Riches of the Rhine
Fine art and hearty fare in an edgy German city
WALKW THIS WAY: Follow the promenade along the east bank of the Rhine from the Altstadt (old town) towards the Rheinturm telecommunications tower and Dusseldorf’s old dockland, reinvented as a slick MedienHafen (media harbour). Disused cranes vie with Frank Gehry’s stainless steel “dancing towers” and giant plastic figures, known as “Flossies”, clamber up dockside buildings. Or stroll through Hofgarten, one of Germany’s oldest public parks, laid out with English and French gardens, 200-year-old trees and a small branch of the Dussel, the Rhine tributary that gives the city, in Germany’s west, its name. More: duesseldorf-tourismus.de; medienhafen.de.
HIGH TIMES: Take the lift up the Rheinturm tower. Admire the view over the city and surrounding area over lunch, tea or dinner in Restaurant Top 180. On a clear day you can see Cologne Cathedral. The M 168 club and lounge, named after its height in metres, is open until midnight or 1am on weekends. For those less keen on heights, head to the cafe above the Schifffahrt (Shipping) Museum. From the top of the only remaining tower of the former 13th-century palace, watch container-laden barges glide down the Rhine. Look out over Burgplatz square, the twisted wooden tower of St Lambertus church and admire the elegant art nouveau facades of Oberkassle on the west bank. More: guennewig.de/en/rheinturm-duesseldorf; freunde-schifffahrtmuseum.de.
BIG SPLASH: Start at the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen’s K20 with modern collections that range from classical modernism to American pop and conceptual art. There are works by Picasso, Chagall, Dali, Klee, Kandinsky, Mondrian, Matisse and Magritte; plus post-war American art by Pollock and Warhol, and installations by local hero Joseph Beuys and wild sculptures by British-born Tony Cragg, previous director of the Dusseldorf Art Academy. A highlight is the gallery of German expressionists with pieces by Dix, Kirchner and Beckmann. There’s a free bus to its avantgarde sister gallery, K21, focusing on international art since 1980. Don’t miss a visit to KIT, Kunst im Tunnel (Art in the Tunnel), under the Rhine Embankment Promenade, or visit other contemporary art galleries in Flingern and Bilk. More: kunst-im-tunnel.de; kunstsammlung.de/en/home.html.
LISTEN UP: Dusseldorf, the adopted city of Brahms, Schumann and Mendelssohn, is well k known for its music. Take in a concert at the Tonhalle, the city’s prettiest concert hall. There’s opera or ballet at the palatial Oper am Rhein, where tickets can be bought two hours before performances. There are free organ concerts every Sunday at 4pm in Andreaskirche, Rhineland’s most beautiful baroque church, which is decorated with stunning frescoes. For live jazz or DJs who spin until morning, head to Dr Thompson’s in a former soap factory in the Flingern district. Dusseldorf is the hometown of Kraftwerk, the influential electronic ensemble who met as students and inspired a generation of synthesiser groups. German-language versions of their albums are sold at A&O Medien. More: dominikaner-duesseldorf.de; drthompsons.info; tonhalle.de; operamrhein.de; aundo-medien.de.
MASTER THIS: North of Hofgarten’s west end is the Kunstpalast, an imposing 1920s building that h houses a collection of fine and applied arts from medieval sculpture to present-day art and design. Highlights include an extensive collection of paintings by Rubens, an assembly of old masters’ drawings and prints, and the Hentrich glass collection, considered the most comprehensive in Europe. Also within the complex is the popular NRW Forum, a key venue for contemporary exhibitions on media, photography, architecture, fashion and design. Movie buffs should visit the Filmmuseum and watch rare flicks and silent movies accompanied by an organ player in its Black Box cinema. Or head to the museum that forms part of the Loewensenf mustard shop and taste the unusual likes of coconut curry mustard or fine mustard chocolates. More: smkp.de; nrw-forum.de; duesseldorf.de/filmmuseum; loewensenf.de.
PUB PICKS: For traditional German fare, washed down with altbier brewed on the premises, head to the cavernous Zum Schluessel. Or enjoy creative pub cuisine at Ohme Jupp, rubbing shoulders with professors and students of the Dusseldorf Art Academy. Bistro Zicke, decorated with old exhibition posters, offers a bohemian atmosphere. Sophisticated German cuisine, amid wooden panels and stained glass, is served at Tante Anna, dating back to 1593. Brasserie serves up exquisite food in an elegant hotel setting as does Meerbar in the red Gehry building in MedienHafen, which is a favourite with fish lovers. For something different explore the Japanese quarter on Immermannstrasse near Oststrasse UBahn station. Grab a bento box at the Maruyasu deli for a cheap lunch or indulge in an exquisite, Michelin-starred Nagaya meal, fusing tender roast veal with asparagus and miso sauce. More: zumschluessel.de; duesseldorf-altstadt.de; bistro-zicke.de; tanteanna.de; brasserie-stadthaus.de; meerbar.de; maruyasu.de; nagaya.de.
GOOD BUYS: Koenigsallee, with a central canal and tree-lined boulevards, is one of Europe’s most exclusive shopping streets, with brands such as Gucci, Burberry and Chanel. The department store Koe-Bogen, with its new Libeskind-designed facade, connects the city’s historic commercial centre with Hofgarten Park. Explore smaller design and antique shops along the cobblestoned alleyways of Carlstadt in Altstadt or for more unconventional outlets head to Flingern and Lorettostrasse in Unterbilk where shops include the quirky Romantiklabor, voted one of the most beautiful retail outlets in Germany by Architecture & Living magazine and where everything is handmade. Heinemann’s, below the shop, is an excellent cafe selling delicious cakes and chocolates, including champagne truffles. More: koebogen.info; romantiklabor-shop.de; konditorei-heinemann.de.
ALE’SA WELL: Browse the food market open Monday to Saturday in Carlsplatz and I suggest you sample reibekuchen, potato fritters flavoured with apfelsauce, a typical snack of the Rhineland. Or buy a baguette and gouda cumin cheese from Das Kaeseparadies. For delicious German sausages try Berliner ecke. Or sit down for a glass of the city’s famous altbier (brown ale) and a bowl of erbsensuppe (pea soup) with a bockwurst. More: carlsplatz-markt.de.
TICKETST TO RIDE: The Dusseldorf Card is the cheapest and simplest way to get around. It grants unlimited use of trams and buses within the city area and free or reduced-price entry to museums, selected attractions and leisure facilities. A 24-hour ticket costs €9 ($12.50); 48-hour ticket, €14; 72-hour ticket, €19. Family and group tickets are also available. Buy from tourist information offices, ticket offices, selected hotels and museums. More: duesseldorfcard.de; duesseldorf-tourismus.de/en/ tourist-information-offices. HIGH AND MIGHTY: The Hyatt Regency Dusseldorf is a sleek five-star high-rise in a dramatic post-industrial setting overlooking MedienHafen. At the other end of the city is Steigenberger Park (pictured), a grand old hotel with an ornate entrance, beautifully furnished guestrooms and a plush dining room where a generous breakfast is served; it has a superb location at the end of Koenigsallee across from the Deutsche Oper am Rhein. The Carat Hotel, situated on Carlsplatz in Altstadt, features a Georgian exterior and stylish, comfortable guestrooms. More: steigenberger.com; dusseldorf.regency.hyatt.com; carat-hotel.de.
Dusseldorf ’s MedienHafen at night, top; elegant Koenigsallee, above left; the Filmmuseum, above centre; Andreaskirche, above right; art at Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, below