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Photography by Manfred Wegener

Taking a break

created by Johannes J. Arens, Jan Lüke, Bernd Wilberg | |   Tips % Tours

Three places to chill out amid Cologne’s hustle and bustle

You can eat your chips on the small terrace and watch the world go by.

(by Johannes J. Arens, Jan Lüke, Bernd Wilberg)

Domplatte (the area around Cologne Cathedral)

With the winds sweeping across the open space in front of Cologne Cathedral and swarms of people dashing by, the “Domplatte” is not the most obvious spot for taking a break. But sitting with a coffee or a Kölsch on the benches beneath the trees in front of the Cathedral’s main portal is just the thing for letting your eyes and mind wander. Out-of-towners make their way from the Gaffel am Dom brewery, an extra spring in their step courtesy of a freshly brewed Kölsch or two, to catch the regional express train back home to the Lower Rhine or Münsterland regions. To the right of this, the blue-uniformed porter of the Excelsior Hotel Ernst opens the doors, directing guests to the dignified Hansestube or the Michelin one-star restaurant Taku — right next door to a McDonald’s and Peking am Dom, a Chinese restaurant where you can revisit the cuisine of the 1980s, complete with spring rolls and sweet and sour pork. Stemming from the same period are the antique pink surroundings of Café Reichard, one of the city’s most time-honoured coffeehouses, where tourists and immaculately dressed elderly ladies tuck into cakes, tarts, tenderloin tips and vol-au-vents.


Beloved Cologne actor Willy Millowitsch (1909–1999), whose hit song “Kölsche Jung” is a hymn to his home town, embodied the Cologne mentality like no other: fun-loving, close to his roots, yet always a little nostalgic for bygone days. In the area around the square that bears his name, you can see just how much the city has changed. Nonetheless, traces of its local character are still evident, even in the busy intersection of the Ehrenstrasse and Breite Strasse shopping streets. Initially, Willy had been allocated a rather uninviting square behind a hotel complex — albeit close to his theatre on Aachener Strasse — but the locals felt that he deserved much more. Since 2013, the “Kölsche Jung” sculpture, sitting leisurely on a bench, has taken pride of place here — you can take a selfie next to him! Otherwise the only seats here are in front of the pavilion café. At Curry B. next door, you can eat your chips on the small terrace and watch the world go by. Café Fromme opposite is great for cakes and tarts, while Bäckerei Balkhausen sells high-quality baked goods and sandwiches. Spanish churros are sold on the other side of the street as Willy looks on fondly from his regular spot.

Neusser Platz

The Agnesviertel is a great place for strolling. The pavements here are wider and the erstwhile avenues grander than in the narrower districts nearer the city centre. And since every flâneur needs to rest every now and again, a veritable oasis of cafés has sprung up in the heart of the Agnesviertel. Neusser Platz — the square in front of St. Agnes, a Catholic church built in the early 20th century — is a meeting place for the locals, many of whom gather here during the day and especially in the evenings. People of all ages sit here on the benches, planters or even on the ground for a few minutes (or hours!) and you’re bound to bump into someone to chat with. The popularity of this square in the Agnesviertel district is due in no small part to Pico Coffee. Everyone in the neighbourhood knows the little kiosk with the red awning — it sells hot and cold drinks and its freshly made crêpes are also hugely popular: the cinnamon and sugar version costs just two euros.