Dusseldorf is one of the largest and oldest cities in Germany, and is one of the country’s most important financial centers. Being the capital of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, and being the center of a metropolis where more than 1.5 million people live, it is no wonder that it has a lot to do and a wide range of recommended attractions.
Dusseldorf is known, among other things, for being badly damaged during the bombings of World War II, which made it one of the places where a vibrant international and artistic scene developed, with its accelerated reconstruction. The city is a favorite destination for many immigrants, and is home to the largest Japanese population in Germany. In addition, it is a true paradise for lovers of modern art, which is evident in almost every corner. It has a huge variety of museums, festivals, street performances and more, all of which pay homage to this artistic style and allow the many interested in the genre to incorporate it during their visit to the city.
By the way, if you are planning a comprehensive trip in Germany, or even in the west of the country alone, you should pay attention to the ongoing and very present “rivalry” between Dusseldorf and its neighbor, Cologne. This rivalry is expressed in a number of aspects, but in Germany as in Germany, most of the buzz is around the beer, its quality and the way it is produced, as you will read later.
“The longest bar in the world” – a typical street in the old town of Dusseldorf (photo: CherryX)
Despite Dusseldorf’s ancient and rich history, many refer to it as a relatively new city. The reason for this is that, due to what the city went through during World War II, it is difficult to find here historical buildings that are hundreds and thousands of years old, as can be found in many other German cities (including nearby Cologne). However, travelers to Dusseldorf who are interested in its history specifically and even in German or human history in general will be able to find a good deal here.
The old city of Dusseldorf, despite its modest size, is an amazing meeting between old and new Germany. You won’t find significant historical sites in it, but its atmosphere, the narrow streets, the beautiful and old houses and more, all show you the city as it was until recently. It has a unique kind of intimacy, which is hard to detect in other, more modern parts of the city.
A phenomenon that makes Dusseldorf very special, and is one of the main points of contention between it and Cologne, is the city’s capital. While the residents of Cologne are proud of the “Kölsch” capital, in Dusseldorf you will find the Altbier (literally: the old beer). You will be hard pressed to find one city’s beer in the rival city’s pubs. The beer gets its name from its traditional and ancient way of making beer, which was used in the past to make ale beer.
The reason we mention these two together is that Dusseldorf’s Old Town is known as the “Longest Bar in the World” (Längste Theke der Welt). It received the title due to the fact that in its limited area there are more than 300 pubs, bars and clubs, all of which guarantee that your nightlife in Dusseldorf will be one of the richest you will find in Germany.
If you are a fan of old and classic Europe, with its many palaces, facades, gardens and sculptures, Benrat Palace is the place to visit. This is one of the only palaces in the city that remain intact, and it will throw you back hundreds of years.
The palace is adjacent to the city itself, to the southeast of it, and is a wonderful (and relatively unique) example of a palace built in the Rococo style (Rococo – an artistic style that dominated Europe for a short time, at the beginning of the 18th century). One of the most beautiful aspects of the palace is its integration with the gardens that surround it, which have been specifically adapted to each of the rooms leading to them. The palace was a summer home for a noble couple, the English Elector Charles Theodore and his French wife Elizabeth Auguste of Schulzbach. Correspondingly, from the Elector’s room a door opens to a wild-looking English garden, while from the lady’s room a door opens to a meticulous and orderly French garden. From the kitchen was the most convenient access to the spice gardens.
In the main hall of the palace, designed by the French artist Nicolas de Figage, you will have to walk in the hall in special slippers that will be provided to you, in order not to damage the beautiful marble floor. In addition to the palace itself, you can also find the Natural History Museum and the Museum to European Garden Art. In addition, music lovers will be happy to hear that concerts are held throughout the magnificent gardens of the palace during the summer.
If most art museums in Dusseldorf focus on modern art, then the Art Palace is the place for those who like earlier styles. The Palace of Art is in a perfect location near the Rhine River, and is a center of attraction for tourists from all over the world. It presents German art in all its forms, with displays of items that start as far back as the Gothic period in the Middle Ages. You will find here works by the best German artists of their generations such as Rubens, Achenbach and more.
In addition to the artistic aspect of the palace, you will find many more fascinating sections. Among other things, you can find here exhibits that explain about applied art, a particularly large collection of artistic glass items, and a very diverse collection of graphic art.
If we said earlier that there are not many ancient places left in Dusseldorf, then this neighborhood is one of those that did survive to illustrate what the city was like before it was destroyed. This is the place to go if you want to feel a bit of classical Europe, as the neighborhood is full of baroque and classical buildings and mansions. The many alleys in the neighborhood are incredibly photogenic, and one of the best spots for taking pictures is the ruined Kaiser Castle, after which the neighborhood is named. The castle was destroyed by shelling of the city when Germany fought Spain, and today only walls and undefined spaces remain.
Well, this may not be a German heritage site, but it is certainly an important site for all of humanity. The Neander Valley (in German – Neanderthal) is the place where the first Neanderthal man was found, in the middle of the nineteenth century. At the end of the nineties of the last century, a museum and an archaeological garden were established there, full of galleries and exhibits that will illustrate the life of this ancient man.
In the museum there are life-size models of Neanderthals, based on the fossils found, and the various items show his behavior and migration patterns. On top of that, there are explanations here about the overall development of man and his ancestors, including an evolutionary description of the species close to him.
Although the exhibits and signs in the place are all in German, the English voice guide does a good job and explains everything excellently.
Dusseldorf has something to offer even for those who don’t really care about history or art, or who want to diversify their trip with other activities as well. Being an important commercial center, it is no wonder that in Dusseldorf you can find excellent and stylish shopping areas that will bring you together with both local boutiques and international luxury fashion chains. This is in addition to fascinating architecture, stunning views and even a cruise on the Rhine River.
The promenade of the Rhine River is a favorite recreation destination for tourists and locals alike, especially in the last twenty or so years. Although it was built at the beginning of the 20th century, only with the movement of traffic underground at the end of the last century did the place become a destination for recreation. Only then was it possible to sit on the banks of the Rhine in peace, without the noise of the cars.
The boardwalk is located on the eastern bank of the Rhine River, so it is particularly attractive among people spending time in the sunset area. The last rays of the sun of the day caress the facades of the buildings and the many restaurants and bars in the place, which make it a lively and lively place.
Lovers of shopping, it is before you. Kings Avenue is considered one of the trendiest destinations in the city for coffee and shopping, although keep in mind that you won’t get out of here cheaply. The locals in Dusseldorf love this boulevard so much that they have affectionately shortened its name to Kö.
This avenue extends to both banks of a canal, and is shaded by columns of trees that turn green in the summer. You will find many boutiques and stores of international brands, such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton and many more. For most of those who come to visit here, it is mainly about scanning the goods, but go find out, you might find a bargain. On top of that, there’s nothing wrong with drinking coffee by the banks of the canal and watching the stylish men and women pass back and forth on the boulevard.
It is impossible to look at Dusseldorf without noticing its media quarter, which perhaps symbolizes more than anything the city’s regeneration in the last decades. Dusseldorf’s original harbors were built here, at the southern end of the Rhine promenade, back in the late 19th century. As expected, they were a destination for a multitude of commercial companies and factories, which determined the character of the quarter. However, starting in the 1990s, it was decided to convert the district into an office district, intended for fashion offices, media and more, as well as commercial buildings such as restaurants and bars. The fact that some of the greatest modern architects participated in the construction of this district made its design so iconic. Frank Gehry is particularly noteworthy, the “crooked” houses he designed stand out from afar on the Rhine coastline (Neuer Zollhof).
In the eastern part of the Media Quarter rises the Rhine Tower, which you cannot miss even if you want to. This tower, the tallest in Dusseldorf, rises to a height of 240 meters, and is one of the symbols of the city. The great advantage of the building from the point of view of tourists is its observation deck and the restaurant adjacent to it, both located at a height of 170 meters.
Going up to the observation deck involves a not high fee, and you can also get a discount on it if you spend a minimum amount in the restaurant. Either way, the amazing views from the tower are worth the cost of the ticket. On clear days you can easily see the view as far as Cologne in the south, and the sunsets from the tower are some of the most romantic you will see in Germany. Please note that the cost of getting to the observation deck varies depending on the time of day, so if you want to save you can arrive before 11 in the morning, or after 10 at night.
If you really want to feel like a local, then sipping Altabir in one of the bars scattered around the market square is the right thing to do. The square, designed in the shape of a trapezoid, is opposite the ancient city hall. For hundreds of years, from the end of the Middle Ages to the beginning of the nineteenth century, there used to be an active market here, which gave the square its name. The market moved from here to the Karlstadt neighborhood where it is still active today.
The square itself is surrounded by many historical buildings, some of which those interested can visit. However, the interest of the square is mainly in its atmosphere, the crowds of people passing through it and the large statue in its center, which depicts one of the most important electors in the history of Germany, Johann Wilhelm.
Like many other places and buildings in Dusseldorf, this neighborhood was also built by Elector Charles Theodor, and is named after him. This is another neighborhood that has preserved the old charm of the city, and the many buildings in it with baroque and neoclassical facades testify to this. Similar to the Kings Avenue, this area is also known for its prestige and the many Arabs who live there. It is a great place to spend a cup of coffee in the middle of the day, after visiting the old city or other nearby sites.
A particularly interesting and fun place to visit in the neighborhood is its market, which moved here from the market square more than a century ago, and in its previous and current location has been active for almost six hundred years in a row, with the exception of a brief stop during part of World War II. However, as the neighborhood has become upscale over the years, the market has largely become a center for gourmet foods. The sellers hold permanent licenses and the market is covered. You can still find stalls selling normal agricultural produce, but the dirt, hustle and bustle of other markets will be hard to find.
Like many other German cities located on the banks of a river, Dusseldorf was also built on both sides of the Rhine. This fact allows you to get a new perspective on the city on a cruise on the Rhine, one that you won’t see from the banks. And that’s without even talking about the cruise experience itself.
There are only two or three cruise companies that offer an hour-long cruise along the Rhine (although longer ones are also offered, so it is recommended to check in advance). On the cruise, soft drinks and sometimes even alcohol are usually offered, and there is an explanation of the city in German and English. One of the things you see in an exceptional way during the cruise is the media quarter which is visible to the sailors straight from the water. Among other things, you will take a cruise through the canals of the city, and even under its first suspension bridge that was inaugurated in the middle of the twentieth century.
The Rhine River Promenade
Dusseldorf became, as mentioned, after the war a world center of modern art, similar to Dresden, which also suffered a similar fate in World War II. The diverse population of the city, the accelerated urban renewal, the winds blowing in art in the last hundred years and more, all of these greatly influenced the offer of museums in the city, its architecture, its street art and more.
It is a very impressive structure, which actually includes two separate museums under the same umbrella: the K20 am Grabbeplatz, and the K21 Ständehaus.
Museum K20 am Grabbeplatz – even before you enter the museum itself, its monumental structure already hints at the treasures kept in it. It was designed and built during the 1980s, and is faced with a black granite stone that gives it a somewhat menacing appearance. The galleries in the museum are all dedicated to art from the 20th century, and include sections dealing with the artistic styles that dominated it – expressionism, cubism, surrealism and more. The works presented here are by the best artists of the period, so lovers of modern art should devote at least half a day to the place, if not more. The sheer amount of works of art of the highest order concentrated here together is difficult to describe.
K21 Ständehaus Museum – Being the sibling of the previous museum, this museum presents its visitors with a certain dissonance. While it is housed in a palace with a neo-Renaissance appearance that seems most detached from any type of modern art, it is a treasure building that houses diverse works of art from the 1970s to the present day. However, the architects of the museum did not leave it completely in its original form. They replaced the roof of the building with a glass dome, and turned the inside of the building into a sort of “piazza”. In this way, they ensured that a stroll between the galleries would resemble a tour of a European square, and that the spaces and galleries would receive enough natural light.
In this museum you will find a variety of modern works of all kinds, including paintings, cinema, music, photography and more. The exhibitions here change frequently, so it is recommended to find out in advance what is on display in the museum while you are in town.
This is a highly recommended site to visit for modern art lovers. This forum is the place where exhibitions of contemporary art are presented in all styles, from painting to photography to design and fashion. The forum hosted and hosts big names in the world of contemporary art, and those in the know will be able to recognize as examples Matin Kippenberger, Michel Comte, Alexander McQueen and many more.
A visit and tour of the KIT gallery is a cool experience and a special way to experience local modern art. The gallery is underground, and access to it is via the stairs leading out of the KIT cafe. The walls of the gallery are made of concrete, and its V-shape is a result of the fact that the gallery is located between two central tunnels in the city.
The KIT gallery presents rotating exhibitions of young local artists, and they span a wide spectrum of artistic fields. Here you will find exhibitions of sculpture, painting, photography, video and more. The gallery is open from Tuesday to Sunday, and every second Sunday of the month the entrance is free. Tours in English can be booked in advance.
It is recommended to plan your visit to the museum or its surroundings for the evening hours, as live performances are sometimes held at the KIT cafe from where the stairs lead to the gallery.
Philara Collection for Modern Art (Philara Collection)
Even die-hard fans of modern art may be surprised if they visit here. This is a particularly high concentration of contemporary (and some would say futuristic) works of art, the brainchild of both Dusseldorf and international artists. The exhibits here change frequently, similar to the other galleries we have featured, although some of the particularly large exhibits remain permanent throughout the year.
The collection is located in a former glass factory, in the Flingern neighborhood which is becoming the next thing in Dusseldorf. The performances cover an area of about twenty thousand square meters, and in the summer there is a sculpture garden on the roof. Please note that there is only one tour in English during the week, so it is recommended to make a reservation in advance. You can also visit without a tour on Thursday between four in the afternoon and eight in the evening.
In the south of Flingern (Flingern-Süd) is the Kiefernstrasse boulevard, known throughout Germany for its spectacular graffiti paintings. Like other similar areas around the world, this part of the city used to be an area of crime and mafia activity. Even today he is not completely free of such activity, but its scope has been significantly reduced. A thriving street art scene is currently flourishing there, and many of the artists whose paintings you will see here already rent an apartment in the neighborhood.
If you are interested, the last punk-rock club in the city, which has been open consecutively since the early 1980s, operates at 23 Kiefernstrasse.