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The Cologne cathedral and the Hohenzollern bridge viewed from KölnTriangle (Photograph by Allan Baxter, Getty Images)

Tim Steins is no stranger to Cologne. Born 30 kilometers north of this German city, he spent his childhood exploring Cologne on the weekends with friends in tow. He now channels his hometown pride into the Spotted by Locals blog while working for a media analysis agency. Though he’s lived in numerous places around Europe, Tim recognizes the “heart-warming spirit” of his current home: “Cologne is not a city, it’s a feeling.”

Follow Tim’s story on his blog and on Facebook.

Cologne Is My City

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them to is Deutzer Brücke to view the beautiful landscape of the Cologne skyline.

Spring is the best time to visit my city because it is neither too hot nor too cold. Besides, early spring is the height of Carnival—a celebration filled with parades, parties, and merriment.

You can see my city best from KölnTriangle in Deutz, on the right bank of the river.

Locals know to skip bars in the old city and check out beer halls and pubs like Anno Pief or Lommerzheim instead.

Historic Senfmühle museum is the place to buy authentic, local mustard and other souvenirs. Fragrance museum and workshop House of 4711‘s original Eau de Cologne is also a great gift. For the really kitschy stuff, head to the small shops around Hohe Straße in old town.

In the past, notable people like German statesman Konrad Adenauer, writer Heinrich Böll, and professional soccer player Lukas Podolski have called my city home.

My city’s best museum is the NS-Documentation Center of the City of Cologne because it gives an incredibly fascinating, detailed overview on National Socialism in Germany (and Cologne in particular). Formerly used as a Gestapo prison, the cells in the basement are eerily haunting. Cologne also has top-notch art museums like Museum Ludwig and the Wallraf das Museum).

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s that most main roads and tram lines run in semicircles around the city’s center. They follow the former city walls, which were circular. This can help or hinder one’s sense of orientation.

The best places to spend time outdoors in my city are botanical gardens like Flora or Dank Augusta park.

My city really knows how to celebrate Carnival—Cologne locals consider their city to be the capital of Carnival.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they speak the Kölsch dialect and will not hesitate to buy you a Kölsch beer. Note: Kölsch is the only language you can drink.

For a fancy night out, I head to Kalk neighborhood’s Blauer König. The mix of French, Middle Eastern, and/or Italian food is simply the best thing that has happened to my stomach.

Just outside my city, you can visit Eifel National Park for hikes and mountain biking. In winter, you can go skiing in the Sauerland area or check out nearby cities like Aachen.

The best outdoor markets in my city are Erhenfeld’s night flea markets.

Lizbät is my favorite place to grab breakfast for delicious crêpes and Oruc Kebap is the spot for late-night eats.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I meet friends at Büdchen to grab some brews and head for the riverside.

To escape the crowds, I go to Villa Mathildea—a stylish, relaxed, and never-crowded café.

The dish that represents my city best is Himmel un Ääd (translates to Heaven and Earth). A daring mix of apples (heaven) and potatoes (earth), this meal is typically served with black pudding. Kölsch is my city’s signature drink. By law, this beer may only be brewed within the city limits of Cologne. Sample them at Brauerei Päffgen and Früh em Veedelrespectively.

Gebäude 9, Sonic Ballroom, and Lichtung are the best places to see live music. If you’re in the mood to dance, check out “Ringe” (the ring road around the city’s center) or venture to Underground and Club Bahnhof Ehrenfeld (CBE) in Ehrenfeld.

In the summer you should sip a beer at Poller Wiesen, taking in the riverfront view.

In the winter you should visit the Stadtgarten Christmas market. Though there are many German Christmas markets, the one in Stadtgarten is especially enchanting.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss the Cologne Zoo with a leisurely, view-laden ride on the Kölner Seilbahn cable car.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is Et Jitt Kei Wood. Due to its patriotic chorus, this tune is popular for bar sing-a-longs, especially during the Carnival season.