In June my dad and I went to Dusseldorf for a day. After a two-hour drive from Leuven (20 minutes from Brussels), we parked the car in an underground parking lot (I think we paid about €13 for 7 hours of parking) at Carlsplatz, which is in Carlstadt and south of the old town, the Altstadt.
We looked up underground car parks beforehand, but you can also head to Dusseldorf centre and follow the signs that guide you to them.
On >Carlsplatz> you can find Dusseldorf’s largest vegetable and fruit market. There are also stalls with different international goods and a wide range of deliciously looking bread. From there on you can easily access the pedestrian shopping streets (f.e. Mittelstraße) and head to the old town, but you might first want to go to the tourist office at Benrather Straße 9 to get a map.
The shops north from Carlsplatz are quite diverse. You could spend half a day here if you really want to go on a shopping spree. If not, you can do a ‘walk-through’ and enjoy the atmosphere, which is especially nice later in the afternoon when all the café’s and terraces start to fill up.
Another popular place for shopping is the Köningsallee. Here you’ll find some big chains like H&M, but also more exclusive (and more expensive) shops. The ambience around this street is totally different: the buildings are bigger and more modern, there’s a lot of traffic (but there is a wide sidewalk) and people seem overall more rushed.
We liked the old part of town better and spent most of our day wandering through the little streets.
By the way, if you miss the tourist information office at Benrather Straße, you can always go to the one at the crossing of Marktstraße and Ecke Rheinstraße in Altstadt. That’s where we got our (free) map with all the sights marked on it.
The Rhine river promenade
A definite ‘to do’ is the Rhine promenade, which goes along side Carlstadt and the old town. The promenade is a pedestrian area where you can walk, have a drink at one of the outdoor bars or just relax on the grass by the riverside. If you like, you can even take one of the boat trips starting near the Burgplatz.
Foodie hot spots
Gut und Gerne – chocolate store and cafe
I had been toying with the idea for a blog for some time, but it was actually my experience at the Gut und Gerne chocolate bar and shop in Dusseldorf that finally made me decide to go for it.
When my dad and I entered the shop, an amazing odor of chocolate filled up our nostrils. I decided to leave the classics for the less adventurous chocolate fan and bought a big bag of chocolate pasta – not ‘pasta’ like the Nutella kind, but tagliatelle with chocolate! – and a strawberry-yogurt-white chocolate bar.
Although the place was full we decided to wait a bit and only five minutes later one of the waitresses led us to a nice little table by the window. My dad chose the blueberry-yogurt-white chocolate frappe and a variation of chocolates while I ordered the same drink with a piece of apple pie.
It was amazing.
The proportions of the frappe were just right and the apple pie was simply perfect. Not dry at all, with big chunks of apple. Not too sugary. Just perfect. My dad was very pleased with his plate of chocolates as well but agreed with the absolute superiority of the apple pie after having had a taste.
A nice extra was the free entertainment we got from people passing by, looking in and clearly thinking: “We want some”. Many of them came back to look for a spot. Multiple times.
What surprised me was that the chocolate bar didn't have a take-out option. Although I'm sure that would be a success, it might also kill the charm, comfort and relaxed atmosphere that makes the Gut und Gerne the ideal place for an afternoon chat.
This place was a real discovery and so I would obviously visit it again on future trips to Düsseldorf.
Gut und Gerne Schokolad, Burgplatz 3-5, 40213 Düsseldorf
Because I wanted to take the first bite of my yogurt chocolate bar in all calmness, without anyone or anything disturbing me, I waited until after we got back from Düsseldorf and even until after Boyfriend and I were back from our trip to Spain.
And boy, was it worth the wait!
Never before had I experienced such a smooth, delicate and yet overwhelming taste. All the different ingredients were present in perfect harmony. None blocking out the other.
If you are into chocolate, yogurt and strawberry, this is it.
As for the chocolate pasta, I decided to stray a bit from the recipe that came with the bag. The recipe said to prepare the pasta with black cherries. Now I’m not that fond of black cherries, so I chose to use an apple instead. I let some water boil and then put in the pasta for 9 minutes (as it said in the recipe) with some stevia (you can put in stevia or sugar instead of the salt you use with normal pasta).
Then, I peeled half an apple, cut it into slices and warmed the slices up in a pot with just some olive oil so that they wouldn’t burn. When the chocolate pasta was ready I also took the apple slices of the fire and put all of it together in a bowl.
Bärenland – gummy bear heaven in Düsseldorf
This shop near Carlsplatz is a paradise for all those who love gummy candy. Bärenland sells gummy bears in dozens of colors and tastes and they even have special gift packages. My dad and I bought a pizza made entirely out of gummy candy and put in a real pizza box. How cool is that! They also had gummy French fries, gummy burgers, gummy cakes and so on.
Bärenland also creates on demand and has a special selection of bio gummies, gummies for vegetarians and gummies made purely of fruit and plant extracts.
This fabulous shop experience wouldn’t be complete without the owner. A man already around his 60ies who finds great pleasure in letting you taste all the goodies his store has to offer. He was even friendly enough to keep our ‘pizzas’ safe so we could wander around the city some more. When we picked them up before heading home, he couldn’t resist quickly given us some more of his delicious gummies.
Never ever have I tasted candy with just a pure, absolutely not chemical taste.
Bärenland, Berger Straße 25, 40213 Dusseldorf
Where not to eat
Unfortunately, we also had a less pleasant experience at an Italian restaurant in the Schneider-Wibbel-Gasse, a small street connecting the Bolkerstraße and the Flinger Straße.
I admit, it wasn’t smart of us not to go for something local for lunch, but we were hungry, it was still early and the local cafes didn’t seem as inviting as they did later on that day.
Anyway, we went to this Italian restaurant (I don’t recall the name, but the building had a small statue in the wall which seemed to be known because tourist kept passing by to touch it) and both ordered a mixed plate. What was on it – shellfish, vegetables, guacamole, and calamari – wasn’t bad, but how it was prepared was.
Everything was fried and cold and tasted pretty much the same. We sat on the terrace and when we had already finished, a guided group passed by and the guide mentioned that they used to go there a lot, but not anymore.
I wonder why…
But there was a great upside to this lunch disappointment: afterward, we still had some room left for all the goodies at the Gut und Gerne.
Getting to Düsseldorf
As Dusseldorf is only a two-hour drive from Leuven, we drove there and parked the car at a parking garage on Carlsplatz (€28 for an entire day). We got in and out of the city just fine, but take into account that if you stay until after the fireworks, there will be a lot of traffic from people leaving the city.
When I went back to Düsseldorf for another trip, I did so by taking the train from Leuven. If you want to go by train as well, it's best to check this website for all possible connections and tickets.
Where to stay in Düsseldorf
There are plenty of hotels in Düsseldorf, both in the Altstadt and in other parts of the city. If you want to spend a night to attend Japantag, be sure to book well in advance.
Check Booking.com for an extensive list of options for all budgets and needs.
If you're looking for an apartment rather than a hotel, I would recommend checking airbnb. Sign up through my link and get a discount on your first stay!
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