The first stop for my European adventure was Düsseldorf Germany, located in the western region of the country not far from the border of Netherland and Belgium. While not a major stop on the tourist track it happens to be a hub for airberlin and a really nice place to spend a few days while getting an introduction to German culture and food. Düsseldorf is known as being a bit upscale with a mix of historical old building juxtaposed with modern mid rise buildings. The roads are littered with fancy cars. Owning an Audi/BMW appear to be’ entry level here. Lamborghini’s and Ferrari’s weren’t too hard to be found in the central shopping districts.
I arrived into the airport at 5am on an overnight flight from JLK in New York. A flight path that took us above main, Newfoundland, and straight across the middle of Ireland. Despite being a hub the Düsseldorf airport was extremely easy to navigate and get through customs. In fact, walking through the terminal was slightly strange at the sheer lack of people.
Where is everyone?
Beyond that, customs was a breeze, a few requisite questions from the officer… How long are you staying? Where are you going after? Do you have any baggies of drugs hidden in or on your body? Typical…
From there, getting into town was a breeze once I figured out how to buy a train ticket. €1.60 per ride on short distances and took me direct to the central station in about 10 minutes.
So, what do you do in a strange city? Well, same thing I do everywhere I go. Drop my bags, find a cafe with wifi, and start looking for things to do on TripAdvisor. It turns out there are a ton of things to do. Here are the highlights:
Classic Remise Auto Salon
Voted the #1 thing to do on TripAdvisor was the auto salon. Slightly random I thought but I like cars so why not check it out. It was tricky to find since it’s located in the middle of a random residential neighborhood about 15 minutes from the city center. Take the tram to a random stop and traipse through neighborhoods until you find the auto museum. It’s actually not a museum per-se. It’s a large high end auto repair and restoration shop. The majority of autos on display are for sale from anywhere from $30k to $500k+. Entry is free and it’s definitely good for a wander for an hour or so.
A pretty unassuming building from the outside but holds a lot of value inside
Some of the highlights were a restored AC Cobra, several VW bus’s, a McLaren SLR, Ferrari F40 and more high end Porsches than you could count.
Old Town (Altstadt)
A square kilometer in the heart of the city, the old town is packed with history. It forms the cultural centre of the city with several museums including very famous art and film museums. Also, several old churches and historic buildings occupy this area located on the Rhine. Some key spots to see are Markplatz Plaza and the twisted steeple of the Church of St. Lambertus (Sankt Lambertus Basilika). I can’t fail to mention it’s also home to 260 pubs comprising the “longest bar in the world” – more on that later…
Strolling along the Rhine (Rheinuferpromenade)
Grab a beer from a local shop and spend an evening stroling along the Rhine River. After 7pm the place is a hive of activity with locals and tourists alike having small picnics and taking in the best of the fact that sun doesn’t set during summer until 9pm. with last light around 10pm.
The Beer Gardens of Altstadt – and having altbier
After having a few beers along the Rhine until sundown the party really starts to get going in the old town. The ol;d cobblestone streets are filled with people, young and old, raising glasses together. Simply find the best vibe, or the best looking wait staff, and pull up to one of the many outdoor standing tables. Be warned. Germans do not like warm beer so the most popular glasses served are all about 250ml (80z) for around €2. It’s easy to reorder or just order two at a time and make some new friends. The main beer is altbier which simply meaning “Old beer” and a specialty of the Westfalia region in particular in Dusseldorf.
Late night drinking on the Rhine
Probably my favorite experience. During summer, many young people gather on the stairs near Altstadt to look over the Rhine. The promenade below is a hive of action with impromptu gymnastics presentations, dancing, and any number of people just breaking loose. I really enjoyed a few hours sitting here and taking in the local vibe
Let’s just say you’re not going to lose any weight despite the amount of walking. Currywurst was a favorite dish of mine. Dusseldorf has an incredible spectrum of food from local to exotic and everything from cheap take away noodles for €3.50 to high end dining. The average sit down pizza, schnitzel, or sausage restaurant was around €8-12 for a main and drinks from €3-12 depending on what size and quality of liquor. I was pretty surprised at how affordable everything felt.
The Rhine Tower (Rheinturm)
The highest vantage point in Düsseldorf and well worth checking out. Entry is €6 and there is a restaurant, bar, and viewing platform lopcates at the top, each with their own floor. The views over the old city and Rhine are spectacular and the bartender pours a mean Old Fashioned for €12.50. This was a great spot to have a birtday drink and also take a few silly selfies.
There apparently are a few really good ones. I didn’t visit them. : ) The glass museum is particularly popular based on people I talked to.
High end shopping on the Königsalee
Clearly high end shopping wasn’t on this backpackers budget. It’s still worth the stroll along the beautiful canal ending in a sea of boutiques and the likes of Prada, Louis Vuitton, an the like.
Honorable mention: Day trip to Cologne (link coming soon)
Cologne is only 35 minutes away by train – worth a day trip or just an afternoon visit. See more on the other page.
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