Duesseldorf origins date back to the 7th century, when Germanic tribes settled along the small Düssel River near the Rhine. By the middle ages, Duesseldorf had formally established itself as a city and it flourished as a capital for both industry and the arts until the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800s. The city struggled under Napoleonic rule, but again found its footing after being placed under the jurisdiction of the Prussian Empire, right on the heels of the Industrial Revolution.
The 20th century saw the city’s destruction and rebirth beginning in World War II when it was considered a key target for the Allied Forces in Germany. Following the War, Duesseldorf experienced tremendous reconstruction and subsequent growth and has developed into one of West Germany’s most important cities. Today, the city makes up the heart of the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan area, which consists of over 12 million people. In addition to its role as the capital of the German State Nordrhein-Westfalen, Duesseldorf is home to a number of Fortune 500 companies and is world renowned for its convention center, architecture and high standard of living. Major industries in the area include fashion, advertising and banking.
Map of Duesseldorf
Duesseldorf enjoys a steady stream of both business and holiday visitors throughout the year. The climate in the region is characterized by relatively warm summers and cold winters. Duesseldorf’s major geographical feature is undoubtedly the Rhine River, which is still used as an important transport route for cargo ships to this day. Outside of the city’s urban center are a number of well developed suburbs and areas that make up the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan area. Less than 60 kilometers west of Duesseldorf lies the Netherlands, with the city of Eindhoven just over an hour away via car.
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Getting Around in Duesseldorf
Like a majority of German cities, Duesseldorf is well serviced by an efficient public transportation system consisting of subways (U-Bahn) and trams (S-Bahn). However, it’s extensive reconstruction and development in the 20th century has resulted in an infrastructure that also supports road traffic. As such, taxis and car rentals are also viable means of transportation in and around the city’s metropolitan area.
Both the city’s main train station (Hauptbahnhof) and airport are connected to the public transportation network, which makes travelling to Duesseldorf’s city center a breeze. The area between the city’s main train station and many of its riverside attractions (Rhine promenade, Old Town, Konigsallee) are within a moderate walking distance, providing tourists with a number of options when it comes to transportation.
Duesseldorf’s public transportation system is operated by the VRR (Rhein-Ruhr Transport Association). Travel tickets are available at most transport stations through ticket machines which include an English language option. Ticket prices are dependent on a number of factors such as travel area, travel time and duration of the week (e.g. 1 day, 1 week). Typical day passes covering metropolitan Duesseldorf start at 5.70 Euros per day.
Main Attractions, Sights and Things to do
This all-pedestrian promenade along the Rhine is full of lively restaurants and shopping. Visitors can watch ships pass along the river while enjoying traditional German dishes. Completely reconstructed following World War II, the promenade enjoys modern conveniences and is popular with both visitors and locals. Leisure river cruises along the Rhine depart from the promenade on a regular basis and tickets can be purchased from marked ticket stalls. The closest public transport station to the Rhine Promenade is Heinrich-Heine-Allee U-Bahn Station.
Altstadt (Old Town)
Rebuilt following damage sustained in World War II, Duesseldorf’s Old Town retains an authentic charm and is also known as ‘the longest bar in the world’ due to the fact that it contains over 300 bars and restaurants. Popular with sightseers and shoppers during the day, the neighborhood begins to buzz as night falls and the restaurants fill with customers.
Aside from sampling German cuisine, the Altstadt is home to a few cultural attractions as well. The Museum Kunstpalast is right on the northern border of Aldstand and includes an impressive collection of artwork that consists of paintings from the 15th to 20th century along with modern artwork, sculptures and glassware. The Duesseldorf Film Museum as well as a number of art galleries and collections are also located within the Altstadt.
To reach Düsseldof’s Old Town through public transportation, take the U-Bahn to either Tonhalle/Ehrenhof or Heinrich-Heine-Allee station.
North of metropolitan Duesseldorf, Kaiserswerth is one of the city’s oldest suburbs. Along with its quaint, old world charm, the area’s largest attraction is the Kaiserpfalz. Built in 1052, the ruins of the complex still sit along the Rhine and are open to visitors. The castle was made the temporary seat of the Holy Roman Empire shortly after its construction and was taken over by a series of conquerors over the following centuries.
Though badly damaged, the castle remains as a reminder of the past centuries and entrance onto the grounds is free of charge.
Duesseldorf’s tallest building has an observation floor open to visitors. At over 170 meters, the Rhine Tower boasts unparalleled views of the city and the glories of the countryside of the surrounding region.
Schloß Jägerhof and Goethe Museum
The former Jägerhof residence is now home to an eleven room museum with the main focus being the life and works of Goethe. As well as his works there are also many of his inspirations and muses, and the rooms take you on a chronological journey through his lifetime. The museum also has a reference library open to public use containing more than 21,000 books.
The nearest public transport is the eponymously named tram station nearby.
Originally built in the 1920s as a planetarium, Duesseldorf’s Tonhalle is the city’s premier concert hall. Characterized by a large arching dome, the venue plays host to classic and contemporary acts from around the world throughout the year. Under the 38 meter dome are over 1800 audience seats, in addition to a stage and orchestra pit. Concerts and events are held almost on a daily basis and the concert hall can easily be reached through public transport via the Tonhalle U-Bahn Station.
Rheinhafen Center of Arts and Media (Frank Gehry Buildings)
In an effort to revitalize its harbor district, Duesseldorf enlisted the help of famed architect Frank Gehry to construct three separate buildings in the area. Today, the formerly abandoned industrial zone has been transformed into a stunning example of post-modern architecture. Gehry’s distinctive style using rolling curves and interesting angles can be seen throughout his three structures at the Medienhafen.
According to the architect himself, the three adjacent buildings act as one singular structure. However, each complex was built with a different facade material, providing a unique personality to the buildings. This revitalized area of Duesseldorf stands as the city’s new symbol for growth and prosperity. Over 700 companies including the Hyatt Hotel and a riverside golf course now call the neighborhood home.
To visit Frank Gehry’s buildings, take the S-Bahn to Volklinger Straße or Duesseldorf-Hamm Station.
Schloss Benrath (Benrath Palace) and Park
Behind the bright pink facade of this former hunting lodge is an impressive interior complete with rococo accents, marble floors and glass chandeliers. A proposed candidate for induction as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 18th century palace is flanked by a shimmering lake in the front and an expansive garden in the back, both of which are open to the public.
The palace features three main wings, all of which contains their own theme. One wing houses the city’s Natural History and Local History Museum. Established at Schloss Benrath in the late 1920s, the museum focuses on the natural history of the surrounding Lower Rhine region and covers topics such as native flora and fauna as well as neanderthals. The second wing of the palace is the European Garden History Museum. With over 2,000 meters of floor space, visitors to the museum can witness the evolution of European garden styles starting with the ancient Greeks and Romans through to the Italian Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo periods. The third part of the palace is its central structure, which maintains its period details from its days as a hunting lodge. Called the Museum Corps de Logis, the structure was influenced by the nature and architecture.
Duesseldorf and it’s neighbor Cologne have enjoyed a healthy rivalry for quite some time. Just a 25 minute ride on Germany’s efficient ICE train will take visitors from the heart of Duesseldorf to the absolute center of Cologne. Stepping out of the station, tourists will be greeted by the formidable Cologne Cathedral as well as a number of museums and shops.
Shopping in Duesseldorf
Luxury shops and chic cafes cover this street just inland from the river. Both locals and tourists stop by Konigsallee to visit outlets from luxury brands such as Cartier, Burberry and Tiffany. Along the 1 km long avenue are a series of arcades containing well-known fashion retailers, specialty shops and bakeries. To reach Konigsallee via public transport, take the U-Bahn to either Heinrich-Heine-Allee or Konigsallee Station.
Adjacent to Konigsallee, Schadowstraße is also known for its excellent shopping facilities. The beautiful Schadow Arkaden is a wonderful example of a modern German shopping mall featuring a number of specialty shops selling clothing, jewelry and household goods in addition to cafes, restaurants and bakeries. The closest U-Bahn Station to Schadowstraße is Heinrich-Heine-Allee.
Home to a substantial population of Japanese immigrants, the area in and around Immermannstraße is full of Japanese shops where visitors can find a great selection of Japanese goods, clothing and fashion. It’s also the city’s best bet when it comes to restaurants serving sushi and other Japanese cuisine. Conveniently, Immermannstraße is located adjacent to Duesseldorf’s main train station.
Eating out in Duesseldorf
Like any international city, Duesseldorf has a wide selection of restaurants and bars. The city’s Old Town has its largest concentration of eateries and is a best bet for tourists wanting to try out local Rheinisch cuisine. Beer is also a must-try while in Duesseldorf, which lays claim to its own brew known as altbier (old beer). Altbier is served at most restaurants throughout the city. Asian food is plenty available including Thai food.
Brauerei Zum Schiffchen
This restaurant and brewery in Old Town boasts over 350 years of history and includes Napoleon as one of its past patrons. Serving a full menu of traditional Rheinisches dishes and boasting a full beer garden, there’s no better place to get a feel for the local cuisine and culture. Highly recommended dishes include braised beef, pork knuckle and liver dumplings.
Berens am Kai
As popular as roast beef and beer gardens are in Duesseldorf, the city is not without its fine dining options. Located within the new Medienhafen district, Berens am Kai features Michelin star chef Holger Berens, who focuses on creating excellent continental and European dishes. Set lunch menus begin at 45 Euros, with dinner dishes starting at 30 Euros.
Nightlife in Duesseldorf
St. James Club – Lounge
The recently opened St. James Club and Lounge represents a sophisticated side to Duesseldorf’s nightlife. Located in the trendy Medienhafen neighborhood, this über cool night spot hosts theme nights ranging from Femme Fatale to Imperial Russia, along with an extensive champagne and cigar menu. The club serves food until 3am and also offers membership to frequent visitors. To reach St. James Club via public transport, take the S-Bahn to Volklinger Straße.
Stahlwerk is one of Duesseldorf’s most popular discotheques and features a large space and a state-of-the-art sound system. Featuring everything from techno to 90s hits, Stahlwerk doubles as a concert and comedy venue as well. It is within walking distance from the U-Bahn Station Ronsdorfer Straße.
Anything of local interest
With such a substantial Japanese population, Japan Day is a highlight of the Duesseldorf cultural calendar. Known as Japan’s capital on the Rhine, the day is highlighted by a fireworks show over the river. Other activities include cultural presentations and the serving of traditional Japanese foods such as sashimi, sushi and tempura.
Rheinkirmes (Rhine Carnival)
The Rhine River has played a central role in the region’s history for over 1000 years, so it’s only fitting that Duesseldorf and its neighbors celebrate the Rhine with a carnival each year. Rheinkirmes typically occurs in July and lasts for 9 days. During this time, the areas along the river in Duesseldorf are packed with carnival rides, food stands and other attractions. The festivities are capped off by a fireworks show over the Rhine.