Day trip from Cologne: Düsseldorf

Back in July, @jilltjelescrauwaet and I spend four days in the North Rhine-Westphalia region in Germany. For both of us, Düsseldorf was the discovery of the trip. It wasn’t exactly ranking high on my to do list you know, but when looking for a day trip from Cologne, it seemed like a lot of fun! I love cities that combine historic charm with modern day architecture. And Düsseldorf is exactly that! Ideally you will need two days to fully explore the city. However, with some planning and Google Maps we were able to cover a lot of ground in just one day! So, without further ado; my Düsseldorf itinerary.

Breakfast at Kyto Coffee

We left Cologne quite early and hadn’t had breakfast yet, so we walked towards Kyto Coffee. This cute coffee spot is located upon 15 minutes walking distance from the Düsseldorf train station and is known for its beautiful latte art. For me a delicious cappuccino and croissant always do the trick, so I went for that. Jill on the other hand, decided to mix it up and ordered a pretzel with her coffee. We didn’t get the cute bear latte art we hoped for (and saw on Instagram), but the cappuccinos were absolutely delicious, so there’s that! And the heart and flower art were pretty adorable too! From Kyto Coffee we jumped on the subway towards the old town.

Explore the main sights of the Altstadt

There’s no better place to start your visit to Düsseldorf than the Old Town. The small city center is full of colored houses and is known as “the longest bar in the world”, as the streets are filled with more than 300 cafes and terraces.

Strolling around Düsseldorf’s Altstadt isn’t much about crossing of famous landmarks from a list. Altough they are a lot of cute picture worthy spots in the city, so I would recommend to wander around and take in the sights as you go. You will find the Altes Rathaus (City Hall) at the end of Bolkerstrasse on Marktplatz. This charming square dates back to 1392. In the center of the square is an equestrian statue of Elector Johann Wilhelm von Pfalz-Neuburg, who meant a great deal to the people of Düsseldorf.

As you walk through the Altstadt, check the time and see if you can make it for one of the Schneider Wibbel clock shows (11AM – 1PM – 3PM – 6PM – 9PM) at Schneider-Wibbel-Gasse. The cute clock has a mechanical tailor puppet inside. We tried to catch the performance, but unfortunately the clock was broken, so no luck there. The Andreaskirche is not the oldest church in Düsseldorf, but definitely the prettiest. This baroque hidden gem was built in the 17th century by Count Wolfgang Wilhelm, when he diverted from being Protestant to Roman Catholicism.

We came across a little canal, and however we didn’t think much of it at first, we later find out it was the confluence of the Düffel river with the Rhine.

Next up was the Burgplatz, by far the most popular square in Düsseldorf. Whether you are into culture, fancy a drink on a terrace or want to enjoy gorgeous views upon the Rhine, this is the place to be! Back in the days there used to be a castle here, (burg in German), hence the name. The Schlossturm is the last vestige of that castle.

Make sure to walk down the Rheintreppe for an amazing view upon the Rhine River. The colorful mosaic wall is also the ideal background for an Insta pic! You will also spot the medieval St. Lambertus Church, most likely the oldest building in Düsseldorf and one of the most famous sights in the Altstadt. It’s home to the bones of St. Apollinaris, the city’s patron saint. The structure’s famous leaning roof is said to have been twisted by the devil in a fit of rage. But more plausible is the fact that the spire was destroyed by fire in 1815 and the fresh wood, used for its reconstruction, was so moist that it warped as it dried.

Walk along the Rheinuferpromenade to Medienhafen

A lovely 15 minute walk along the Rhine River will get you from the charming Altstadt to the modern Medienhafen area. The promenade is filled with cafes, restaurants, food trucks and shops.

Spot the Rheinturm

You can’t visit Düsseldorf and miss the Rheinturm. I mean, you literally can’t miss this thing, as it’s the tallest building in the city. The radio and tv tower rises 240 meters over the city right on the bank of the Rhine. Inside you can find a revolving restaurant and observation deck at 170 meters with spectacular panoramas. I really wanted to go up and enjoy the views, but the lines to get in, were enormous, so we decided to skip it!

Check out the architecture in Medienhafen

From the Rheinturm, it’s a short walk to Medienhaven, my absolute favorite spot in Düsseldorf. This hip neighborhood is filled with modern, high rise buildings and unique architecture; a stark contrast to the 18th century buildings located in the Altstadt. In addition to modern architecture, you will find plenty of cozy terraces, a quiet little marina and nice facades there. Back in the 70’s, Medienhafen was once an important shipping harbor. Nowadays it houses many fashion, design, advertising and media offices.

One of the most famous sights in Medienhafen is a trio of post-modern houses designed by famous architect Frank Gehry. You may have seen his work at the Dancing House in Prague.

Lunch at Rocca 800°C

My friend from college recommended me to have lunch at Rocca 800°C, located on the ground level of one of the Gehry buildings. Talking ‘bout a unique location! The restaurant has a very nice terrace, so we definitely wanted to sit outside and enjoy the views upon Medienhafen. We asked for a specific spot, and although it was super calm in the restaurant (like 3 tables calm), the waiter rudely declined. He pointed us towards another table in the shade. We had just ordered our food and drinks, when we started to feel chilly, so we asked to be switched to a different table in the sun. They agreed, but not without rolling their eyes at us first. If it wasn’t that we were both super hungry and didn’t feel like searching for another restaurant, we would have packed up our things and left. Working in hospitality myself, I don’t like to talk bad about other hotels and restaurants, but these people can seriously learn a lot about hospitality and customer service!

Luckily, the kitchen staff, knew what their were doing! I really enjoyed my Truffle Spaghetti. Jill had the Black Tiger Prawns with Aioli and Lemon and loved her dish too. Even so, we both enjoyed our meal, we left the restaurant with mixed feelings. I don’t really feel the need to go back there (should I ever visit Düsseldorf again). The location, setting and food are all very much on point, but I can’t get over the lack of respect towards their customers.

Wander around the Unterbilk neighboorhood

Besides the well-known areas of Düsseldorf, we also wanted to discover some of the up and coming hipster areas. Until recently, Unterbilk was still a working-class neighborhood. But now the nice bars and shops are popping up like mushrooms. The growth in popularity has everything to do with the nearby Mediahafen. From here you can walk to the Lorettostraße, the heart of Unterbilk, in about 10 to 15 minutes. Nevertheless Unterbilk remains one of those areas, where you won’t find many tourists. We really loved the local vibe there. Unterbilk is where you need to be for vintage and interior shopping. Neusser Straße is a trendy corner of Unterbilk with beautiful one-of-a-kind shops and foodie hotspots like K Restaurant.

Drinks at K Restaurant

Before heading back to Cologne, we stopped by K Restaurant for a refreshment. We obviously enjoyed our homemade lemonade on the sunny terrace very much. Service was super friendly! So this might be a better lunch spot than Rocca 800°C. On the menu you will mostly find international cuisine, peppered with modern German accents. It definitely looked promising.

Someday I would love to go back to Düsseldorf ! But then, I will stay in the city though, so I can visit the Benrath Palace and street art on Kiefernstrasse too.

Practical Information

  • From Brussels-Midi station it takes about 2,5 hours to Düsseldorf HBF by ICE train.
  • Covid-19 measures: in Germany it’s mandatory to wear a face mask upon public transportation, in shops and when you are moving around in restaurants (so while taking your seat and going to the bathroom). Restaurants will also take your contact information in case you need to be reached for contact tracing reasons.
  • Currency: €

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