From walks along the Rhine to drinking beer in the old town to checking out an art scene that could rival many capital cities, there’s something for everyone to see and do in this vibrant city. Here’s a quick guide to Duesseldorf, including the best things to do in Düsseldorf and what you must see!
- Why visit Düsseldorf on your next Germany trip?
- Best things to do in Düsseldorf
- Altstadt (Old Town)
- Sample Altbier in the ‘longest bar in the world’
- Medienhafen (Media Harbour)
- Explore highlights of the River Rhine (walk along the Rhine)
- Green Spaces in Duesseldorf
- Düsseldorf Street Art and Museums
- Rheinturm (Rhine Tower)
- Kaiserswerth District
- Cycle around the city
- Eat in the Schlossturm
- Sample local German cuisine
- Things to know before visiting Düsseldorf for the first time
- Where to stay in Düsseldorf
- Guide to Dusseldorf: Getting to Düsseldorf and Travelling around the City!
Why visit Düsseldorf on your next Germany trip?
Old meets new, and trendy meets quirky in the Western German city of Düsseldorf. Food, culture, and history: it turns out that Düsseldorf may well have it all! Oodles of history, plenty of good weather and world-famous beer: the city Dusseldorf is located in Western Germany and is the capital of North Rhine-Westphalia. It’s a city of paradoxes; old and new co-exist side by side, each element demanding your attention in equal measure.
Best things to do in Düsseldorf
Altstadt (Old Town)
“You’ll never be lost in Dusseldorf,” our guide cheerfully told us as we were walking down the Rhine. The city may be large and filled with green spaces but many of the ‘must-see hotspots’ are concentrated in the area directly around the Rhine. One such location is the Aldstadt (literally ‘old town’).
Full of history, interesting architecture and plenty of bars, the old town is situated in the very heart of the city and is a hub of activity. So-called ‘the longest bar in the world’ (längste Theke der Welt) because there are up to 300 bars, restaurants, and clubs within a 0.5 km radius surrounding the Town Hall, highlights of this area include the Basilica, Rhine Tower, Old Town Hall (Rathaus in German) and the Shipping Museum.
If you want to experience the best of old town Duesseldorf on a more local level, then you might consider booking a guided tour like this one.
Sample Altbier in the ‘longest bar in the world’
This copper drink originates in the area and has become one of the city’s most iconic exports. The name ‘altbier’ (‘old beer‘ in English) comes not from the age of the ingredients used but the style of recipe. The beer is fermented at a warm-ish temperature and it’s top-fermented (as opposed to bottom fermented).
Although I first encountered altbier almost as soon as we arrived (within the first hour at lunch!), I found that one of the best ways to experience the beer- as well as the history- was by embarking on the ‘Altbier Safari‘.
On the tour, we visited a number of bars, some of which have breweries on site and managed to drink plenty of beer (I’m talking more than five!) Other beer tastings and tours you can book include this well-reviewed 3-Hour Beer Tour with Local Dishes and this 2-hour German Tour through the Old Town & Beer Tastings.
Also interesting to note is that as soon as your beer glass is verging on empty, someone will come around and top it up for you. This will happen until you firmly place your coaster on top of your glass, indicating that you’re just about done with beer drinking activities for the day!
Medienhafen (Media Harbour)
Just a short fifteen-minute walk from the Old Town of Dusseldorf sits the Media Harbour. The high rise buildings and quirky architecture are barely a kilometre from the older part of town but are in stark contrast to the 18th Century architecture (see what I mean about the old and new existing side by side!)
Once an important shipping port, the harbour is now home to many media, fashion and design offices (hence the name). Architects from across Germany regularly compete for the chance to design a new, innovative and iconic building to sit in the post-modern architecture harbour.
Current buildings include a trio of post-modern houses designed by famous architect Frank Gehry (he also designed the dancing house in Prague). On the other side of the harbour, there’s a public area complete with ‘beach bar’.
The Media Harbour is also the perfect spot to soak up some sun and enjoy views across the media harbour and across to the city. Finally, if you want to experience the Media Harbour in more depth, then this well-reviewed MedienHafen Tour is an hour and a half long walk around with a guide.
Explore highlights of the River Rhine (walk along the Rhine)
Aside from the old town and the Rhineturm, one of the more iconic sights of Duesseldorf is the River Rhine itself. Although you can obviously stroll alongside the waters, some of the more unusual and alternative ways to enjoy the city include going on a Segway tour like this one or booking a panoramic cruise like this one.
On a sunny afternoon, there is nothing more pleasant than taking an hour or two to stroll along the banks of the Rhine. The river winds its way through the city, taking you on a tour of old meets new. A walk along the Rhine will guarantee you the chance to wander on past the Altstadt and right on through to the Media Harbour.
Green Spaces in Duesseldorf
The city is packed full of green spaces. And I can tell you that visiting Dusseldorf was a welcome reprieve from the sometimes claustrophobic nature of living in London! Although the population of the city hovers around 600,000, parts of Dusseldorf such as the Old Town and even some of the park spaces made the city feel a lot friendlier and smaller.
Düsseldorf Street Art and Museums
Dusseldorf well and truly lives up to its name as a cultural center and hub for museums of many different interests. There are quite literally dozens of museums scattered across the city. From the ‘Kunst im Tunnel’- KIT- (modern artists often display contemporary works in this quirky underground space), to the Museum Kunstpalast (a fine art museum which regularly displays exhibitions and works from artists such as Miró, Dalí, Warhol and Caravaggio), to a ceramic museum, there’s plenty to see and do for everyone.
Plus, if you want to see particularly good street art, then you’ve come to the right city! The street art around Dusseldorf rivals that of much larger cities and regularly attracts worldwide art enthusiasts.
If you’re searching for the best, then one district you absolutely have to visit is Flingern! In recent years, the area has become known for its nightlife, Techno Music, and incredible outdoor artwork. And the best place in the area to see the street art? Kiefernstraße! Literally, every single house on the street is painted in a thought provoking/ colourful or quirky way.
Rheinturm (Rhine Tower)
The world famous Rheinturm is iconic for a reason. Not only does it hold a Guiness World Record, but it towers high above the skyline of the city, demanding your attention. And, if you’re not afraid of heights, is there a better way to experience a city for the first time than seeing it from a bird’s eye perspective?
The tower rises up above the city skyline to a height of over 240m. This means that the view from the top is absolutely phenomenal (and a little bit scary!). The view from the top is made even scarier by the fact that the windows lean outwards at the top. What I mean by this is that you can literally lean against the windows facing downwards and it feels a little like the moment before you go bungee jumping!
To be honest, my hands are sweating at the mere memory of this. After all, I couldn’t go up the tower and not lean against the windows. Plus, the view is not all that the Rheinturm offers. This tower is so famous that it’s in the Guinness Book of World records!
At night, there is a series of lights on the side of the tower facing the Old Town which allow you to tell the time. Due to the tower’s impressive height, this means that it’s also the largest digital clock in the entire world.
Of all the places to visit in this guide to Dusseldorf, Kaiserswerth may well be my favourite! Kaiserswerth is an adorable district on the fringes of Dusseldorf, located around half an hour from the town centre (there’s a direct metro line from the main train station and trains depart every 20 minutes or so throughout the day).
The district is also one of the oldest and most historic parts of the city; there are plenty of buildings from the 1700s still standing. Here you can find the ruins of the once grand 12th-Century Castle Barbarossa. The walls are up to 4.5 meters thick in some places!
Located right next to the Rhine, it’s close by to a lovely little beer garden where you can enjoy a cool altbier on a sunny day, whilst looking out over the river. Kaiserswerth is also home to the Deaconess’ Institue of Kaiserwerth, famously where Florence Nightingale worked! This area is the perfect place to escape the city for a couple of hours while soaking up some history.
Cycle around the city
There’s no doubt about it, the best way to explore this city is by bike. If you’re only looking to visit just the Altstadt, then travelling by foot will suffice. However, if you’re thinking of going further afield to explore other parts of the city (and I highly recommend you do this), then a bike is an absolute necessity.
Eat in the Schlossturm
One of my favourite moments of my lovely, albeit brief, weekend in the city of Düsseldorf was eating at the top of the Schlossturm. Here, you can enjoy traditional Rhenish dishes on the top floor of the city’s Shipping Museum. Alternatively, there are vegetarian options on offer. If I’m honest though, what makes it a must see Düsseldorf attraction is that view…
Sample local German cuisine
Beer aside, Duesseldorf is also home to a wide array of cafés and restaurants that you’ll love checking out while in the city. Local dishes include Halve Hahn (a vegetarian dish that consists of rye bread with butter and cheese), Westfälischer Pickert (a potato pancake), and Grünkohlessen (kale, baked sweet potatoes, and sausages). Germany is also known for its amazing bakeries and so if you enjoy baked goods and breadstuffs be sure to check out a local bakery during your trip to Düsseldorf.
Things to know before visiting Düsseldorf for the first time
With many cobbled lanes throughout Kaiserswerth, you’ll want to wear comfortable walking shoes. Furthermore, though most people speak English, you’ll want to learn a few words of the local language, in this case, German. Bring along a simple phrasebook like this one to help you get by.
Next, Germany, like much of mainland Europe, uses type C and F. This means that if you’re travelling from the US, Canada, the UK, and many other countries, then you’ll need to purchase a travel adaptor. This all in one adaptor contains USB ports and works with several different plugs.
Where to stay in Düsseldorf
As you can imagine from a city of hundreds of thousands of residents, there’s no shortage of places to stay in Düsseldorf. With this being said, the best accommodation fills up fast, especially during peak season (i.e. summer) or during special events. As such, I highly recommend booking your hostel, hotel, or B&B as soon as you know your travel dates. Check the best accommodation rates for Duesseldorf here.
Guide to Dusseldorf: Getting to Düsseldorf and Travelling around the City!
Duesseldorf is a thriving city; an airport with as many destinations as a much larger one serves an ever-growing international population. What’s more, is that the airport is one of the closest to a city that I’ve ever seen; it’s just fifteen minutes by train from the city’s main station. A full guide to Düsseldorf transportation can be found here.
Once in Dusseldorf, it’s possible to see many of the more ‘touristic’ hotspots by foot, and of course, by bike. There is also the possibility of purchasing a Düsseldorf Card; valid for differing amounts of time. This pass also gives you unlimited rides of public transport in the city. I used one during my stay and found that it was incredibly helpful for getting around. Check card prices and availability here.
Otherwise, if you don’t want the discount card but still wish to explore the city via bus, then you can always book this Düsseldorf Hop-on Hop-off City Tour. The full route takes an hour and a half to complete, but the actual ticket is valid all day, meaning that you can explore the city’s many attractions as you wish. If you want to experience the city from another perspective, then you might consider purchasing this combi bus and River cruise ticket.
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