In Europe

18 Things to Do in Düsseldorf From a Local

This list of 18 things to do in Düsseldorf was compiled to give travelers like yourself an easy, digestible overview of what unique and popular sights you can find across the city I’ve been fortunate enough to call home. To go more in-depth on traveling in Germany, check out my list of things to do in Germany and the off the beaten path guide. If you’re interested in something more literary, you can read a few chapters from my upcoming book on moving to and living in Germany. Have more questions about traveling to Germany? Contact me to set up a consultation.

Now, let’s get on with these 18 things to do in Düsseldorf.

Wander the Altstadt (Old Town)

Düsseldorf Germany Rathaus

This is a safe bet in most any German town or city and Düsseldorf is no exception to that rule. That said, Düsseldorf’s take on the Altstadt is an especially pleasant one in a country that, for the most part, values maintaining a car-free city center. Bolkerstraße is your main street where you’ll increasingly see tour groups shuffling through, led by someone carrying a colored flag. By night, things can get pretty rowdy. It is, after all, home to die längste Theke der Welt (the longest bar in the world). If you’re not one for crowds, start there in the morning or afternoon. I like to take visitors to the Heine Haus, a bookshop where poet and writer Heinrich Heine was born. From there, wander to your heart’s content among the cobblestone streets, taking every inconspicuous side street and alley you can find.

Do a Round of the Alt Bier Breweries

An obvious addition to your Altstadt wandering is to stop at each of the four Altbier breweries (plus Im Goldenen Kessel where they serve Schumacher). My personal favorite is Füchsen on Rattingerstraße for the beer, the schnitzel, and for the more chill Altstadt ambiance.

Stroll or Shop Along the Königsalle

Shopping is admittedly not my jam, but the Königsalle is the place to go for any and all high-end shopping. If, like me, shopping makes you anxious as you count up the euro that could’ve been better spent on travel, then focus on the scenery. Königsalle is one of the most pleasant urban areas in town to go for a stroll with a decidedly Parisian feel. While you’re there, keep an eye out for the green parrots.

Watch the Green Parrots Fly

The trees along Königsalle are home to green parrots, specifically Rose-ringed parakeets. Year-round, they whizz throughout the streets of Düsseldorf during sunset to reconvene in this area. I happen to live on a street they pass by and it’s like watching the natural world’s take on a Blue Angels show. Legends abound as to how these non-native birds got here in the first place. Pets let free decades ago? Brought in from India? Who knows. But they’re sure as hell here now.

Eat All The Japanese Food

Düsseldorf pops up every now and again in Hollywood films as the place a German character is from. The cinematic phenomenon is likely due to the fact there’s no English translation for the city’s name and it sounds decidedly German. But Düsseldorf is long past its days as a simple Dorf or village. This is a cosmopolitan city full of diverse cultures, most notably Japanese. Japan Tag or Japan Day is one of the city’s most beloved annual festivals, but you’d be better served by eating your way through Immermanstraße where most of the Japanese restaurants have congregated. (Naniwa and Soba-An are a couple of personal favorites.)

Hang In Rheinpark

Some Americans shutter at the idea of living in European-style urban density. “But what about having a backyard?” is a common plea. Well, for my first year-and-a-half, the Rheinpark was my backyard. This simple slice of green space along the Rhine is inviting to dog walkers, runners, fitness groups, yogis, intramural sport groups — just about anything you can think of. Come summer, it’s barbecue central.

Visit The Nordpark Gardens

Further north, there’s the Nordpark, a highlight of which is the Japanese gardens complete with a contemplatively mellow stream dotted with picturesque stones, green bushes, trees, and colorful flowers. It all does an admirable job and making you forget, even if for a brief moment, that you’re in Germany and not Japan. Kids, on the otherhand, will probably be more interested in the park’s adjacent aquarium.

Cycle Up To Kaiserswerth

Just past Nordpark, there’s a riverside pedestrian and bike path that traces along the Rhine and through Kaiserswerth. Bring, rent, or borrow a bike and pedal five kilometers up to Kaiserswerth, which gives you small town German ambiance and aesthetic without having to go far outside the city.

Ride the Rhine Cycle Route

If you’ve got the energy (or if you’ve fuelled up on a Kaiserswerth snack), keep pedaling north along the Rhine Cycle Route, one of a handful of EuroVelo bike routes that wind their way through Germany.

Hike in Aaper Wald and Grafenberger Wald

Germany does an admirable job giving its urban dwellers easy access to nature. Obvious examples of that in Düsseldorf are Aaper Wald and Grafenberger Wald — two adjacent forests in eastern Düsseldorf where you can shuffle over dirt hiking trails in remarkable isolation considering you’re still very much in the city. In Grafenberger Wald, you have the bonus of passing by a Wildpark where live animals like deer and boars roam.

Street Art On Kiefernstraße

Between Erkrather Straße and Fichtenstraße sits an otherwise nondescript street by the name of Kiefernstraße, but street artists have put this thoroughfare on the Düsseldorf map. Give yourself at least 15 minutes for a gingerly stroll to appreciate the art.

Stop by K20 and K21 Art Museums

Düsseldorf has an art legacy that’ll surprise you if you’re not already deeply embedded in the art world. Joseph Beuys is perhaps best known internationally and proudly called Düsseldorf his home, famously (at the time) bringing Andy Warhol in town for a project. Today, K20 (the art museum in the Altstadt) remains a respect school of art alongside its modern twin K21 just south of Altstadt.

Kaffee und Kuchen in the Rheinturm

Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake) is beloved German tradition that this immigrant was happy to make the first step in integration. Most coffee shops in town (or anywhere in Germany for that matter) will serve fresh cakes (more like an American pie — these aren’t Dairy Queen cakes, folks) and coffee for the afternoon tradition. But, if you want to kill two birds with one stone, take your Kaffee und Kuchen at the Bar & Lounge M 168 in the Rheinturm (Rhine Tower). “M 168” refers to being 168 meters high, offering 360-degree views of the city and Rhine below. You can buy a ticket at the entrance that covers both your elevator ride to the top and your coffee and cake. Just make sure you do it on a clear day so you can actually see something.

Snap Photos In Medienhafen

The city’s redeveloped Medienhafen (Media Harbor) has become a favorite for wandering photographers, especially thanks to the pair of Frank Gehry buildings with their trademark weirdness that draws the eye. Bring your camera and you’ll fit right in.

Farmer’s Market at Carlsplatz

Carlsplatz on the southern edge of the Altstadt has become one of my favorite urban areas in the city. The square is full of farmers selling fresh fruits and vegetables and food stands selling everything from a typical sausage to fish sandwiches and more. I usually stop for coffee at KaffeeReich as well.

Hit The Flea Markets

Like shopping, this isn’t particularly my jam, but I’m sure I’d hear from someone if I left this out and I know other people enjoy it. Plus, if you have time in Düsseldorf, it’s worth visiting one — especially if you’ve caught wind of any food trucks stopping by. Even in my general disinterest in flea markets, I’ve found a couple items that still hang in our living room. Trödel & Antikmarkt and Markthallen Hallenflohmarkt are a couple of the big ones.

Try Himmel und Äad

People outside of Germany view German cuisine as a monolith. It’s sausage and potatoes. Yes, there is that, but the food is also quite regional. It’s likely a legacy of how disjointed the kingdoms that make up modern Germany historically were and the local traditions that disconnection helped foster. In the Rhineland, Himmel und Äad (Rheinisch for “Heaven and Earth”) is a common, regional dish you’ll find on menus consisting of mashed potatoes, applesauce, and blood sausage. As I said, you can find it around town, but you might as well try it at the aptly-named Himmel und Ähd on Nordstraße.

Hike The Neanderlandsteig

This final recommendation takes us outside of the city, but very much connected to Düsseldorf: hiking the Neanderlandsteig. I’ve covered this in greater detail here, but in short, the Neanderlandsteig is a multi-stage trail that cuts through and around the Neander Valley where Neanderthal remains were first found. Depending on where you’re starting in the city, you can easily find a trailhead within a walking distance, but I typically take the train out to the Neanderthal station next to the museum of the same name and wander to my heart’s content.

The Germany Travel Show in Düsseldorf

In 2017, we ended The Germany Travel Show with a special episode in Düsseldorf were you can see plenty of these recommendations in action.

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