The capital of North-Rhine Westphalia tends to fall under the tourist radar, with most visitors to Germany opting instead to explore the bigger urban hotspots of Berlin, Munich and its rival, Cologne. But this confident, well-to-do city is more than deserving of attention, with a cobbled riverside Altstadt (Old Town) that is home to some 250 bars and beer taverns, many of which serve a proprietary version of the city’s brew of choice: altbier, enviable fashion and art scenes, and some extraordinary modern and postmodern architecture – most notably the twisted, gleaming facades of the Frank Gehry-designed Neuer Zollhof buildings in Düsseldorf harbour.
When to go
Winters in Düsseldorf are relatively cold, with temperatures often hovering around the zero mark. Summers are warm, though rarely unpleasantly so, and are better for wandering. However, rain is common, so be prepared. Peak tourist season takes place in summer (July and August).
Düsseldorf is at its most colourful during the annual carnival in February and attracts crowds of out-of-towners. The altbier flows more freely than ever during this time and street parties erupt on Rose Monday (Rosenmontag) when floats – many of which take aim at current political figures – meander along the streets as part of a huge parade.
If you can’t make it for the Düsseldorf Carnival celebrations, there is another festive and perhaps more family-friendly alternative: the Christmas markets, where a magical atmosphere pervades. From 22 November to 30 December this year, the wooden huts of vendors selling hot chocolate, gifts and glühwein (mulled wine) spring up in city squares strewn with festive lights.
How to get around
Düsseldorf has a reliable, relatively cheap public transport system operated by Rheinbahn. The tourist-oriented DüsseldorfCard is good for unlimited travel on buses, trams and surcharge-free trains (including the S-Bahn) within the Zone A city area. It also gets you free or discounted entrance to many attractions. It can be purchased at tourist information stands, Rheinbahn customer service centres and at select hotels.