If you are planning to visit Cologne, there are two things that you absolutely cannot miss – visiting the Cologne Cathedral and drinking a Kölsch beer. Kölsch is the beer in Cologne. Kölsch is a clear, light, and crisp lager that is warm-fermented with top-fermenting yeast, then conditioned at cold temperatures. It is a quintessential beer-beer, usually around 4 to 5% ABV. Nice easy drinking!
We have a local phrase that says “Drinking a Kölsch is more than just drinking a beer: it’s like drinking an entire culture.”
Kölners are extra proud of Kölsch because it is the only beer in Germany to have a special protected geographical status, similar to Bourbon in Kentucky or Champagne in France. As a local resident of Cologne, I have drank my fair share of Kölsch at various beer halls (or brauhaus in German) around town. There is a specific brahaus culture in Cologne, and there are a few things you need to know ahead of time. Once you’re equipped with knowledge about the local customs, head out to one of our beloved beerhalls. I have curated my list of the top brauhaus beerhalls in Cologne!
What You'll Find in this Article
Where to Find the Best Brauhaus & Beer Halls in Cologne
Früh am Dom
Every Cologne resident (and especially every tourist) knows the Früh Brauhaus near the cathedral. It is actually the second largest brauhaus in all of Germany, behind only the Hofbrauhaus in Munich. The main Früh brauhaus is a classic place, sprawling across different buildings and floors with winding hallways and mismatched rooms. Definitely one of the more popular large breweries, Früh offers a great well-rounded Kölsch beer. If you were only going to visit one brauhaus in Cologne, this would be a good choice. I think this is the perfect place to get an introduction to Kolsch beer, and the culture of a German brauhaus.
- Address: Am Hof 12-18, 50667 Köln
- Website: https://www.frueh-am-dom.de
Früh “Em Veedel”
If you prefer to drink Früh Kölsch in a more cozy environment, I recommend getting out of the Old City and exploring some of Cologne’s 85 different neighborhoods. Being a loyal local, I think my neighborhood of Südstadt in the southern part of Cologne is a great choice. Located directly on Chlodwigplatz next to the famous Severinstorburg, Früh em Veedel is a neighborhood outpost of the beloved Kolsch purveyor – with about a quarter of the crowds of the Dom location. Young and old locals meet here to eat delicious food and drink freshly tapped Kölsch.
- Address: Chlodwigpl. 28, 50678 Köln
- Website: https://www.fruehemveedel.de/
Gilden im Zims
One of the newest names in the Kölsch game is Gilden im Zims, which is ironic considering their Renaissance style townhouse dates back to the 12th century. It is even under historical protection! I think this modern brewery has managed to perfectly blend the old world charm with new age trends. It feels cooler than other beer halls on this list. Its motto is “Home of Cologne Heroes”, so each room in the brauhaus has a theme related to Cologne’s culture. You’ll find heroes from business, music, sport, history and Karneval decorating the walls.
- Address: Heumarkt 77, 50667 Köln
- Website: http://www.gilden-im-zims.de/
Brauhaus Sünner im Walfisch
Since 1476, a brewery has existed in this location making it one of the oldest brauhauses in Cologne. The building has a pretty interesting history though. Around the corner, there was a brewery called “Zum Walfisch”. By the 1900s, the Salzgasse location had become fairly dilapidated, so in 1935, the historic stepped gable house from “Zum Walfisch” was taken down carefully, brick by brick, and then reconstructed in the Salzgasse location.
All of the original materials were used and restored, including its signature “whale” lantern. You can still this iconic lantern today! Up until the 1950s, the building operated as the “Weinhaus im Walfisch”, until it was taken over by the Sünner brothers brewery in 1996, It has since been operated under its current name as the “Sünner im Walfisch” brewery.
- Address: Salzgasse 13, 50667 Köln
- Website: http://www.walfisch.de/
Gaffel Kölsch is more lager-y than other breweries on this list. The beer drinks lightly due to its nice hoppiness, along with a slightly yeastier note on the finish. The brauhaus, located right by Cologne’s main train station, is definitely worth checking out. Unlike Früh, Gaffel’s brauhaus is one main (and huge) open room with a quintessential stained glass window pane. The food at Gaffel’s brauhaus is quite good, so it is a perfect place to go before catching a train.
- Address: Bahnhofsvorpl. 1, 50667 Köln
- Website: https://www.gaffelamdom.de/
Reissdorf is the Kölsch beer brewery that is most well known outside of Cologne. It also happens to be Sam’s favorite! The Kölsch has a slightly maltier and heavier taste with a great hoppy finish. The malts have a little more toasted flavor, lending to a beer with a bit more body and a broader malt flavor. Unlike Gaffel and Früh however, Reissdorf does not have a dedicated brauhaus in Cologne’s Old Town. The main location is at the Kleiner Griechenmarkt, between Poststrasse and Barbarossaplatz. I also like the Reissdorf location behind Hahnentor. Hearty dishes, including a number of nice vegetarian options, are served here alongside the tasty Kölsch.
- Address: Kleiner Griechenmarkt 40, 50676 Köln
- Website: http://www.brauhaus-reissdorf.de/
Brauerei zur Malzmühle
The Malzmühle Brewery was opened more than 150 years ago, and has brewed in this original located ever since. It is one of only two breweries on this list that still occupies its original location. This small brewery has a cult-like following. Some people will only drink Mühlen! While still a Kölsch, the beer has a richer, hoppier flavor and a great malt backbone. Their iconic windmill logo is easy to recognize.
If you want to get food here, the absolute bestseller is their sauerbraten, in no small part thanks to the former US President Bill Clinton. In 1999 he is said to have eaten a Rhenish sauerbraten with dumplings and apple compote with the Mühlen-Kölsch and then said the famous sentence “I am a Kölsch”, which isn’t quite grammatically correct German — but we get the point.
- Address: Heumarkt 6, 50667 Köln
- Website: http://brauereizurmalzmuehle.de/
Peter’s Brauhaus is a great little brewery right in the Old Town. This is actually my favorite Kölsch brauhaus, and I usually recommend it on my guided walking tours of Cologne. It is a quintessential German place frequented by locals and tourists alike. The Kölsch is smooth and crisp and always fresh from the tap. It is more challenging to find Peter’s in a store or outside the brauhaus, so this is a great place to bring people visiting from out of town because it is quite unique to Cologne’s old town area. Plus, their potato soup is delicious!
- Address: Mühlengasse 1, 50667 Köln
- Website: http://www.peters-brauhaus.de/
Originally founded by Hermann Päffgen in 1883, Päffgen is one of the most famous names in Cologne. The company has been passed down through generations of the family. Now on its fourth generation, the Päffgen family is Kölsch royalty in Cologne! Päffgen is also still brewing in its original location on Friesenstraße. Due to the brewery’s low capacity of 6,000 hectoliters per year, Päffgen sales are limited to a only few restaurants around town, making it fairly exclusive. And they don’t bottle their beers, so you can only drink it on tap!
- Address: Friesenstraße 64-66, 50670 Köln
- Website: http://www.paeffgen-koelsch.de/
If the name of this brewery looks pretty similar to the one above, that is intentional. In 2002, one of the Päffgen’s grandsons, Max, left the family business after some disagreements. It is said he wanted to ‘prove himself’ and he developed his own recipe under a new name “Pfaffen Brewery Max Päffgen”. He now operates a competing business on the same street as one of Päffgen’s licensed distributors. Big family drama! Pfaffen means cleric in German, so the brewery has a church theme with stained glass windows and a monk as its mascot. I find this Kölsch especially crisp and light. It is one of my favorite spots in the Old City.
- Address: Heumarkt 62, 50667 Köln
- Website: http://zum-pfaffen.koeln/
Another neighborhood favorite in Cologne is Hellers. It is worth the journey outside the Old City because it has one of the most beautiful beer gardens in the city. Complete with skylights and full of plants, it feels like a garden oasis. There is a second beer garden location in Volksgarten park if you want to drink your Kölsch alfresco. If you’re hungry, you can find a delicious assortment of rustic German food, as well as vegan dishes such as vegan goulash and vegan savoy cabbage roulade.
- Address: Roonstraße 33, 50674 Köln
- Website: https://www.hellers.koeln/