Flora & Dank Augusta
A ride on the mini Bimmelbahn train from the Cathedral to the Zoo! From March/April until October, the green and yellow locomotive with the little wagons trundles along the Rhine promenade every half an hour. At the Zoo you can discover more than 800 species of animals, rounded off with a stroll through the nearby Flora, Cologne’s Botanical Garden. Augusta, wife of the German Emperor William I, took over the patronage of the park in 1863. It was important to the Empress — a liberal, self-assured woman — that the Flora should be open to everyone. In these magnificent grounds with their richly diverse flowers, plants and trees, children can really get back to nature. Recharge your batteries with tasty snacks at the “Dank Augusta” café. The Flora is open daily from 8 am until dusk.
Riehl, Am Botanischen Garten 1a, Tel. +49 (0)221 284 84 84, 11:30 am–10 pm (weather permitting), dankaugusta.de; mini Bimmelbahn train departs on the west side of Cologne Cathedral next to the KölnTourismus tourist office
If you stroll north along the Rhine promenade from the Old Town, passing by the Bastei building and just before the Mülheim Bridge, you’ll happen upon the Schwimmbad, one of the quirkiest beer gardens in Cologne. Until 1986 it was home to Rheinlust, the city’s oldest open-air swimming pool right on the banks of the river. These days, it’s a popular spot to meet for a drink and enjoy generous bowls of chips and prime views of the Rhine. If you’re out and about with kids, take your drink over to the nearby playground where they can play on the grass, make sandcastles or marvel at the brightly coloured circus tents of the nearby artistry school. And then head down to the riverbanks to skim a few pebbles over the water!
Riehl, An der Schanz 2a, Tel. +49 (0)221 760 28 43, Mon from 3 pm, Tues–Sat from noon, Sun from 11 am, koeln-biergarten.de
Bürgerhaus Stollwerck & Café Franz
Since the 1980s, this redbrick building on the site of the former Stollwerck chocolate factory has been a community centre with a wide-ranging cultural programme, courses and workshops with theatre, music, sport and social activities. Since 2018 the new café on the ground floor has been serving up homemade cakes, great coffee and simple, delicious dishes. Children are very welcome. In summer you can sit on the picturesque terrace, cappuccino in hand, as you keep an eye on your kids tiring themselves out on the large playground at Trude-Herr-Platz. And from here it’s just a few steps over to the former Rheinauhafen harbour whose riverbank promenade and modern architecture now attracts Cologne locals and tourists in their droves. To the south, there is a skater park with a playground.
Südstadt, Dreikönigenstr. 23, Tel. +49 (0)221 16 84 46 84, Tues–Sun 11 am–9 pm, closed on Mondays
Café Lukha & Herr Landmann
If you’re out and about with kids in tow, why not stop off at a family café to enjoy a breather and a latte? Many cafés now offer plenty to keep young guests entertained. At Café Lukha & Herr Landmann, the philosophy isn’t so much “Sit still!” but rather “Go off and explore!”: they don’t have a play area as such, but kids are welcome to roam the light, modern premises. Parents can keep a watchful eye as their children race toy cars between the tables, read a book in the cosy play tent or whizz down the slide for the hundredth time. Kids’ discos, puppet shows or face-painting afternoons also regularly take place here.
Ehrenfeld, Landmannstr. 4, Tel. +49 (0)221 16 91 14 36, Mon–Fri 9 am–7 pm, Sat & Sun 10 am–8 pm
With its Asian ginkgos, holly and black walnut trees, this city-centre park is the chosen nesting place of a colony of temperamental rose-ringed parakeets. A green oasis in the middle of the city, it offers a welcome change from the hustle and bustle — especially with children. There’s also a kids’ playground and no end of refreshments in the restaurant or spacious beer garden. If you take a few steps up the narrow path, you’ll end up at one of Cologne’s most exciting playgrounds: at the nearby Mediapark, children can bomb down a dizzyingly high slide built onto the steep slope.
Belgian Quarter. Venloer Str. 40, Tel. +49 (0)221 95 29 94 21, Restaurant Mon–Thurs 12 pm–1 am, Fri / Sat until 2 am, Sun 10:30 am–1 am; Kitchen closes at 10:30 pm; Breakfast: Sun 10:30 am–2:30 pm
(by Philippa Schindler)