Capital of one of Germany´s largest federal states and the seventh largest city in the country, Dusseldorf bursts with world-class architecture, shopping and cultural offerings. It is also the town that I grew up in. But with so much to see and so little time, what are the must see´s and must do´s when visiting? Let me show you my 20 personal highlights (in alphabetical order) of not to be missed sites in and around Dusseldorf.
Andreaskirche (St. Andreas)
She could well stand in any Bavarian city or village considering the most opulent Southern German Baroque architecture that this Roman Catholic parish church right in the heart of the Dusseldorf Altstadt had been designed in. Constructed between 1622 and 1629, St. Andreas serves as a Monastery church for the Dominican order these days and is a festival for the eyes in terms of beauty and sacral splendor. Particularly the highly detailed stucco work can make one only imagine how much effort and passion its construction absorbed.
Probably the most popular of the 49 boroughs that Dusseldorf officially consists of is the so-called Altstadt, the “Old Town” if you translated it literally into German. Also referred to as the “longest bar in the world”, the area houses more than 300 bars and dance clubs that both locals and visitors enjoy equally and that runs at high-capacity on every night of the week. I used to come here on a regular base during my teenage years. Of course, most of the bars that I frequented back then had changed their names or went bankrupt, but it was funny to see that there still were a few running. Like Pinte, Schaukelstühlchen, Arlecchino, Dä Spiegel or Louisiana Cocktail Bar. Other classics like Zum Schlüssel, Uerige´s or Zum Schiffchen form a more traditional approach to Rhenish conviviality and serve homemade Altbier. But apart from going out to party, the Altstadt is also one of my favourite places for shopping if you advance into the less crowded side streets far away from Flingerstrasse.
Barbarossa Kaiserpfalz & Kaiserswerth
The story of this place dates well back to 700 AD when a monastery was set up by the munch Suitbertus right where the ruins stand today. By 1016, the building was evolved into a castle. Having a prime location where important trade routes met, the Kaiserpfalz inherited a customs office and generated wealth and prosperity. By 1174, emperor Friedrich Barbarossa extended the castle into a mighty fortress which construction was not finished before 1193. In 1655, large parts of the fort were destroyed by a gunpowder explosion and over the centuries, many battles in and around Kaiserswerth step by step deconstructed the once so mighty fortress. During the 19th and 20th century, large parts of the remains had been used to build townhouses in the nearby village. Today, it can be toured and well be combined with a stroll through the historic parts of old Kaiserswerth. (Take U79 and exit at Klemensplatz. From there, it is only a few minutes walk.)
Dusseldorf´s oldest public market was established in the second half of the 18th century but did not serve exclusively as a weekly market before 1910. Today, it is still the most important market in town and over 60 traders offer a wide variety of groceries as well as other foods and flowers. In 1998, the year that I moved away from Dusseldorf, it received a modern roof construction that, in my opinion, took a great bit of the charm of this historic place away. Many people argue these days wherever Carlsplatz should be considered as a must-see when visiting the city. Well, to be honest, there are definitely much nicer market places on this planet, but the surrounding area with lots of food stands, cafés and restaurants still make it a pleasant spot to take a rest and watch the hustle and bustle around.
Classic Remise Dusseldorf
Located in a historic roundhouse for locomotives, the Classic Remise is a center for vintage cars and old timers that will brighten up the hearts of any classic car lover and old-timer enthusiast. It was opened in 2006 and is still in service as a maintenance and re-seller location for highly valuable historic automobiles. There are cars on sale that cost up to 320,000€ and being able to walk in-between these treasures with no barriers is a truly remarkable experience, even if your wallet may not even be enough for a rearview mirror. And the best: It is very easy to reach with public transportation from downtown! (Take an S-Train from Dusseldorf main station until Eller-Süd, then hop on bus 732 towards Kirchplatz/Lausward and exit at Dillenburger Weg. From here, it is only a three minutes walk down the road.)
One of Dusseldorf´s most iconic landmarks is the so-called “Three-Disc-House”, a 94 meters high skyscraper designed in the International Style. It is considered to be one of the most significant post war modernism constructions and is a symbol of economic miracle in Germany after World War II. It used to the head office of the German steel giant Thyssen-Krupp and serves as a multi-purpose office building these days.
Having been established as a cemetery, the precincts are today used as public green space. It was opened in 1805 and holds the graves of many well-known local public figures. All tombstones that are still on the premise these days are officially listed landmarks, yet no graves are to be found. It is considered to be one of Dusseldorf´s most beautiful cemeteries.
The city´s central park is Hofgarten. This beautifully arranged green lung is located right in the heart of downtown and is not only great for taking a walk, but also popular with the locals for making picnics or simply enjoy the sun while stretching out on the green lawn. The oldest part of the park dates back to 1769 and you will different gardening styles with the English landscape style being a major one.
Built between 1802 and 1804, the Königsallee (full name) is one of Europe´s most significant luxury shopping boulevards around that has been designed around a small canal in the center. While the left side (silent side) is mainly occupied by banks and hotels, the right side hosts exclusive fashion brands such as Gucci, Prada, MiuMiu, Louis Vuitton or Mulberry. You could almost say, that Kö is the Dusseldorfian´s most important pride when it comes to cityscape architecture. While these days, some of the glamour has passed as the lower part of the avenue has been taken over by ordinary brands such as Zara or H&M, it still is fun window shopping and watching the people showing off.
Having an international reputation, the art collection of the state of Nordrhein-Westfalen is Dusseldorf´s most significant museum for modern art on display. It was founded in 1961 and concentrates on classic modernism and features an impressive collection of artists like Picasso, Matisse, Mondrian, Klee, Johns, Warhol or Pollock, just to name a few. The unique building was designed by a Danish architecture company and was opened in 1986 with its unique facade mainly consisting of Bornholm granite.
Once having been the docks to pipe construction company Mannesmann, the port was long time a rather unused areal before having been redeveloped into a media center with radio and tv broadcasting studios as well as media, design and fashion companies opening their offices here. There are only a few residential spaces included in the design making it Dusseldorf´s least populated borough. During the day, it can be a busy spot with a nice selection of restaurants, but on weekends, the “a little off the center” location lets most people stay in the Altstadt instead. Architecturewise it is still highly recommendable to visit and once you are there, why not enjoying a sundowner on the elegant and minimalistic outdoor terrace of the newly built Hyatt Regency hotel with great views over the skyline of the city.
One of Dusseldorf´s most prestigious buildings and probably the first construction that laid the future of the urban redevelopment of the port area was Frank Gehry´s design of three leaning towers. Originally, the planning of the site had been won by British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, yet her design was never commissioned. As gorgeous as the buildings may be, they remind me personally a lot of the style of deceased Austrian artist Hundertwasser. Since 1998, they have been a unique addition to the Dusseldorf skyline.
Ratinger Tor is the last remaining city gate of the ancient city walls that once surrounded the historic city center of Dusseldorf. The classicist design of the two present buildings with doric columns does not display the original structures from 1397, yet it is the latest rebuilt dating back to 1815.
It is the tallest building of the Dusseldorf skyline and offers amazing panoramic views over the city and the area from its observation deck and revolving restaurant towering 170 meters above street level. On clear days, one can even see the Cologne cathedral from up there. It was completed in 1981 and serves mainly as a television tower. The integrated light clock in the shaft of the concrete tower is the largest digital clock in the world.
This waterfront promenade is a very popular public space linking the boroughs of Altstadt, Carlstadt and the port area. Its original construction dates back to the early 1900´s. After World War II, it had been redesigned as a main road resulting in splitting off the downtown area from direct access to the Rhine river. With the tunneling of the road during the 1990´s, the original intention was restored and developed since then into one of the city´s most visited sites. Particularly the stairs next to Burgplatz are an extremely popular spot to hang out and watch the sunset at.
Another highlight of post war modernism is the organic design of the Dusseldorf state theatre right next to the Dreischeibenhaus. While the downtown area is currently receiving major construction additions, the demolition of this iconic piece of architecture was shortly considered. Luckily, the original design has been included in a new approach of urban development of this area. This is probably one of the most recognized buildings of the Dusseldorf skyline.
One of my personal favorite sites to visit is definitely this gem of baroque-style architecture in the South of the city and very well accessible by tram from downtown. It was completed in 1770 and was intended as Maison de Plaisance (pleasure palace) for the Elector Palatine and his wife. It is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site and lies in a magnificently gardened park where I spent a lot of time in as a teenager. This is the part of town I grew up in and therefore holds a lot of childhood memories. The castle itself can be toured, yet only on a guided base. Check the website for more information on times and availabilities on English language guided tours.
One of the newer, yet absolutely stunning additions to the Dusseldorf skyline was the introduction of the new Stadttor in 1997. The seat of the State Chancellery and the prime minister was designed in the so-called structural glazing style. It was honored with the “Architecture Oscar” as “best office building” and “best property of the year” on the MIPIM real estate exhibition in Cannes in 1998.
Probably the church with the most remarkable roof around is at the same time the oldest church in Dusseldorf and located prominently close to the river banks in the Dusseldorf Altstadt. While the current construction dates back to 1394, there is proof that the site was occupied by a previous church as early as 1159. Its most prominent detail is the slightly twisted roof of the clock tower which might have been a result of using too fresh wood during its construction and which was re-established due to public demand after World War II. She was constructed in Lower Rhine brick Gothic style and the airy mighty nave is fitted beautifully.
Dusseldorf´s latest addition to the extensive public transportation system was the introduction of the new underground line called Wehrhahnlinie that opened a brand new connection from the busy train station Wehrhahn towards the main transit hub Heinrich-Heine Allee and Graf-Adolf-Platz, two very central points in the downtown area. It just opened in early 2016 and enabled the city planners to move a large amount of above-ground tram lines underneath the surface and make additional room for future urban planning. Each of the six new stations were designed individually and therefore form a fluent combination of modern art and public transportation. My personal favorite is the Benrather Strasse station which is a futuristic composition of shiny metal and large LED screens showcasing cosmic outtakes.