Dusseldorf is known in Germany as an economic powerhouse, across Europe as a fashion hub, and around the world as one of the best cities on the mighty Rhine River.
Dusseldorf doesn’t ring a bell quite like Cologne does; but then Cologne doesn’t party like Düsseldorf does. The two cities almost look across the Rhine at each other as they have for several centuries; and on that they have much in common, but they couldn’t be more different. Dusseldorf has the reputation for blue-collar, genuine drink-and-eat fun, while Cologne is supposed to be the snooty tourist city.
But just one stroll down Düsseldorf’s super chic Koenigsallee pretty much blows that stereotype out of the water. And I suppose the one thing that Dusseldorf does a lot better than its partner across the water are the Rhine River festivals that rock the entire city each year.
The Largest Party on the Rhine
Dusseldorf is famous for the Rhine Carnival, which begins on November 11, at 11:11am in keeping with old Christmas tradition. Fasching, as the Carnival is called in Germany, lasts until February and turns the whole city into one heaving celebration. On Mardi Gras, just as Fasching ends, Dusseldorf again explodes into several days of partying — roughly a million people show up each year to revel in the moderate weather that makes Dusseldorf a popular destination all year round.
In July, another 4 million people visit Dusseldorf for the largest Funfair on the Rhine, the Kirmes, which lasts anywhere from 3-8 days. This fair is classic and exuberant in the number and variety of shops, hawkers, and tents – to say nothing of the completely inebriated Germans staggering arm in arm through town while singing.
An Old Town with Charm, Good Beer and A lot of Sausage
By all means, spend a full day in the Altstadt drinking Altbier and gorging on pea soup and sauerbraten. Here you can find a link to virtually any epoch in Düsseldorf’s history, from its founding after a victorious battle against the Archbishop of Cologne in the 13th century, to its rise as a trading hub on the Rhine River. And later, it became a haven for some of Germany’s greatest writers and poets, including native son Heinrich Heine.
The Old Town, unlike many such preserved neighborhoods in the world, is very much alive with the laughter of locals who are mixing with the gulping and swallowing, hungry and thirsty tourists. It’s a great place to get stuffed on good German food while getting real drunk with a bunch of Germans who have become your new, best friends.
Models in the streets
Today, the uber-hip hang out at the Ko, or Koenigsallee, Dusseldorf’s high class shopping district. Most people would never have guessed, but Dusseldorf is Germany’s fashion center — the shows might be in Berlin or across the river in Cologne, but the business is done here in Dusseldorf. All of the high end fashionistas, jewelers and others have a strong presence on the Ko and if you aren’t going there to buy something, you can always go to check out the beautiful people – Dusseldorf is, after all, the center of Germany’s model industry.
Dusseldorf, the capital of Rheinland-Westfalen, is expected to be home to a variety of cultural attractions, such as, fine museums, opera houses, theaters and a range of business conference venues — and Dusseldorf doesn’t disappoint. There are the K20 and K21 art museums on Grabbeplatz, with renowned collections of modern and contemporary art as well as the Museum Kunst Palast, which focuses more on classical art.
Continuing with the cultural and historical meme, one of the more popular destinations is Benrath Palace, built by the Elector Palatinate in the 1800s. The grounds of the palace are similar to Sansoucci and Versailles in theme, but slightly less grandiose. The lake facing the palace provides for a serene, “ducal” environment. For a more imperial feeling, visit the Kaiserwerth north of the city, once the site of Barbarossa’s fort over the Rhine.
For many travelers, the twin-spired Cathedral of Cologne and river walks around the Rhine are all there is to be seen in this region, but if you skip Dusseldorf, you skip a nonchalant fashion-conscious German city wrapped up in history, that also knows how to party.
Written by Sascha Matuszak for EuropeUpClose.com