If you are lucky enough to be spending a few days in Germany, you may have heard of the stunning street art in Cologne. We’ve put together of few of the best areas for you to discover: both well-known and lesser-known.
Ehrenfeld is Cologne’s hipster district. There is a density of urban creativity here which is unrivalled by any in Cologne. The diversity of images on offer is staggering. There is everything from photorealistic paintings to cartoons, slogans, and surrealist-inspired scenes. All of them are presented on a massive scale and in vivid colours.
Starting from the playful cartoons on the walls underneath Ehrenfeld’s S-Bahn station, the district offers works by local and international artists. A short walk from the station, to Stammstraße, along Batholomäus-Schink Straße, then over to Helios-, Volgesanger-, and LIchtstraße will take you past around 40 artworks. Our favourite: an enormous Leopard on Gutenbergstraße. It lies a little further off the beaten track but is a rewarding sight.
The neighborhood also hosts bunker k101, a former WWII bomb shelter which is now a protected historic building and exhibition space. It is itself well worth a visit.
The Beligian Quarter is also one of our favourite districts. And it is a particularly good place to see street art in Cologne.
One of the most striking images is called “The Queen of the Night” on Brüsseler Straße by the Swiss artist TIKA (Maja Hürst). The dark stylised image of a woman covers the whole facade, with the woman’s hair stretching out to form astronomical constellations. It is a piece which uses not only paint but also other materials to make the whole work sparkle.
But it’s not just the big works which catch the eye in this neighbourhood. The magic of the street art in the Belgian quarter lies in the small details. Stickers and paste-ups cover whole buildings in minute details. Some are political, some are jokes and some are simply small expressions of pure beauty. Once you start noticing these small works of art, you can be captivated by a single doorway for hours!
Nippes has a bit more of a calmer, village-like feel. Here, you are more likely to come across fashionable parents with the latest state-of-the-art stroller than you are a tatooed hipster. But that doesn’t affect the quality of the street art. Some of the best street art in Colonge can be found on the neighbourhood’s residential streets.
The most striking image is found in a car park just off Neusser Straße, behind Galeria Kaufhof. Created for the Cityleaks festive in 2017, the image depicts two babies in an arcade machine. You, the viewer, have just been successful in catching one of them in your metalic claw. It’s political: potentially sparking debates about designer babies or the “consumption” of babies as lifestyle accessories, or maybe even about the “picking” of a lucky few in an increasingly unequal society. Whatever your view, it is undeniable that the artists, Innerfields, have achieved something special here.
Works that are less politically challenging, but nonetheless beautiful, are also to be found around the Nippes S-Bahn station on Escher Straße. Here you can see an incredibly detailed 3-D mural from the Cologne artist Ali Yünlü. And just a few steps away a mural of a bird, by Captain Borderline, looking resplendent with its colorful feathers.
If you are still hungry for more, take a look at the street art “hall of fame” on the supporting columns underneath the Nr. 13 metro line at Neusser Straße Gürtel. Afterwards, why not finish your tour with a refreshing Kölsch at the nearby Altenberger Hof?
Mülheim & Buchforst
Over on the other side of the Rhine, next to the so-called “Kalk Alp”, there is also street art to be discovered. The “alp” is actually a man-made hill, which was formerly a waste mound, rising some 30 meters above its surroundings. On the north side lies a wall running for over 150m which has the function of supporting the hill. For years the wall was grey and dreary but now it has been transformed into a canvas of sci-fi inspired street art.
40 professional graffiti artists were selected from an open competition and were given the honor of contributing their particular vision to the site. The project was also accompanied by workshops for local teenagers and was supported by the local authority.
Everywhere else … just keep your eyes peeled!
Once you start looking, you will find street art all over the city of Cologne, even in the historic old town. Whether it’s small stickers, painted electric utility boxes or quick paste-ups under bridges, there is always something to notice if you are alert. In particular, there are two motifs that are found all over the city – one fruity and the other extra terrestrial.
Getting fruity in Cologne
You will see mysterious spray-painted bananas across the city. But what do they mean?
The logo can be traced back to an artist who is based in Cologne, Thomas Baumgärtel, also known as the “Banana Sprayer”. Making use of stencils to put the image up quickly, the bananas signify that the building on which they are found is connected to art. In other words, it is an unofficial “quality mark” or logo of the art scene. Over 4,000 galleries, museums and art schools have been honored with a banana, in Germany and further afield.
A street art alien invasion
You might not realise it at first, but Cologne has been invaded by small, pixelated monsters. These mini mosaics appear 27 times across the city. They are part of a global project created by an anonymous French artist known as Invader. Only a handful of people know his true identity. But one thing is for sure: he is very committed to his project of invading the world with his tiled beasts. There are now 3,870 worldwide!
Street art further afield
We are lucky to have neighboring cities with their own stunning street art neighborhoods. Our favorite is Düsseldorf. We love the street art there so much that we’ve written a whole article about it.
Have you been to one of these for a day trip from Cologne? What did you think? Do you have any other tips? Leave a comment below and let us know!