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Discovering Düsseldorf

August 26, 2010 By: Meagan Drillinger Travel Agent
 


 

Built as a hunting lodge for the elector
Built as a hunting lodge for the elector, Carl Theodor, over 200 years ago, Benrath Palace and Park is one of Düsseldorf’s main attractions

If you have never traveled to Düsseldorf, Germany, your impression of the city might be a little skewed. Those who think they know Düsseldorf often cast it off as a center for business, trade shows and conferences. However, after Travel Agent’s recent visit to this city on the Rhine River, we can declare that it is a vibrant destination for leisure travel—home to museums, galleries and castles, and brimming with culture, fashion and festivals.

Where to Stay

A short taxi ride put us at the Steigenberger Park Hotel, the oldest and widely considered the best hotel in Düsseldorf. It sits in one of the most coveted areas of the city, right in the heart of the shopping district on Konigsallee, often called “Ko.” This is the place to be for all upscale shopping —from Cartier to Burberry to Tiffany.

The five-star property, built in 1902, was most recently renovated in 2006. It comprises 119 rooms and 11 suites. Travel Agent stayed in room #305, a Deluxe Single Room, which is the second-highest room category. The best rooms in the house are the Suites, which include a living area, master bedroom and master bathroom with a deep soaking tub and separate shower stall.

More renovations are slated for November. Eighty rooms will receive new color schemes and furniture. In February 2011, the hotel will renovate both of its bars and restaurants.

Travel agents can contact Sales Manager Lisa Homberg (011-49-138-1530, lisa.homberg@duesseldorf.steigenberger.de) with questions.

Note: Much of Düsseldorf is under construction, including the space in front of the hotel, as the city is working to expand its metro service. We are told the construction is expected to wrap up in 2013, but the hope is that the majority of the work will be moved underground by 2012.

Touring the City

After a relaxing trip to the sauna in the hotel’s spa, we took a walking tour of the city. Travelers can arrange city tours through Düsseldorf Marketing & Tourismus. Ask for tour guide Renate Morton, who is bubbly, energetic and passionate about the city.

Tip: Before you hit the streets, purchase a Düsseldorf WelcomeCard, which is a key to the city. It grants unlimited use of trams and buses as well as free or discounted entry to museums, attractions and other facilities. A 24-hour card can be purchased at Tourist Information offices for $11.50
(48- and 72-hour cards are also available).

Düsseldorf is a truly medieval city, with a history dating back about 800 years, and it has remained a center of culture throughout the centuries, earning praise from poets, royalty and dignitaries. Napoleon once dubbed the city his “Little Paris.”

The first stop on your client’s itinerary should be Old Town, which marks Düsseldorf’s origin. Old Town is locally known as “the Longest Bar in the World,” due to the 260 watering holes found within such a small radius. Tip: Altbier is the local brew of the city. It translates to “beer brewed in the old style,” and is delicious. We visited Zum Schlüssel, a brewery in the heart of Old Town, which pumps out the city’s supply of its favorite beverage.

Museums and palaces are also central to the culture of Düsseldorf. In fact, the small city is home to more than 20 castles. Travel Agent took a tour of Benrath Palace and Park. The palace dates back over 200 years and was built as a hunting and pleasure lodge for the elector, Carl Theodor. The pale pink facade is decorated with elaborate white carvings and looks out onto reflecting pools and expansive gardens.

We suggest taking three hours from your schedule to fully take advantage of the palace’s many rooms and intricately planned outdoor space. The adjacent Café Schloss Benrath is a great spot to relax over lunch.

More than 100 museums and art galleries are scattered throughout the city. One of the most famous is the K20, which recently completed a two-year renovation. The museum houses 20th-century art from the early 1900s through 1945, along the lines of Ernst, Picasso and Pollock. A second museum, the K21, features art from 1945 through the present.

Festival Fever

This is a city that loves to celebrate and finds a reason to do so every season. We had the chance to attend Rheinkirmes, the largest festival on the Rhine—and fun for any age group.

This outdoor extravaganza is held for nine days every July in honor of the city’s patron saint, St. Apollinaris. It takes place across the river from the Old Town, a short ferry, bus or tram ride away. Upon arrival, visitors are greeted by flashing neon, boisterous screams and aromas from food stalls serving every type of festival food imaginable.

We suggest arriving in late afternoon with time to enjoy rides, a bite and, depending on the day, the grand fireworks display. The pyrotechnics take place for just one night of the festival. At 10:30 p.m., the sky explodes with colors and motifs. The best spot to view the spectacle from is the Ferris wheel. Note: Next year’s Rheinkirmes will be held July 16-24, with the fireworks display on July 22.

The fun continues throughout the year with jazz festivals, Japanese Day (Düsseldorf has Germany’s largest Japanese population), Carnival and the Christmas Market.

 

The fireworks display during Rheinkirmes
The fireworks display during Rheinkirmes, the largest festival on the Rhine, is not to be missed

 

 

 

Baden-Baden for Christmas
  

If your clients want an old-fashioned, very traditional Christmas experience, suggest they visit Germany, where the Baden-Baden Christmas Market will run from November 23 to December 26.
The Baden-Baden Christkindelmarkt has more than 100 decorated stalls offering local crafts, wood carvings, toys, arts and other special holiday gift items. Visitors can enjoy a glass of gluehwein, taste some local holiday delicacies and listen to a variety of choirs, orchestras and bands performing daily on the stage in front of the Kurhaus. (Even better: The Kurhaus and the colonnadest are traditionally lit up by thousands of lights over the Advent period.)
To warm up after a day (or an hour) strolling the stalls, visit the Caracalla Spa—open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.—where 12 natural springs rise from the depths of 6,500 feet to provide an unforgettable bathing experience in a large glass temple. The spa has a romantic hot and cold rock grotto, bubbling whirlpools, waterfalls, wave pools, water jets and a newly designed sauna complex.
For details on the spa, visit www.caracalla.de. For more information on events in Baden-Baden, visit www.Baden-Baden.com.

 

 

Media Harbor

Düsseldorf was once a major center for production, much of which took place around the city’s old industrial harbor. As has happened in many former manufacturing areas, in 1999, the harbor underwent a transformation and emerged as the new Media Harbor—a trendy neighborhood with office and retail space, restaurants, bars and hotels. The masterminds behind Media Harbor’s architecture are Frank Gehry, William Alsop, David Chipperfield and other international architects.

Today, more than 580 companies are housed in the harbor, 60 percent of which are in the fashion industry. The number of bars, cafés and restaurants has also doubled in the last few years. If your clients wish to stay at Media Harbor, they can do so at the Marriott or Radisson. A Hyatt is slated to open in December, to add 800 more rooms.

Media Harbor witnesses frenetic activity during the workday even into the early evening hours. It somewhat slows down at night as the business day ends.

Getting There

The easiest way to reach Düsseldorf from the U.S. is via Lufthansa, which touches 22 destinations in North America and operates 259 weekly flights to Frankfurt, Munich and Düsseldorf.

We arrived at Düsseldorf International Airport after a flight on Lufthansa’s Business Class, which was a real treat. We had snacks and beverages in the Business Class Lounge, a delicious in-flight meal and a seat that reclined to almost 180 degrees.


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