The Rhine metropolis of Düsseldorf offers entertainment for any weather: Modern museums, quirky architecture, nice designer shops, Rhenish cuisine, and, of course, the world’s longest bar. As a native of the Lower Rhine region, this is far from my first visit to Düsseldorf. Nevertheless, my familiarity with it has been limited to the airport, the Königsallee, and some concerts. This seems like all the more reason for me to be grateful for an opportunity to get to know the city a little better.
I start into my short trip to Düsseldorf armed with an umbrella and some good mood. I set out from the Carlsplatz, with its covered weekly market that not only sells fruits and vegetables but also lunch, fresh smoothies, and pastries. Fortified with Stielmus – a vegetable dish made of beet stalks – and bratwurst, I spontaneously get on one of the HoppOn HoppOff busses. Of course, these red double-decker buses are not everyone’s cup of tea. In particular with the weather being contrary, however, they’re great for getting an initial overview of a new city. I get comfortable on the upper deck, with the rain pattering on the folding roof and the announcements loud in my ears. Düsseldorf’s old town, the media harbour, the Rhine Tower, and the Rheinknie Bridge pass me by. For the first time, I realise just how green Düsseldorf actually is.
Late that afternoon, I make my way to the Burgplatz. We’re going on safari! This is a safari that’s doing without binoculars and observing wild animals but needing plenty of thirst. As Düsseldorf is famous for its top-fermented Altbier, there are far more than a single brewery in the city. The number of bars and pubs there have given Düsseldorf’s old town the nickname “the world’s longest bar”. Our Altbier Safari begins at the “Retematäng”, as the Düsseldorfers call their nightlife mile. The name dates back to the times of Napoleon, who had renamed Ratinger Straße “Rue du Matin”. I learn about bitters, fermentation styles, and altbier traditions, as my mood improves with every brew I sample. The tour ends at the Uerige, one of Düsseldorf’s oldest breweries, where I stay for dinner.
“You haven’t been to Düsseldorf before you’ve tried the Killepitsch,” they say. I’m certainly not saying no to that and stop for the small nightcap in the form of an herbal schnapps directly at the window of the “Et Kabüffke” before heading back to the hotel.
It is a quiet morning in the “25 Hours Hotel Das Tour”. Even a few rays of sunshine make it all the way onto my bed for a few moments. The view is just perfect at breakfast: From the restaurant on the 16th floor, I have a clear view of all of Düsseldorf in an atmosphere so cosy that I could easily spend the entire morning here. I still have plenty planned for the day, though, and take a tram to the south of Düsseldorf instead.
The extraordinary Gehry buildings in the Medienhafen had already stood out to me from the bus the day before. They don’t seem to have a single straight line, and in particular the middle building with its mirrored facade looks like a playground for me and my camera. I generally like the harbour with its mix of old brick and modern architecture.
It’s just a ten minutes’ walk from here to the Rhine Tower that I have visited before when I was a child. I remember just laying down completely across the slanted restaurant windows to look down. I’ll see if I have retained that primal confidence to this day. My ears are popping as the elevator is shooting up to the viewing platform at a height of 168 metres, with its 360-degree-view of Düsseldorf and the surrounding area. In good weather, you can even see the Cologne Cathedral from here. It’s better not to mention that too loudly, though! I spend some time watching the ships on the Rhine and discover my next destination from up here.
The K21 is just a stone’s throw and a few puddles from here, in the Ständehaus. Placed idyllically in a small park with a pond, the building sports a huge glass dome that houses “in orbit”, a walk-in net installation by Tomás Saraceno. Unfortunately, I haven’t brought any trekking shoes and am only allowed to look at this piece of art from the outside. I would recommend that to anyone who isn’t entirely free from vertigo, too. 25 meters above the safe ground, an organic construct made of safety nets and huge PVC balls winds its way across several levels. In addition to the installation, the K21 also features contemporary art by artists such as Ai Weiwei, Wolfgang Tillmans, and Simone Nieweg. A sound installation by Chemnitz artist Carsten Nicolai is particularly fascinating for me, with a black and white grid pattern that literally seems to dance through the sounds in the room.
The old town’s K20 is the second building of the North Rhine-Westphalia Art Collection. As the name suggests, it houses works from the 20th century. Gerhard Richter, Man Ray, Max Ernst, Marc Rothko, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Helen Frankenthaler, and Carmen Herrera are just a of the few names found in this extensive collection. I really love it when museums mix up artists and styles to place them in new contexts. There is nothing more inspiring to me. The paintings of artist Etel Adnan, whose colours I find particularly fascinating, are probably the ones that hold my attention the longest.
Eventually, my stomach demands attention and I return to the Schlossplatz, where Restaurant Schwan’s persuasive chef talks me into trying a vegan meatball with carrot-potato vegetables and arugula oil. As it turns out, that’s exactly what I needed after such a long day: It’s pleasure food for the soul. I’d love to have this sensationally nutty arugula oil by the gallon to go, please, too!
My last morning keeps me near the hotel, in Düsseldorf’s creative district of Flingern that is known for its cosy cafés and cool shops off the beaten track. Following a brief detour for an apple-cinnamon bun at Bäckerei Bulle, I let myself drift along the popular Ackerstraße, where the shops keep outdoing each other in their beauty. The “Aest. Conceptstore” that carries mainly young brands from Copenhagen and Paris gives me the opportunity for a brief chat with owner Katharina Meerkamp, who has some wonderful advice for me. “The Golden Rabbit”, a store just for fancy gardening items is just a few doors down the street from there. I spend some more time browsing the colourful stationery at “Rikiki” before enjoying a break with coffee and cake at “Café Hüftgold”. The name is the game here, as the range tempts me to eat as much as I can. Still, I do need to leave a little room in my stomach since I still plan to eat my way through Japan this evening.
“Little Tokyo” is located around Immermannstraße. It’s Europe’s third-largest Japanese community. Apart from innumerable Japanese restaurants, it is teeming with specialised shops for Japanese porcelain, Manga comic stores, and tea shops. I join the “Sushi, Sake, and Japanese Lifestyle” tour that teaches me plenty about the history of the Japanese in Düsseldorf and their culture. We try Melon Pan, Onigiri, and, of course, Japanese rice wine. We visit the famous Hotel Nikko and a Japanese supermarket. For about two hours I feel that I have been spirited away across the world even though I have never left Düsseldorf. By the time we are done, the sun has finally come out and I can stroll down the Rhine promenade one last time while enjoying a mochi, a sweet from the Japanese supermarket. Japan can be found on the Rhine, at least in Düsseldorf.
Author: Nina Hüpen-Bestendonk – City trip, long-distance travel, or short trip: Nina Hüpen-Bestendonk just loves taking pictures. Hailing from the Lower Rhine region, she has 30 cameras to help her record her journeys on her online blog Smaracuja in pictures, texts, and small illustrations.