Situated less than 40 kilometers apart along the Rhine in the western region of Germany, both Düsseldorf and Cologne are rich in architecture, attractions and culture. Each city has its own distinct ambiance - Düsseldorf is a city of business and high fashion, while Cologne is more technical and media-oriented. Both are abuzz with historical significance and modern industry - an intriguing juxtaposition that is most definitely worth exploring.
1. ‘The longest bar in the world’
The 1km square Alstadt, or Old Town, is home to over 300 bars, clubs and restaurants. For a taste of the local brew, try Altbier, which you get fresh from Hausbraueri zum Schlüssel (Bolkerstrasse 41-47), one of four breweries in the neighborhood. For a more relaxed night out, visit the outdoor restaurants along the Rhine River promenade.
2. World-class Shopping
Adjacent to the Altsradt, you will find the Königsalle, or The "Kö,” a picturesque, 1km-long world-class upmarket shopping street. Here you can find fashion showrooms and flagship stores for brands such as Prada, Armani, Hermès and Bulgari. For more budget-friendly options, explore the neighboring shopping streets of Flingerstrasse and Shadowstrasse, which boasts the highest sales revenues in Germany.
3. Modern Architecture
A product of Düsseldorf’s spectacular urban revitalization project, MedienHafen - or ‘Media Harbour’ - is filled with beautiful and avant-garde modern office buildings, apartments, shops and restaurants. Keep an eye out for architect Frank Gehry’s Neuer Zollhof, a trio of sculptural high-rises respectively coated in stainless steel, red brick and white plaster. Make your way to the pedestrian “living bridge,” which connects both sides of the harbour.
4. Cartwheels everywhere
Dusseldorfers love cartwheels! Legend has it that local children began turning cartwheels in reaction to Dusseldorf’s victory in the Battle of Worringen on 14 August 1288. The city holds a cartwheeling tournament each year in celebration of this custom, and images of the Düsseldorfer Radschläger can be found on many souvenirs and landmarks throughout the city.
5. Cologne Cathedral
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage sight in 1996, the Cologne Cathedral is a celebrated monument of German Catholicism and Gothic architecture. The cathedral is Germany’s most-visited landmark and is visible from almost anywhere in Cologne – in fact, it is the world’s tallest twin-spired church. The Cathedral and Museum Ludwig are some of the city’s main attractions found in the Agnesviertal area.
6. Sprechen Sie Deutsch?
Although speaking fluent German isn’t necessary, knowing some important phrases will only help during your stay in Dusseldorf or Cologne. Here are some lines you should keep on hand:
“Danke schön” - Thank you
“Guten Tag” / “Auf Wiedersehen” - Hello / Goodbye
Ich spreche kein Deutsch. / Sprechen Sie Englisch? - I don't speak German / Do you speak English?
“Ein/zwei/drei Bier, Wein, etc, bitte” - One / two / three beers, wines, please
“Wie viele?” - How much?
7. Always look people in the eye when saying “Prost!”
Although you may have heard of this superstition before, Germans take it very seriously. Every time you say prost (cheers), be sure to look everyone in the eye as you clink glasses or else you and whoever you don’t make eye contact with will have bad luck for seven years. If you don’t do this, the person might think you wish bad fortune upon them.
8. Chocolate Museum
What could be better than an entire museum dedicated to the world's most guilty pleasure? The Imhoff-Schokoladenmuseum in Cologne will walk you through the history of chocolate while immersing you in culture at the same time. So take a dip in the world of chocolate at this special museum.
9. Springtime Carnival
Springtime Carnival, courtesy of Flickr user Harold R Cologne
Nicknamed “the fifth season of the year,” Cologne’s Springtime Carnival brings crowds of people from across the country to celebrate in bars, public squares and even the streets. Head to Cologne in February to experience the nonstop party.
10. Historical Roman architecture
The Romans founded Cologne in 38 BC. Their presence is still apparent today with classic Roman architecture sprinkled across the city. One only needs to look as far as the praetorium or the amphitheaters to see the evidence of the ancient civilization.