This elegant German city often gets overshadowed by its neighbor to the south, Cologne. But Düsseldorf is an attraction unto itself, filled with residents who enjoy its rich arts and culture offerings and luxurious shopping, all set against the backdrop of the picturesque Rhine River. From the amazing art to the world-class shopping, here is an overview of Düsseldorf’s most interesting things to see and do.
The heart of Düsseldorf lies in its Altstadt (Old Town). Set between the shopping boulevard Königsallee and the river Rhine, the Altstadt is the perfect starting point to explore and to get a feeling for the city. Stroll through cobble-stoned streets, duck into some quiet churches, and have an Alt beer in one of the traditional brewery pubs.
Highlights of the Old Town include the Burgplatz, a square with an old palace tower. Bolkerstrasse is filled with Rhenish and international restaurants. And one of Düsseldorf’s most famous landmarks also lies here, the statue of Elector Jan Wellem in front of the beautiful Rathaus (City Hall).
Visit Dusseldorf's MedienHafen (Media Harbour)
Düsseldorf’s former industrial harbor has been turned into a playground for contemporary architects such as David Chipperfield or Claude Vasconi; the post-modern buildings, most notably Frank O. Gehry’s three twisted houses, stand in an interesting contrast to old elements such as historic warehouses, quay walls, and wrought-iron railings. Besides media companies, fashion and design studios, you’ll find some hip restaurants and bars here.
Before New York’s 5th avenue, there was Königsallee. From Prada and Gucci, to Tiffany’s and Louis Vuitton, you can drop some serious cash here. But even if you are not that much not into shopping, the Kö, as locals call this street, is worth a visit. Parallel to the boulevard runs a canal lined with chestnut trees—perfect for a serene walk or for attending events throughout the year.
Rhine River Promenade
To get from the Old Town to the new Media Harbor, walk along the paved Rhine River promenade. On weekends, the street, which was banned for cars a couple of years ago, is filled with walkers, bikers, and strollers. Along the way, you’ll find the interesting art gallery Kunst im Tunnel, as well as the 565 feet high Rheinturm (Rhine Tower), which offers wonderful views of the city and its surroundings.
Nordpark & other city parks
This is one of Düsseldorf's most popular parks. Its 90 acre expanse make it one of the largest parks and most serene spaces in the city. There are themed gardens, like the Lily Garden and Japanese Garden (gifted by Düsseldorf's Japanese community). Other highlights include the Horse-Tamers statue and the Aquazoo Löbbecke Museum.
Düsseldorf is home to the well-known Kunstakademie (art academy), which is an integral part of the city's art scene and graduated the likes of Joseph Beuys, Jörg Immendorff, and Gerhard Richter.
Naturally, there is no shortage of world-class galleries and museums; check out the Kunsthalle for contemporary art exhibitions, the Museum Kunstpalast for fine arts from Classical antiquity to the present, the K20 gallery, which focuses on art of the 20th century, or K21, the city’s premier museum for art after 1980, just to name a few.
Throughout the year this industrial hub is flooded with color for its many festivals.
One of the most jubilant is Düsseldorfer Karneval. Second only to Cologne, these late winter festivities are over-the-top with costumes, music and a massive parade. Shout “Helau” and hoist a Mass of Alt beer to celebrate.
Another major festival takes place every July the city hosts the Größte Kirmes am Rhein (Largest Fair on the Rhine). It draws more than four million visitors for a week of events. The festival commemorates the city's patron saint of St. Apollinaris with a Historic Procession taking place on July 17th, 2016. This year will be the 115th festival.
Take in Spectacular Foliage at the Hofgarten
The historic Hofgarten dates back to 1770 and stretches from the Altstadt to Königsallee to the Rhine. Go inside the Baroque Hofgärtnerhaus (Court Gardener House) and Schloss Jägerhof, a former hunting lodge that now houses the city's Goethe museum.
Try Dusseldorf's Famous Altbier
If you're in the Altstadt, you'd be remiss to not visit one of the city's traditional beer halls where you can try the local favorite, Altbier. This brown ale is smooth and flavorful, but unlike traditional German brews, it's served in a petite 6 oz. glass. Zum Uerige, pouring since the 1860s, is among the most popular beer halls in the neighborhood and brews its own Altbier.
Shop for Local Snacks at the Carlsplatz Market
Do some souvenir shopping (or just pick up a snack) at this foodie paradise near the Old Town. The market includes groceries for locals—produce, meats, bread, potatoes—but also has vendors selling prepared foods, from Germany and around the globe. Bring home some spices or coffee as souvenirs.
Go to the Top of the Rhine Tower
For some of the most spectacular views over Dusseldorf, head to the top of the Rhine Tower. The tallest building in Dusseldorf reaches nearly 800 feet and visits can head just about to the top, where there is an observation deck and a revolving restaurant. The entry fee, an affordable 9 Euro as of 2019, is well worth it. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Cologne.
See Incredible Classic Cars at Classic Remise Düsseldorf
This converted steam locomotive roundhouse is home to an extraordinary fleet of classic cars. The Classic Remise is where experts restore vintage Mercedes, Porsches, BMWs, and more, prepping the beauties for sale or storage. For visitors, it's free of charge. Many of the most expensive autos are stored in glass boxes to regulate fluctuating environmental conditions.
Take a Rhine Boat Tour
If you're visiting Düsseldorf in the summertime, one of the best ways to get acclimated to the city's skyline is through a scenic boat tour. You can take an hour-long trip down the river, which includes drinks and entertaining commentary. In addition to the skyline, you'll see the modern architecture along the canals, and you'll cruise beneath the Theodor Heuss Bridge, Germany's first cable-bridge. Two different tour companies, Weisse Flotte and KD, offer the trips.
Walk Through St. Lambertus Church
Famous for its unique tower, the 14th-century St. Lambertus church is among Düsseldorf's most popular tourist attractions. Inside, the church is full of unique 15th-century frescoes and a Renaissance-era tomb, while the undulating exterior tower got its strange appearance when it was built in 1815 after a fire ravaged the rest of the church.
Celebrate Summer at Kirmes
If you're lucky enough to visit Düsseldorf in July, don't miss Kirmes, "the Largest Fair on the Rhine," which attracts more than four million visitors each year. While the festival has religious roots (it was a celebration for the patron saint Apollinaris of Ravenna and the Sanctification of the Sankt Lambertus Basilica), it's a fun celebration for the whole family now, full of old-time amusement rides, roller coasters, food stands, and more.