Düsseldorf and Cologne are two beautiful cities on the Rhine that are less than 50 kilometers apart. While most foreign visitors might be a little bit more familiar with Cologne, the locals might tell you that that the shopping and clubbing scene in Düsseldorf is more vibrant. So, if you ever visit the Rhine-Ruhr region, there is no reason for you to miss the best of both worlds. I have some recommendations myself; I am also reached out to my fellow travel bloggers for a list of “must-sees”.
Düsseldorf is the capital of North Rhine-Westphalia. Geographically, it is very close to the Benelux countries: Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxemburg; besides, it hosts many international tradeshows and conferences year-round. As I mentioned, Düsseldorf has a vibrant shopping and nightlife – The Konigsallee is one of the most glamourous shopping boulevards in Europe. you can also find the longest bar in the world here with over 300 bars, breweries, and pubs line the Düsseldorf Altstadt. Don’t forget the many high-end restaurants also set up in Düsseldorf, many of them are Michelin Star decorated.
If you love to view modern architecture, drop by the Neuer Zollhof (The New Zollhof) that is located right by the Media Harbour in the city center. The building complex is designed by the world-renowned architect, Frank O. Gehry. You will easily find his signature curves are on several waterfront buildings in different shapes and colors, working harmoniously with their surroundings and nearby historic houses.
Ivan – mindthetravel.com
Located on the east side of the Medienhafen, the Rheinturm (a.k.a. the Rhine Tower) is the tallest building in Düsseldorf. This 790ft (240.5m) tall concrete telecommunications tower was inaugurated on 1 December 1981 and has an observation deck and revolving restaurant at 170 meters. There are four elevators inside the tower, which take guests (as well as cargo) up to the top.
While not as high as Television Tower in Berlin, the Rheinturm offers unobstructed panoramic views of the Düsseldorf city skyline and surrounding Rhenish country. Unsurprisingly, the panoramas are glorious, and when the skies are clear you can easily see Cologne’s skyscrapers far to the south.
If you want to save a few euros come here before 11:00 am or after 10:00 pm. The Rhine Tower is open to the public daily all through the year from 10 am to 11.00 pm, and the view of Düsseldorf at sunset is as romantic as it gets. Since the tower opened in 1981 its concrete shaft was designed by
Horst H. Baumann and is known as the Light Time Level. The world’s largest digital clock is displayed as vertical rows of moving lights on the shaft.
Jodie – Alajode
Carlsplatz market is home to some of the best Dusseldorf food brands and events and is a must-visit for foodies visiting the city. A popular spot for tourists and locals alike, this massive market covers the entire Carlsplatz square in the center of the city. The Benrather Straße U-Bahn stop is a short, one-minute walk from the market square, making it easy to get to no matter where you stay in Dusseldorf.
Make sure you arrive at the Carlsplatz market with an empty stomach. There’s a lot of food here that you can enjoy on the go, as well as samples of treats you can buy to take home. You’ll find everything from olive oil from Italy to fresh flatbreads, as well as locally produced Riesling wines (one of the most popular stalls of all!). If you only stop by one spot – make it the KaffeeReich coffee stand. Here, “bakery-art” master Tim Tegtmeier sells his decadent and unusual cakes and baked goods. They’re totally unique and the perfect sweet treat for a day of exploring!
Chrysoula – All About Castles
Schloss Benrath is one of the most impressive castles near Dusseldorf, with its pristine pink facade, manicured gardens, and opulent interiors making it a fantastic place for a day trip. Built between 1755 and 1770, Schloss Benrath is a grand, Baroque-style mansion that was built for the Elector Palatine, Charles Theodor with a stunning symmetrical design, almost dolls-house-like in style.
Visitors can enjoy a guided tour of the building and the grounds (either in German or English), with the professional guide offering information about the Italian-inspired architecture, the intricate interior styling, the elaborate embroidery, and the magnificent gardens that are blooming throughout the spring and summer. In winter much of the exterior is covered in ice and snow which makes it equally as magical and perfect for those who prefer the cooler weather.
Guests are asked to wear slippers over their shoes when exploring the inside, so as to protect the marble flooring, so don’t forget to take a snap of this fancy felt footwear!
If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Schloss Benrath in summer, then you may be able to witness one of the concerts, workshops, or performances held on the grounds.
Cologne is only 23-min away by train from Düsseldorf and the ginormous Cologne Cathedral (Or Kölner Dom) is right outside the train station. It is the most visited German landmark (more than the Neuschwanstein Castle and Brandenburg Gate, owing to its convenient access I guess).
The mighty Cologne Cathedral is a Classic Roman Catholic Church dating back to the mid-13th century. The construction of the façade of the cathedral began in the mid-14th century and then it was halted in 1473, the cathedral’s south tower was left undone with construction cranes remained on top for 400 years! The construction resumed in 1842 and finally completed in 1880.
The Cathedral was once the tallest skyscraper in the world for 4 years until the Washington Monument was erected and beat it by 4 meters. But still, the cathedral remained as the tallest Gothic building in the world with the largest façade of a church. Therefore, “be warned”, taking a picture of the entire façade of the Cathedral could be a challenge.
Check out more about my favorite cathedrals at My Top 12 Cathedral in Europe (1)!
The other famous products in the city, which is quite obvious, is “Cologne” itself! The 4711 “Eau de Cologne” packed in Tiffany blue wrappings and gold stamp printing, is the most iconic brand that comes with different sizes. They have tiny bottles of 4711 cologne which are a perfect souvenir for your friend and loved ones.
James – Man Tripping
As a foodie (drinkie?) one of the most exciting things to do is visit the origin of iconic food and beverages and so Cologne, the home of Kolsh beer should be on your list. I absolutely love this style of beer because it has a beautiful color and is light, crisp, and refreshing on the palette. This has made it one of the most popular beers in the world … but most people have never actually had a true Kolsh beer and certainly not on tap or from the brewery.
While you can enjoy Kolsh-style beer virtually anywhere … to truly be Kolsh it must be brewed within 50km of Cologne – similar to how Tequila needs to only come from Tequila, MX, and Champagne, Bordeaux, and other wine styles must come from those protected regions.
To Americans like myself, it is confusing sometimes to visit here because unlike in the US where you might have 20, 50, or even 100 beers on tap from different brewers. Here though, most bars are affiliated with a single brewer. While this makes it difficult to sample a wide variety of Kolsh beers in one sitting, it opens the doors wide to do a tour of the best Kolsh beers in Cologne by doing a bar and brewery crawl like my buddies and I did on a Viking River Cruise recently.
James – The Travel Scribes
It’s definitely one of the most Instagrammable places in Cologne, with its candy-colored buildings making for the perfect pastel background. But the Köln Fischmarkt (Cologne Fishmarket) is more than just a place for photographers to congregate.
Tucked away in the shadow of the looming Cologne Cathedral (well, technically it’s closer to the St Martin’s church), the area was – not surprisingly – where the historic fish market used to be located, first opened in the 13th century. While most of the buildings were actually destroyed during World War II, they were reconstructed in the same style and painted in bright colors to bring trade back to the area.
This is a great area to explore on your Cologne itinerary if you’ve just made a stop at the famous Cathedral. The area is just a stone’s throw away, offering not just a smattering of delicious restaurants but also facing out to the mighty Rhein (Rhine) river, and offering many a spot for you to sit and relax. Order an ice-cream cone from one of the many gelaterias and relax on the grassy knoll or the river walls as people flock past you on the cobbled streets. Our pick, however, is to take a seat at one of the many cafés for some lunch – highly recommended is the slightly salty Herring Pot at Herings Im Martinswinkel.
Wendy – The Nomadic Vegan
Did you know that Cologne used to be a colony of the ancient Roman Empire? It was known as Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium, and the modern-day name “Cologne” is derived from the word “colonia” or “colony”. The best place to learn about the city’s connection with Rome is at the Romano-Germanic Museum, which is conveniently located just next door to the famous Cologne Cathedral.
Some of the pre-history exhibits actually date all the way back to Paleolithic times, spanning 100,000 years of history. Two of the most impressive artifacts held by the museum are the third-century mosaic of Dionysus and the enormous 1st-century AD tomb of a legionary named Poblicius.
Both of these are actually displayed in a separate exhibit that’s open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm, and entrance to that exhibit is free. The rest of the museum is open Wednesday to Monday, from 10 am to 6 pm, and the entrance fee is 6 euros.
The Dionysus mosaic was part of an ancient Roman villa and actually lies in situ where it was found. Since it would have been too risky to remove the mosaic, the museum was simply built around it. Thus, it’s not just a museum but also an archaeological site.
Kat – Wandering Bird
If you’re visiting Cologne or Dusseldorf, you need to make time to visit Brühl Castle. Before we go any further, you might find it easier to use the German names: Schlösser Brühl or Augustusburg Palace. And, just to add to the confusion, there are actually TWO palaces on the site- Augustusburg and Falkenlust.
However, don’t let the confusing names put you off- these palaces are some of the best castles and palaces in Germany and definitely worth a visit.
Augustusburg Palace is the biggest. Built in the 18th century, it’s such a perfect example of the building from the era that it has been placed on the UNESCO world heritage list.
Falkenlust Palace is actually the hunting lodge, situated in the extensive (and beautiful) grounds of Augustusburg. This too has been placed on the UNESCO list, along with the incredible gardens which surround the two.
You can see both as part of a guided tour, or walk around by yourself using a map. If it’s a sunny day, the gardens may well be your favorite part- although both buildings and the decor inside are truly spectacular.