After enjoying a delicious breakfast in our hotel we wrapped up warm as a strong wind was blowing and took the U Bahn to Graf Adolf Platz so that we could take a ride up The Rheinturm, one of the city’s landmarks (admission €9 (£7.47) or €5 (£4.15) with the Dusseldorf Card.
Designed by Horst H Baumann and constructed between 1979-1981 it’s home to the world’s tallest digital clock at a height of 240 metres which illuminates Altstadt (the old town) after dark.
A high powered lift transported us to the observation deck and restaurant level at 166 metres above ground which has huge windows sloping outwards offering panoramic 360° views across the city and further afield. Points of interest are etched onto the glass enabling visitors to pick out specific locations. We were fortunate in arriving on a clear morning and enjoyed spending some time taking in the wonderful views.
The tower is open from 10.00 a.m. until midnight (1.00 a.m. weekends) making it a perfect venue for a meal or late night cocktail. Back down at ground level, in keeping with the time theme, the hallway is adorned with a world map indicating time zones near and far.
Leaving the Rheinturm we took a slightly different route back to the U Bahn station so that we could enjoy a walk along the Rhine embankment where we watched some heavily laden cargo boats pass by.
It was then a leisurely 25 minute journey taking U74 to Schloss Benrath located 12km to the south of the city. The track was mostly above ground giving us a good opportunity to view some of Düsseldorf’s suburbs as we passed by. We’d arranged a 12.00 noon English speaking tour of Benrath Palace and conveniently the nearest U Bahn stop was just beyond its impressive lakeside location. Entrance to the palace is €14 (£11.62) which includes a 70 minute guided tour.
In the vaulted cellar we donned felt slippers which we slid on over our shoes, this was necessary to prevent the intricate parquet floors from getting damaged. All ready to go, our guide, a student at a local university, led us through the sumptuous palace rooms starting in the exquisite grand hall with its double dome. Craning our necks to the ceiling, he pointed out a hidden balcony in the roof where an orchestra would play and whilst the music floated down to the dance floor the musicians remained invisible.
We learnt that Benrath is one of Germany’s most beautiful small palaces, built between 1757-1773 as a summer residence for Palatine Prince Elector Karl Theodor. Over the years it has played host to numerous royal families most notably in 1965 when H.M. Queen Elizabeth II arrived at the palace in an open top Mercedes.
Our tour continued through the elaborate state apartments, along mirrored hallways and upstairs where we were shown the narrow staircase used by the musicians to access the dome of the grand hall. Time flew by as it was all so interesting and even small children on our tour seemed to genuinely enjoy their palace visit.
Afterwards, we strolled through the gardens which I’m certain will look beautiful during the summer months but not at their best in mid-winter.
It was then back on the U Bahn to Graf Adolf Platz , the nearest station to K21 Museum of Contemporary Art, admission €12 (£9.96). It’s home is the former parliament building which was the seat of the state parliament until the late 1980’s in Standehaus Park. Entering the museum, I was as much in awe of the building as its exhibits but we were there specifically to experience the ‘In Orbit’ installation by Tomás Saraceno.
Suspended more than 25 metres above the entrance hall we caught our first sight of the huge installation giving the appearance of a sea of clouds in a surreal landscape. Visitors who are brave enough can enter In Orbit and from where we were standing on the ground floor they looked as if they were floating in the sky.
Taking the lift up to the top floor visitors need to wear the over garments provided before crawling into the steel mesh suspended over the atrium floor. It’s possible to then sit and relax awhile or the more adventurous can work their way along from one cloud installation to another. Fascinating though it is, I advise against trying it if you have a fear of heights. We then explored the other galleries before finding somewhere for lunch.
Schwanen Bakery and Cafe was nearby and looked inviting so we popped inside sheltering from the strong wind. We felt like soup and our bowls of tomato and basil served with rye bread soon arrived, warming us up nicely ahead of our afternoon activities.
As we’d spent the morning in the south of the city we decided to head north to explore the district of Kaiserwerth taking line U79 to Klemensplatz around 20 minutes away. We had no idea what to expect as we alighted from the train, but historic Kaiserwerth has a wonderful village feel with its cobblestone streets and traditional gas street lamps.
The market place is lined with Baroque architecture, its buildings home to numerous attractive cafes and pubs. The small independent shops all looked lovely too, it was just a shame it was a Sunday and they were closed, but a good enough reason for us to make a return visit to this affluent neighbourhood on a future visit to Düsseldorf.
Continuing slightly further and we had reached the Rhine where we strolled along the riverside footpath as far as the ruins of the grand palace of Kaiserpfalz (Imperial Palace) overlooking the Rhine.
After wandering around the ruins we slowly retraced our steps back to the station and whilst waiting for our train, read a sign informing us that Kaiserwerth Krankenhaus was the first hospital that Florence Nightingale ever worked in, how interesting.
We then returned to the hotel for a short rest before taking the U Bahn back to Altstadt for an evening meal. It had been our plan to eat at the Uerige Brewery where we’d sampled Altbier the previous evening on our Altbier Safari, but due to the inclement weather it had closed early and we needed to look elsewhere.
Thankfully it didn’t take us long to find an alternative and we were soon warm and cosy in the Altstadt Restaurant sipping beer and perusing the menu. I opted for the grill plate which was so huge that even though I have a hearty appetite, it defeated me and I was unable to finish it. With hindsight, I should perhaps have chosen something smaller, it was delicious but just too generous.
The strength of the wind had increased whilst we were dining and the streets were deserted so we decided to return to our hotel before we got blown off our feet. Safely back in our room, we reflected on our lovely day and made plans for the next.
To be continued ….
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