Things to Do in Düsseldorf
The traditional heart of the city and one of Germany’s most famous nightlife districts, Dusseldorf’s Old Town (Altstadt) is where visitors spend the majority of their time, home to many of the city’s top attractions. As well as the scenic Rheinuferpromenade running along the waterfront and the famous Königsallee shopping boulevard just a couple of blocks east, highlights of the Old Town include the Burgplatz, with its landmark castle tower and unique City Monument; the Neander-church and Old City Hall (Rathaus), two of the only buildings still standing after WWII; and a number of museums, including the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen and the Filmmuseum. The historic district is at its most atmospheric in the evening hours when locals and tourists gather to drink and dance at “the longest bar in the world” – the nickname given to the almost 300 bars, bier-halles and pubs built so close together that the bar counters are said to run from one venue to the next.
Dusseldorf’s historic harbor was given an impressive facelift during the 1990s, transforming the bleak silos and shipping warehouses, into a lively cultural hub and one of the city’s most stylish districts. Taking its name from the abundance of media and communications company headquarters that sprung up in the area, the new Media Harbor is characterized by its ultra-modern architecture, and the glass-fronted office blocks, looming Rheinturm TV Tower and wave-inspired Gehry buildings form a sleek silhouette along the waterfront.
As well as being the postcard image of modern-day Dusseldorf, the Media Harbor is also home to a selection of upmarket restaurants, bistros and bars and offers a glamorous setting for the city’s most exclusive nightclubs.
With its two-tier walkways tracing the scenic Rhine waterfront and dotted with benches, grassy picnic areas and food vendors, walking the Rheinuferpromenade (Rhine River promenade) not only offers a tranquil retreat from the busy city center, but it also links many of Dusseldorf’s top attractions.
Start your walk beneath the Burgplatz castle tower, then follow the riverside paths through Dusseldorf Old Town, passing the Old Harbor (Alter Hafen); the Marketplatz, home to the historic City Hall (Rathaus) and the City Museum (Stadt Museum), before reaching the grassy Rheinpark, where you can look out over the striking waterfront of the nearby Media Harbor. As well as being popular with joggers, cyclists and roller-bladers, the promenade also hosts a number of seasonal events, including an open-air cinema, exhibitions and markets.
With its grand Renaissance style façade and clock tower crawling with ivy, the Rathaus, or City Hall, is among Dusseldorf’s most attractive buildings, as well as being one of its oldest. Dating back to the 16th century, the Rathaus is one of a handful of buildings that remained intact after the WWII bombings, and forms an eye-catching backdrop to the city’s annual Christmas markets.
The most memorable landmark of the Rathaus is the bronze equestrian statue of Elector Jan Wellem, an iconic sculpture designed by Gabriel de Grupello in 1711, which now takes center stage at the front of the building. Inside, visitors can explore the ornately decorated council hall, the Jan-Wellem hall and the Lord Mayor’s reception hall, renowned for its beautiful ceiling paintings by artists Domenico Zanetti and Johannes Spilberg.
Towering 234 meters over the modern Media Harbor, the futuristic Rheinturm telecommunications tower is Dusseldorf’s tallest building and most distinctive landmark. Built in 1982, the tower quickly became one of the city’s top tourist attractions, with its 172-meter high observation platform offering dramatic panoramic views along the Rhine riverfront, the nearby Old Town (Altstadt) and the sea of high-rises that form Dusseldorf’s commercial district.
High-speed elevators take visitors to the top of the tower, where there is also a glass-fronted revolving restaurant, but the views are equally mesmerizing from the outside, with the illuminated tower also serving as the world’s largest digital clock.
With its rows of designer boutiques and luxury department stores bordering a serene tree-lined canal, Konigsallee (King's Alley) is surely one of Germany’s prettiest boulevards, as well as being Dusseldorf’s busiest shopping street. First laid out back in 1802, Konigsallee was originally named Kastanienallee (Chestnut Avenue), but was renamed in honor of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV in 1848, as an apology for the notorious incident in which Dusseldorfers bombarded his carriage with horse manure.
Today, the famous shopping street is best known by its nickname ‘Kö’ and is a popular hangout for both locals and tourists, offering a huge range of shops, restaurants and cafes to suit all tastes. Along with an impressive number of flagship designer outlets and jewelry boutiques, the Kö is home to the Sevens mall, the Kaufhof Kö department store and a number of 5-star hotels, while many shoppers can be found escaping the crowds for a stroll beneath the chestnut trees.
Sitting on the banks of the Rhine River, the Museum Kunstpalast first opened in 1913 but was given a facelift by architect Oswald Matthias Ungers at the backend of the last century and reopened in 2001. Its five permanent collections embrace European sculpture from medieval times, stellar Renaissance and Baroque paintings such as the acclaimed Assumption of the Virgin by Rubens, and contemporary art from Expressionism to modern times. The museum also holds more than 70,000 pieces of graphic art and drawings, including sketches by Raphael and Kirchner.
One of the biggest draws of the Kunstpalast is the exquisite Hentrich Glass Collection, which traces the story of European glassware from the early Roman period right up to hand-blown pieces by the likes of Art Nouveau supremo Emile Gallé and Czech glassblower Stanislav Libenský. It also home to major league temporary exhibitions including Dalí, Warhol and Miró.
North Rhine-Westphalia came into being after Germany was restructured following WWII, and with more than 18 million people it is Germany’s most populous state. The state’s parliament building is the first completely new parliament building to be built in the history of the German Federal Republic. The parliament building (Landtag), which opened in 1988, represents the first time a German parliament designed its future home itself.
The building was designed to be comparatively modest and is more noted for its interesting shape than its size. Right angles were consciously avoided. The circular meeting chamber is located in the center of the building. Four rooms for the parliamentary parties form a circle off the chamber, with a lobby that both connects and separates the spaces. A great way to see the interesting architecture of the Landtag is from above. The Rheinturm provides sweeping views from its deck, and there are various cafes, bars, and a revolving restaurant.