As someone with train travel really very high up in their list of favourite things to do, it’s possible I’m happy to travel a little further than most for a casual midweek day trip. A five-hour round trip is probably my limit for a day out by train, but it turns out that’s just the amount of time it takes to nip to Duisburg – approximately 220km north west of Wiesbaden – and back to see a friend. After I made plans to go that far, I decided to also stop in Düsseldorf for a bit of an exploration and some dinner on my way home again.
Duisburg, an industrial city famous for its steelworks and the world’s largest inland port, is situated less than 25km north of Düsseldorf in the west of the Ruhr region, the largest urban area in Germany. The three-hour journey to Wiesbaden is Duisburg is pretty straightforward and in part, an absolute delight: the train ride from Mainz to Koblenz snakes alongside a gorgeous, and at this time of year lush green, section of the river Rhine filled with vineyards, castles and rolling hills. I spent five hours in Duisburg visiting my friend, and after lunch by the river, a pleasant amble around a park that was once an industrial site, and a cup of tea at her home, I headed to Düsseldorf – a 10-15 minute ride back down the railway line in the direction of home.
A quick (food) tour of Düsseldorf
Having never been to Düsseldorf before, I decided to explore for an hour or so on foot before meeting up with Joe Baur, who you may remember from my trip to Usedom and our recent interview. Joe suggested a route from the main train station to our meeting point that took in a couple of the main sights and a handful of different neighbourhoods so that I could get a bit of an idea of what Düsseldorf was all about. I managed to stick to it for all of about five minutes before evolving the route into a food tour, detouring to various places pinned on my rather extensively-marked Google map and occasionally remembering to take a snap or two with my phone. (My apologies for the quality of the photos accompanying this post.)
Heading away from the train station vaguely in the direction of the Altstadt (old town), I wandered first through Düsseldorf’s Japanese district – the city is home to Europe’s third largest Japanese community – where I stopped briefly in a Japanese supermarket to stock up on essentials (Kewpie mayonnaise) and pick up a nori-wrapped onigiri to keep me going along my way.
I then walked south down the rather upmarket Königsallee, a wide boulevard split by a tree-lined canal, well known for its luxury shops, but spotting on my map a bakery I’d recently written about for an upcoming publication, I darted it off it down a side street in the direction of the river in order to go and find it. Bäckerei Hinkel was founded in 1891 and remains extremely popular today for its assortment of baked goods, produced using high quality ingredients and traditional methods. It turned out to be closed, but it was fun peering in through the window to see what it was like inside.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that if there’s a farmers’ market in town, I’ll somehow stumble upon it, and after my detour to have a look at Hinkel, I was very pleased to cross into Carlsplatz and discover a collection of 60 permanent stands huddled together in the centre of the square. Düsseldorf’s oldest market offers not just fresh fruit and veg (both regional and exotic) but also fish, meat, baked goods, condiments, and a variety of options for sitting down for a drink or a bite to eat. In the middle of a Tuesday afternoon, the market wasn’t terribly busy with shoppers, but there were lots of people happily enjoying coffee and cake, or a (very) early evening beer.
From Carlsplatz, realising I was now rather behind schedule for meeting Joe, I decided to miss out on exploring Düsseldorf’s Altstadt on this occasion, and headed directly to the Rhine. I wandered happily along the river through a lively festival and past the 240m-high Rheinturm before eventually cutting between three striking Frank O. Gehry’s buildings and arriving at the Medienhafen, Düsseldorf’s redeveloped former docklands. It was there that I met up with Joe, who led me straight back away from the harbour in search of some food and drink.
Dinner in Düsseldorf
We chose a table outside Eigelstein, Düsseldorf’s first and possibly only Kölsch brewpub, owned by the Gaffel Kölsch brewery, which was founded in 1908. Though there are various beers on the menu here, there’s no sign of the Altbier for which Düsseldorf is renowned: small, narrow glasses of Cologne’s famous top-fermented beer are what’s drunk here instead. There are some good regional food options to choose from, though, and I ordered a very good Himmel un Ähd (“Heaven and Earth”, 9,50€), fried blood sausage with mashed potatoes and apple sauce, garnished with fried onions and slices of cooked apple.
From the Eigelstein, it was a 40 minute walk back to Düsseldorf’s main train station, which gave me time to shake down my dinner before I settled into my journey back to Wiesbaden (which turned out to be much longer than the three hours it should have been thanks to a fire on the tracks). I saw just enough of Düsseldorf to want to go back for another visit, which with any luck, I should be doing in October. Fingers crossed!
If you’d like to see a bit more of my day trip to Duisburg and Düsseldorf, I’ve saved a story in my Instagram highlights (link will take you directly to the story).