Weekend in . . . Düsseldorf
Make a virtue of the fact that Düsseldorf doesn’t get the sameattention as other German cities
Don’t pity Düsseldorf. Yes, it probably has a much lower profile than it should, far lower than bigger cities like Berlin and Munich – even arguably lower than that of its nearby archrival, Cologne. Yes, its soccer team, Fortuna Düsseldorf, was recently relegated from the top division to the second Bundesliga. And no, the capital of the North-Rhine Westphalia state is not regularly considered one of Europe’s top tourist destinations. But let this be your advantage.
The artsy, cultivated home town of both the great Romantic poet Heinrich Heine and the German punk-rock legend Die Toten Hosen, Düsseldorf has more than enough attractions for a rich cultural weekend – or even longer. Although the city is celebrating the 725th anniversary of its founding this year, Düsseldorf’s real draws are to be found in its dozens of new developments: stylish contemporary architecture, impressive modern art, cool new restaurants and even new takes on altbier, the local brew that ranks among Germany’s best beer styles.
Called the “the longest bar in the world” by locals, the Altstadt – or Old Town – turns into a boisterous, noisy scene come nightfall, when big crowds turn out for the local specialty, altbier. Friday afternoon, however, is an ideal time to sample this moderately bitter, deep amber brew before things get too busy.
Start with one of the historic breweries like Zum Schlüssel, or the dark, wood-panelled Uerige, then see how the two traditional favourites compare with the Altstadt newcomer, Brauerei Kürzer, which began producing altbier at its airy and modern brewpub in 2010.
You’ll find plenty of well-known international brands in the Altstadt, but for indie shopping, head south to the Lorettostrasse in the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Unterbilk, where cool boutiques started opening about five years ago.
Check out the unusual children’s toys and wooden puzzles at Saba’s, then shop for vintage-inspired men’s clothing at the five-year-old Uwe van Afferden, where heritage American brands share space with rare German ones like Merz b. Schwanen and the shop’s own sailor-style linen jackets (€340, or about $450 at $1.33 to the euro), available with matching high-water pants.
Ten minutes from Lorettostrasse, Düsseldorf’s formerly run-down harbour is now known as the MedienHafen, or Media Harbour, the home of several broadcasting companies and some of the city’s best modern architecture, including three small but stunningly fluid buildings by Frank Gehry, as well as new hotels and recently converted industrial spaces.