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Dusseldorf city guide: Where to eat, drink, shop and stay in Germany’s art capital

The Independent logo The Independent 05/12/2018 Christopher Beanland
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Much more than just a city of business travellers, beer halls, a carnival and a touristy old town, Dusseldorf is also Germany’s art capital. Before reunification and Berlin’s meteoric rise, the West German art scene was centred here. And even before the Second World War, modernist geniuses like Joseph Beuys learnt, taught and plied their trade in the Rhine metropolis. Art Dusseldorf happens every November, showcasing the greatest galleries and the most up-and-coming artists and attracting devotees from around the world – but even at other times the city has top-notch galleries, museums and even an “Art Subway”.

What to do

Art of the matter

The three major art museums of the city are grouped together to form the Kunstsammlung – one of Europe’s most important art collections. The K21 (open Tuesday to Friday 10am-6pm, Saturday and Sunday 11am-6pm) is in an imposing pile dating from 1880 that used to house the regional parliament of North Rhine Westphalia before it moved out towards the Medienhafen. The huge atrium here has been the site of spectacular shows such as Tomás Saraceno’s “In Orbit” – a giant spiderweb high above the floor that brave visitors could clamber over.

The modern K20 (open same hours as K21) on Grabbeplatz has 5,000 square metres of gallery space and was opened in 1986. The Langen Foundation looks like a Bond villain’s lair; check out its exhibition on loan from the Burger Collection until 17 March 2019 (open daily 10am-6pm).

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Art off the beaten track

It’s also worth checking out the hip gallery Philara, open Thursday 4-8pm, Friday and Saturday 2-5.30pm, Sunday 12-4.30pm. It has a gritty Berlin vibe – it’s based in an old warehouse next to some train tracks.

Areal Bohler (open Monday to Friday 9am-6pm) is a main venue for Art Dusseldorf – a former steelworks that is well worth wandering around on any day.

Twenty minutes from the city centre in Velbert-Neviges is the Mariendom, a brutalist cathedral (open Sunday to Friday 6.30am-6.15pm, Saturdays 9am-6.15pm) and Catholic pilgrimage site. The building by Gottfried Bohm celebrated its 50th birthday in 2018 with a series of sound and light art shows by the Area Composer collective.

Chill out time

Escape the city for a relaxing afternoon of pampering at Vabali, which looks more like a luxury hotel than a pool and spa. This immaculately presented and thoughtfully designed upmarket haven is themed around Bali, with Indonesian artefacts and distinctly Asian architecture wrapping around an open air pool and garden with half a dozen saunas. Inside, decadent day beds are full of snoozing punters and there’s a restaurant too. The complex overlooks a lake which is chock full with birdlife (open daily 9am-midnight).

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“A port? But it’s nowhere near the sea!” we here you cry. And er, yes, The Independent was as flummoxed as anyone until a kind guide pointed out that the Rhine is actually rather a deep and wide river and so big ships can sail down it to D-dorf. So now you know. The city’s main 1900s harbour is now a lively area full of interesting postmodern architecture by people like Frank Gehry and media companies like the regional TV station WDR.

Where to stay

Handy for the city centre and main train station, Motel One has small rooms but good design and a surprisingly stylish edge. Doubles from €69, B&B.

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Well placed and with solid service and great dining, Dusseldorf’s Hilton is a strong choice and includes full facilities, such as a gym. Doubles from €90, B&B.

Set in a striking building designed by the late, great British architect Will Alsop, the Innside Melia has river views and rooms that are comfortable, modern and thoughtfully decorated. Doubles from €83, B&B.

Where to eat

Laura Koerver once worked in fashion but is now a household name in Germany thanks to her foodie credentials, with several books and TV shows under her belt. Laura’s Deli was inspired by a visit to New York, but the Dusseldorf version is a healthier proposition than simply a plate of pastrami on rye (open daily 8.30am-6pm; closed Sundays).

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Dusseldorf’s coolest new restaurant, Paris Club, is perched on top of the swanky new 25 Hours Hotel Das Tour. The hotel has a French theme decked out with Tour de France photos and cheeky Parisian posters from the 1960s. Sweeping views of the city unfurl as you drink French-themed cocktails in the bar (all the spirits served are Gallic) and devour a mean take on steak frites (open daily 8am-11pm, except weekends 10am-11pm).

Where to drink

The bar at the Ruby Coco Hotel (also one of Dusseldorf’s best budget boutique boltholes) is one of the most kicking joints in Dusseldorf – and really comes alive late at night with a mix of low-lighting, retro tunes, cool decor and hipster clientele (open daily 24 hours).

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Bar Olio, a hip little dive bar on Schirmerstraße (0049 211 3677294), north of the city centre, is housed in a former gate block on the disused railway shunting yards. The whole area is in the midst of redevelopment so the volume can go up loud as there’s not much else around. But if it’s too loud for you, there’s a cute garden with plenty of tables and chairs too (open Wednesday to Sunday 8pm-1am).

Where to shop

If you need a new suitcase to take your artistic purchases home in, hip German millennial brand Horizn Studios (backed by DJ Seth Troxler) is now available in Dusseldorf at luggage store Brecklinghaus in the chi chi KO Galerie Mall (open Monday to Saturday 10am-8pm).

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One of Dusseldorf’s nicest neighbourhood streets, Lorettostrasse is the place that locals will tell you to go if you want to spend a Saturday afternoon browsing. Shops selling clothes, furniture, flowers, trinkets, art and much more combine with a lively brunch scene and smattering of organic food stores.

Architectural highlight

Dusseldorf’s “Art Subway” is a new tram line running underground from Wehrhahn to the city centre, covering six stations. Each features different public art, from video to sound recordings, and the architecture takes centre stage because advertising is – uniquely – banished from the entire line.

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Nuts and bolts

What currency do I need?


What language do they speak?


Should I tip?

Yes, 5-10 per cent.

What’s the time difference?


What’s the average flight time from the UK?

One hour.

Public transport

You can walk to most places in this compact city, or take the frequent and cheap trams (which run underground as a pre-metro subway in the city centre). A North Rhine Westphalia Landesticket from Deutsche Bahn allows travel on trains and trams right across the state for journeys out to the country and the airport.

Best view

Take the lift to the top of the Rhineturm, from where you can see as far as near neighbour and arch rival Cologne.

Insider tip

Dusseldorf city centre is dead on a Sunday. Germans are strict about Sunday trading laws and the city will have a touch of the 28 Days Later about it. Do as the locals do and head for a park, pub or sauna to find other humans who haven’t caught the Sunday zombie virus.

More information

Gallery: 37 stunning World Heritage sites in Germany [National Geographic]

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