When it comes to established tourist destinations within Germany, Düsseldorf definitely isn’t one of the usual suspects. In fact, if travellers head here at all, it’s usually on a day trip from nearby Cologne, Düsseldorf’s far more famous neighbour which regularly appears on lists of the best places to visit in Germany.
We recently took a trip to this under-appreciated city and discovered somewhere bursting with character, dripping with effortless cool, and ideal for a long weekend away. Here’s why Düsseldorf makes for the perfect short break.
Düsseldorf’s nightlife centres around it’s tiny old town, the Altstadt, which measures just half a square kilometre. But despite its tiny size, it packs a huge punch when it comes to fun after the sun goes down. German beer is renowned the world over, but the local brew is completely unique to this area and barely drunk outside the city walls.
Called Altbier, it’s a copper coloured, slightly malty, refreshing tipple and is virtually the only thing that many bars serve. But more than simply the beer, there’s a whole culture around how it’s drunk as well. It’s served in tiny 200ml glasses, but don’t worry, this doesn’t mean spending your entire night queuing at the bar for refills. In fact you don’t even have to ask when you want your next beer.
Famously brusque waiters deftly carry trays laden with full glasses, expertly dropping another one in front of you before the last one’s finished. Each round is marked with a pencil line on your beer mat, and once you’ve had your fill simply pop this on top of your glass to signal you want to pay.
Oozing with culture
Düsseldorf’s long and fascinating history is clearly laid out in the city’s streets. Its story is told through its graceful combination of both extremely old and bleeding edge contemporary architecture.
There’s the 100+ art galleries and open air installations that further show off the city’s creative edge. And the gorgeous Königsallee street, with its water-feature-filled canal running along its centre, boasts stores from many of the world’s most desirable fashion houses.
But there’s another fascinating aspect to Düsseldorf’s culture which stems from the fact that the city is home to the third largest Japanese community in Europe. From beautifully manicured Japanese gardens and shops selling manga comics, to numerous restaurants serving up delicious national staples such as ramen and sushi, the influence of this community can clearly be seen throughout the town.
The old town is packed full of legendary pubs and restaurants dishing out both regional and national delicacies. Get your gob around schweinshaxe - giant, spit-roasted pork knuckles, sample pork fat on black bread with onions, or plump for the obvious with a bratwurst or kebab.
But as mentioned above, you can also get your fix of authentic Japanese nosh. The best place to head for this is the Oststraße district which is home to the majority of Düsseldorf’s Japanese restaurants.
Easy to get around
Nobody wants to spend their entire time getting horribly lost whilst trying to figure out how to get from a to b. But while this might not exactly be your normal selling point, if you’re only visiting somewhere for a short period of time, it’s essential that it’s easy to get around.
Without trying to fuel any lazy stereotypes, the public transport network in Düsseldorf is wonderfully efficient. The combination of trams which run both over and underground, buses, and trains mean that getting around the city is an absolute cynch. There’s also an abundance of electric scooters which are fun, cheap and eco-friendly to whizz around on.
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