On the fringes of the city, in an area often overlooked by tourists in favour of iconic Düsseldorf sights such as the Altstadt (often referred to as the longest bar in the world), the rotating Rheinturm, and the MedienHafen (Media Harbour), Kaiserpfalz Kaiserswerth is an Imperial Palace which was once owned by Barbarossa. Other royal residencies over the years include stays by Henry V, Henry VI, and Conrad III, among other notable guests.
The oldest area of Düsseldorf, Kaiserswerth
Set alongside the River Rhine, this area of the world is well-known for its impressive castles, and the entire Rhine region is characterised by its stone fortresses rising up above the river banks. Many date back centuries and so you can’t visit Germany and not see at least one or two of its ancient ruins!
Kaiserswerth is the oldest area of Düsseldorf and is home to a hospital where Florence Nightingale once worked in, as well as countless cobbled lanes. Lying to the north of the German city, the district is also one of the best places to spot pretty cherry blossom come springtime, as well as to escape the hustle and bustle of busy city life.
Where Kaiserpfalz Kaiserswerth now sits, a fortress of some kind or another has lain in a prominent position on the edge of the Rhine for well over a thousand years. After all, its strategic position means that it’s the best place from which to defend the city from potential invaders. In some parts of the ruins, walls are up to 15 feet (4.5 metres) thick, and you can only imagine how impressive the castle must have been during its heyday.
A brief history of Kaiserpfalz Kaiserswerth
Documents suggest that a castle has stood in Kaiserswerth since 1016 when records show that the fortress was gifted to Count Palatine Ezzo. However, when the count’s son died with no son just a decade or two later, the castle returned to the Kingdom. Later on in the 11th-century, the fortifications were transformed into an Imperial Palace when Emperor Heinrich III made major improvements to the older building.
During the 12th-century, the castle was further improved and expanded under the watch of King Barbarossa. He had designated Kaiserswerth a city where taxes for using the Rhine waterways were collected and so he wanted to ensure that the city would be well guarded in case of invasion. Nearly all of the ruins which can be seen and visited today date back from Barbarossa’s time.
Over the following centuries, many groups disputed over control of this part of the Rhine, including the ancient settlement of Kaiserswerth. The area’s prime position meant that whoever controlled the city, would control access to the mighty River Rhine and beyond. Kaiserpfalz Kaiserswerth was eventually destroyed during the 17th and 18th-centuries by various battles and sieges.
During the 19th and 20th-centuries, the castle was used as a kind of ‘ready-made’ quarry for those wishing to get cheap and easily accessible stone to build their houses. As a result, many of the houses and buildings around Kaiserswerth are constructed of stones taken from the former palace! Today, the ruins are owned and maintained by the City of Kaiserwerth.
Kaiserpfalz Kaiserswerth Address | Burgallee, 40489 Düsseldorf, Germany
In order to get to Kaiserpfalz Kaiserswerth, you’ll need to give yourself at least a couple of hours or so to do the round-trip from Düsseldorf city centre. In order to reach the castle, take the U79 from the Düsseldorf Central station (Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof) towards Meiderich Bf. Alternatively, you could cycle from the city centre, right out to Kaiserswerth. After all, the city is a bike-friendly one, and last year Düsseldorf was even home to the starting point of the Tour de France!
During the daytime, trains depart roughly every fifteen minutes and so even if you miss one, not to worry as there will soon be another! Once aboard the U79, the journey time is approximately fifteen minutes before you’ll descend at Kittelbachstraße. From there, it’s a ten-minute walk through the historic houses and small streets which meander their way through Kaiserswerth.
Kaiserpfalz Kaiserswerth is free to visit (it is only a few crumbling walls, after all) and is open to the public on a daily basis between 9 AM and 6 PM. That being said, when I ventured out mid-afternoon midweek last spring, the gates to the castle were closed, and so I could only admire the palace from the outside (though the gates are quite low so you can still easily snap some photos!).
Just next to the Imperial Palace, on the banks of the River Rhine, Galerie Burghof is said to be one of the best eats in town. In the summer months, you’ll also find a beautiful beer garden there where you can enjoy your traditional German beverage while watching the water flow by.