The best attractions in Düsseldorf
Düsseldorf is one of the wealthiest cities in Germany, so it’s no surprise that luxury shopping is a favorite pastime here. The well-heeled flock to posh Königsallee (King’s Avenue), better known by its nickname, Kö, a nearly mile-long promenade brimming with high-end designer boutiques including Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Cartier and Ferragamo. For those with less-deep pockets, the southern end of the avenue is home to big chains like H&M, Zara and Massimo Dutti. Whatever your budget, the Kö is a lovely stretch to stroll, shaded by tall trees and flanked by a picturesque, bridge-laced canal. At its northernmost tip is the snazzy Kö-Bogen, a modern glassy retail and office complex designed by architect Daniel Libeskind. Opened in 2013, the mall’s biggest draw is the Apple Store, but it also houses several upscale German brands—Porsche Design, Hallhuber, Graf von Faber-Castell—plus the ritzy German department store Breuninger. Cafes line the Kö, with tables facing toward the shops, so settle in for a coffee while ogling the parade of fashionistas. Just be sure to get your shopping fix Monday to Saturday; stores are closed in Germany on Sundays.
When you’ve had your fill of museum-hopping and shopping, head to this tranquil green space in the heart of the city. Germany’s first and oldest park dates to 1769 and its nearly 70 acres feature expansive meadows, ancient trees, multiple ponds, fountains, flowerbeds and plenty of lovely walking paths and bridges, especially along the picturesque Düssel canal. Be sure to have a look at the many modern and contemporary sculptures along the way: There’s the Las Meninas sculptures, based on the famous Velázquez painting, near the Jägerhof Palace; “The Admonisher,” a bronze by Jewish-Russian artist Vadim Sidur, on the Ananasberg hill; and next to the opera house, Henry Moore’s “Reclining Figure in Two Parts.” A sentimental favorite is the 1904 “fairytale fountain” by French sculptor Max Blondat showing three children sitting together and looking at three frogs. From May to September, catch a gratis Sunday morning concert at 11 a.m. at the open-air Hofgarten Pavillon, on Jägerhofstraße.
Set in the hip Flingern neighborhood just east of the city center, this sprawling new gallery is a must-see for fans of cutting-edge art. Local businessman Gil Bronner converted a former glassworks factory into a sleek 20,000-square-foot space for his personal collection, which focuses on the work of contemporary Düsseldorf artists. Along with top talents like Andreas Gursky, Thomas Grünfeld and Thomas Struth, plenty of real estate is given over to emerging local artists, like abstract painter Silke Albrecht and photographer Sebastian Riemer. There’s also a 6,000-square-foot rooftop sculpture garden, open seasonally. You can visit the collection Thursday from 4 to 8pm (without a guided tour) and Friday to Sunday, when a guide is required. However, there’s only one tour given in English (on Friday at 4pm), so be sure to book ahead online. The gallery’s vintage-industrial style bar and café, Glas Lennarz, stays open even after the museum closes, until midnight on Thursday and even later on Friday.
Locals and tourists alike flock to this foodie paradise, occupying an entire square just south of the Old Town. Beneath a glass canopy, vendors hawk local produce, meats and cheeses, freshly baked goods and more types of potato than you ever knew existed. You can also chow down on all kinds of international fare such as currywurst, daal or crepes. The market is a great place to pick up gourmet souvenirs, like dried beans from Inka & Mehl, spices from Kräuterhexe and coffee (roasted onsite) from KaffeeReich. Oh, and that queue you see at the Fischhaus Obst stall is for its stellar fish soup—be sure to join the line.
The best restaurants in Düsseldorf
As far as fine dining goes, in Düsseldorf you can’t do better than Im Schiffchen. With two Michelin stars, and having been named to the top 110 German restaurants by Gault & Millau (the respected French restaurant guide), Im Schiffchen is a Düsseldorf institution for a reason. This beautiful, brick, baroque building sits in the heart of the Altstadt next to the Rhine river. Warm, comfortable and inviting, the interior of the old building sets the stage for a meal you won’t soon forget. Since 1977, chef Jean-Claude Bourgueil has been at the helm of the operation, offering a menu of indulgent French dishes. Be sure to bookend your visit with a picturesque walk through the old city and along the Rhine.
European meets Japanese at this Michelin-starred Düsseldorf legend. The restaurant’s namesake, Yoshizumi Nagaya, studied at the Toshiro Kandagawa in Osaka, the top spot to learn how to cook traditional Japanese cuisine. Nagaya and his wife opened their doors in 2003 and the restaurant has since gained a reputation for what some call the best Japanese kitchen in Germany. Located in Düsseldorf’s Japanese district, Nagaya’s minimalist, low-lit interior keeps the creatively plated courses in the spotlight. From sushi to kobe beef and a foie gras terrine roll with octopus tempura, these small plates go a long way. Open for both lunch and dinner, it’s a spot that’s as good for a business lunch as it is for a special date. With a 12-course tasting menu coming in at 170 euros, it’s not cheap, but Nagaya is a must-eat in Düsseldorf.
Na Ni Wa Noodles & Soups
Slap bang in the middle of the Japanese district – and just a short stroll from the Hauptbahnhof – you'll find Na Ni Wa. Two Na Ni Wa's to be precise. On one side of the road (Oststraße) is their noodles and soups branch, while on the other (Klosterstraße) is sushi and more. These two modern restaurants are super popular, so you can expect major queues at lunchtime and you'll probably want to book ahead in the evening. Their numerous ramen bowls (almost a dozen varieties) are tasty and filling, the gyoza is crispy (but not fried to a crisp), and the sushi is fresh and light.
Fritz’s Frau Franzi
Tucked into the ultra-modern, boutique Fritz Hotel in Düsseldorf’s city center, Fritz’s Frau Franzi tends towards the same minimalist Scandinavian design, embellished with luxe furnishings and place settings. A relative newcomer on the gastronomical scene in Düsseldorf, Fritz’s Frau Franzi touts itself as a “world kitchen with an experimental touch.” Its creative menu of locally-sourced small plates varies seasonally, and under the direction of chef Benjamin Kriegel, the spot just won a Michelin star. Stand-outs include Duroc pork belly, cooked for 36 hours, and a dessert of chocolate ganache, poached pear, pear-licorice ice cream and salted caramel. Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks, the extensive wine list and menu of signature cocktails—alongside the restaurant’s buzzy atmosphere and clear attention to detail—makes it a place you want to linger.
Agata’s is an unassuming and refined Michelin-starred gem. The place is named after its owner, Agata Reul, who is from Poland but has Southeast Asian roots. The space features a neutral interior palette of light beiges and whites, letting the food speak for itself, with pops of color punctuating each plate. Reul brings her diverse cultural background to the table, and the fixed menu is home to German-South Asian fusion dishes like a short-rib “Kalbi” with mustard miso, along more unexpected combinations like the duck liver with maple syrup teriyaki. Agata’s also offers a lunch menu, which is more reasonably priced. If you’re looking for a well thought-out and beautifully executed fine-dining experience, look no further than Agata’s.
The best bars in Düsseldorf
With a liberal amount of wood panelling and marble, it's fair to say that Elephant is channelling a 1960s vibe. The neon sign and G Plan-esque barstools are a nice touch too. Take a seat at the bar and order a gin cocktail – they have a huge variety of those. Then enjoy the kick-ass atmosphere that's helped along by the DJ, who could be playing hip hop, electro, soul or jazz at any given time. Plus, footie fans will be pleased to hear that Elephant Bar also has a bunch of projectors and big screens to show matches on.
Never has the term 'go big or go home' been more relevant, especially when it comes to cocktails. Squarebar do these sweet drinks in a big way. Ever had a burger on your drink? How about tiny sausages? Or a glass made of ice accompanied by a jar of pretzels? It may sound mad and fanciful, but that's just how they do things here in this vintage-looking cocktail haven. The staff are keen mixologists and aren't afraid to experiment for your enjoyment. The menu is ever evolving, but you can guarantee a creative re-imagining of a classic on any visit. The 'Muse and Grace', for example (with vanilla oolong in Junmai sake, with Noilly Pratt, fresh grapefruit, crème de menthe and Italian bergamot essence), makes for a delicious wintertime drink that also packs a punch.
For people who really love cocktails, Bar Alexander is the place to be in Düsseldorf. Rich mahogany, vintage light fixtures and a wall of spirits both exotic and classic punctuate this tiny space. If the Germans had a word for hygge, this would be the picture next to its definition in the dictionary. Situated in the hip Unterbilk district, the bar gets packed pretty early on, but the real action happens later: deep into the evening, the bartenders sometimes run a cocktail lottery, offering up dealer’s choice of five mini-cocktails from Bar Alexander’s extremely extensive menu. If you’re driving, the menu of non-alcoholic cocktails is equally mind-boggling. Not only that, they offer cocktail training for those looking to turn a passive hobby into something a little more active.
Beuys Bar, named after the contemporary German performance artist Joseph Beuys, has an expansive menu, ranging from pre-dinner and retro classic to tiki and post-dinner drinks. The interior features a striped wall, plush banquette seating and a cozy vibe, while the selection of spirits doesn’t leave anybody wanting. The bartenders here are no slouches: the experimental list of cocktails is there to be played with: try the “Finest Smash,” an award-winning mix of bourbon, chartreuse, mint, lemon and red wine—an unconventional but tasty combination. As for atmosphere, the place hosts its “Back to Basics” event—and old-school hip hop, soul and R&B night—and spontaneous events when the mood strikes. Beuys Bar really does live up to its zany, avant-garde namesake.