A Muslim in Cologne (Köln)
A few weeks ago I went on a WowTrip to Cologne in Germany(Köln in German) with a group of lovely blogger ladies. When I found out I was going to Cologne, my initial thoughts were ‘It’s going to be all bratwurst and beer!’ For Muslims who don’t drink alcohol or eat pork the thought of going to a beer & sausage loving country doesn’t feature highly on my travel to-do list. Thankfully my stereotyping and misconceptions were just that — stereotypes and misconceptions! Don’t get me wrong, Cologne is full of beer houses but not that different to other European cities which have bars or pubs instead.
As soon as I arrived at Cologne airport I felt at ease because I saw a sign for a prayer room.(The prayer room is before Security/Immigration so once you’re in you won’t be able to access it).
About Cologne (Köln)
Cologne is the most progressive and liberal of all the German cities and is welcoming to visitors. Many pro-refugee rallies have been held in the city and the far-right parties in Germany don’t get a look in, which is reassuring for Muslim travellers. Germany has taken in almost 1 million refugees, most of which are from Muslim countries, making the German Muslim population much larger than in the UK — about 4.5 million at last count.
Cologne is a one of the most populous Muslim cities with around 10% of residents being Muslim, so if you want to visit Germany, as a Muslim it’s probably the best place to visit! Because of its historic ties with Turkey, Turkish Muslim makes up the biggest ethnic minority, meaning that there is doner kebab shop at every turn!
After World War II, Cologne was obliterated and nothing much remained except for a few buildings and the mighty cathedral (Kölner Dom) which survived. The city centre revolves around the cathedral and the River Rhine (Rhein) which runs through it. As the city had to be rebuilt, a lot is relatively new with lots of cool looking buildings.
Halal food in Cologne
I was a bit concerned about whether there would be any halal food in Cologne. I prepared myself to be on a vegetarian or pescatarian diet for three days. German cuisine traditionally consists of a lot of meat and potatoes, and lots of beer! Due to Italian, French & Turkish influences, Germans tend to have a much more varied diet now. Thanks to the Turkish folk in Germany, halal food in Cologne is not hard to find. There are doner kebab shops on most streets but avoiding those, I opted for the vegetarian/fish options. Italian restaurants are easy to find due to the 40,000 Italians in Cologne as well as the most delicious Gelato & ice cream parlours. In an Italian restaurant there is always plenty of vegetarian and fish options.
Day 1 in Cologne
Our first lunch in Cologne was near the hotel we stayed in — Holiday Inn Express. A street called Severinstraße which is away from the city centre, has a row of cafes and restaurants. I counted seven types of cuisine — German, Italian, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Turkish and Mexican! After being slightly confused about what to eat we settled for a German cafe and I had a tuna baguette. Although it was only a tuna baguette, it was damn good and along with an iced tea cost me about €5.
The first proper meal I had, was a very, very delicious spaghetti dish at L’osteria which is chain of restaurants around Germany. L’osteria are happy to accommodate vegans and diners with other dietary requirements. Everyone was pretty pleased with their food! L’osteria also have two branches in the U.K. which I would visit in a flash!
Day 2 in Cologne
As Breakfast was included at the Holiday Inn Express, lunch was a light affair at Funkhaus which is in the Old Town. A very popular and modern cafe/restaurant, Funkhaus had a few vegetarian and fish options. I opted for a very tasty smoked salmon on bread dish with horse-radish, and as it was 30 degrees outside, it was lovely to have a cold dish in an air-conditioned environment. I was pleased I ate something a little bit German.
Now dinner was really special on our last night. Three of us, The Travel Bunny and Pretty Green Tea opted for bona’me, a halal Turkish restaurant across the river near Köln Triangle. We walked past a Mongolian restaurant but decided on Turkish as it came recommended. It was so beautiful from inside and out, we got very excited! bona’me use the same system as Vapiano (which you can find lots of branches of in Cologne) where you go to your station and order your food on a plastic card, then pay at the end. Slightly complicated but we got there in the end! We had the yummy Pide (Turkish Pizza) and some Kofte dishes. This meal was a great end to a very memorable weekend.
Halal German Food
Walking around Cologne in the summer requires many pit stops for drinks and snacks. Now Germans like their beer and pretzels. I’m not a fan of either. I had a local German non-alcoholic beer, famous in Köln, truth be told I couldn’t have more than two sips. But hey when in Rome and all that….
Also I find pretzels really dry, so again not a huge fan. And I’ll tell you the truth about German pastries, they generally look better than they taste. If I had to recommend one it would be this one below.
Please don’t ask me what it was called! There are lots of halal German pastries and they’re all really filling. Cherries feature highly as well as apples and plums. Bread and cheese are also a staple in Germany. Bakeries are in abundance, so if you’re really hungry you can always pick up a sourdough or spelt loaf!
As well as the meals I’ve mentioned, there are lots of cafes and ice cream shops in Cologne. The best gelato was had at the Gelato 4D Cafe, so good we went back for more. That’s pistachio and mocha flavour in case you’re wondering.
Cafe culture is one of my most favourite aspects of European travel so coffee shops are a must. A particular favourite was Cafe Richard which is right in front of the cathedral (amazing views) and has a massive dessert, milkshake & coffee menu. Inside you can buy their chocolates too. Highly recommend you visit when in the city. There are lots of independent coffee shops around Cologne too, you’ve just got to look for them!
Mosques in Cologne
You will see lots of Muslims around the city centre so asking someone about prayer facilities or halal food in Cologne is not a big deal. The stand-out mosque is the Cologne Central Mosque which is near Köln West station and definitely worth a visit. Another large mosque is the Abu Bakr Moshee (mosque) just next to Volksgarten Park.
I was pleasantly surprised at how well I ate and had a brilliant diet of vegetarian, fish and meat dishes as well as copious amounts of ice cream! Have you been to Germany? Did you find halal food easily?