01/25/2008

A city tour of the unusual kind

Düsseldorf and environs
Always worth a visit – not just during EuroShop

A city tour of the unusual kind


Fashion metropolis, the longest bar in the world, trade fair Mecca, the city on the Rhine – Düsseldorf has many epithets. Although each is true, none offers the full picture. There is also a second side to Düsseldorf. And one that is only revealed at second glance – when you take the time to visit the boroughs and surrounding areas.


The de rigueur sights

The main attractions and a must on any trip to Düsseldorf are the Königsallee boulevard affectionately known as the Kö, and the Old Town. Riches and retail therapy, glitz and glamour, the la-di-da of lavish appearances are above all the hallmarks of Königsallee’s 800 metres of sumptuous stores. With this strip, Düsseldorf boasts an equal match for boulevards in other cities, German or otherwise. Most of those at home in the city probably don’t shop in the more exclusive outlets regularly, but they do relish sauntering along, oohing and aahing, sipping a coffee or finding a spot in the midday sun to enjoy a light snack (www.koenigsallee-duesseldorf.de).

The Old Town which sits directly on the Rhine embankment reflects a quirkier, more youthful culture that’s fast-paced, as reflected in fashions not quite so sophisticated or timeless. Above all at weekends, the Old Town pumps to the beat of its diverse restaurants, bars and clubs. Anyone who sets out to explore the Old Town for the first time should be sure to pop into one of the brewpubs (“Uerige”, “Füchschen”, “Schumacher” and “Schlüssel”). The beer is still brewed on the premises and the fare is hearty and rustic. Part of a tradition as old as that of German beer and sausage are the gruff waiters with an earthy sense of humour, referred to in the local dialect as “Köbes” (www.duesseldorf-altstadt.de).


Off the beaten track

But enough of Düsseldorf’s tour guide staples. It’s time to discover what lies off the beaten track. And that means heading into the boroughs. There are roughly 50 boroughs between city’s northern and southern limits and each has its own character. Only a few kilometres from the Düsseldorf Trade Fair Center lies Kaiserswerth. There are high-class boutiques, a well stocked wine shop and chic designer store, but above all it’s good food that makes the borough, which is older than Düsseldorf itself, a real jewel set apart from the city. Favoured by many new arrivals to the city, Flingern and Derendorf are youthful boroughs with a vibrant nightlife at their watering holes. Visitors also flock to the Media Harbour which boasts outstanding architecture and more than 30 good restaurants.

As the main retail artery in Derendorf, Nordstrasse is vibrant and offers all the everyday essentials. Small and inconspicuous Collenbachstrasse is a stone’s throw from here and boasts a fascinating retail concept. The “Fachgeschäft” (www.fach-geschaeft.de) at number 37 offers 80 designers and hobby crafters a pigeonhole to showcase three, four or five examples of their work. From babygrows through kooky T-shirts to jewellery, everything is individually designed and crafted by hand – mass produce has no place here.

The former blue-collar quarter of Flingern struggled to overcome its bad rap as a rotten place to live. That has only changed in recent years. The southern side still bears testimony to its industrial past with a waste incinerator, power station and utility company. In contrast, the north of the borough has become a hip cultural and shopping spot. While Birkenstrasse is the strip that provides for everyday needs, Ackerstrasse has attracted restaurants and young designer fashion labels as commercial tenants. It’s precisely these contrasts that make for Flingern’s special charm.

Just around the corner is Carlstadt, one of Düsseldorf’s most delightful boroughs with its myriad unique little stores and galleries. Gracious old buildings, some of them baroque, are as much a part of the narrow cobbled alleyways of Düsseldorf’s smallest borough as are hidden courtyards and international restaurants. Open daily, the market on Carlsplatz square is bursting with tasty local as well as international treats.

Oberkassel is oh-so chic. Stately old buildings overlooking the Rhine and elegant eateries spiced up with Asian cultural influences are hallmarks of this left-bank borough. If shopping bags filled with shoes, antiques or a classical bouquet from the Luegallee high street are weighing you down, plop down at a swanky Italian café for a glass of Prosecco and catch up on the latest local gossip.

The first thing see when you arrive in Benrath is the magical – and completely pink – Benrath Palace. The landmark of this southern borough is a magnet for thousands of tourists each year. Built around 1770, the baroque palace is today the venue for regular cultural events. The palace also houses the Museum for European Garden Art, Museum Corps de Logis and Natural History Museum (www.schloss-benrath.de).

For further information about Düsseldorf, please go to www.duesseldorf-tourismus.de.