Hip urban hang-outs and shopping in NRW
Shopping with a difference in the trendiest neighbourhoods
Throughout NRW, new urban concepts are evolving and giving rise to hip spaces to hang out or get creative. Here is an overview of the districts where galleries, artist-run spaces and designer shops are flourishing.
Away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, trendy gathering places and creative hubs have emerged in certain districts of major cities like Cologne, Düsseldorf, Essen, Dortmund and Bochum. Offering a cross-generational appeal, the vibe is youthful, cosmopolitan and cultured. Here you will find bijou independent boutiques, stores selling hand-made jewellery and all manner of specialist items, and tastefully decorated pubs and cafés. A real mixture of people can be spotted, from singles, couples and families to business owners, artists and bon vivants.
The Belgian Quarter in Cologne is a name recognised far and wide. Several designers have set up their studios here in restored townhouses and handsome old buildings. Small boutiques specialising in particular fashion labels sit alongside the informal cafés, restaurants and bars which give the area its special charm and draw people in for a leisurely stroll or relaxed wining and dining. Shoppers attracted to the unconventional – from vintage furniture to one-off fashion pieces – will also find themselves at home in the district of Ehrenfeld. A magnet for students, culture vultures and creative types in particular, it is now drawing in new groups of people thanks to the regular night-time flea markets and street food festivals organised on the former freight railway yard. Not far away, the artist Odo Rumpf has created an unusual focal point for cultural activity: the Free State of Odonien. Movers and shakers in culture, the arts and civil society are all welcome at this unique mix of open-air studio, workshop, events venue and cultural centre to develop their ideas and share their experiences with other creative thinkers. Parties and concerts are also regularly staged in the lushly planted beer garden with its outlandish metal sculptures.
Small shops selling fashion, jewellery and accessories
The Flingern-Nord and Unterbilk districts in Düsseldorf are also known for their hip, cosmopolitan vibe. Traditionally an affordable and thus popular neighbourhood for students and artists, the narrow streets around the “shopping miles” of Ackerstraße and Lorettostraße are now home to many independent stores selling fashion, jewellery and personal and household accessories. Taking place three times a year, the “Loretto 360 Grad” event is a good time to visit the Unterbilk district. At the site of the former steelworks in Flingern, meanwhile, the monthly “Street Food Thursday” event gives local food vendors a chance to showcase their delicious offerings. Another insider tip for fans of creative design is the Oberkassel district. A wander through the streets lined with many fine old buildings can lead visitors to some unique discoveries before they round off the day in one of the international restaurants or cafés with views of the Rhine.
Retro chic on Essen’s “Rü” street
In Essen, the locals affectionately refer to Rüttenscheider Straße as “Rü”. This is another good hunting ground for unusual one-off pieces – whether new or pre-loved. As well as the work of regional designers, there are also many second-hand stores with rails of flared trousers and petticoats for fans of retro fashion. The centrally located and culturally diverse Südviertel (south quarter) is also worth checking out. The “Unperfekthaus” is a popular meeting place for the creative scene in Essen. As the name suggests, this is where people come to hang out and create new things. Associations and groups use the building for meetings, individuals can book the venue for parties, young artists have a place to sell their pictures, entrepreneurs can present their wares and musicians can freely jam to anyone who will listen.
Pubs, a cinema, art and creativity all come together in the Bermuda3eck area of Bochum. This hip city-centre locale is especially popular with students for its live music, fashion and dance shows and numerous pubs serving everything from cocktails to craft beers. There is even opportunity for adrenaline-filled activity in Bermuda3eck. Skate fans can head to the roof of Spot Store, a trendy retailer of streetwear and skateboarding gear, to find a 400 m2 skate park complete with varied obstacles and a great view of Bochum.
A platform for design in the Ruhr Area
Staying in the Ruhr Area, Kreuzviertel is known as the hip and happening district in Dortmund. Buildings dating from the birth of the city’s industrial age are now home to trendy pubs and small shops where lucky browsers can find everything from exclusive furniture to local coal mine-themed souvenirs to a novelty dish-cloth. Design with a local “Ruhr Area” flavour is promoted at the Heimatdesign shop in Dortmund. Here, young designers have an opportunity to present their product concepts to the buying public. As well as magazines and books, the shop sells furniture and interior design as well as accessories and fashion.
Finally we come to Bergisches Land. The city of Solingen is known for its quality knives and designer homewares, while Wuppertal’s historic Luisenviertel can make the proud boast of being “the district with the highest density of pubs, cafés and hairdressers on the planet”. In another corner of Wuppertal, a unique creative world is taking shape: a Utopian city in and around the former Mirke railway station. This is where people come together in the “city lab” to develop visionary and society-focused ideas for a creative city. The Utopiastadt venue also regularly hosts cinema productions and premieres for new works of literature and computer games. Other resources include workshops and know-how for “engineers without borders” and recycling and upcycling initiatives.