The former location of Underground, © Tourismus NRW e.V.


Bloom­ing waste­land

Ehrenfeld was a problem area until well into the 80s. Since the 1970s, corporate closures, high unemployment and run-down streets have shaped the formerly thriving working-class district: just the right terrain for subculture wild minds and loud music, as low rents and vacant industrial buildings attracted cultural workers and students. Opened in 1988 the club Underground was the go-to place for punks and rocker, which made the club well know far beyond Cologne. Like no other venue in the city, the Underground therefore stands for the sociocultural importance of cultural institutions for a district.

On the factory site of the former Helios AG, the Underground consisted of two club stages, a car repair shop and a large beer garden. A popular pub with demolition charm was to be found here as well as a laundry. Later there was also a tattoo parlor and dining options. The Underground became a living room for punk, metal and hard rock fans. The small club gained international renown through a variety of WDR Rockpalast shows.

Several other cultural sites flourished close by. Ateliers, theaters such as the Artheater and program cinemas such as the Cinenova opened, clubs such as the Loft, the Live Music Hall and the Sonic Ballroom were founded. They all helped to revitalize the district culturally. More than 10,000 events took place in the Underground until its closure. Also, because of the special atmosphere, that helped artists and fans to linger, the Underground allowed a close, creative exchange between music lovers and artists. In 2017 the club was closed. On the Helios site, the construction of a school is planned. Ultimately, a circle closes, because the formerly poor part of the city has become a booming, modern district, thanks in particular to the flourishing, independent culture. In this new, gentrified district, however, the potential building land has become precious, while the available spaces for subculture are becoming scarcer. In the course of this urban transformation, Cologne lost one of its formative subcultural places with the Underground.

Further information:
Vogelsanger Str. 200, 50825 Cologne


The Underground before it was torn down, © Tourismus NRW e.V.
Todays building site at former Underground, © Tourismus NRW e.V.

All Pop-Spots of Co­logne