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The Best Restaurants in Cologne, Germany

The Best Restaurants in Cologne, Germany

After my post on my favorite places to eat in Berlin, I thought it would make sense to make a similar one about Cologne, a city where I lived for several years and know very well.

Why eat in Cologne? Discover Cologne's Good Food

Founded as a Roman colony on the Rhine, Cologne (Köln) is a city steeped in history and culture. Despite being one of the most heavily bombed German cities during World War II, Cologne has rebuilt itself and now stands as a vibrant and dynamic hub. While it may not be as famous for its tourist spots as some other German cities, Cologne offers a unique blend of history, modernity, and delicious food.

Cologne is strategically located at the heart of Europe, serving as a gateway to the Benelux area. It is part of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Germany's most populous state with nearly 18 million inhabitants. Although Düsseldorf is the state capital, Cologne is the region's cultural and economic powerhouse, known for its diverse population and vibrant arts scene.

The must-do activity in Cologne is visiting its iconic Gothic Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Climb the 280 steps of the bell tower for breathtaking views of the city. Another quintessential Cologne experience is drinking the local beer, Kölsch. This light, crisp beer is typically served in small 200ml glasses, and in traditional bars, your glass will be continuously refilled until you place a coaster on top to signal that you’ve had enough. Kölsch is one of my favorite beers—it goes down like water!

Interior view of the Cologne Cathedral's bell tower, showcasing its intricate gothic architecture and the largest bell, with the keyword 'best restaurants Cologne' suggesting a potential cultural dining experience nearby.

Cologne also hosts numerous fairs, with the most famous being FIBO, the world’s leading trade show for fitness, wellness, and health, and Gamescom, the largest gaming event in Europe, where enthusiasts and professionals gather to celebrate the latest in video game culture and technology. Additionally, the city comes alive during the Christmas market season with festive stalls, delicious treats, and holiday cheer. The Cologne Carnival, a wild and colorful celebration, features parades, costumes, and parties that take over the streets. During Pride, Cologne becomes a hub of LGBTQ+ celebrations, with parades, events, and festivities promoting equality and diversity.

Want to discover more about Cologne? Check out our Gay Cologne Guide.

Two men enjoying a casual outdoor meal in a park in Cologne, with one savoring a croissant and the other drinking from a cup, representing the laid-back dining culture around some of the best restaurants in Cologne.

As usual, we're in a food coma after visiting the Italian kiosk tucked in front of the Italian Consulate

Whatever the reason for your visit to this fascinating city, the most important thing is always the food. Here are my expert tips on the best eats and popular restaurants Cologne has to offer:

Best Pizza in Cologne - La Migliore Pizza di Colonia

Cologne boasts numerous Italian restaurants and pizzerias, yet authenticity can be elusive in many. A hallmark of genuine Italian cuisine lies in the meticulous selection and quality of ingredients, but regrettably, several establishments here seem to cut corners by sourcing from lower-middle-range supermarkets, compromising the authenticity of their dishes.

However, if you're craving real Neapolitan pizza in Cologne, there are two of the best places that do it equally well: Made in Napoli in Ehrenfeld and Totò e Peppino near Ebertplatz (50670 Köln). It's hard to say which one is better for your taste buds, as it often depends on the specific pizza you choose. Both pizzerias use high-quality ingredients like burrata and Friarielli and offer other excellent dishes, such as parmigiana. These are true Neapolitan pizzas, with a thicker, chewy dough thanks to their careful leavening process.

If you're planning a night out in the center and prefer to stay more centrally located, the perfect place is THE EAT in the belgian quarter. While not Neapolitan, it offers great pizza, a cocktail bar, and other Italian dishes. Another good option is Spencer and Hill, an offbeat restaurant and pub with a vast menu where you can enjoy their marvelous parmigiana along with other Italian specialties.

A surprised diner with an 'As I Lay Dying' tank top reacting to the sight of two artisanal pizzas at Toto & Pepino, a contender for the best restaurant in Cologne, set against an urban street backdrop.

Ryan's emo shirt expressing that this is what he would wants Toto e Pepino as his last meal

Thick cuts of prosciutto ham on a pizza with rucola and parmesan on a Neapolitan-style pizza.

Best Brauhaus in Cologne: Best German Authentic Cuisine in Köln

When visiting Cologne, indulging in authentic German cuisine is a must. German food is renowned for its hearty and savory dishes, featuring meats like pork chops and beef, complemented by rich sauces, potatoes, and cabbage-based sides. Pairing these delicious meals with traditional German beers, such as Kölsch or Weissbier, enhances the cultural experience. Here are three top Brauhaus options where you can enjoy the essence of German culinary tradition:

Servus Colonia Alpina: Step into a Bavarian oasis and experience a taste of the Alps at Servus Colonia Alpina. This restaurant offers hearty Bavarian specialties like Schweinshaxe (pork knuckle), Wurstplatte (sausage platter), and traditional sides such as sauerkraut and potato dumplings. Indulge in a Helles or Weissbier for a truly authentic Bavarian experience.

A German dinner featuring suckling roast pork belly, red cabbage, and boiled potatoes - with a gravy on the side

Gilden im Zims: Located in Cologne's Old Town, Gilden im Zims offers a cozy atmosphere and serves up traditional German fare. Enjoy dishes like Sauerbraten (marinated pot roast), Schnitzel Wiener Art (breaded pork schnitzel), and their renowned Kölsch beer, brewed locally and served in small, cylindrical glasses.

FRÜH am Dom, die FRÜH Lounge: A beloved institution near Cologne Cathedral, FRÜH am Dom specializes in classic Cologne cuisine. Try their Himmel un Äd (potatoes with apple sauce and blood sausage), Rheinischer Sauerbraten (marinated roast beef), and their signature FRÜH Kölsch beer—a pale, light-bodied brew that perfectly complements hearty German dishes.

Some Cologne classics at FRÜH am Dom

Haus Scholzen: Blend of traditional and innovative German dishes paired with regional beers in Ehrenfeld.

Traditionsgaststätte Bei d’r Tant: Authentic German hospitality and cuisine in a cozy, traditional setting.

Reissdorf am Hahnentor: Local favorite with an inviting atmosphere and excellent Kölsch beer selection.

Peters Brauhaus: Known for its exceptional German dishes and vibrant atmosphere.

Bei Oma Kleinmann: Famous for its hearty German meals and welcoming ambiance.

A Taste of the Middle East in Cologne's Ehrenfeld

Ehrenfeld stands out as Cologne's most vibrant and populous district, renowned for its street art, nightlife, and a plethora of dining options. Middle Eastern cuisine in Cologne boasts rich flavors and traditional dishes such as falafel, hummus, kebabs, and Kunafa. These flavors are celebrated throughout Ehrenfeld, offering a diverse culinary experience that reflects the vibrant cultural tapestry of the area.

Along Venloerstrasse, the main thoroughfare known for street food, you'll find numerous Turkish restaurants offering a range of dishes worth trying. Lebanese cuisine also shines here, notably at Habibi Köln, known for its excellent falafel to go—a must-try for a quick and delicious bite. For a delightful sweet treat, I highly recommend Damla, home to the best Kunafa I've ever tasted. If you're craving İskender kebap, head to Mecnun Restaurant & Lounge—an excellent alternative to the more crowded Kebabland, where queues rival those of Berghain in Berlin. For a unique Israeli dining experience with stunning views, Neni atop the 25 Hours Hotel The Circle is a must-visit. For a similarly delicious but more relaxed atmosphere, try Nini Nush on Aachenerstrasse.

Iskender kebab with tomatoes and green chili peppers on top

İskender kebap

Half-eaten plate of Künefe at Damla in Cologne, displaying a fusion of shredded wheat, sweet syrup, and pistachios, inviting food enthusiasts to explore one of the best restaurants in Cologne for Middle Eastern desserts.

Kunafa heaven from Damla

For other palates:

Best Asian Food in Cologne:

Chin Burger 秦堡: Located on Limburgerstr, Chin Burger is known for its delicious Chinese burgers.

KASTANIE (Hot Pot 秦堡火锅): Also situated in Friesenplatz, Vegetarian and KASTANIE serves up delectable vegetarian options and traditional Chinese hot pot.

Thai Haus: Located near Friesenplatz, Thai Haus offers authentic Thai cuisine with a variety of flavorful dishes.

A thai stir-fry dish with rice on the side

Best Tapas in Cologne:

TapaVinho im Fertig: Enjoy exceptional tapas and excellent service at TapaVinho, located in Südstadt.

Jonny Turista: Explore a variety of tapas dishes at Jonny Turista, a charming spot with a cozy ambiance.

Spanish-style tapas featuring squid, potato wedges, dates wrapped in bacon, meatballs, and bread. Glasses of wine on the side.

Tapas from Jonny Turista. I think dates wrapped in bacon may be the world's greatest thing.

Best Greek in Cologne:

Gyrosland: A top spot in Ehrenfeld for delicious gyros, Gyrosland offers a cozy atmosphere with outdoor seating.

Best Indian in Cologne:

Masala Empire: Located in Neptunplatz, Masala Empire is renowned for its authentic Indian cuisine.

Ganesha: Established since 1987 in Köln, Ganesha Indisches Restaurant offers a rich array of traditional Indian dishes.

Best French in Cologne:

Hanse Stube Cologne: Located near the Dom and station in Cologne (50667 Cologne), Hanse Stube Cologne is a refined French restaurant offering fine dining in an elegant setting. Known for its sophisticated ambiance and French-inspired dishes, it's an ideal choice for a memorable evening.

More Unforgettable dining Experience in Cologne:

Ox & Klee: While Michelin-starred restaurants are not our usual preference (we like the small dives), we've included a michelin star restaurant in here! Restaurant Ox & Klee offers modern cuisine with international flavors, celebrated for its exquisite dining experience and inclusion in the Michelin Guide. It's a culinary journey that blends innovation with premium ingredients.

Die Fette Kuh: Situated in Südstadt, Die Fette Kuh (The Fat Cow) is renowned for its mouthwatering grilled burgers, making it a must-visit for burger enthusiasts seeking a delightful dining experience.

Joe Champs: Joe Champs American Sportsbar & Restaurant has locations in Rudolphplatz and Deutz. Their Chili cheese fries are irresistible, making it a favorite spot for casual dining and sports enthusiasts.

A cheese burger with coleslaw and a side of chili-cheese fries