Düsseldorf's best bars
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.
This elegant, high-end cocktail bar with speakeasy charm is situated near the Hauptbahnhof—wedged in between the unlikeliest neighbors: an erotic shop and a gambling hall. If you have a short stopover by train in Düsseldorf, it’s easily accessible from the train station for a quick sip. Inside, the lighting is as moody as it gets, and behind the bar a very Instagrammable neon nameplate features prominently. The comprehensive cocktail list packs a punch—the drinks are finely crafted with high-quality spirits, so even if you imbibe slightly more than you should, the morning after won’t be so bad.
Brauerei Ferdinand Schumacher is home to the oldest Altbier in Düsseldorf, the Schumacher Alt; it’s been brewed according to family tradition for more than 175 years. The special malt mixture is what creates the signature amber color and fine bitterness of the Altbier—what locals call the best beer in the world, and the most popular item on the menu for tourists and local alike. The brewhouse is designed in the traditional German style and looks like something out of the 1800s. Try some traditional German brewhouse food—the fare is solid, and necessary to soak up all that beer.
Pardo Bar may seem an unlikely addition to a list of the best bars in Düsseldorf, as the bar is actually part of Düsseldorf’s K21 contemporary art museum—but that’s all the more reason to pay a visit. Pardo Bar is housed in a beautiful space, with high ceilings, lots of light, huge mirrors and bold colored walls, making it an appetizing place to spend a leisurely Saturday. There’s a great selection of beers and mixed drinks, and a lovely outdoor space for when the weather is nice. (If day drinking isn’t your speed, you can also enjoy a good cup of coffee and a snack there during the day.)
Some people call Düsseldorf’s Altstadt the “longest bar in the world,” thanks to the hundreds of bars, restaurants and beer houses that line the street. Some people also say that Zum Uerige is home to the world’s best Altbier. In fact, the world champion beer sommelier has proclaimed Zum Uerige’s Altbier to be the best German regional beer, which is no small feat. It’s sad to smell like caramel with a hint of cocoa and oranges, but all you need to know is that it’s delicious and distinctive. Go to Zum Uerige for the beer, but stay for the Rheinish specialty snacks and the traditional German brewhouse atmosphere. Tip: when you’re done, put your coaster on top of your beer glass to get the server’s attention.
At Bar Alexandra—the hip younger sister of Bar Alexander in the Altstadt—you might have to wait a while for a table, but once you’re seated you’ll understand why. A sleek, modern, decadent interior featuring red walls, leather furnishings and dark accents complements the selection of premium spirits mixed in unexpected ways. The bar has scored awards for its barrel-aged cocktails—concoctions that are mixed and aged in a small barrel behind the bar, like Negronis and Old Fashioneds. If you’re not looking for anything fancy, it’s a lively place with great music and a fun atmosphere, especially on Wednesdays: to get over the mid-week slump, Bar Alexandra offers student days, with cocktail deals running for only five euros each for students.
“Zum Schiffchen” means “to the ship,” and this massive brew house is about the size of a ship—the restaurant can seat at least one hundred, if not more. Long communal tables, wood paneling and mahogany trim add to the feeling of being in the underbelly of a big liner. Zum Schiffchen is the oldest restaurant in Düsseldorf—it was first mentioned in the chronicles of 1628, and legend has it that Napoleon once patronized the place. These days, it’s mostly tourists and travel groups, but that shouldn’t deter you. With a big beer garden outside, treat yourself to the holy trinity—schnitzel, pork knuckle and Altbier—and embrace a historic German drinking experience.
And now for a bit to eat...
Though often overlooked in favor of bigger, splashier German cities like Berlin or Cologne, Düsseldorf is an underrated gem, known amongst those who love it for its creativity and culinary eclecticism.