,
50825 Köln (Ehrenfeld).

Tel. (0221) 285 6932

Braustelle Köln
Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 18:00 - 01:00
Number of draught beers: 2
Number of bottled beers: 0
Regular draught beers:
Food: Meals, snacks.
Brewpub in a 19th century building. Supposedly the smallest Brauhaus in Cologne.

Their website is one of the most annoying I've come across (which is saying something).

(Photograph by John Hein)
Rating: Public transport:U-Bahn 3 or 4 to Leyendeckerstrasse

Hellers Brauhaus
Roonstr. 33
50674 Köln (Kwartier Latäng)
Tel. (0221) 240 1881

Hellers Brauhaus  exterior
Opening hours: Mon - Sun: 18:00-01:00
Number of draught beers: 2
Number of bottled beers: 4
Regular draught beers:
Food: Meals, snacks.
Hellers Brauhaus  interiorBrewpub cliches were formed in my brain even as I stood dodging cars in the middle of the road taking the photograph above. How could I avoid the p-words? What relief I felt on stepping over the threshold.

But - bugger - now the c-word is gnawing at my stomach like an alien hatchling. Here goes. Hellers is more contemporary take on the Cologne Brauhaus theme. The bar back is anything but traditional, but no less pleasing on the eye for that.

You're lucky that I'm becoming more diligent in my photography. "Its depth belies it's narrow frontage" say my notes. I hope the photos above and to the left demonstrate what I mean. They better had, because I've run out of words.

Andrew found the front bar scary in a seating sense. The raised bench seating along one wall has a giant mirror suspended at a disconcerting angle. What about the other side? Well, that only has a sled laden with wooden barrels above it (see photo below).

Hellers Brauhaus  barrelsThe copper still above the bar puzzled me Isn't this a brewery? Where's the brewing kit?

I like it that Cologne's new brewpubs brew the local style. But having just Kölsch and Wiess (an unfiltered variant of Kölsch) on draught, isn't wildly experimental, to say the least.

In bottles, they offer: Hellers Mailbock Hellers Eurobock Hellers Weizen Hellers Weizenbock.
Rating: *** Public transport: U8, U9, U6, U15, U17, U19 to Zülpicher Platz

Gaststätte Lommerzheim
Siegesstr. 18,
50679 Köln (Deutz).

Tel.: (0221) 814 392
Gaststätte Lommerzheim Köln
Opening hours: Mon - Sun: 10:45 - 14:00 & 16:30 - 24:00
Tuesday Closed
Number of draught beers: 1
Number of bottled beers: 0
Regular draught beers:
Food: Meals, snacks.
It was a sad day when Lommi's closed on the retirement of the landlord on 28th December 2004. If only because I'd never visited this legendary pub, despite being warned it was likely to close soon. Hans Lommerzheim had been running for more than 50 years. He had to be past retirement age. It's on the west bank of the Rhine. That's my main excuse for never making it there. And my fear of bridges. I won't go into it further here. Why did I choose to live in Amsterdam?

In March 2008, Lommi's reopened. I'm so pleased: I will be able to experience this cult boozer after all. According to this report in the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, new owner Rudolf Päffgen has tried to leave everything as it was. Judging by the photo, bomb damage was patched up just after the war. Let's hope they replaced all the window panes. I'm a big fan of genuine age in a building, but broken windows never look good. Just asking for an arsonist to come calling.

I'm assuming that's a Päffgen from the brewing family who's taken over the pub. Päffgen Kölsch was what they served, so it would seem logical. But maybe it's the rival branch that runs Pfaffen. Either way, there'll be good beer.

(The rather nice photograph above was taken by Laurent Mousson)
Rating: Public transport:

Die Hausbrauerei Päffgen
Friesenstraße 64 - 66,
50670 Köln (Friesenviertel).

Tel: (0221) 135461
Fax : (0221) 1392005

Hausbrauerei Päffgen Köln
Opening hours: Sun-Thur: 10:00-24:00
Fri-Sat: 10:00-00:30
Number of draught beers: 1
Number of bottled beers: 0
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks €3-7, meals €7-12.
This is where Päffgen brews, sadly at a location not terribly convenient for the casual visitor. We're out dangerously close to yuppie land. If you come via Friesenplatz U-Bahn station on a weekend evening, you'll have to pass through this dangerous territory. Be brave. Päffgen is a must visit (not a Cologne must visit, but a European must visit). Should you wish to do that shopping thing, Päffgen isn't that far past the bit of town where that sort of stuff goes on. You could walk it. It's only about 1 km from the station/cathedral. (For lazy gits: from Hauptbahnhof U5 two stops to Friesenplatz.)

I try to do my background research when writing these guides and there is material aplenty about Cologne. I have learnt that I am not alone in my admiration for Päffgen Kölsch. There are plenty of local fans for both it and Malzmühle (another favourite of mine). Taking the Kölsch-konvenzion seriously, this is the type of beer you would expect to get. Light, but quite bitter and aromatically hoppy. Very, very drinkable. The tiny glasses can be frustrating when you get a bit of a thirst going.

I always dread this bit. How the bloody hell do I think of a new way to tell you lot about the white pine tops to the tables? Is there a new twist to the wood panelling? The oak barrels in the corridor spouting Kölsch - is there anything you haven't already heard me say extolling the virtues of this method of serving beer? No. I think that I've used up my thesaurus for brewpub/ brewery tap/ ausschank or whatever. Päffgen is a very good example of a traditional Rhineland brewpub. The brewery is there for everyone to see, joined to the pub by a roofed-in courtyard. If you've been in one of these places, you'll know exactly what to expect inside. Half pigs roasted. Sacks of potatoes fried. And served on one plate.

It was founded in 1883, at the height of the "Gründerzeit".

I hope that I don't upset local chauvinists when I say: it's as good as being in Düsseldorf.
Rating: ***** Public transport: U3, U4, U5, U6, U15, U17, U19 to Friesenplatz.

Brauhaus Pütz
Engelbertstr. 67,
50674 Köln (Belgisches Viertel).

Tel. (0221) 211 166
Brauhaus Pütz Köln
Opening hours: Mon - Sun: 17:00-01:00
Number of draught beers: 1
Number of bottled beers: 0
Regular draught beers:
Food: Meals €5-13, snacks €3-5, kölsch €1.20 for 0.2l.
Pütz is a fairly traditional Kölsch house out just past the Ring to the southwest of the city centre. Don't worry, plenty of U-Bahns come this way, if you're a lazy git.

It's pretty cheap and they have Mühlen Kölsch straight from oak barrels. Sounds good enough to me.

(Photograph by John Hein)
Rating: Public transport: U-Bahn U1, U6, U7, U15, U17, U19, Rudolfplatz.

Brauhaus Gaststätte Schreckenskammer
Ursulagartenstr. 11-15,
50668 Köln (Nordstadt).

Telefon: (0221) 132 581

Brauhaus Gaststätte Schreckenskammer Köln
Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 11:00-13:45 & 16:30-22:30
Sat: 11:00-14:00
Sunday Closed
Number of draught beers: 1
Number of bottled beers: 0
Regular draught beers :
Food: Meals, snacks, kölsch €1.30 for 0.2l.
Follow the railway line 200 meters past the Hauptbahnhof and you'll discover Schreckenskammer hidden around the back of St. Ursula church.

Like much of the rest of central Cologne, it was bombed out during 1943. It was rebuilt after the war (minus the brewery) and is in a typical German 1950's style. It's been in the hands of the Witz family since the 1930's.
Rating: Public transport:

Gaststätte Ursulakloster
Ursulakloster 20,
50668 Köln (Nordstadt).

Gaststätte Ursulakloster Köln
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 15:00 -
Sat-Sun 12:00 -
Number of draught beers: 1
Number of bottled beers:
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks €4-7, meals €6.50-17. Beer €1.20 for 0.2l.
Gaststätte Ursulakloster Köln interiorI've intended visiting Schreckenskammer for many years. It's not far from the Hauptbahnhof, but being in the opposite direction to the city centre, it requires a little planning to fit into a crawl. Planning, that's what buggered my attempt. I forgot to check Schreckenskammer's opening times. It's bound to open on a Saturday afternoon, isn't it? All the pubs in Cologne do. Except Schreckenskammer.

Here serendipity kicked in. While I like to be prepared with a list of pubs to check out before visiting a city, the greatest pleasure comes from unexpectedly stumbling across a little gem. With 40 minutes to kill before I needed to go for my train, I was in urgent need of an emergency replacement. The quiet, residential area didn't offer much hope. But look, there's a pub just around the corner. And it's open. Brilliant. Maybe it wasn't going to be a total disaster.

Gaststätte Ursulakloster Köln interiorWhen I stuck my head around the door, my spirits lifted even more. There was a little cask on the bar. OK, it was Gaffel rather than one of my favourites, but certainly a better prospect than a thirsty walk back to the station.

The two small rooms were decorated in what I would describe as "HO rustic". If you don't know what means (and why should anyone under 30), the photo above should give you a good impression Slightly kitsch, but practical and comfortable. But with my critical faculties considerably less critical from thirst, it looked beautiful to me.

The jolly lady behind the bar soon had me pub-hunting heaven. I love this sort of out-of-the-way city pub: quiet, local, friendly, relaxed.

You may just think it's a tacky pensioner's pub. For me, it was nirvana.
Rating: *** Public transport:

Haus Töller
Weyerstr. 96,
50676 Köln.
Tel: 0221 - 258 9316
Opening hours: Mon - Sat 17:00 - open end,
Sunday and public holidays closed.
Number of draught beers: 1
Number of bottled beers:
Regular draught beers:
Food: Snacks, meals.
This is a a tip from Laurent Mousson, who reports:
"Mostly locals haunt the place, which is very traditional and rather quiet, but has tons of atmosphere. Gravity-served Päffgen, which in itself is a good sign of the general quality of the place. Food is excellent, cooked on the premises, and is excellent, plain, solid and tasty. Excellent Bratwirst, Himmel und Ääd mit Flönz, murderous Hämchens, even the roastbeef is ver ynice. The Hämchensülze is of a quality rarely seen elsewhere, and the Apfelstrudel (with almonds) is one of the best I've ever had, with a subdued vanilla sauce thats just cream with a touch of vanilla and sugar. In fact, we returned there twice, just to make sure our first impression was right, and had a go at pretty much everything on the menu (there were five of us)... "

Rating: Public transport:

Cologne Pub Guide
Beer Shops

Getränke Markt Weber
Vogelsanger Strasse 356-358,
50827 Köln-Bickendorf.
Tel: 0221 - 585 983
Fax: 0221 - 580 2989
Opening hours:
Number of draught beers: 5
Number of bottled beers: 90
Regular draught beers:
Food: n/a
A getränke markt with a range of mostly Pilsner and Kölsch, though with the odd more interesting style. Gaffel, Reissdorf, Sion and Früh are available in small barrels.
Rating: Public transport:

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