A personal opinion about a special place that was once your writer’s home whom, having moved to Düsseldorf in the late 1970s experienced a fairly average German location. Incredible change has swept across the city and, while the well-dressed fashionistas still roam the inner city, the place has become surprisingly cosmopolitan.
Best thing about living in Dusseldorf
Once a village on the banks of the tiny Düssel and the majestic Rhine, the state capital still has a friendly, easy going, clean and safe feel about it. Even in the wrong parts of town and at night. A cosmopolitan flavour with a mix of many nationalities creates the perfect place to live.
Worst thing about living in Dusseldorf
It’s still a village! In the midst of 18 million people, it has no coast, no mountains and little forest but more than its share of mid-northern-mainland European grey weather. And definitely plenty of German service and smile standards. Well, I was asked.
Best way to get around
The trams and subways are excellent. They take a visitor just about everywhere they may wish to go. Taxis are easy to spot, fairly inexpensive yet not so easy to stop since hailing a cab is still not a Germanic trait.
Favourite secret place
Just a little way off the beaten track, is a tiny Spanish store with a delightful owner. Even if there are only two patrons ahead in the queue, still be prepared to wait for 20 minutes. Several tender Serranos, delicious cheeses and excellent wines to seduce your palate can be purchased at Spanish prices. The clues may just help you discover my undisclosed choice.
Best place to exercise
The western banks of the river where shepherds herd their sheep are wide and the landscape fairly flat. Great for miles and miles (or kilometres and kilometres) of unhindered running and cycling. Indoors, Holmes Place on the prestigious Königsallee is a favourite.
Best place to relax
Developed around the turn of the 20th Century, my former home neighbourhood of Oberkassel is located on a peninsular left by the meanderings of the Rhine. Try the terraces of the numerous bars, trattorias and cafés. A mild sunny day draws people to soak the energy and devour picnics. Or walk the dog. Another favourite is the Hofgarten.
Best place to refuel
Meet and greet mostly young and some old, cute, sexy and good-looking guys and gals in a traditional and yet still hot bistro named Muggel. They serve great cocktails and it has terrific atmosphere any time of the day or night. The harbour overflows with trendy bars and popular restaurants.
Most inspirational building
Not so famous for any landmarks, architecture here tends to be more “me too” and not so sky scraping. Frank O. Gehry has created a group of three small sisters to Bilbao in the harbour; Daniel Libeskind has planned the refreshing, yet surprisingly uninspiring creation at the court park (Hofgarten); and a hideous flyover, having split the city centre into three for decades, is insomuch inspiring as to create arguments about its demise. The theatre (Schauspielhaus) or theater to some is, to me, the finest building in town.
Best seasonal tip if in town in December
Germany is famous for the Christmas market (Weihnachtsmarkt) and Düsseldorf has a sprinkling of smaller ones with a bubbly, crowded and jolly Christmassy feeling. Lovers of a not too sweet mulled wine (Glühwein) should head straight for the cosy offerings on the town hall (Rathaus) square. Snuggled in the back left-hand corner can be found excellent white Glühwein and so-called flamed cake (Flammkuchen). Both are delicious and it’s impossible not to make friends.
This thriving commercial centre boasts a fairly well balanced budget and with 600,000 inhabitants it is about the size of Helsinki. Best of all, the surprisingly international airport is only ten minutes away. This small city truly is a best-kept secret.