FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Düsseldorf: Gem On The Rhine

Feb 1, 2008
2008 / February 2008

Back in the day, Düsseldorf was a quaint fishing village, or dorf, nestled in the Rhine Valley along the banks of a tributary known as the River Düssel. Today, it’s the capital of Germany’s North Rhine- Westphalia state, with more than 100 art galleries, a swank shopping district, dazzling architecture and a famous historic quarter. Located just 25 miles north of Cologne and not far from the Ruhrgebiet, the country’s largest industrial area, Düsseldorf’s ideal location has led to its evolution as a stylish destination for culture, business and leisure travel.

There’s also plenty of history to be enjoyed. In Altstadt (Old Town), an area covering a square mile on the western side of the city along the Rhine, you can sample a glass of Rhineland’s famous Altbier, a rich brew that falls somewhere between an ale and a lager. If one glass isn’t sufficient, the cobbled streets of the city’s historic section offer plenty of opportunities for further refreshment. Often referred to as the world’s longest bar, there are no fewer than 260 brewpubs, traditional bars, cafés and restaurants located here.

Once you’ve quenched your thirst, wander out to explore the diverse collection of fascinating shops, old churches and historic buildings tucked away along the twisting side streets and quixotic passageways. You’ll see the city’s landmark Schlossturm, the single remaining tower of Düsseldorf’s castle, which burned in 1872. Nearby is the Church of St. Lambertus, with its signature crooked spire. You’ll also find a range of sophisticated stores selling clothing and accessories, mingled with design shops and galleries. A lovely riverside promenade borders Altstadt on its western side, perfect for strolling. A few streets to the west lies the Konigsallee (King’s Avenue), usually referred to simply as “the Ko.” Here, you’ll find upmarket shopping at posh designer boutiques including Giorgio Armani, Jil Sander and Kenzo.

Mid-afternoon, slip into a café, where locals gather around 3 p.m. to take a break for coffee and cake. Afterwards, walk directly north of the Ko to the Hofgarten, Germany’s first public park and the model for Munich’s English Garden. There you’ll also find Jagerhof Palace, a Baroque hunting lodge dating to 1752 that now houses the Goethe Museum (http://www.goethemuseum-kippenberg-stiftung.de).

During its formative years as a city, Düsseldorf enjoyed a great deal of support from royal patrons, which led to the founding of the famed Art Academy in 1777. Among the celebrated artists with connections there are Peter von Cornelius, Wilhelm von Schadow, Joseph Beuys and Paul Klee, who taught there from 1931 to 1933. From the academy, all the city’s principal art centers are within walking distance on a stretch that runs from the Museum Kunst Palast (Museum of Art) at the edge of the Hofgarten, south to the Heinrich-Heine Institute on Bilkerstrasse, where the poet’s original manuscripts and documents are on display. Exhibits at the Kunst Palast (http://www.museum-kunst-palast.de) include classical art, modern art, contemporary pieces from five continents and an internationally renowned graphics collection that features significant works from the Italian baroque era. If your preference is for modern and contemporary art, the imposing concrete Düsseldorf Kunsthalle (http://www.kunsthalle-duesseldorf.de) contains enormous exhibit spaces showcasing the work of local and international artists.

Adjacent to the Kunsthalle is Museum K20, with a collection of works by Picasso, Klee and Beuys. A separate building houses the K21 Art Collection, which focuses o n international contemporary art from the 21st century (http://www.kunstsammlung.de). Opened in February 2007, Kunst im Tunnel (Dusseldorf Art Tunnel) — uniquely situated beneath the promenade along the Rhine River — has become a hot venue for new artists (http://www.kunst-im-tunnel.de).

In the south part of the city, Benrath Palace (http://www.schloss-benrath.de) houses the Museum of Garden Art and the Museum of Natural History. Constructed more than 200 years ago as a private retreat and hunting palace for the Elector Karl Theodor, the palace and its gardens are considered one of Europe’s premier examples of the late rococo period.

The newest jewel in Düsseldorf’s architecture crown is the uber-modern Media Harbor. Eminent architects, including Frank O. Gehry, Steven Holl, David Chipperfield, Joe Coenen and Claude Vasconi, have transformed this former warehouse area into a flourishing, hip neighborhood of restaurants, bars, shops and offices. There’s even an urban river beach.


LODGING

HOTEL NIKKO DÜSSELDORF

Warm crème and chocolate tones greet you in the expansive lobby of this centrally located hotel. Extensive wellness facilities in the on-site Nikko Spa Club include sleek treatment rooms, steam baths, sauna and modern fitness equipment, along with an indoor pool on the 11th floor that provides great views of the surrounding city. A scant, 10-minute walk leads to Altstadt, the main train station, the promenade along the Rhine and the shopping and banking districts. The hotel is located within a 15-minute drive of the international airport.$$$-$$$$
HOTEL NIKKO DÜSSELDORF
Immermannstrasse 41
tel 49 211 834 0
http://www.nikko-hotel.de

STEIGENBERGER PARKHOTEL DÜSSELDORF

Situated at the entrance to Düsseldorf’s famous Konigsallee shopping area, this elegant property showcases the Steigenberger brand’s attention to luxury and detail. The outstanding service extends from meeting and event planning to dining, recreation, area sightseeing, and the Asian-inspired spa and wellness center. A variety of customized spa packages are available, but you should book treatments in advance of your visit.$$$$
STEIGENBERGER PARKHOTEL DÜSSELDORF
Konigsallee 1A
tel 49 211 138 10
http://www.duesseldorf.steigenberger.de

INTERCONTINENTAL DÜSSELDORF
Rooms in this conveniently located business hotel range from standard guestrooms to suites on the hotel’s Executive Club level. Near the hotel, Holmes Place Health & Fitness Club is equipped with a pool and state-of-the-art workout equipment (for a fee). A full-service business center is located on site. Nearby attractions include the opera house, shopping and historic districts, and a number of outstanding museums, including both the Museum of Modern Art and Goethe Museum.$$$
INTERCONTINENTAL DÜSSELDORF
Konigsallee 59
tel 49 211 828 50
http://www.intercontinental.com


DINING

CANONICUS

Owner-chef Ingo Koethschneider delights in mixing flavors from a range of international dishes, with a strong Asian vibe apparent in many. Two menus are available: Menu Ost emphasizes Eastern dishes, and Menue West offers traditional Western European selections. The restaurant is located in a charming renovated house, with assorted rooms creating a relaxed ambience that allows for an intimate dining experience. Try the wonderful selection of regional cheeses for dessert. Reservations are recommended, especially for weekends. $$$$
CANONICUS
Neusser Tor 16
tel 49 211 289 644
http://www.canonicus.de

IM SCHIFFCHEN

With a wine list falling just short of 1,000 choices, this fine dining restaurant has the distinction of being one of only five restaurants in Germany to have earned three Michelin stars. The kitchen is under the direction of Chef Jean-Claude Bourgueil, with eclectic creations that showcase a blend of new German cuisine with traditional dishes. Reservations are essential, and the further out you make them (think months), the better your chance of actually getting a table. Be sure to save room for dessert: the decadent selection is not-to-be-missed.$$$$
IM SCHIFFCHEN
Kaiserwerther Markt 9
tel 49 211 401 050
http://www.im-schiffchen.com

RESTAURANT HUMERSTUEBCHEN

This informal restaurant, located in the Hotel Fischerhaus, has a comfortable, welcoming air. Hummer is German for lobster, and seafood is a specialty here. Both the preparation and presentation have a creative edge, and you might find your shellfish served in a sesame broth infused with local herbs. Chef Peter Nothel’s menu has a distinctly international flair, with traditional German dishes alongside rich French-inspired selections.$$$
RESTAURANT HUMERSTUEBCHEN
Bonifatiusstrasse 35
tel 49 211 594 402
http://www.hummerstuebchen.de


INFO TO GO

Düsseldorf International Airport (DUS) continues to grow as an international hub with nonstop service to and from the United States on several major airlines. The Sky Train railway connects the airport’s main railway station to the air terminal, and a city bus station can be found in front of the arrivals area. Tickets for the Sky Train can be purchased at vending machines in the station. It runs frequently, beginning at 3:45 a.m., between the air terminal and the airport train station for rail connections to the city. The Düsseldorf WelcomeCard, valid for 24 (about $13), 48 (about $20) or 72 hours (about $27) offers free rides on public transportation systems, and free or reduced admission for many museums, boat tours and theatrical productions. Purchase it at Tourist Information offices, some city hotel desks and Rheinbahn (public transportation) ticket offices. For more information, visit the German National Tourist Board at http://www.germany-tourism.de.


DIVERSIONS

From early May to mid-October, daily guided tours begin at 2:30 p.m. from the front of the Tourist Information center (Burgplatz) in Altstadt. Ninety-minute excursions with bilingual guides include a walking jaunt of the historic area, followed by a boat tour on the river. On Saturdays at 11 a.m. throughout the year, horse-drawn wagon tours of Altstadt are available, also leaving from the Burgplatz. Ticket price includes a glass of Altbier (http://www.duesseldorf-tourismus.de tel 4,9 211 172 020). Reservations are required for both tours.

A short distance southwest of the city along the A46, near the town of Neuss, you’ll find the indoor ski slopes of Jever Skihalle (An der Skihalle 1, Neuss, tel 49 213 112 440, http://www.allrounder.de). Complete with quad lifts, ski school and multiple runs, the center is open daily year-round.

Slightly farther away — about a half-hour by car — is the artist’s colony of Raketenstation Hombroich. Conceived by landscape artist Erwin Heerich, this former NATO missile base is the setting for 11 separate pavilions, each housing a different collection. Within this serene landscape is the dramatic glass museum created by Tadao Ando for the Langen Foundation, holding hundreds of works of Japanese and modern art, including works by Mark Rothko, Paul Cézanne, Andy Warhol, and German artist Sigmar Polke (http://www.langenfoundation.de).

 

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