LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

10 best football bars in Cologne

Where to see the game in Cologne, Germany’s party city

Where to drink Kölsch and catch the match in Cologne, Germany's carnival city by the Rhine

Rhineside Cologne is Germany’s party city, crazy at carnival time, full on for football at the RheinEnergieStadion, rebranded for Euro 2024.

The local drink is Kölsch – a light beer served in a thin glass (or Stange). Scorned all over Germany for being weak and ladylike, Kölsch is, in fact, the perfect barhop accompaniment as it’s affordable, downed in seconds and won’t bloat you out or have you running to the jacks every five minutes.

You can sample it at Früh am Dom near the Cathedral, dating back to 1904, its medieval cellar centuries older. Equally venerable is the Brauhaus Sion on Unter Taschenmacher. Sightseeing duties over, the terraces around the main square of Alter Markt beckon, just as touristy but very pleasant on a sunny afternoon.

To explore explore Cologne a little further, beyond the Old Town the city is divided into districts, just like Paris. The Belgian Quarter, Belgisches Viertel, to the west, is the trendiest, with bars to match.

Barney vallely's

Barney Vallely's/Alan Deamer

‘The small pub with a big heart’ is one of Cologne’s many Irish bars. Barney Vallely’s near Brauhaus Sion on Kleine Budengasse goes big on TV sport and live music, though leaves food to the many other places in the vicinity. 

The list of draught options is concise but covers the essentials – Guinness, Murphys, Kilkenny, Strongbow, Kölsch – with Hop House the main lager choice. 

Despite the somewhat bland exterior, BV’s feels homely inside, the collection of tatty banknotes over the bar underlining the cosmopolitan nature of the clientele. Late opening hours mean this is often the last port of call for many on a Cologne bar crawl. 

Barney Vallely’s, Budengasse 7-9, 50667 Cologne. Open Mon-Thur noon-3am, Fri-Sun 11am-3am.

bei d'r tant

Bei d'r Tant/Alan Deamer

Similar to the traditional taverns of Groß St Martin in the Altstadt, Bei d’r Tant on Cäcilienstraße at the edge of the Old Town has a story in its name. This one honours the widow who ran the place from 1930 until long after her husband died in the war. 

The families who later took it over decided to keep with tradition – even though Frau Maria Kremer wasn’t their aunt, it was just a term of affection – and stay with home-made cooking and fresh Kölsch. 

This can come with local snacks, a kind of Cologne tapas if you like, Happen mit Leberwurst, for example, a small plate of liver sausage. Football screening is a more recent feature, with Euro 2024 (and, in season, Köln) games shown but At Auntie’s doesn’t open on Sundays, whoever’s playing.

Bei d’r Tant, Cäcilienstraße 28, 50667 Cologne. Open Mon-Thur 11am-midnight, Fri-Sat 11am-1am.

brauhaus zum prinzen

Brauhaus Zum Prinzen/Alan Deamer

Back on the main square, the sturdy Brauhaus zum Prinzen combines tradition with football-watching – note the signed, framed shirts and gallery of Köln stars in the upstairs viewing area. The pub sign shows the Kölsch-dispensing owner casually placing his foot on the ball while a placard inside indicates that this ‘Is Not Anfield’ – they take the game seriously enough to enjoy it.

A wide terrace overlooks Alter Markt – the original house was once the oldest one on this main square, dating back to 1213 – while the spires of Cologne Cathedral beyond. Alongside Kölsch, you’ll find Bitburger and Paulaner Weiß on draught, plus all kinds of strange shots from the same Gaffel Kölsch stable, Schwesterherz and Mama Nero for those with a free diary the next day.

There’s a serious kitchen, too – if you’re going to try the local speciality of Himmel un Äad, blood sausage, mashed potatoes and stewed apple, it may as well be here. 

Brauhaus zum Prinzen, Alter Markt 20-22, 50667 Cologne. Open Mon-Thur & Sun noon-midnight, Fri-Sat noon-1am.

the corkonian

The Corkonian/Alan Deamer

Rather than go full Oirish, The Corkonian embraces both cultures, the tone set by the shields of both cities, hosts and guests, displayed in unison on the façade. This haven for visiting drinkers sits right on main Alter Markt is the oldest and most popular of the Gaelic hostelries, dating way back to the summer of Italia ’90.

It still features a prominent terrace and a full schedule of televised matches, dutifully scrawled up by hand every week. While The Corkonian is pushing the boat out for Euro 2024, it should be congratulated for not screening the Qatar World Cup of 2022, turning away trade but keeping its scruples, a welcome rarity in this day and age.

The Corkonian, Alter Markt 51, 50667 Cologne. Open Mon-Thur noon-1am, Fri-Sat 11am-2am, Sun 11am-midnight.

gilden im zims

Gilden im Zims/Alan Deamer

Alongside Cologne’s Euro 2024 Fan Zone on Heumarkt, Gilden im Zims lends a contemporary touch to brewing and dining in Cologne, with big-screen sport thrown in.

Within walls built more than half a millennium ago, the team at Gilden im Zims has created a shrine to their revered city – ‘Home of Cologne’s Heroes’ – honouring the memory of Johann Zims, who opened a guesthouse here in 1920, and renowned cyclist Hans Zims, who met his sporting companions in this pub after it was rebuilt in 1946.

It was Johann’s grandson Hans-Willi who revived the place in the World Cup year of 2006, combining history with modern-day hospitality, keeping as much of the original brickwork as possible. He also transformed the cellar into a party spot – perhaps earning the unspoken approval of the Romans who built the original foundations. This now operates at weekends, with paid admission.

Note the wishing well, a revered family touchstone from a bombing raid in 1943. The rest of the place extends over four floors and two terraces, a convivial place to tuck into hearty brewhouse dishes, with a big screen for the Euros while the tournament rolls on.

Gilden im Zims, Heumarkt 77, 50667 Cologne. Open Mon-Thur noon-midnight, Fri noon-3am, Sat 11am-3am, Sun 11am-midnight.

GOTTES GRüne wiese

Welcome to Cologne/Alan Deamer

Typifying Cologne’s trendy Belgian Quarter, Gottes Grüne Wiese (‘The Hallowed Turf’) occupies the street-level space of a prominent corner building near Köln-West station, its terrace tables football pitch-green, its doorway festooned with ivy.

As well as being in thrall to the dutiful game – plentiful TV sport and serious table-football action – GGW has right-on green credentials as illustrated by the number of cyclists who make a beeline for the place. It must be onto something, as Gottes Grüne Wiese recently celebrated 20 years of communal devotion to beer, music and football.

If this is the kind of thing that floats your boat, you should like nearby cult bar Grünfeld on Brüsseler Straße, also in business for 20 years, where regulars do battle over the table football table or relax in the beer garden.

Gottes Grüne Wiese, Bismarckstraße 53, 50672 Cologne. Open Mon-Wed 6pm-2am, Thur-Fri 6pm-3am, Sat 2.30pm-3am, Sun 3pm-1am.

kulisse Köln

Die Kulisse/Alan Deamer

A modern bar in historic guise, Kulisse Köln opposite the Town Hall switches from live football screening to party mode, with 4am closing for the liveliest three nights of the week. To get customers in the mood, friendly staff are happy to dispense self-pour ten-litre kegs of beer or five-litre towers of the stuff, ideal if you’re a thirsty crew in the mood for fun. 

Kulisse gets hectic at carnival time when fancy dress is de rigueur, inspiring the décor that stays in place all year. 

Kulisse Köln, Unter Käster 14-16, 50667 Cologne. Open Mon-Wed 4pm-1am, Thur-Fri 4pm-4am, Sat 1pm-4am, Sun 1pm-1am.

Kunst KaschÄMM

Kunst Kaschämm/Alan Deamer

In a corner towards the river dotted with fast-food outlets, Kunst Kaschämm opened in the World Cup year of 2006 and keeps the party going with cocktails, Kölsch and Fußball.

The Kölsch here is Reissdorf, sold in thin, elegant Stanges of 0.2dl or in hulking great self-pour ten-litre barrels for those who like a challenge.

Shots offers mean that you may be staggering home long before the 3am closing at weekends.

Kunst Kaschämm, Alter Markt 2, 50667 Cologne. Open Mon-Thur 4pm-midnight, Fri 4pm-3am, Sat 3pm-3am, Sun 4pm-midnight.

lapidarium

Lapidarium/Peterjon Cresswell

Fanning out from the Old Town, Cologne divides up into quarters around the inner centre. To the north runs the old Roman military road of Eigelstein, which is where you’ll find the cultish Lapidarium, a nod to its historic heritage. 

Here, though, instead of stone statues and monuments from 2,000 years ago, there’s a large TV screen showing big-match action, which shares the spotlight with occasional live music. Franziskaner, Beck’s and Leffe make a welcome appearance among the long row of beer taps, but it’s the alternative ambience that beckons so many back – as well as a quality kitchen. 

Lapidarium, Eigelstein 118, 50668 Cologne. Open Mon-Wed & Sun noon-1am, Thur-Sat noon-2am.

ubier schäNKE

Ubier Schänke/Alan Deamer

Anchoring a prominent corner of the bohemian quarter of Südstadt, the wonderful Ubier Schänke is unashamedly arty but happy to go overboard on match nights.

The football connection in this music-focused drinkery is due to Andreas Kaiser, an original founder in 1997, who ran out for (whisper it!) Fortuna Düsseldorf back in the day.

As well as screening games, arty events are programmed, appealing to the many regulars who swear by the place. Some should be able to regale you with tales of past Cologne derbies – Fortuna’s ground is close by.

Ubier Schänke, Ubierring 19, 50678 Cologne. Open Mon-Thur 11am-1am, Fri 11am-3am, Sat 1pm-3am, Sun 1pm-1am.