You would consider Cologne as a sixth-form school to Berlin’s infinitely cooler artwork faculty. Compared it feels as if it’s all pupil money bars and puppyish idealism, spider crops at each flip, and nonetheless a variety of love for the Beatles – Germany’s fourth largest metropolis has been twinned with Liverpool since 1952.
Go into any avenue within the centre and also you’ll see a wonderful muddle of structure, 19th-century mansions subsequent to 1950s tiled homes and new-builds in metal and glass. Little or no feels sacred right here, aside from the Romanesque church buildings and, after all, the Dom – Cologne cathedral which mixes in Gothic arches with Gerhard Richter’s dreamy, pixelated, stained-glass home windows. Inbuilt 1248, it’s the fourth-tallest cathedral on this planet. Cologne appears actually good at by no means fairly topping the statistics, though it does have Germany’s largest mosque, the Cologne Central Mosque, a contemporary design with its concrete and glass dome and glass partitions.

Curved concrete gem … the 25hours resort. {Photograph}: Steve Herud
The modernist theme continues with my resort, the 25hours, repurposed from a 1960s insurance coverage constructing. This curved concrete gem has a futuristic retro really feel. Step inside and there’s a robotic gliding across the foyer and a large classic Lego spaceman. There’s additionally a co-working area and a file store. On the highest ground is Neni, a plant-filled (however not totally plant-based) restaurant providing a really au courant Center Japanese menu, in addition to spectacular views throughout the town.
25hours is conveniently simply off the Belgian quarter, a grid of streets that does the total pop-up and sustainable double act, with whole retailers dedicated to decreasing your environmental footprint, plus good splashes of restaurant and bar humour. Cleanicum is each a laundrette and a bar. Sure, the mix exists in different cities, however I’ve by no means seen beer-sipping individuals fold their laundry as neatly as in Cologne. Close by Hallmackenreuther on Brüsseler Platz combines midcentury furnishings with a good-value menu that’s sturdy on the carbs, however companions it with a set of nice German wines.
Even Cologne’s hippest restaurant, NeoBiota, which has simply been awarded a Michelin star, takes an admirably relaxed method to its meals. Headed by cooks Erik Scheffler and Sonja Baumann, who will be seen at work within the open kitchen, the restaurant doesn’t serve lunch. As a substitute breakfast is on provide till a really civilised 3pm with a menu of small plates that takes in pancakes, bagels and shakshuka. Within the night, the meals is equally feel-good. Mains embody pork with kimchi and Savoy cabbage, and begin at £16. There are not any starched linen tablecloths right here; it’s a tiny restaurant tucked away on a facet avenue within the centre.
Like almost the whole lot in Cologne, NeoBiota feels accessible and so, too, does the Ludwig Museum. Inbuilt 1986, few would name its exterior stunning, but it surely homes one in all Germany’s most important collections of recent artwork. If the surface is a bit Brutalist, the light-filled inside feels as serene because the artwork sequence in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – it’s awash with Picassos and Kandinskys. Pop artwork is robust, too, with a wall of Lichtensteins and copious Andy Warhols, together with a stack of Brillo packing containers on the ground.

Ludwig Museum
If one place sums up Cologne, although, it’s the chapel on close by Kolumbastrasse. Right here, a museum housing spiritual artwork has been created from a church that was bombed by the allies. The stays have been included right into a constructing by architect Peter Zumthor. Among the ruins can nonetheless be seen, but it surely’s punctuated by perforated slabs of concrete that enable mild patterns to play across the interiors by means of the day. The museum acknowledges the previous – it’s estimated that 90% of the centre of Cologne was destroyed by allied assaults within the battle – however makes one thing optimistic from it.
Within the second world battle, Cologne may need been important for delivery, however – near the border with Belgium and the Netherlands – it by no means embraced nazism as a lot as different components of Germany. A bunch often known as the Edelweiss Pirates was fashioned they usually tried to sabotage the regime by serving to allies and deserting German troopers. In November 1944, 13 of its organisers had been executed on the orders of Himmler. Most of them got here from Ehrenfeld and right now, the arch that they had been killed beneath is roofed in work of big edelweiss in commemoration – a very hanging work in a metropolis that has a powerful status in avenue artwork.

Of the wall … avenue artwork by Inti at a constructing in Ehrenfeld. {Photograph}: Joern Sackermann/Alamy
Previously industrial, Ehrenfeld nonetheless has a status for edginess: a happy-seeming mix of immigrants, college students and millennials with just a few much-cherished punk remnants, together with former squats turned artwork tasks equivalent to Eine Arte Haus on Körnerstrasse.
It is a metropolis that gave its identify to the world’s most astringent fragrance, however on the nook of Vogelsangerstrasse, the eau-de-nil constructing that after made the famed 4711 cologne has change into an incubus for start-ups, many from former graduates from the college who’ve determined to remain on. Life in Cologne is lots cheaper than in Munich or Berlin.
There’s a small brewery in Ehrenfeld, the Braustelle on Christianstrasse, however Cologne doesn’t actually do microbreweries because the metropolis has a positive custom of kölsch, a light-weight, hoppy beer which can be one of many drivers of Cologne’s big allure. Intentionally overyeasted, it’s often known as “singing beer”.

Native hero … the 19th-century Paffgen nonetheless brews on website. {Photograph}: Joern Sackermann/Alamy
On Friesenstrasse, the 19th-century Paffgen nonetheless brews on website. Come early night, everybody’s piling in and grabbing tables whereas waiters continuously transfer across the beer corridor delivering the small glasses on specifically designed trays and no-nonsense meals, heavy on bratwurst, herring and schnitzel (round £8). They’ll hold plonking down glasses of kölsch (£1.50 a pop) till you place your beer mat on prime of your glass. Like Cologne’s different beer halls, it’s not precisely a date vacation spot however with its working stone flooring and scrubbed tables, and the kegs lining the hallway, it appears to get Cologne’s mix of delight and function completely proper.
• Doubles at 25hours Cologne from €97. Flights with Eurowings from Heathrow from £24.99 a method. For extra data on Cologne, go to germany.journey.en and cologne-tourism.com