Düsseldorf, in the west of Germany, has only recently begun to emerge as a tourist destination. This means there’s a lot to do and see but your way won’t constantly be blocked by hordes of tourists as it so often is in more popular cities like Berlin or Frankfurt.
We’d planned to spend three days in Düsseldorf, and when we told people this the almost-universal response was “And how are you going to fill the other two days?” We were a little concerned that we might get bored, but in fact the reverse was true: we loved the city, and we ran out of time in a serious way. A week might have been enough, but three nights certainly wasn’t.
Of course, we had the advantage of staying with locals, who were happy to show us hidden spots and take us geocaching in unusual locations, but even so, there’s a lot to do in this small city. And if you’re unlucky enough to have just one day here, you can make it an excellent one.
Stop in at the tourist office and ask for a copy of the City Rally brochure. This excellent pamphlet is your guide to a great introductory tour of the city — but with a twist. At each of the stops, you’ll have to find the answer to a question printed in the brochure, and choose one of the three multi-choice answers. These each have a different letter of the alphabet beside it, and when you’ve finished the rally, you can use the letters to solve the word puzzle at the back of the pamphlet. Along the way you’ll see the main sights of the Düsseldorf city center and learn a bit about its history.
There are a lot of bars and restaurants to choose from in the city center, and most of them are filled with locals enjoying a quick bite during their lunch break. Not far from the Tourist Information office, where the City Rally starts and ends, is a cute salad and soup bar which has just three of each on offer each day — all freshly prepared and delicious, of course!
If you’re interested in visiting museums, you should definitely get the Düsseldorf Welcome Card. It comes in various denominations, but the 24-hour option costs just €9 and gives you unlimited access to the public transport network as well as free or discounted entry to a wide range of museums. If you activate your pass after lunch, you can continue to use it the next morning, which means you can avoid museum fatigue.
I’d recommend the Film Museum, and a short stop at the Ceramics museum nearby. Some of the others have odd opening hours, so check the times before you make a plan, but options include a city museum, a theatre museum, and a variety of art galleries. Save the aquarium for the morning because it’s a little out of the way, and it’s also one of the few options that opens before 11am (as we discovered at 10am one Saturday, as we headed out to make use of our Düsseldorf Welcome Pass…)
Take your pick of the many restaurants on offer. Choose traditional German fare like sausages and sauerkraut, or go international: Mexican, Italian, Chinese… there’s an impressive array to choose from. We went to a Japanese restaurant called Bento Box, where the sushi was good and the “Japanese curry” had a distinct German flavor.
Düsseldorf is famous for its altbier (old beer) a top-fermented ale that’s still produced on-site in several of the pubs in the city center — so it’s a perfect chance for a pub crawl. Just stand outside the pub and a waiter will come past with trays of smallish glasses, which cost €1.80 each — you’ll either have to pay on the spot or the waiter will mark your beermat and you pay your tab before you leave.
Start at the most popular bar, Zum Uerige in Bergerstraße, then head to Zum Schlüssel in nearby Bolkerstraße. A short walk will take you to Im Füchschen in Ratingerstraße, which also leaves you conveniently near the Rhine steps leading down from the Burgplatz to the Rhine river, which is a popular meeting place for young people. Pick up a bottle of altbier from a kiosk enroute, and end your day with the locals, enjoying a beer while looking out over the Rhine.