A visitor's guide to Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf sits on the River Rhine in west Germany, close to the border with the Netherlands. The capital of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, it may not be as famous as a tourist destination as its Rhineland cousin Cologne, but at less than four hours drive from Calais it is a great option for a continental short break.
History of Düsseldorf
The city of Düsseldorf grew out of the settlements established at the point where the River Düssel flows into the Rhine, and it wasn’t until 1288 that the Count of Berg granted town status to the community following a bloody fight with the Archbishop of Cologne. The two cities remain rivals on the Rhine to this day, although in recent times this rivalry is more likely to be contested on the sports field rather than the battlefield.
Soon a thriving market square sprang up on the banks of the Rhine at Düsseldorf, protected by the city walls, and in 1380 the dukes of Berg moved their seat to the town and it became the most important centre of the Duchy of Berg. The following centuries saw many ups and downs in the city, from the flourishing under Jan Wellem to the destruction and poverty of the Napoleonic Wars.
By the second half of the 19th century the city had grown dramatically as its fortunes were revived thanks to the Industrial Revolution and thousands of people flocked there for work. Bombed during the Second World War, the city was later captured by the US Army, and in 1946 Düsseldorf was made the capital of the new federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Today the city is an important centre for the German economy and a major city of the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region.
Five things to do in Düsseldorf
So you are ready to start exploring Düsseldorf. But what are the ‘must see’ attractions that should be on every visitor’s itinerary? Here are five suggestions of things to do during your time in Düsseldorf - and a map to help you find your way around the city.
The Altstadt, Düsseldorf’s old town, is the first stop for most visitors to the city. Not only is it home to some of the city’s most pleasing architecture - including some fine old churches - but it is also the place to find some of the city’s cultural gems.
Those wanting to take the weight off their feet and relax over a drink and bite to eat will certainly not be disappointed by the Altstadt. More than 260 pubs line the ‘longest bar in the world’, varying from local breweries serving regional beers to cocktail bars offering many tasty concoctions.
Rhine Embankment Promenade
Planned by Niklaus Fritschi and built between 1990 and 1997, during summer the promenade along the bank of the Rhine brings a splash of Mediterranean lifestyle to Düsseldorf. Before the promenade was built the city was cut off from the river by the busy B1, which carried more than 55,000 vehicles every day, but by spending millions on this project the road was taken underground.
Today the people of Düsseldorf and visitors to the city can stroll along the riverside promenade, which stretches for around 1.5km, from Oberkassel bridge past the Altstadt to the parliament buildings of North Rhine-Westphalia. The steps on Burgplatz have become a popular meeting place, while the many bars and restaurants along the promenade are perfect for sitting to watch the river traffic on the mighty Rhine roll past.
Benrath Palace and Park
Built in a southern district of Düsseldorf in the 18th century as a residence for Elector Carl Theodor, the palace at Benrath is widely considered to be one of the era’s most beautiful homes and gardens. Planned and built by Nicolas de Pigage over almost 20 years, the palace and park date from the late baroque period and combine art, landscape and nature. The gardens are an ideal place to wander and relax. The palace is also home to three museums featuring exhibitions on subjects such as landscape art and natural science.
Boat tour on the Rhine
There are few better ways to see waterfront cities than by boat, and a cruise on the Rhine is the perfect way to appreciate the panorama of Düsseldorf. Setting off from the pier at the Burgplatz, the boats travel down the river to the MedienHafen area of the city and back. Throughout the tour information in German and English will help give you an even clearer understanding of the city’s landmarks and their history. For more information about prices and the times of the tours visit the city tourist board website.
Uerige Bar and Brewery
The Altstadt is rightly famous for its many beer houses, and Uerige is one of the oldest. Since Since 1862 the brewery has been creating excellent beers right in the heart of Düsseldorf’s old town. You will often find drinkers happily supping beer on the street outside the historic building, while inside visitors can enjoy the traditional dish of roasted pork knuckle cooked in spices while they enjoy their drinks.
Düsseldorf is located on the River Rhine and is around 250 miles from the port at Calais. Getting there is easy if you book one of the frequent cross-Channel ferries to France, with Düsseldorf being slightly less than four hours away by car if you travel on one of the Dover ferries to Calais.
MyFerryLink offers up to 16 sailing between Dover and Calais every day and you can book your crossing from £19 one way by visiting our booking page on the website or by calling 0844 2482 100.
You can find out more about Düsseldorf on the city tourist board website.