Things to do in Dusseldorf, Germany

Stuart Forster takes a look at art museums, shopping and other things to do and see in Dusseldorf, Germany.

If you’re planning a trip to Germany and looking to add a hip, multi-faceted destination to your itinerary, then you may find Dusseldorf is worth a visit.

Over recent years this city by the River Rhine has been quietly winning positive reviews for its luxury shopping and innovative architecture. The city celebrates its openness and cultural diversity, facets that are reflected in Dusseldorf’s influential contemporary art scene.

Is it Dusseldorf or Düsseldorf?

Germans balance a pair of umlauts over the ‘u’ of this city’s name, so don’t be surprised that you’ll see Düsseldorf written on signs and departure boards when you’re in the country. Over 590,000 people live here, the capital of North Rhine-Westphalia. With more than 17.8 million inhabitants it’s by far Germany’s most populous state.

Locals suggest the exchange of ideas from so many minds and the multiculturality of the region helps account for the vibrancy of their city. They also joke that staying ahead of neighbouring Cologne, with whose residents they share a long-standing rivalry, is driving them onward to bigger and better things.

You’re also likely to hear proud boasts, about how Dusseldorf’s public transport infrastructure, a broad range of entertainment and sporting opportunities, plus parkland and riverside spaces means it’s ranked as one of the most liveable cities on the planet. The consulting firm Mercer currently rates Dusseldorf sixth on their global quality of living index.

Germany’s sixth most popular city

If you like to consult facts and figures before travelling, you might be interested in knowing Dusseldorf was the sixth most popular city in Germany last year. The city totted up a total of 1.85 million overnight stays by international visitors.

Many more guests spent a day in the city before moving on to stay elsewhere. Estimates suggest more than four million foreign visitors walked the streets of Dusseldorf in 2014.

Cafes and restaurants in Dusseldorf’s Altstadt

The narrow streets of the Altstadt (Old Town) are a popular draw for the region’s residents as well as sightseers from further afield. The lanes of the historic city centre are dotted with 260 restaurants and bars, meaning it is both literally and metaphorically a good place to get an initial taste of Dusseldorf.

After strolling through the Altstadt turn onto the Königsallee, known locally simply as the KÖ, the city’s main shopping artery. In addition to flagship stores of luxury fashion houses and the Galeria Kaufhof department store at Königsallee 1, you’ll be able to dip in and out of numerous cafes and chic restaurants.

Shopping on the Königsallee

The Königsallee was built around a moat and originally conceived as a residential area. You can still see the moat and fountains at the heart of a park in which the leaves of chestnut trees provide shade during the summer months. In addition to venerable buildings with stone facades, you can head into airy, contemporary malls.

Stilwerk, a lifestyle and fashion hub, and Kö-Bogen, a luxury retail centre with an eye-catching façade designed by Studio Daniel Libeskind, are just two of the edifices encapsulating the modernity and vibrancy of Dusseldorf.

The largest fair on the Rhine

If you’re visiting during July and want to enjoy a taste of regional heritage then head to the Größte Kirmes am Rhein, literally the “largest funfair on the Rhine.” The annual festival with a funfair took place for the 114th time between 17 and 26 July 2015. Visitors were able to ride carousels, roller coasters and view the Altstadt from the revolving vantage point of the big wheel. DJs and musicians perform on the site, helping to create a fun, entertaining environment that reaches across age groups to draw well over four million visitors each year.

Currywurst and roast almonds

This broad appeal makes the Largest Fair on the Rhine the fourth biggest city festival in Germany. You’ll be able to taste a selection of snacks. The aroma of roast nuts drifts temptingly from the stalls they are prepared and you can also grab freshly made fish sandwiches and Currywurst (sausage smothered in ketchup and served with a dusting of curry powder). Currywurst is by far the most popular snack in the country and is usually served with a portion of French fries.

Along the bank of the Rhine, you can visit city landmarks such as the twisted steeple of the 14th century St Lambertus Church and the Castle Tower. On summer evenings you’ll see hundreds of residents out enjoying the evening sunshine on the promenade along the waterfront.

The best places to photograph in Dusseldorf

If you want memorable photos of the Dusseldorf skyline you have the option of including the Rheinturm, the telecommunications tower that rises more than 240 metres over the city, or heading up to the observation platform or booking a table in the tower’s revolving restaurant to point your camera down at the city.

Within it you’ll see Wilhelm Marx House, designed by Wilhelm Kreis and built between 1922 and 1924. By today’s standards, the 57-metre-tall building may not seem overly remarkable, yet it’s regarded as Germany’s first skyscraper.

If you appreciate modern architecture then stroll along to the Media Harbour, where you’ll see designs such as the striking Neuer Zollhof buildings by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry. The district is regarded as the city’s creative hub and a pleasant place to wander if you want to gain an impression of the positive buzz palpable in Dusseldorf at present.

Dusseldorf’s Academy of Fine Arts

Creativity, though, has long been associated with the city, whose Academy of Fine Arts is associated with many outstanding names, including Joseph Beuys, Andreas Gursky and Gerhard Richter. If you enjoy visiting independent art galleries then it makes sense to check local listings for the latest shows. You also have a number of art museums to choose from.

The Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen has three exhibition spaces showing works from the 20th and 21st centuries. If you’re pressed for time but want to see artworks by the likes of Max Beckmann, Wassily Kandinsky and Andy Warhol then prioritise a visit to the K20 gallery at Krabbeplatz.

With an upbeat international atmosphere, there’s much to explore in Dusseldorf, making it a good entry point to Germany and well worth exploring during a stopover or over a weekend.

Further information

For more information see the Dusseldorf Tourism and Germany Travel websites. Find out more about the city in this promotional video, Dusseldorf – Come Closer and Etramping’s guide to Dusseldorf.

Both of the photos illustrating this feature were provided courtesy of Dusseldorf Marketing (© Düsseldorf Marketing & Tourismus GmbH – photographer U. Otte.) The headline image shows the city’s Media Harbour.

If you enjoy art, take a look at the Kunsthalle Dusseldorf website for exhibition news.

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The Kögraben in Dusseldorf in autumn. Photo provided courtesy of Dusseldorf Marketing. (© Düsseldorf Marketing & Tourismus GmbH – photographer U. Otte.)
The Kögraben in Dusseldorf in autumn. (© Düsseldorf Marketing & Tourismus GmbH – photographer U. Otte.)


  • Cherry

    February 5, 2016 at 15:37 Reply

    Thank you for sharing another fun experience of travelling and the art of shopping. I am really in love in discovering new places and shop in to different establishments. I already have a lot of places visited locally here in my country and I am looking forward to experience it abroad. After I read your article, Dusseldorf will be part of my list and soon to see the beauty of the place. I am very glad that I’ve found this article from you. Please keep on posting.

    • Stuart

      February 8, 2016 at 17:07 Reply

      Glad you enjoyed the post and wishing you a fun time in Germany.

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