There is much to be said for Cologne as a destination. A city with a rich history, it is also bustling, modern and cosmopolitan, offering everything from Michelin-starred restaurants to street food eateries, independent boutiques to luxury flagships. As with any growing city, straying a little off the beaten track is a great way to explore. Ehrenfeld is one of Cologne’s most exciting neighbourhoods – a lively and welcoming area, and the perfect place to spend a day living like a local.
Start your day right
No morning is complete without a great cup of coffee and Van Dyck in Ehrenfeld is one of the city’s leading purveyors. Launched in 2010, with its focus on very high-quality coffee, fair trade and organic standards, the roastery and espresso bar brought a relatively new concept to Cologne. ‘We’re very proud of that’, says co-founder Martin Kess, who chose the area because of its ‘lively and edgy’ feel. Visitors should look out for the new Van Dyck Halbstarker espresso, which offers bold, full-flavoured coffee with half the regular caffeine, perfect for the health-conscious coffee lovers among us.
Design for life
With your caffeine craving sated, a short walk down Körnerstrasse will take you to Utensil, another must-visit destination. Located in a former butcher’s shop, the store was founded by designer Anna Lederer in 2009 as a space to sell her unique homewares and design pieces. Taking objects out of their customary context and reappropriating them for the home, Lederer creates the unfamiliar from the familiar. A laboratory flask becomes a wine carafe and stadium seats become a garden bench – Lederer has a knack for taking the forgotten or discarded and making it completely beautiful. Although she stumbled upon the space by chance, Lederer has found the perfect home for Utensil in Ehrenfeld. ‘It’s a quarter with an old tradition of industry and crafts, and people are open-minded,’ she says.
Local designer Paul Kampfmann is particularly passionate about the area and has created Ehrenfeld Apparel, a label which embodies this passion. ‘A few years ago, I wanted an Ehrenfeld shirt and there were none,’ he explains. ‘So I did it myself.’ Kampfmann’s creations play with art and pop culture references, with puns on the name Ehrenfeld and images of the area throughout. Bold, clever and decidedly tongue-in-cheek, the brand already has a strong following. His collection includes T-shirts, caps, bags and a newly launched range of jackets. With floor space of 12 square metres, the store is quickly outgrowing its current location and Kampfmann is on the hunt for bigger premises – in Ehrenfeld, naturally.
Ehrenfeld is full of retail gems just waiting to be discovered, as well as picturesque green spaces and some of the best street art in the city. Exploring the neighbourhood will work up an appetite and you couldn’t be better placed to experience the food culture of Cologne. One particular local favourite is Café Sehnsucht, a charming restaurant that supports the slow food movement. At its core is a belief in great quality, seasonal produce and the pleasure derived from good, simple food. Expect beautiful salads and soups, ethically sourced meat and fish dishes cooked to perfection and some truly indulgent desserts.
If you’re looking for something different, Ehrenfeld has a host of street food options, as well as many purveyors of the ever-popular American-style hamburger. One of the best places has to be Karl Hermann’s, which offers top-quality beefburgers with a range of finger-licking sides – think sweet potato fries, corn salad or caramelised fennel – and vegetarian versions that will also tempt meat eaters.
In summer, Ehrenfeld really comes alive in the evening. Packed with bars, clubs and restaurants which open late, the area really knows how to make the most of the warm nights. If you’re still in the mood for shopping, head for Nachtkonsum, a market open regularly throughout the year from 5pm to 11pm. Held in a former rail freight depot, it offers the best in vintage and local finds, and the popular event also features live music. What better way to round off a day than shopping and partying with Ehrenfeld locals?