Welcome to the first destination on my North Rhein Westfalia itinerary! If you were looking for some ideas of what to do in Dusseldorf Germany in a day, check out this guide.
Dusseldorf is a city of contrast with great travel connections, making it one of the easiest points to start a journey. It has the trains, it has the airports where low-cost airlines fly. And it’s a great starting point if you want to get to know Germany but don’t have a lot of time. Because Germany is big. Seriously.
This time, I was determined to team up with my mom for a combined vacation. This reality might be familiar for those of you who have ever been expats and lived far away from your family. The choice between vacation and family visits is ever present. So can you fault me for wishing to make the most of it?
Since my mom flew down from St. Petersburg, Russia, and I took the train from Amsterdam, we were looking for a compromise. So it was an easy decision to make, and we decided to start with Dusseldorf to explore the region of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Here are the contents of today's post:
- 1 How to Get to Dusseldorf
- 2 Things to do in Dusseldorf Germany in Altstadt
- 2.1 Visit the Altes Rathaus in Dusseldorf Altstadt
- 2.2 Drink Alt beer at a local pub
- 2.3 Discover the local market at Carlsplatz
- 2.4 Watch Wibbel the Tailor emerge from his clock
- 2.5 Walk down the promenade overlooking the river Rhein
- 2.6 Enjoy ice cream & milkshakes on Burgplatz
- 2.7 Marvel at the Basilica St. Lambertus
- 2.8 Visit the luxurious Königsallee
- 2.9 Enjoy the modern architecture of Medienhafen
- 2.10 Coffee with a view at Pebble’s Terrasse
- 2.11 Enjoy the view on Dusseldorf from the 240,5-meter long Rhein Tower
- 2.12 Cross The Rheinkniebrücke to Oberkassel
How to Get to Dusseldorf
One very important thing to keep in mind is that Dusseldorf has 2 airports. If you’re flying Ryanair there’s a huge chance that you will end up at airport Dusseldorf – Weeze which is situated an hour away from the city. That’s the catch with the prices and it’s an error my mom made upon arrival as well. So double check your arrival airport and plan routes in advance.
Dusseldorf has good train connections but the train system in Germany overall experiences a lot of delays, some insignificant, and some quite dramatic. I tried to keep track of the changes with the Deutsche Bahn app (German Railways) but even so, my best tip would be to factor extra time for all your travels across Germany. Especially where flights are concerned. Always look up 2 different ways you can get somewhere to make sure you’re on time. It sounds hardcore but you will thank yourself once you have no connection to the internet and no idea what platform your next train leaves from.
For international trains, you can always buy tickets that have an assigned seat and tickets without. It turns out that during the high season all the assigned seats may be sold out so you will literally have to sit on the floor in the corridor, which happened to me on my way from Amsterdam to Dusseldorf. On my way back, however, there were plenty of free spaces to choose from, but should I buy a ticket again, I would definitely pay extra for an assigned seat. Spending 3 hours on the floor is not my idea of fun.
Things to do in Dusseldorf Germany in Altstadt
There are many things to do in Dusseldorf Germany in a day, but I think you will particularly like this itinerary. “Lesia, this list is looking kind of long,” you might say, “can you really cover so much in one day and still have fun?”.
To that, I say, definitely! Especially if you’re renting a car for your German trip. But even with public transport, this is quite manageable. The only condition is getting up early but I feel like that’s a given because exploring new cities is exciting enough to even wake the most stubborn panda bear (that’s me!). And believe you me, there’s no one who loves sleep as much as I do. The other weekend I ended up waking up at 13:00 because I was in the middle of a fun adventure dream and just couldn’t give it up.
Anywaaaaaay… you will find the activities structured in the most efficient order to ensure you don’t lose too much time on travel.
Visit the Altes Rathaus in Dusseldorf Altstadt
Dusseldorf’s Old Town (Altstadt) is very compact and easy to cover. It’s a perfect mix of brasseries and cafes, cozy little squares intersecting with streets littered with shops. Strolling around the cobblestone streets can be so much fun (as long as you don’t have a suitcase).
Stroll down Flingerstrasse, walk the length of Mertensgasse and take in the atmosphere that surrounds you. You will find the Altes Rathaus at the end of Bolkerstrasse on Marktplatz.
Drink Alt beer at a local pub
The beer culture in Germany is the real deal. There are breweries and pubs left and right in the Altstadt. It’s also very easy to tell the locals from the tourists so you will quickly find a spot that suits you. If you’re not terribly fond of beer you might be uncertain as to what you should order. The rule of thumb is: when in Dusseldorf, drink dark Alt beer. When in Cologne, drink light Kolsch. Alt beer is specific to this region so it makes sense to give it a go at least once.
It is common for the pubs in Germany to have tall standing tables so don’t be weirded out. It is also common for the waiter to top your glass without asking. If you’ve had enough to drink, use the coaster to cover up your glass to signal you don’t want any more.
What I also noticed is that waiters in Germany don’t give you receipts but make calculations in their head instead and just tell you the total. Through our Germany trips, we didn’t get a single receipt in the cafes.
Discover the local market at Carlsplatz
The market at Carlsplatz is a great spot to escape from the tourists, buy fresh produce and maybe some souvenirs as well (mostly food). The food market offers fresh supplies of vegetables, fruit, sausages, organic honey and more. It’s fun to walk around and breathe in the atmosphere.
The market also has a nice Biergarten with a cantine and a German-only chalkboard menu. If you were looking for places that locals go to, this is definitely it! We had to order the food and the drinks separately and pick up the food ourselves at the counter. It is possible that the cashiers won’t speak English that well but you can always look at what the people around you are having and ask what it’s called. Be prepared for lots of sausages, cabbage-based side dishes, potato salads and pea soups. After you get the food, grab a seat and order a glass of cold beer.
Watch Wibbel the Tailor emerge from his clock
As you walk through the Altstadt, check the time and see if you can make it for one of the Schneider Wibbel clock shows. This beautiful chiming clock has a mechanical tailor figurine hiding inside. The character is actually from a comedy play first performed in 1913. The tailor makes an appearance 5 times a day sitting in a Buddha pose, sewing to an upbeat tune. Catch the performance on Schneider-Wibbel-Gasse at 11:00, 13:00, 15:00, 18:00 and 21:00.
Walk down the promenade overlooking the river Rhein
One thing that you can’t miss during your Dusseldorf visit is the beautiful view of the river Rhein from the promenade. This is the perfect spot to jump onto a ship tour. The Burgplatz offers a great view over the Oberkassel area as well as easy access to the boats below.
During the month of July, there’s a fair happening on the other side of the Rhein. Kirmes is one of the biggest fairs in Germany and it’s got pretty much anything you could wish for. You can also grab a ferry from one side of the Rhein river to bring you over to the fair from Altstadt.
Enjoy ice cream & milkshakes on Burgplatz
There’s a nice cafe called Shopoint overlooking the promenade at Burgplatz. Shopoint serves tasty milkshakes and elaborate ice creams served in a in tall glass. It was an absolute lifesaver during the heatwave since the service was fast and they brought us free tap water in crazy amounts. Seriously, there’s nothing better than an understanding waiter during hot weather. The milkshakes and ice cream vary in price mostly from 3 to 8 EUR.
Marvel at the Basilica St. Lambertus
Don’t miss the beautiful Basilica of St. Lambertus on Stiftsplatz. The original church design changed many times through the centuries. The beautifully twisted spire was renewed after a fire in 1815. The building is as remarkable inside as it is from the outside so if you enjoy peeking into churches, put this gem on your map.
Visit the luxurious Königsallee
Leave Altstadt in the direction of Königsallee – a beautiful alley separated by a wide water canal, with luxury brands adorning the houses on both sides. You will notice the area changing as you walk through streets filled with office buildings and banks. There is a perfect spot for a light 10-minute break on the Kö Brücke overlooking the Triton Fountain. The shopping streets start just a short walk from here so you can easily switch directions and delight in Germany’s vast shopping malls. This is something I quite miss in The Netherlands since Amsterdam’s narrow streets provide quite a different experience. If you love space and delight in being overwhelmed with too many choices, you will love this!
Enjoy the modern architecture of Medienhafen
If you’re looking for what to do in Dusseldorf Germany outside of the Old City, the Medienhafen definitely deserves a visit! It’s a modern area filled with inventively designed buildings that are now mainly converted into office space. It strongly reminded me of Rotterdam, to be honest.
I think it’s worthwhile to go on a guided tour if you’d like to get some background on the architecture and history behind the area. If you can spare the time, check out this 90-minute tour of Medienhafen.
Coffee with a view at Pebble’s Terrasse
The beautiful open-air terrace next to Hyatt Regency Dusseldorf offers a beautiful view of Medienhafen. While they don’t serve tea, it’s a great spot to settle in for a cappuccino before heading over to the Rhein Tower for magnificent views.
Enjoy the view on Dusseldorf from the 240,5-meter long Rhein Tower
For a 360-degree view of the city head over to Rheinturm which is a short walk from Medienhafen. The entry fee for the viewing platform is 9 EUR. Once you step into the elevator it will take you to Bar & Lounge M 168 where you can walk around and enjoy the Dusseldorf views.
I wouldn’t recommend staying for lunch as the service really underwhelmed us. There was a misleading discount that implied you would receive a discount for 1 person if you spent at least 30 EUR, but in fact, the discount was only valid if you spent 30 EUR per person, which is no easy feat! It wouldn’t be that big of a deal had we not attempted to verify beforehand that we could take advantage of the offer and were mislead by the waiter. We got the discount in the end but weren’t very impressed with the food and service.
With that in mind, I think it’s the perfect place to grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the best views Dusseldorf has to offer. Once you walked around a bit, it feels very satisfying to look at the ground below thinking, “hey, I’ve been there”. The view of the Rhein river is beautiful and seeing the boats make their way up and down makes you feel like a kid playing with the railroad.
Cross The Rheinkniebrücke to Oberkassel
Oberkassel is a very interesting area to explore but I’m sure you will be pretty tired by this point! Do what we did when we hopped on a bus and took a ride through the area. Oberkassel is known for hosting the bigger part of the Japanese population in Dusseldorf.
If you go further into Oberkassel you will notice a change in the building facades as you shift into a richer neighborhood. Taking advantage of public transport is the perfect way to explore the city and rest your legs at the same time. Come back to the Old Town through the Oberkassel bridge and enjoy the rest of your evening in Dusseldorf!
There you go! Now it’s time to wrap up the day and rest up for the rest of your journey. Wondering where to go next? Dusseldorf has good train connections to the rest of the country but it also offers many cruise options that will get you to Cologne or further. Check out my North Rhein Westfalia itinerary here!
Looking for more German adventures? Join me on a fantastic day trip to Düsseldorf Kaiserswerth!
Like this post? Pin it!