My airberlin European tour kicked off this week with a weekend getaway in Dusseldorf, Germany. Before arriving here, I have to confess that I hadn’t really given much thought to the city. After all when one thinks of Germany, Munich or Berlin are typically the first cities to spring to mind. However, as I prepare to depart, I can say with confidence that Dusseldorf is a metropolis that has a lot to offer travelers of all types. It’s a unique place, and truly unlike any other European city that I have been to before. Two opposing forces seem to battle for supremacy in Dusseldorf: its rich industrial port city legacy and its trendy, fashion and design center. Despite this, both seem to coexist in what is clearly an important cultural and tourism hub for Germany.
Along the Rhine
The harbor area is probably the best example of juxtaposing identities in action, where many of the cargo cranes and tracks still stand to remind visitors and residents of the city’s history. Yet it is very clear, from a quick look around, that all of the buildings here were designed with a modern, chic style in mind. This is no doubt due to the fact that the harbor now houses offices for fashion companies, design firms and boutique websites. The most notable include the three Gehry-designed buildings along the water.
Other new buildings, like the Hyatt Regency Dusseldorf, dominate the skyline. The modern exterior features tons of windows and a metal rounded sculpture (which is like a combination of the Chicago Cloud Gate sculpture and a UFO) that houses a cocktail bar. Despite the modern finishes, the hotel pays homage to Dusseldorf’s industrial identity. The hotel meets at a point much the like the front of a ship, with the metal sculpture acting as the captain’s bridge.
These two themes continue inside the hotel through details like the raindrop light fixtures, the ballroom carpet (reminiscent of a thriving river ecosystem), and the long hallway in the lobby that looks like a catwalk. Not to mention the relaxing raindrop shower and floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the harbor. All-in-all, the hotel is a shining example of how modern and industrial design concepts can come together in perfect harmony.
Something for Everyone
However, the best part about Dusseldorf is that there really is something for everyone. For the food snob and history buff (like myself), there is plenty to keep you occupied – from the 100-year-old altbier breweries, upscale restaurants and historical buildings and statues. There is also a plethora of options for the art lover. And did I mention that Dusseldorf has a rich history in music, from classical all the way to punk rock? In fact the city was home to one of the first punk rock clubs in the region and it also has a well-known opera house, which I will mention in greater detail in my destination guide.
Small Town Feel in a Big City
One of my biggest travel gripes is when cities are so tourist-centric that they lose their allure and charm. I much prefer to eat, drink and explore like a local. There is nothing worse than being dragged into a restaurant by a pushy waiter and eating from the 10 Euro tourist menu. Dusseldorf still has this type of small town feel, despite being a city of nearly 600,000 inhabitants. Sure, I don’t mind a posh, luxurious hotel filled with tourists (thanks again Hyatt Dusseldorf), but when exploring a city you need to experience the culture itself, not an abridged, landscaped version intended for tourists.
More details to follow when I publish the full Dusseldorf destination guide, complete with attractions, restaurants, bars and transportation information. But now it is time to prepare for my early flight to the next adventure on the airberlin Winter Tour. For live updates, follow us on Twitter (@Fly_com).