Düsseldorf, in the west of Germany, doesn’t get a lot of press in tourism circles, but it’s well worth a visit. And there’s heaps of inexpensive things to do in and around the city.
1. Do the City Rally
You don’t get cheaper than free, and the City Rally is a great way to start your time in Düsseldorf, as it introduces you many of the main sights as well as teaching you about some aspects of the history of the city. It’s basically a walking tour with a difference: you answer questions at each of the stops on the tour, and your answers will help you solve the word puzzle at the back of the pamphlet.
You’ll need to pick up the orange-coloured brochure from the tourist office; there’s one in the old town right near the start of the route, or if you arrive by train there’s another across the road from the main station. Then, head to the Marktplatz to start the walk and discover a lot about Düsseldorf’s central city.
2. Go on an Altbier pub crawl
After finishing the City Rally, you can enter a competition to win a prize at the end of the year. But if you’re more interested in instant gratification, reward yourself with an Altbier (old beer). Several pubs in Düsseldorf brew their own version of this top-fermented beer, and a 300ml glass costs €1.80 in all of the pubs we visited. Four of these pubs are marked on the city map you can get from the tourist office; stand outside and wait for a waiter to pass with a tray of full glasses. In two of the pubs we visited, the waiter marked lines in pencil on the beermat to indicate how many glasses we’d taken, but our last pub broke the mould and we had to pay on delivery. Finish your pub crawl with a final drink on the Burgplatz steps by the Rhine after picking up a bottle or two from a nearby kiosk.
3. Explore the gardens at Schloss Benrath
A half-hour tram ride from the old town is the Benrath Palace, which boasts a couple of museums as well as the palace itself. Entrance to the museums isn’t pricy, and you get a discount with the Welcome Card, but the gardens are free to enter and worth a visit in their own right. They contain a lake, kitchen gardens and formal gardens among other attractions, and it’s easy to spend a couple of hours exploring. We went geocaching, there’s a great multi cache that takes you through many of the areas of the grounds.
4. Go mad on the Welcome Card
Düsseldorf’s city pass gives you free use of all forms of public transport as well as entry to several museums and a wide range of discounts. It comes in 24, 48, and 72-hour denominations, and if you’re staying outside of the central city, the longer options are great just for the public transport option. However, the city is quite walkable, so you might not need public transport at all on some days of your stay, especially if you do the City Rally. Get a 24-hour card, though, and go wild. Start at the aquarium when it opens at 10am, visit the film museum and ceramics museum before lunch in the old town, then hit up some art galleries in the afternoon. If you want to visit the museum at Schloss Benrath, today’s a good day to go, as it’s a little out of town.
5. Visit the Media Harbour
Düsseldorf is full of public art, and Frank Gehry’s architecture certainly counts. On the banks of the Rhine you’ll find this new development, which consists of three office blocks that are nicknamed “the dancing houses”. You’ll see them on a boat trip down the river, or walk there at night for the nightlife in this up and coming area.