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Though hip Berlin, chic Hamburg and historic Munich tend to steal the limelight, Düsseldorf is no slouch when it comes to culture, fine dining and pulsing nightlife.
In recent years, fashion designers, creatives and game-changers have gathered in MedienHafen, a startup and media hub on the harbour with architecture by Frank Gehry and David Chipperfield. Artists flock to Düsseldorf’s galleries and the old centre’s numerous bars draw a raucous crowd. And you can pack plenty into a mere 24 hours.
8am Step out of the Hotel Indigo Dusseldorf – Victoriaplatz and stroll just down the street for your morning cuppa. At Die Kaffee, the expertly trained baristas create dazzling works of latte art. Founder Olga Sabristova feels as passionately about the terroir of her meticulously sourced and roasted beans as most sommeliers feel about wine. Her skills are so formidable that coffee-courses here are often booked out weeks in advance.
9am After fortifying yourself for a long day, check out the exhibitions in the impressive Museum Kunstpalast, which showcases everything from oil paintings by 15th-century European masters to modern art.
12am Stop for lunch at Bistro Zicke, an atmospheric vintage space evocative of the 1920s. In keeping with the restaurant’s cosmopolitan vibe, the menu features bites from all over the globe. But your best bet is still homely German fare like the Swabian Maultaschen: enormous cheese-and-spinach-stuffed dumplings served with browned sage butter.
2pm With more than 100 art galleries, Düsseldorf feels like a living museum. Check out the six stops on the US$950-million Wehrhahn subway line, with striking visual installations by different artists, including 3D renderings of the planets by Thomas Stricker in the Benrather Strasse station.
3.30pm Then pay a visit to Kunst im Tunnel (KIT), a cutting-edge subterranean art space in the Rheinufer Tunnel. Since 2007, the modernist construction has hosted some of the city’s most experimental exhibitions. While you’re there, refuel with an espresso at the gorgeously designed KIT Café near the glass entrance.
5pm Not many know that Düsseldorf is home to the largest Japanese community in Germany and the third largest in Europe. Explore the traditional Japanese shops and kitschy cafes in the area around Immermannstraße.
6.30pm After shopping for knick-knacks and souvenirs, stroll over to EKŌ-House. First established in the 1990s, this centre for Japanese culture acts as a focal point for the community. It features a traditional Buddhist garden and offers regular outreach events.
7.45pm After learning about the local Japanese diaspora, try some of its specialties. Have dinner at Kikaku, a classic for more than three decades, or the swank, Michelin-starred Nagaya, where flawless sushi shares tablespace with fusion dishes like goose liver terrine with hazelnut dust and beet croquant. Or just slurp a soul-satisfying chicken miso ramen at Takumi Düsseldorf, which imports all of its noodles straight from Sapporo
10pm It’s no secret that Düsseldorf likes to party. Despite its relatively modest size, the city boasts more than 300 drinking dens and nightclubs. The Düsseldorfer Altstadt, or old city centre, has earned the nickname “the longest bar in the world,” thanks to its high concentration of nocturnal watering holes. If you’re planning to hit the town, it’s hard to go wrong with Hausbrauerei Zum Schlüssel, a rowdy brew tavern where the suds flow fast and freely.