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Düsseldorf: Elegant, vibrant and full of contrasts

Düsseldorf is called the “Pearl on the Rhine”. It is a city with many different faces. This is where international business people and elegant models stroll along the “Kö” and at the Medienhafen. Thousands of students enjoy learning in the creative atmosphere on the Rhine River – and raising their glasses at the “longest bar in the world”.

by Bastian Rothe

Bridge over the Rhine River © Bastian Rothe
Bridge over the Rhine River . © Bastian Rothe

Facts & Figures

Inhabitants:
590,000
Students:
38,900
Universities:
6
Monthly rent:
338 €
Tip:
Find out about insider information from young locals in the “Use-It” city guide!
Website:
www.duesseldorf.de

Welcome to Düsseldorf

If there’s one thing you can say about Düsseldorf, then it’s: it’s international and colourful! But also elegant and fashionable. The state capital of North Rhine-Westphalia is a city full of contrasts. Numerous international corporations have set up their headquarters there. Business people from the Far East are especially fond of “D’dorf” – home to over 10,000 people and 400 companies from Japan alone. The city honours its guests from the land of Fujiyama every year on Japan Day which culminates in a fireworks display which practically everyone in Düsseldorf looks forward to.

Media Harbour © Bastian Rothe
Media Harbour . © Bastian Rothe

Düsseldorf is not only known as a centre of business, but also as Germany’s fashion city. Its reputation as a consumer paradise extends far beyond its state border. Along Königsallee – or the “Kö” for short, you’ll find one classy boutique after another. The creative atmosphere has also attracted many advertising agencies and artists to Düsseldorf.

You’ll notice the multifaceted character of the city on a walk through the old part of town. Although Düsseldorf suffered heavy damage during World War II, many of the old buildings are well preserved or have been painstakingly reconstructed. Especially in the Oberkassel and Lörick districts, you’ll find a number of streets with beautiful houses and splendid villas. But even the working class districts of Flingern and Bilk have a very special charm of their own.

Königsallee © Bastian Rothe
Königsallee . © Bastian Rothe

You can get a good impression of the vivacity of Düsseldorf’s inhabitants during Carnival. On 11 November at 11:11 am, the “Jecken” storm city hall and officially open the “Fifth Season of the Year” (Carnival). At the end of February, the city becomes a bastion of colourful party-making when thousands of people dressed in costumes take to the streets from “Altweiber” Thursday to Ash Wednesday. The festivities culminate with the Rose Monday Parade where thousands line up along the parade route and cry out for “Kamelle” (sweets).

More photos

Living in Düsseldorf

Düsseldorf is well-loved by many and offers a high quality of life. That’s why the cost of living is a bit higher than elsewhere in the Ruhr region conurbation. Many students prefer the atmosphere of the alternative districts like Flingern or Bilk and live in affordable flat-shares. But if you have more money, you might be interested in living in the Pempelfort district. This is a popular student quarter, but the rental prices are considerably higher.

Carnival © flickr/citanova Duesseldorf
Carnival . © flickr/citanova Duesseldorf

No matter where you decide to live, you’ll be spending a lot of time in the “Altstadt” – Düsseldorf’s historic city centre. This is not only where many stores and shopping malls are located, but also museums, galleries and theatres. When you want to go out at night, the “Altstadt” is the place to go because Düsseldorf has the “longest bar in the world”. Some 50 bars and restaurants are situated side by side along the Bolkerstrasse and attract residents and tourists alike every evening.

My tip

Keep an eye out for the “Use-It” city guide series. You can get a copy at the tourist information office at the main train station and in pubs. The city guide was developed by “young locals for young travellers” and contains insider information on the hippest bars and pubs in town.

The “Kurze Strasse” is especially popular among students. The “Schaukelstühlchen“, the “Kürzer” and “Chez Cherie” are just a few of the pubs where many young people like to hang out. The entire street is lined with bars and pubs where you can sit outside with a cold beer on warm summer evenings. The local beer is called “Alt”, but even if it’s too bitter for you, never ever order a “Kölsch” because that comes from Cologne (and both cities are in constant competition…).

You will quickly sense the “cosiness” of the city – people relaxing at the Volksgarten or Hofgarten on their lunch breaks and at weekends. Many inhabitants of Düsseldorf study, exercise or just chill out on the banks of the Rhine River. Picnics and barbecues are especially popular. Near the Medienhafen, you can treat yourself to a mini break. On the Rhine beach you immediately feel like you’re at the coast or on an island.

Interview with Zulfiyya from Azerbaijan

Zulfiyya Abdurahimova from Azerbaijan is 30 years old and is pursuing her doctorate in Political Science at the University of Düsseldorf.

Picture of Zulfiyya from Azerbaijan © Bastian Rothe
Zulfiyya from Azerbaijan . © Bastian Rothe

Why did you decide to study in Düsseldorf?

I had earned my master’s in Münster and I wanted to get my PhD in Germany as well. I heard about a doctoral position in Düsseldorf and applied. And it worked out.

How did you prepare for your studies in Germany?

I studied European Studies in Azerbaijan with a focus on Germany. That’s when I had to start learning German. I also watched German news, but I hardly understood anything. Fortunately, I was able to work as an au-pair for a nice family in Münster. That’s how I became familiar with many German customs and traditions.

Old Town Kreuzherreneck © Bastian Rothe
Old Town Kreuzherreneck . © Bastian Rothe

What did you have difficulties with in the beginning?

For one thing, German punctuality. You have to have an excuse even if you arrive five minutes late. But you get used to it. The other thing I found difficult is how you have to jump through bureaucratic hoops for every little thing. I have to pay close attention to deadlines, making sure to apply or send everything in on time. I bought myself a calendar for it. In Azerbaijan, I never needed a calendar.

How are you paying for your studies?

I received a scholarship. I have to present the findings of my research project on a regular basis and they decide whether to prolong my scholarship.

Beach at the Rhine River © Bastian Rothe
Beach at the Rhine River . © Bastian Rothe

What surprised you most about life in Düsseldorf?

The people here are so open. When I get to the bus stop, I say “hello” no matter who or how many people are standing there. And I always get a response. It’s very easy to strike up conversation. Düsseldorf is very colourful. Every day there’s something going on in town, especially cultural events. One day I was at the state parliament and happened to discover a tango workshop.

What is your favourite place in Düsseldorf?

That would be the Medienhafen with its colourful old and new buildings and nice park.