Planning a trip to Düsseldorf? I was fortunate enough to spend a week exploring this amazing city recently and dug up some awesome tips on the very best things to see and do.
This fantastic city lies in the west of Germany, offering up a welcoming and friendly atmosphere. I found the streets to be clean and the city oozing a safe vibe perfect for travel-lovers. Düsseldorf is divided by the famous Rhine River, boasting the Old Town on its east bank and the more modern parts of the city on its west bank. I loved the buzzing food and drink scene, with plenty of great bites and delicious drinks to be had all across the city. You’ll find it bursting at the seams with cute dogs, fashionable locals, quaint markets, gorgeous flowers and beautiful spots to sit and just soak it all in.
To help you plan your trip to this wonderful part of Germany, these are my top tips on the very best things to do in Düsseldorf. If I’ve left anything out, feel free to add your tips below! Also, you should definitely watch my video from my trip – it’s really fun.
1. Visit the local market
Wake up early and take yourself down to the local market, named the Carlsplatz Market. This spot was a trip highlight for me, I absolutely loved it. You’ll find the market nice and quiet in the morning, around 9:30am. It is, however, very beautiful. Wind your way through the stalls, boasting gorgeous fresh flowers, incredible fresh produce (the most perfect, plump raspberries I have ever seen) as well as treats like lots of cheese and the most gorgeous little cakes and tarts. Grab a coffee, purchase a lemon tart and let it all soak in. Find Carlsplatz Market here.
2. Wander through the city
As I mentioned earlier, I found Düsseldorf to be very safe. There was never a moment where I felt the need to clench my bag to my chest, dodge shifty-looking characters or hide my camera. With this in mind, I’d recommend you pop on some comfortable shoes and spend at least part of a day getting lost in Düsseldorf. Wander through small hidden streets and find yourself in a secret square. Lose yourself along cobblestone streets and find yourself along the Rhine. It’s a great way to see the best of the city. Find helpful maps and city guides of Düsseldorf here.
3. Have a big night out
Get yourself a hearty dinner then set off for a big night. You’ll find the streets come absolutely ALIVE once the sun goes down (which, in summer, is around 10:30pm). It’s a totally different place! You’ll find Düsseldorf referred to as ‘the longest bar in the world,’ because, in the Alstadt (Old Town) along Ratinger Straße you’ll find some 300 bars within close distance to each other. It’s a bit wild and kinda wonderful too.
4. Drink lots of ‘Old Beer’
I guess this one goes hand-in-hand with the one above. Düsseldorf is known for its Altbier, so you should definitely make yourself at home in a beer hall and sink a few of them. You won’t find it served in pint glasses, instead it’ll come in smaller almost test-tube like glasses. This means you knock them back much faster and the beer is always cold. Your friendly waiter (he’ll be wearing a blue shirt) will bring you a fresh beer each time your glass is empty, without asking you if you want one. This automated beer-delivery service will only stop if you place your coaster atop your glass to signal to him that you’re out. Be warned… these men don’t mess around.
5. Do a walking tour
You can spend all day walking around a European city and, trust me, be walking past incredible parts of history without even realising it. We did a fantastic walking tour through Visit Düsseldorf and our tour guide James pointed out things on walls and hidden bits and pieces I would never have noticed by myself. I highly recommend getting yourself on one of these tours so you can be sure you don’t miss a thing.
6. Don’t mention Cologne to anyone…
Time to get serious. There is a very real rivalry between Düsseldorf and Cologne. It runs pretty deep and it isn’t to be trifled with. I do not recommend walking into a beer hall and asking for a Kölsch (the beer of Cologne), wearing a Cologne football jersey or mentioning how much you love Cologne out in public. Keep it to yourself or you might get bitch-slapped with a pork-knuckle.
7. Visit the fun fair
When we were in town there was a fabulous carnival/fair set up that came alive with bright colours at night. This is a great spot to have a really fun night or afternoon in Düsseldorf, especially for those travelling with kids. It’s also a great spot for photographs! Find the Fun Fair here.
8. Eat like a German
Be sure you pack your stretchy-pants because the Germans do not mess around when it comes to portion size. Get yourself down to a local beer hall and order the most wildly German thing on the menu. We’re talking pork knuckle, schnitzel, bratwurst, sauerkraut and deep-fried camembert. Eat it ALL! Try as much as you can and then go home and eat 20 salads to make up for it all. Your body will thank you.
9. Pat every dog you see
It turns out the people of Düsseldorf, and Germany as a whole, absolutely love their dogs. You’ll see cute dogs of all shapes and sizes everywhere you go in Düsseldorf, I did and you can read about the dogs I met in Düsseldorf here. The local dogs are all very well-behaved, you won’t find them barking at each other in the street or causing chaos around town. You will, however, find they’re allowed in airports and all shops! Pretty great, huh.
10. Have sunset drinks along the Rhine
There are some really great bars along the Rhine and I recommend you experience a sunset there at least once. Walk down to the waters edge toward the end of the day to catch the sunset while you sip an Aperol Spritz or Altbier, teamed with a few wood-fired pizzas shared between friends. This is a great spot for people watching and a good way to finish off any day in Düsseldorf.
11. See St Lambertus Church
You’ll find the walk to this gorgeous church a lovely one. It kind of pops up out of nowhere and, inside, you’ll find it gorgeous and dark with beautiful wooden features throughout. It’s also adorned with golden, glowing light and has a welcoming atmosphere. Definitely worth the trip to take a walk through. Find out more about St Lambertus Church here.
12. Check out the hidden museum
There is a fabulous museum hidden in the space between the rail-line and the world above, called the Kunst Im Tunnel (Art in the Tunnel). It hosts modern art, which rotates regularly. Given its secret spot, it’s a really cool place to explore for a little while and see a very unique part of Düsseldorf, boasting the kind of ‘uber-modern-cool’ vibe you imagine it to have. Find KIT here.
13. Go shopping
Düsseldorf is well-known for its great shopping and fashion scene. You’ll find a tonne of amazing shops to explore, which will leave you feeling very spoilt if you’re an Aussie because they have so much better shops than us and you don’t have to hole up in a Westfield all day! Wander the streets, dipping in and out of boutiques and fabulous thrift stores as well as high-end brands and well-known chains like H&M.
14. Visit Rhine Tower
For the very BEST views of Düsseldorf, take a trip up to Rhine Tower. Be sure to pick a clear day with bright blue skies so you get the most out of it, but even if the weather is bad it’s still worth heading up there. You’ll be treated to stunning views across Düsseldorf, which I loved because it gives you a better appreciation for the size of the city, the architecture and offers up some awesome photography opportunities too. Find out more about Rhine Tower here.
15. Eat Gelato
The first and most important rule of visiting Europe is this: eat gelato at least once a day. In Düsseldorf, you’ll find gelato stores dotted all across the city. I recommend trying to eat an ice cream at each one, so you can properly determine which is the best. Holidays are for enjoying, home-time is for making up for your sins. Don’t hold back! Eat that gelato!
16. Take a boat tour on the Rhine
It’s not every day you find yourself in Europe, so I recommend making the most of it by taking a boat tour on the Rhine at the end of the day, to capture the sunset. It’s a great way to see the city and get some fantastic photographs of the beautiful sunset. I was terribly jet-lagged on our boat tour (so sad) but I still recommend you do it! Try to aim for a couple of hours long tour, 1 or 2 at the most is PLENTY of time. You can find boat tours o the Rhine here.
If you find yourself in Düsseldorf toward the end of February, or nearby with time to make a trip to Düsseldorf, you should definitely attend carnival. This is when the city comes absolutely ALIVE with fun events, bright colours, strange and wonderful traditions and just everything you could possibly hope to experience! You can find out all about this historic event, the must-see days and more on the Visit Düsseldorf website here.
Where to stay
We were lucky enough to spend three incredible nights staying at Breidenbacher Hof in the heart of Düsseldorf. In all honesty, this hotel is one of the most genuinely luxurious I have ever had the pleasure of staying at, which is why it’s my top pick on the best place to stay in Düsseldorf. I mean, let’s get real here, if you’re going to go all the way over to Europe and plan to spend time exploring Düsseldorf, it makes sense to stay somewhere really gorgeous and have an amazing time.
Whenever I looked out the window of my room, sat in the gorgeous restaurant or looked out over the street below I just had this moment where I thought, “Yep, this is Europe.” I never had that, ‘I could be anywhere,’ feeling. It was always a fantastically German experience.
The hotel is in the perfect location for exploring the city on foot, giving you the ideal base for your adventures. It offers impeccable service and attention to detail delivered by staff who, you can just tell, love where they work! The food is absolutely incredible and so delicious, so even if you don’t stay here I recommend a lunch or dinner enjoyed in the restaurant anyway.
You’ll find the rooms spacious and luxurious, offering a huge comfortable bed you kind of just melt into and a setting that’s warm, welcoming and perfectly combines modern tech with old-world glamour. I could not get enough of my room! I wanted to live there forever. 10/10 would stay again. You can find Breidenbacher Hof here.
Phoebe Lee is a writer, award-winning blogger and travel lover sharing helpful travel tips, insight and reviews for regular people. Follow her adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.