On the banks of the Rhine River in Western Germany, lies a city of 600,000 people. Though mostly demolished during the Second World War, it has rebuilt itself into a lively place filled with public art and interesting architecture. This is Düsseldorf, and it’s the perfect city to explore by foot, even if you only have a day.
A day is all I had in this cool German city, and I was determined to see the very best of it on a self-guided walking tour. I started my journey on Schadowstraße street, near the Karstadt department store. This is a good place to start if you want to do some shopping, as the street features some great shops such as Primark, Urban Outfitters, Fossil, H&M and Zara. At the end of Schadowstraße, you can grab a drink at Starbucks or World Coffee before turning onto Theodor-Körner-Straße.
On the left hand side at the next corner is Kö Brücke (Kö bridge), where you can look out over the Stadtgraben, a moat which flows through the middle of Königsallee street, also known locally as Kö Street. Beneath the bridge is Düsseldorf’s famous Triton fountain (Tritonenbrunnen). The fountain was sculpted by Friedrich Coubillier in 1902 and features the Greek god Triton grabbing a fish.
If you have time you can walk up into Hofgarten and wander through the park, or you can explore the luxury boutiques on Königsallee (King’s Avenue). I took some time doing a bit of Christmas shopping so skipped the park and continued to the Old Town. There are several routes to get there from the Kö Brücke, it just depends which one you prefer to take. I just wandered in the direction of the Old Town, which took around 10 minutes for me to reach.
The Old Town (Altstadt) is sometimes referred to as the “longest bar in the world”, as it has up to 300 bars packed into a 1 square km area. This is a great place to stop and have a bite to eat. If you want some traditional German food, I highly recommend Schweine Janes for a beer and bratwurst.
Past Schweine Janes, at the end of the Bolkerstraße, is the marketplace. If you’re visiting in December, you can warm up here with some mulled wine at the annual Christmas Market.
Even if there aren’t any events happening, this is a great place to snap some photos of the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) which was built in the early 1570’s, and the statue of Johann Wilhelm II, who ruled the region from 1690-1716.
If you head towards the waterfront and turn left, you’ll probably see the ‘Aalschokker’, an old Dutch ship that has been sitting in the Alter Hafen (old port) since 1996. Continuing south along the Rhine will take you past the Film Museum, City Museum and Düsseldorf’s contemporary art museum Kunst im Tunnel.
Further down, past the Rheinkniebrücke bridge, is the Rhine Tower (or ‘Rheinturm’), where you can get 360° views of the city from a height of 164m. The tower is also home to the Bar & Lounge M168 and the Günnewig Restaurant Top 180.
Continue past the Rhine Tower and you’ll soon see the unique facade of a trio of buildings called the Neuer Zollhof. These buildings were designed by Frank Gehry, a Canadian architect who also designed Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.
The deconstructivist design of these buildings is fun to take photos of, as each building contrasts with the others around it and they seem to alter their appearance as the light changes.
From the Gehry buildings, it’s just a short walk to several tram, bus and train stations that will take you back to your hotel or wherever else you’d like to go. The transit system is fairly easy to figure out, and if you’re in doubt – ask! I was helped by a very nice German gentleman when I struggled finding my destination on the ticket machine.
Are you planning a trip to Germany?
Düsseldorf was one of many cities I only had 24 hours to explore. If you’re planning to visit with only a short amount of time, you can read my guide on planning a stopover for tips on how to organize ultra-short trips so you can make memories that will last a lifetime.
I’ve created a printable travel planner that will help make trip planning a breeze. This 7-page PDF has spots to fill in hotel and flight details, emergency info, must-do activities and more. It is available as an instant digital download in the Onwards + Upwards shop.
Be sure to check out my guide on how to choose the best hotel for your trip. I’ve compiled a list of tips based on my own experiences as a tourist, flight attendant, and hotel front desk clerk. Once you’ve found your perfect accommodation, you can read my advice on how to stay safe and healthy at your hotel.
*Please note that this article was written prior to the Covid-19 pandemic so some information may have changed.