The diverse and modern capital of Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia is located in Northwestern Germany. Situated along more than 42 kilometers of the banks of the Rhine River, Düsseldorf is an international financial giant, known for its bustling art scene and world-famous beer. Düsseldorf can be covered in a day trip or weekend but gives you the feeling of being in one of Europe’s bigger cities. Here are some of the best things to do in Düsseldorf in one day:
Things to do in Düsseldorf in one day or a weekend
Located just outside of Düsseldorf to the southeast, Schloss Benrath is an 18th century picturesque pink palace in the Rococo style. The palace served as a summer residence for Elector Palatine Charles Theodore and his wife Elizabeth Auguste of Sulzbach. Constructed between 1756 and 1773, the palace was designed in such a way that the Elector’s room opened onto the English gardens and the Electress’s apartments faced the formal French garden. Today, the palace is home to 3 exceptional museums that contain exhibits on life in the 18th century.
Street Art at Kiefernstrasse
Soak in the bright colors of the spectacular graffitied walls and building facades of Kiefernstrasse. Once home to squatters and gangs in the 1980’s, the area has been cleaned up but the rebellious sentiment remains in the artwork.
Affectionately referred to by locals as the “Kö,” Königsalle is Düsseldorf’s most sophisticated shopping street. The kilometer-long posh street is filled on both sides with boutiques, art galleries, and shops by high end designers such as Chanel, Cartier, and Prada. Three elegant walking bridges span the canal that used to serve as the city’s moat adding to the elegant atmosphere. The Kö is flanked on one side by the Kö-Bogen, or “King’s Bow” which you can walk through to reach the Hofgarten.
Düsseldorf is home to Germany’s oldest public park, the Hofgarten. The park was laid out in 1770 and the 68-acre space spans all the way from the Altstadt and Königsalle to the banks of the Rhine River. Notable buildings include the baroque-style Hofgärtnerhaus and the rococo Schloss Jägerhof built in 1763 which was briefly occupied by Napoleon. The park is also filled with interesting sculptures and historic monuments and memorials.
Düsseldorf’s old town may not be the largest, but it packs a lot in. The area hosts 300 bars, nightclubs, and brewpubs and has been nicknamed the “Längste Theke der Welt” or “the longest bar in the world.” But, save the Altbier for later, there is plenty to see during the day! The heart of the Altstadt is the Marktplatz where you can see the Rathaus (Town Hall) and an impressive copper statue of Elector John William II. In Burgplatz, you can see the Schlossturm (Castle Tower).
This tower once dominated the city but today only a small portion remains and is home to one of Germany’s best and oldest marine museums, the SchiffahrtsMuseum. Also located in the Altstadt is St. Lambertus, a Roman Catholic church with a long history and one of the oldest buildings in the city. The twisting tower is one of the prominent features of Düsseldorf’s skyline.
Germans love their beer and Düsseldorf is no exception! Brewed in six locations and native to Düsseldorf, Altbier is darker than a lager coming in a copper, amber, or bronze hue. The name Altbier means “old beer.” The “old” refers to the style of recipe in which the beer is top-fermented in the old style as opposed to the newer method of bottom fermentation.
Drinking the “old beer” is an experience in and of itself in Düsseldorf. Served at nearly every bar, pub, or restaurant the Altbier keeps flowing. As soon as your waiter notices your glass is getting low, he or she will top you off until you place your coaster on top of your glass, indicating you’ve had your fill.
This market fills an entire square just south of the Altstadt. Take a stroll through for the freshest of local produce, meats, cheeses, baked goods, and more. Sample some of the coffee roasted on site from KaffeeReich and pick up some spices from Kräuterhexe.
Take a stroll on this walkway that was strategically positioned to get sun all day long. The Rhine Embankement Promenade stretches from the Parliament to the harbor and the city’s busiest road is buried beneath it! Lined with cafes, restaurants, shops, and galleries on one side and the Rhine River on the other, the Rheinuferpromenade gives the city a Mediterranean flavor. Don’t miss the Kuhna Wall, a beautiful work of art that took Professor Hermann-Josef Kuhna and 20 art students 7,400 hours to complete!
In the summer months, hop aboard a boat and see Düsseldorf from the water. Two of the best scenes are the Medienhafen and the city’s skyline. There are two cruise companies, KD and Weisse Flotte, who both offer an hour-long trip with free refreshments and commentary in English and German.
The Museum of Art is home to artwork dating from the 3rd century to present day. Featured artists include Caravaggio, Helmut Hentrich, Dali, and Warhol. The Museum Kunstpalast also offers classical concerts and theatrical performances.
You can’t possibly visit Düsseldorf and miss the Rhine Tower, or Rhienturm. I mean, you literally can’t miss this thing! The tallest building in Düsseldorf, the communications tower rises a whopping 240 meters over the city right on the bank of the river. Opened in 1981, the tower has a revolving restaurant and observation deck at 170 meters with breathtaking panoramas. On a clear day you can see the spires of the Cologne Cathedral to the south.
Starting from the Altstadt you can walk to the Medienhafen, or Media Harbor, in just 15 minutes. The district is filled with modern, high-rise buildings and unique architecture; a stark contrast to the 18th-century buildings located in the old town. The Medienhafen was once an important shipping harbor but now houses many fashion, design, and media offices.
The area serves as a ground for competition between German architects who regularly vie for the chance to design a new high rise to join the ranks of the post-modern masterpieces that adorn the harbor. One of the most famous sights is a trio of post-modern houses designed by famous architect Frank Gehry. (You may have seen his work at the Dancing House in Prague).
Kuchen at Café Heinemann
If you only have time to stop at one café, make sure it’s Café Heinemann. They have the best and most beautiful Viennese-style cakes. There are three locations throughout the city, making it a convenient stop no matter where you are. The sumptuous display of cakes in the window is simply irresistible!
If you only have one day, you can cover most sights in this unique, charming, and innovative German city. With a population of 600,000, Düsseldorf is sometimes skipped over in favor of a larger destination. But don’t discount what this gem has to offer, it’s brimming with art, culture, history, and of course beer!