Düsseldorf – discover a German Boomtown

My home city Düsseldorf is definitely one of Germany`s boomtowns! A low debt and unemployment rate, giant construction sites and 620,000 inhabitants – this city keeps growing at an unbelievable pace.


Well, after so many blogs about all the beautiful places I have travelled to over the past few years I thougt it is about time to write about my home city. And as always this will be a very frank blog – no sugarcoating but at the same time I will, of course, let you know what I love about this city, the capital of North-Rhine Westphalia.

Let`s start with the things I dislike:

Carnival. For a few days in late winter the city goes mad, really mad. People put on strange clothes, get drunk and do things which they normally would never do. And all this in public. On Rose Monday the streets are full of them, watching a giant parade (which is kind of satire and - I must admit - not bad). And you will hardly find any open shop in downtown Düsseldorf. Not really my thing. Either take part in it or – escape. Guess what my choice is ;-)?

Beer is a big thing in this city (although you also get great wine...), „Altbier“ to be precise. It is a dark liquid served in traditional breweries. Mostly unfriendly waiters (called „Köbes“) keep coming with beer and people keep drinking ... and drinking and drinking. If you order a water instead you may be asked if you also wish soap and a towel. Strange but true. And the food in those breweries is heavy. Pork knuckles, sausages and other stuff. No further comment, just read my blog on meat.

The never-ending construction sites. Do we really need that extension of the subway for just 3.6 km?. I even don`t remember when the construction started, it must have been ages ago. And new tunnels, buildings and and and. I have to say though that the new subway stations look pretty cool It is nice to see such a dynamic city but you get sick of all the construtions sites with dirt and noise.

The Central Station (Hauptbahnhof). This city is so rich and ... international. I always imagine if a first-time visitor arrives by train. Once you get out of that station you are in the middle of misery – ugly buildings, drug addicts, cheap stores and bars. Hard to imagine that only a 10 min walk you are on one of Germany`s most elegant boulevards. There are plans to upgrade the station neighborhood which I fully support. If I was the Lord Mayor of this city this would be one of my top priorities. However, I am afraid they will not ask me.

Lack of excellent coffeeshops. Yes! There have been a few good ones coming up over the past years but still – for a city of this magnitude we should have more of them. And I don`t mean Starbucks, of course – I rather mean local chains such as Woyton`s, or independent ones as „Oma Erika“ in Flingern - offering great coffee. Maybe I should open a fancy coffeeshop?

And here are the things I like about DUS (meaning Düsseldorf...)!

The size of this city (yes, size matters...). I always say it is big enough to have everything you need but it is still easy to get from A to B. 620,000 inhabitants is a fairly good size . And the distance to the airport is pretty short – a real advantage for someone who travels quite often. Thumbs up!

The Königsallee – one of Germany`s most exclusive shopping boulevards. Just one kilometer long, with marvelous trees and a canal in the middle. Lots of expensive shops (hardly any designer who is NOT here) and nice cafés. And banks if you need money to shop. I love to sip my espresso in one of the outdoor cafés (although service is not always the fastest...) and to watch people. Funny tourists with knapsacks and strange clothes, beautiful fashion people, ladies with lips like rubber boats (yes, there are quite a few plastic surgeons here...) and Arabs in summer, many Arabs. I think we had 25,000 this past summer – just walking up and down Königsallee – drinking coffee, shopping, drinking coffee, shopping ... and so on.

The „Medienhafen“ – harbour area. 20 years ago there was almost nothing. Today you see the fanciest architecture in this neighborhood. Colorful buildings, the impressive architecture of Frank Gehry and lots of restaurants, many of them overlooking the Rhine river. Not to miss should you ever visit this city.

The „Rheinuferpromenade“, a promenade along the Rhine river. This was one of best ideas of local politicians. Years ago the city was cut off from the river by a road with heavy traffic which disappeared in a 4km tunnel. No more cars, just a beautiful alley for pedestrians – with nice cafés and restaurants and marvelous views. Love it! And not only me. On sunny weekend days it is pretty crowded. And come to watch the most glorious sundowns you can imagine. Walk down to the „Rheinturm“, the city`s tallest building with 240 m. Although this is a very touristy thing, take the elevator to a platform at 180 m - and admire the gorgeous views.

Benrath Castle and its beautiful parks. A little pinkish baroque castle (Versailles „en miniature“). Stroll through the park until you reach the river – just gorgeous. Pure nature, very peaceful.

The international character of the city. We call this „Multikulti“ in German. Despite its size, Düsseldorf is pretty cosmopolitan. People from all over the world are living here. You cannot say there are no problems among different cultures but overall, it`s ok. There is tolerance and you can live as you want as long as you don`t disturb anyone. And – being a free spirit - that`s what I really love about Düsseldorf.

The dynamics of this city. Yes, Düsseldorf is rather rich. And yes, it keeps changing its face, in particular downtown. New fancy buildings such as the „Kö-Bogen“ (high-end shopping) keep coming up. The harbour area continues to grow. And new neighborhoods with brand new buildings emerge. I love that. I love change. And I still complain about the many construction sites. With all that new stuff you still find old parts such as the „Altstadt“, with buildings that date back tot he 16th century. North Americans in particular love it although some parts are rude with many drunk people, on weekends in particular. But still – it is a nice contrast to the many modern faces of Düsseldorf.

Art underneath the earth! I have added this item just recently, after having seen a „sneak preview“ of the new subway stations. Each of the new six stations has been designed by local artists. I have just seen one „live“ and the other five on paper, they look fantastic. Thumbs up – despite item 1) on my list of dislikes ;-)!


Here are a few personal recommendations:

For Coffee Lovers...

  • Woytons`s
    • They have come a long way to get onto my top list of coffeeshops – but now they fully deserve it. A little „grungy“ atmosphere, great espresso and a few tasty snacks (my favorite is their banana bread).
    • www.woyton.de
  • Sarar`s
    • This is my favorite coffee hangout in summer – al fresco! Perfect for people watching, nice service and excellent coffee.
    • www.facebook.com/SararCafe
  • Espresso Perfetto
    • Two outlets on Friedrichstrasse – as the name suggest, the coffee is excellent and if you are lucky you can sit outside on the walkway.
    • www.espressoperfetto.de

Eating Places

  • Laura`s Deli
    • Finally a deli that is worth the name! This place at Carlsplatz has already received a few awards. New York-inspired deli with great fresh food (many veggie options) but you will be lucky to get a seat – this place is small and popular. Also open for breakfast!
    • www.laurasdeli.de
  • Bentobox
    • Simple Japanese restaurant (belongs to a chain!) just next to Laura`s Deli. Delicious Asian meals and a nice service. Great for a casual meal if you like sushi, miso and co. – Ah, talking about Asian food – many people and guidebooks will recommend Naniwa on Oststrasse. To be honest, I have never understood what is so special about that place. It is tiny and people are waiting outside (even in winter) for a long time to get a table. I could not find anything special about the food and when you leave the place your clothes smell like if you had cooked yourself in that small kitchen for hours. Maybe go there and judge yourself.
    • You will find plenty of other Japanese places in that area. Try Kikaku or – if you wish to eat at a very high-end place – Nagaya.
    • www.bentobox.de



Viva Italia

You can almost find all kind of food here but like most German cities, Düsseldorf is full of Italian places – small and very simple ones, average and very high-end ones. Attention: many of them do not accept credit cards – hard to believe but sad and true.

Here are a few of my favorites (and this list is definitely not complete):

  • Saittavini
    • a very classic (and not cheap) one in Oberkassel, the „bourgeois“ neighbourhood on the other side of the river.
    • www.saittavini.de
  • La Donna Cannone
    • trendy place in the harbour area. Apart from the noise this restaurant has never disappointed me. Not really cheap (but neither really expensive) but good with a nice deck „al fresco“ in summer.

Where to sleep

The hotel offer in Düsseldorf has tremendously improved over the past years. Yes, there still is the good old Steigenberger at the end of Königsallee – great location but a bit outdated in my opinion. If you are looking for a real modern high-end hotel downtown, the Intercontinental on Königsallee may be the right one. They have a Holmes Place gym with pool – that`s my „cathedral“ for workouts!There are a few nice hotels in the harbour area – the Hyatt Regency offers definitely one of the best views over the city. Personally, I love the Radisson Blu, a smaller design hotel with a cool restaurant and bar. Talking about bars – the Innside has one on the 18th floor of a very colorful fancy building in the harbour area –spectacular! But – there is no A/C in the rooms so it may get warm in summer. Anyways, have a drink in that bar and enjoy the view. The Derag Living Hotel de Medici is one of the latest additions – and maybe the most spectacular one. It is located in a palace in the old town (close to a few great museums!), a perfect mix of old and new! For a bit less expensive hotels I definitely recommend the Melia close to the park „Hofgarten“ (walking distance to the Königsallee) and the Favor, a small boutique hotel right downtown, just opposite Libeskind`s Köbogen (and in case you are fed up with the big international hotel chains...).

You will find more of my photos in the gallery.

Needless to say that this list of places cannot be complete. And I did not touch at all on museums. The city has a few great ones – no matter if you like the old and traditional stuff or very modern art. Düsseldorf Marketing has a great website where you will find much more:


And ... should you ever come let me know what you like and dislike ... and maybe give me a buzz to sip an espresso with you ;-)!

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