Dates: April 25th – April 29th
Distance Walked: 63.39km
Temperature High: 24°C
Our introduction to Düsseldorf came as somewhat of a surprise. Neither of us knew particularly much about the city before arriving and expected it to be somewhat similar in aesthetic to Berlin, an expansive concrete jungle. As we walked towards the city centre from our hotel, we discovered how wrong we were whilst passing through the lushiously green Hofgarten.
A strikingly picturesque park with plenty of tall trees up to 200 years old lined up neatly lakeside, assortments of colourful flowers in full bloom and meticulously arranged, subtle statuettes and sculptures dotted around open green spaces and ponds frequented by a host of wildlife including swans, ducks, geese, birds and rabbits.
These peaceful gardens were actually the result of wartime restoration with the original part of Hofgarten being designed in 1769 to restore ‘order and harmony‘ after conflicts during the Seven Years War. Which makes this Germany’s first, oldest and possibly prettiest public park.
As we exited Hofgarten, we entered the small but lively Altstadt area of the city. The old town sits near the Rhine and is famed for it’s nightlife, with many of the tightly packed bars and clubs open into the wee hours of the morning. Offering happy hour cocktails, famed local altbiers and an eclectic range of restaurants to help line your stomach as you stumble from one tavern to the next, there’s no better way to kick start your stay in Düsseldorf.
It’s an area where you will see everything from stag and hen do’s to couples enjoying the cheap yet snazzy cocktails to the older locals or tourists enjoying a relaxing evening at the many outdoor restaurants and bars by the harbour.
Colloquially known as the longest bar in the world due to the large number and close proximity of licensed establishments, we spent our first evening testing the validity of this claim by hopping from place to place savouring the party atmosphere. Purely in the interest of research, of course.
Another walk was required in the morning to shake off our hangovers so we set off in search of a scenic setting to ease our aching heads. The city centre is typically somewhere that you would pay good money to avoid when nursing a sore head, however Düsseldorf city centre isn’t typical. The beautiful Königsallee is an urban boulevard which offers a stunning view of contrasting natural and urban architecture and pierces through the centre of town.
Overhanging trees line the banks of the Stadtgraben canal which sits incongruously betwixt the streets of boutique shops and designer outlets in the heart of the busy shopping district. An infinitely pleasant sight on a sunny day, however we enjoyed a stroll along the banks during light showers. A refreshing way to cleanse ourselves of the effects from our exploits the previous night.
Back to full fitness we continued our stroll down to the rheinuferpromenade. An esplanade overlooking the Rhine river and stretching from the Rhine tower (more on that later) to the Altstadt district. It’s yet another scenic area in the heart of the city and a great spot to sunbathe on the grass, grab some food at one of the many restaurants on the promenade or simply do as we did and take in the view with a relaxing riverside walk.
In the evening we returned to our favourite spot, Altstadt for dinner at the cosy Schweine Janes. The traditional German dish, Schweinshaxe is served up straight off the rack among many other succulent yet inexpensive meat based meals at this cramped yet welcoming restaurant.
With so many different diners offering everything from local cuisine to Vietnamese, Mexican or Italian then you may feel struck by the paradox of choice when deciding where to dine. However I challenge you to pop into Schweine Janes for a look at their mouth watering centrepiece and not feel compelled to stay.
After another well lubricated evening spent in Altstadt, we fought off our hangover with a walk to Kiefernstraße. A bohemian street in the Flingern-Süd district famed for squatters in the 1980’s and it’s street art adorned buildings and punky vibe nowadays. We spent some time here admiring the vivid graffiti which covers a 200 metre stretch of the odd numbered buildings on the street and illuminates an otherwise unassuming area of Düsseldorf, before moving on to an even more iconic sight.
The Rheintrum is a 240.5 metre high concrete tower that dominates the Düsseldorf skyline. Perched on the banks of the Rhine, ascending it provides a 360° view of the city from an observation deck near to the top which even allows you to see as far as neighbouring city Cologne on a clear day.
Usually dinner can be booked at the tower in the 170 metre high revolving restaurant, as if the height itself isn’t dizzying enough. However, at the moment it is being refurbished so instead, we shot up the elevator to the bar and lounge area to watch the world go by over a coffee and a cake. Hours passed whilst we saw the ships come and go and marvelled at the varied and modern architecture on show below in the Medienhafen harbour area.
On our third evening in the city, we slowed the pace down only returning to Altstadt for a few drinks and a limoncello with dinner at the brilliant little Italian place, Rialto, before heading home.
Our penultimate day began in style with a trip to the classic car museum, Remise. Hundreds of vintage models in pristine condition as well as contemporary classics from whichever famous car manufacturers you can think of are all presented freely to the public here in this glitzy showroom. We jotted down a shopping list of our favourite Lamborghinis, Bentleys, Ferraris and Alfa Romeos before deciding instead to spend our money on some lunch.
Even if you have no interest in cars, I’d still recommend a trip to the museum for the restaurant alone. Mezzo Mar is a stylish Italian eatery located inside the showroom and offers hearty portions of Italian cuisine at fairly cheap prices. Sitting down to a lunch of bruschetta and creamy tomato soup against the luxurious backdrop of hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of vintage vehicles gave us a small taste of the high life for an afternoon.
Back in the city centre and back to reality, we revisited the gorgeous Hofgarten during the afternoon to help maintain the booming local wildlife population. Armed with bags of seeded, brown bread we spent a few hours feeding the ducks, geese, swans and birds which inhabit the gardens much to their delight.
In the evening, we spent some time in the area near to our accommodation, dipping into a small coffee shop, Roasted Kaffeebar, for a cappuccino before getting reacquainted with an old favourite from our days in Berlin, currywurst. The acclaimed local restaurant Curry has a simple and effective menu, bratwurst or currywurst with fries and a selection of sauces for dipping are all that is on offer inside however one bite of the German delicacy and you won’t want anything else.
The sound of drums awoke us on our final day so we headed outside to find out what all the commotion was about. As it happens, the Düsseldorf marathon was in full swing and had brought out the locals who cheered on the participants enthusiastically from the pavement with whistles and drums. I almost felt guilty as the exhausted runners passed us by whilst we partook in an outrageous amount of food at the Schwan restaurant near to the finishing line of the marathon.
Germans love their breakfast, Frühstück as it is known, and on weekends this particular place lays on an impressive breakfast buffet with traditional German breakfast cuisine. A variety of breads, cheeses, jams, spreads, eggs, sausages, fruit and more were all on offer, beautifully presented and for €13.50 we could help ourselves to all that we desired. And we did.
If I write any more then I’ll be in danger of sounding like a broken record as the remainder of the day was spent in the watering holes of Altstadt. So, I’ll leave it here as we say auf wiedersehen to Düsseldorf and ciao to Milan.