Düsseldorf (pop. 582,000) is the capital of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, and one of the main economic centres and transport hubs in Germany. Almost entirely destroyed during the Second World War, the city does not rank amongst the most attractive in Germany, but it nevertheless boasts some of the best shopping, restaurants, nightlife and museums in the country.
Several other major German companies have their headquarters in the city, including E.ON, Henkel, ThyssenKrupp, Metro Group, Ergo Insurance, LTU, and Cognis. Many Japanese banks and corporations have their European headquarters or main German branch in Düsseldorf.
17% of the local population is made of foreigners. Düsseldorf and its environs has, among others, the third largest Jewish community in Germany, and the third largest Japanese community in Europe (after London and Paris).
Düsseldorf is a relatively new city by European standards. It wasn't mentioned as a town until 1135 (it was then called "Düsseldorp", "dorp" being the local dialect for "village").
Possession of the County of Berg, Düsseldorf was granted city rights in 1288 by Count Adolf V of Berg, 2 months after his decisive victory against the Archbishop of Cologne at the Battle of Worringen.
In 1380, Düsseldorf was made regional capital of the Duchy of Berg. In 1609, the ducal line of Jülich-Berg-Cleves died out, and after a few years of struggle over the succession, the Duchy of Jülich and Berg eventually passed to the Palatinate branch of the powerful House of Wittelsbach, who made of Düsseldorf their main residence. The Rhenish city experienced its first golden age under the rule of Johann Wilhelm II von Pfalz-Neuburg (1658-1716), known to the locals as "Jan Wellem". Upon his death, the court moved to Mannheim, then Munich, taking with them the family's sumptuous art collection (now part of the Alte Pinakothek in Munich).
Destroyed and impoverished by the Napoleonic Wars, Düsseldorf got a new lease of life during the Industrial Revolution. The population had risen to 100,000 inhabitants by 1882. The two World Wars plunged the city into an economic depression again, especially the Second, during which Allied bombings razed Düsseldorf to the ground.
Federal state capital since 1946, Düsseldorf has grown into one of the most prosperous cities in the region, known for its avant-garde architecture, as well as its tree-lined Königsallee ("King's Avenue") and its jewellery and designer shops, emulating the Champs-�lysées.
Schloss Benrath, Düsseldorf.
The Old Town (Altstadt) is the place to go out for bars, pubs and restaurants. It is centered around the Market Square (Marktplatz) and its Renaissance Town Hall (Rathaus). Two noteworthy churches nearby are the Andreaskirche and the St. Lambertus Kirche.
The Rheinuferpromenade runs along the Rhine from the Market Square to the Rheinkniebrücke (bridge). The promenade is lined with cafés and benches and is an excellent place to stroll by fair weather.
At the southern end of the promenade rises the 240m-tall Rheinturm ("Rhine Tower"). This radio and TV tower was built between 1979 and 1981. It has revolving platform, with an observation deck and a restaurant (170m), as well as the world's largest digital clock. In spite of its height, it is only the 26th highest tower in Germany (the highest being Berlin's Fernsehturm, with 368m).
One of the most compelling sight is Benrather Schloss, the palace of Elector Karl Theodor. It houses the Museum Corps de Logis, the Museum of Natural History (Naturkundemuseum), and the Museum of European Garden Art (Museum für Europäische Gartenkunst). The palace is located 10km south of the city centre, and can be reached by metro (line S6) or tramway (No 701) to Jan-Wellem-Platz.
Venturing into the district of Pempelfort, in the north-eastern part of the city centre, you will stumble on Schloss Jägerhof, the largest castle in Düsseldorf. This typical German Baroque edifice, with its pink façace, was constructed bewteen 1752 and 1763 for Prince-Elector Charles Theodore of Bavaria. At the time it was still located in the outskirt of the small town that was then Düsseldorf. Badly damaged during the French Revolutionary Wars, Jägerhof served as a hospital for French troops in the early 1800's. It was renovated for the occasion of Napoleon's visit in 1811, then served as a residence for members of the Prussian royal family from 1815.
The mutilations left on the city by WWII bombings gave Düsseldorf the opportunity to reinvent itself. Düsseldorf Media Harbour (Düsseldorf MedienHafen) has turned itself into a showcase of dazzling contemporary urban design. The most eye-catching constructions are Frank Gehry's three-building compound, known as Der Neue Zollhof. Each building is in fact an multi-towered ensemble, each twisted in various directions, as is characteristic of Gehry's style. The white, sliver and red buildings were completed in 1999.
The biggest part of Düsseldorf's attractions are its museums. Here is a non-exhaustive list of the most interesting ones :
How to get there
The main motorway axis passing through Düsseldorf are the E31 (A57, A61), E35 (A3) and E37 (A1). The E31 follows the course of the Rhine from Mannheim to Rotterdam, passing by Koblenz, Cologne, Düsseldorf and Nijmegen. The E35 links Frankfurt-am-Main to Amsterdam, via Cologne, Düsseldorf, Arnhem and Utrecht. The E37 goes north-east to Wuppertal, Dortmund, Münster, Osnabrück, then all the way to Bremen.
Coming from Belgium, the easiest is to take the E40 to Cologne, then the E31 (or alternatively, take the A44 from Aachen, straight to Düsseldorf). If you are coming from Antwerp, it is faster to take the E34 to Duisburg, then the E31.
There are very frequent train connections to Duisburg (10 to 15min), Essen (25min), Cologne (20min), Mönchengladbach (about 30min), Bonn (45min to 1h), Aachen (1h25min). There are also less frequent direct trains to Frankfurt-am-Main (1h45min), Hannover (2h35min), Stuttgart (2h45min), Hamburg (3h40min), Berlin (4h15min) and Munich (about 5 hours).
There is a hourly or bi-hourly direct line to Amsterdam (2h10min to 2h40min), via Arnhem (1h10min to 1h40min) and Utrecht (1h40min to 2h10min). Trains to/from Belgium require a change at Cologne or Aachen.
Düsseldorf International Airport
has flights to a few major cities in Europe and the Middle East.
The smaller Düsseldorf-Weeze Airport is served by RyanAir, with a dozen destinations, such as London Stansted, Glasgow, Stockholm, Venice, Rome or Barcelona.
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