Düsseldorf is the commuter capital of Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia state and infrequently on the must-see list. But, it has so much to offer for business visitors looking for evening and weekend diversions through history, art and food.
Have you ever asked yourself: Is Dusseldorf worth visiting? Walking through Düsseldorf Airport yesterday, I felt like I’d passed through a glamorous glass portal into an upmarket mall. Perfume shops merged with wine bars while I balked at the price for a slice of pizza (14 Euro). I’d decamped to Düsseldorf for a month to accompany my travelling companion who’d been living there and commuting out to Mulheim an der Ruhr for a Sensei client a few months.
And, though we’d booked a central area in the Stadtbezirk 1 district, within walking distance of the Aldtstadt (Old Town) to minimise the need for public transport on our days off, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of entertainment. With only half a million inhabitants and no huge cultural experiences of repute, I had yet to discover what Düsseldorf had to offer. It turns out that modern and historical street art, museums, cathedrals, history, the architecture of the MedienHafen area, great wooden doors, a rotating tower, French food, and other surprises awaited me.
But with only a little preliminary research, we knew that we were at least close to several city parks and green areas and close to the Rheinuferpromenade along the edges of the Rhine.
The nearby city of Cologne or Köln, home to the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe, and its art scene was also high on the hit-list.
I simply couldn’t shake my amazement that everything was so shiny and clean. Only a few hours earlier, we’d lamented the lack of hygiene in Dublin Airport and concluded that if you’re overly concerned with hygiene, then travelling in general is probably not for you. (Thank goodness for wet wipes!)
We got a taxi from the airport to our apartment near the NRW Forum, The Museum for Industry and Economy (22 Euro). The streets and buildings looked scrubbed and new. It reminded me of Milan, where everything seems shiny even, and especially, on the metro. And, early in our trip we discovered the Königsallee, a flower-strewn series of avenues and streets of upmarket stores clustered around a canal, fountains and acres of classic and solid German architecture.
Super Friendly AirBnB Hosts
Arriving at our AirBnB, we could not have been more delighted. Our apartment block was situated in a wide, airy street. Curiously, everything looked like it’d been freshly power-hosed. Our ground floor hosts were delightful. The husband graciously ceded to my protest that I could carry my suitcase up four flights of stairs, then simply grabbed it off me unceremoniously as I faded in the middle of the second flight of stairs.
He and his wife Patricia provided us as much information as two people could manage about local supermarkets, bakeries, shops, restaurants, parks, museums, opening hours, and transport options. They showed us how to use the coffee machine and washer/dryer and left us to it with a friendly offer to bang on the door for help any time. Best of all, they spoke English, something we’d filtered for on AirBnB, since our German skills start and end with danke. And, though our hosts had an apartment inventory (our first ever), they did not go through it (perhaps because it was in German).
Sprichst du Englisch?
Zipping fast forward to our first supermarket adventure. The shop (DM – they’re everywhere) was bright, capacious and more upmarket than I’d expected for a local, neighbourhood supermarket. We loved browsing, wondering at ingredients and marvelling at the luscious fruit and veg section. It appeared to have everything we needed for a month’s stay. This was a win, because it was less than a 60 second walk from our apartment!
The experience was spoiled somewhat, however, by the cashier shouting at Allen for taking too long to pack our groceries and not being able to speak German, then getting angrier still when he was unable to answer!
I, too, at a loss as to where to find milk, asked a lady (approximately 22, I’d guess) at a deli counter if she spoke English… to be met with bad tempered mutterings and pointing to mein kollege (I worked it out), yet no eye contact… Her 65+ year-old kollege was polite, apologised for keeping me waiting 30 seconds while she served another customer and pointed the milk out with ease. (See? The young are not always cosmopolitan and the old cannot be lazily dismissed as backward.) I braved the cash desk and danke-d my way out of there. Meanwhile, Allen had found a good natured English speaker at the bakery counter, we fought with the trolley to get our Euro back and high tailed it out of Dodge, clutching our hard-won Choco Leibnitz.
Every street we walked on our first full day was full of tram lines. While we saw many cars, the trams seemed full, even on a Sunday. I guess if you live in a big city, public transport is so ubiquitous, personal vehicles may be unnecessary for the majority of residents. In the end, while we used the metro and the occasional taxi, we ended up walking most places.
As someone who is tortured by barking dogs at home in the ‘burbs, this is one of the best ideas I’ve heard in a long time. Ruhezeit means ‘quiet time’. Apparently, three quarters of city-dwelling Germans live in rented accommodation. That seems to be true: we stayed in an apartment block in a street of apartment blocks, in an area full of avenues of other apartment blocks. Quiet Time is 10pm to 6am (though our host told us we are not to use the washing machine after 8pm… something about apartment owners being stricter in places). You can actually ring the local police if neighbours are making noise you can hear in your apartment.
And, it’s true. I heard only one ghetto-blaster (from a Deliveroo-style biker), zero dogs, only a few shouts (late at night), no neighbour noise except an over-enthusiastic 3 year-old tricycle rider, and no street nuisance boy racers. There were only blissful sounds of kids playing happily in the gardens below; a pair of green parrots squawking overhead as they fly back and forth between trees and roofs; a few, gentle garden hoses; and the balcony door blinds tapping methodically in the breeze.
At home, The Stupid (people who keep dogs barking endlessly in back-to-back gardens) rest unmolested. The residents of Düsseldorf seem much more civilised, respect others’ rights to a peaceful life, and they enforce it – lest The Stupid take over.
Information on Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf Tourism is a great source of information on shopping, art, sites, the old town, and eating out in the city.
Cover image credit: blogger’s own