Düsseldorf, Germany was my first stop on a two-month backpacking trip through ten European countries. It was actually a bit tiresome getting to Düsseldorf. I was coming from Ghent, Belgium which should have only been a short three-hour long train ride to Germany’s seventh populace city. If only that was my reality.
It was just two days after the terrorist attack in Brussels and maximum security was being held which caused me to miss my first train because of gate checks. Once I finally boarded the train, it only took ten minutes until there was a bomb threat aboard my train that caused a whole train station evacuation.
As you can imagine, this threw off the train schedules for the rest of the day. There was no longer a straight through train to Düsseldorf; the quickest I could get there was an alternate route that took me on SEVEN different trains. Ten hours later, I finally reached Düsseldorf Hbf (main station).
I got off the train with all of my luggage from 5 months in Malta and immediately started searching for my friend Monja – a local from the neighboring town of Mettmann about 20 minutes to the East. She was gracious enough to not only host me but also travel to both Cologne and Hamburg with me and show me around each city. Quickly, we rented a locker in the station to temporarily throw my luggage in while we checked out downtown.
A little about Düsseldorf, Germany to start. . .
As I mentioned, Düsseldorf is the seventh populace city in Germany with over 600,000 people living within its city limits. It is known for its high fashion culture as well as what some people believe to be the origin of electric music and home to the popular musical act Kraftwerk. Its infamous local cuisine includes sauerbraten (a German pot roast) and reibekuchen (a fried potato pancake). It’s home to the famous German ale beer, Altbier. The locals have an underlying prideful rivalry with the citizens of Cologne which sits only about a twenty-minute train ride to the south.
Düsseldorf (pronounced more like Doo-sul-dorf) was quiet around rush hour on this gloomy Thursday evening. The delayed arrival didn`t matter, however, she still showed me around and I saw a lot of the city. My favorite part of the tour was the longest “bar” in the world. In truth, it’s actually made of over 260 bars on one street. The media harbor was fantastic and inspirational. Monja even brought a map of Germany to teach me some much needed German geography.
The city center was split up into two sections; Old Town and the city center. While city center was nice, it was mostly filled with hotels, businesses, and more people. I much prefer Old Town which reminded me of a more authentic German city. If you are planning to go out for a night on the town, Old Town is the place to be. The street with 260 bars on it is obviously the area to find and it’s not that hard to run into it. Monja told me there is killer happy hours to be found at all different times in the day.
Beers in Germany . . . What else?
After the flash tour of Düsseldorf, we met with her friend Frederick. He was a really calm guy who was easy to converse with. He has been studying in Rotterdam, Netherlands for the past four years except for his Semester in Hong Kong which I was very interested to hear about.
The three of us went to the infamous Altbier Brewery. Here, they shove beers in your face until you tell them to stop. No, really, every time your glass is empty you are automatically handed another pint. The only way they keep track of how much to charge you is by the tallies they keep on your coaster.
We finished a few beers but we were not quite sated and I felt my first taste of German bratwurst was necessary. After an awkward encounter with the exclusively-speaking German food truck owner, I ended up with a foot-long bratwurst on a bun that covered perhaps a fourth of the sausage. I was not overly indulged in the bitter mustard used. But, at least, I learned to hold the mustard the next time I ordered.
Private Walking Tour
They took me on a walk along the Rhine River’s shore and pointed out the sophisticated, ritzy homes of Düsseldorf. The view of the mansions across the river gave me an eerie feeling I was living out a scene from The Great Gatsby.
Slowly we made our way to the Media Harbor which was my favorite part of the city. I could feel the creative minds in the air with all the inspiring structural designs and flashy colors of this part of the city. It’s definitely worth the short walk out to the harbor.
Gradually, we ended up back in the city center and walked through one last time before deciding to call it a night on this long, stressful day. We parted ways with Frederick and then Monja and I made our way back to the station to go home.
This day wouldn’t be complete without one more terrifyingly stressful event. In the rush of trying to catch up on time lost, I may have forgotten to lock my locker containing not only all of my belongings but also all of my money and my passport I would need to eventually get back home. They were all gone when we returned to retrieve them. But that’s another story. Düsseldorf is a beautiful city and you will certainly appreciate its laid-back feel. I know I did. I will definitely make it back here one day.
Other top Attractions, Restaurants, and Bars in Düsseldorf, Germany:
– Rheinturm – revolving restaurant with best city views
– Kaiserswerth – oldest part of city with castles and palaces
– Konvex Bar – affordable student bar with live music and counter-culture scene
– Brauerei Ferdinand Schumacher – one of few independent breweries in the city, typical German food