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 that stretch throughout the area, built so close together that the bar counters are said to run from one venue to the next. There’s a huge range of nightclubs, music venues and cocktail bars to choose from, but be sure to head to one of the traditional brew pubs to sample local specialty, Altbier, a dark beer brewed in Dusseldorf since the 19th century.
Towering 234 meters over the modern Media Harbor, the futuristic Rhine Tower (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 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.
With its fanciful pink façade and landscaped gardens stretching all the way to the banks of the Rhine, Benrath Palace (Schloss Benrath) is one of the region’s most attractive baroque palaces and makes a popular side-trip from nearby Dusseldorf. Built in 1755 for Elector Palatine Carl Theodor, the grand palace looks out over a glittering lake and backs up onto more than 14 acres of parks and gardens, dotted with pretty water features, herb and flower gardens and an orangery.
Today, the palace is open to the public and home to a collection of three museums—the Palace Museum, the Museum of Natural History and the Museum for European Garden Art—and also hosts concerts, weddings and theater performances in its halls.
With its rows of designer boutiques and luxury department stores bordering a serene tree-lined canal, King's Alley (Konigsallee) 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 or a coffee break on the banks of the canal.
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 (MedienHafen) 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.
An indoor playground for families with younger LEGO®-obsessed kids, LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre Oberhausen lets you unleash your creativity with more than 4 million LEGO bricks. Smaller in scale than a full LEGOLAND, this center has several play areas, a 4D cinema, and a couple of rides for the youngest visitors.
With its two-tier walkways tracing the scenic Rhine waterfront and dotted with benches, grassy picnic areas and food vendors, walking the Rhine River Promenade (Rheinuferpromenade) 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.
Inspired by the Paul Cézanne quote, “art is a harmony parallel to nature,” the Hombroich Museum Island (Museum Insel Hombroich) is a space where art and nature are indeed harmonious. This conceptual art museum is comprised of 52 acres (21 hectares) of idyllic parklands dotted with galleries, sculptures, and architectural monuments.
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. At 344 feet wide, 640 feet long, and 70 feet tall, the Landtag building is more noted for its interesting shape than its size. Right angles were consciously avoided. The circular meeting chamber, which holds 300 people, 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 (Rhein tower) provides sweeping views from its deck, and there are various cafes, bars, and a revolving restaurant there.
More Things to Do in Düsseldorf
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 acclaimedAssumption 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; recent draws have included Jena Tinguely’s madcap installations and Carl Buchheister’s vibrant abstract paintings.
Alpenpark Neuss is a large activity center featuring a variety of attractions that range from an 18-hole miniature golf course to a massive outdoor ropes course. There's also a funfussball course, which mixes soccer with golf, and a very popular indoor ski hall where visitors can ski throughout the year.
Among the most iconic landmarks of Dusseldorf’s picturesque Alstadt (Old Town), St. Lambertus Cathedral is famous for its distinctive twisted tower. Originally built in the 14th century, the church tower was rebuilt after a fire in 1815 and the use of wet arbors caused it to twist. Legend however, tells a different story – a bride dressed in white came to the altar pretending to be a virgin, and the tower turned, allegedly to only return to its previous form when a real virgin appears at the altar.
Today the medieval church is among Dusseldorf’s oldest buildings, with highlights including the bronze-coated door by Ewald Mataré, the exquisite Rieger organ and the tomb of Duke Wilhelm V of Jülich-Kleve-Berg.