“Dusseldorf? Why would you go to Dusseldorf?”
It was a conversation I had more than once before I headed to Germany’s 7th largest city, and one that continued even while I was there.
“What on earth are you guys doing in Dusseldorf?” Asked a fellow guest at the 25hours Das Tour hotel on our second day in the city, a confused frown on her face.
The answer was simple: eating!
A surprising Dusseldorf food tour
“I came here expecting sausages, cheese and beer, and we ended up munching on sushi, cooking Filipino food, making pop cakes and... er, drinking beer."
When the Dusseldorf tourism board invited me on a food-focused trip to sample the city’s culinary scene, I pictured sausages, cheese and beer. Yes, that’s a massive stereotype, but it also sums up my previous experiences of Germany.
If you’re a beady-eyed Twitter friend of mine, you may remember a tweet that started with those words. Fun fact: A local newspaper noticed, too, and used it to open an article about our trip to Dusseldorf.
And while I wouldn’t have complained about a week fuelled by all the foods I previously associated with Germany (hey, I love all three), the food that waited for us in Dusseldorf was a real surprise.
What to eat in Dusseldorf
There are fews things I love more than eating my way around a new city, and this time we were sampling the local drinks as well as the local cuisine. Because, as it turns out, Dusseldorf is a fantastic destination for both.
Here’s how to eat (and drink) your way around Dusseldorf. And I’m sure you’re in for at least one or two surprises!
Home of Killepitsch
Does a trip even begin until you’ve had a drink?
If you’re into not-so-creative stereotyping like me (jokes), you may think that your trip to Dusseldorf should begin with a beer. It could… but let me tell you about something else first. I promise we’ll get to the beer soon.
Yes, you need to drink beer in Dusseldorf. But there’s another alcoholic aperitif I think you should try first.
Say hello to Killepitsch.
Killepitsch is a liqueur made from 98 herbs and tastes a whole lot better than it sounds. In fact, it makes for a pretty tasty pre-dinner shot - only the slight tickle at the back of the throat gives away its 42% alcohol content.
It was invented by two friends who, while taking cover in an air-raid shelter, agreed to celebrate with a toast if they survived. And I think that’s something we can all drink to, don’t you?Where to try it: Taste some Killepitsch or pick up a bottle at Et Kabuffke. Flinger Str. 1, 40213 Dusseldorf.
I found myself drinking Killepitsch on an early afternoon in Dusseldorf's Old Town when our guide informed me it would help make me hungry for cake. So I guess now is a good time to move on to cake!
If there’s one thing I realised about the food in Dusseldorf, it was just how innovative it is. And there's no better example than "bakery-art" master Tim Tegtmeier.
Tim's desserts are light in texture and unexpected in flavour. He creates a mix of people-pleasing classics think macarons and more unusual inventions. The one thing they have in common is that you won't have tried anything quite like it before.
Pick one of the unusual flavour combinations up at the Carlsplatz Market, where his patisserie Pure Pastry can be found.
Where to try it: Inside KaffeeReich coffee stand. Stand D2, Wochenmarkt Carlsplatz, Carlspl., 40213 Dusseldorf.
While you’re in the market, take some time to walk around and try the fresh produce.
Sample olive oils from Italy and Portugal, snack on fresh flatbread sandwiches and sip on a glass of Riesling wine (a new addition to the market after a recent law change).
You could easily fill an entire morning exploring everything the Carlsplatz has to offer, so allow enough time to sample the snacks and soak up the atmosphere.
If the taste of wine has made you thirsty for more, take yourself to Eiskeller for a little tipple.
Although I couldn’t try the wines myself - I’m allergic! - I could tell that a lot of love had gone into every inch of this cute cave-style wine bar. And the sparkling wine (which I can drink!) was probably the best I’ve ever had. It was fresh, full of flavour and slid down nicely in the sweaty afternoon heat.
With an extensive wine list hand-picked from local farmers and recycled furnishings, Eiskeller is a venue built on love - something that was clear as soon as the owner, Dorina, began to share her story with us.
The location of Eiskeller is significant too. Situated halfway between the art galleries and an art academy, Eiskeller is perfectly placed to host the tables and chairs hand-painted by local artists. It's something you might not consider if you didn't know about it, but it's details like that this that show how much care has gone into this cosy winebar.Where to try it: Take your time to visit Eiskeller and enjoy some of the tapas-style snacks. 1 Eiskellerberg, 40213 Dusseldorf.
“Whether it’s the birth of a baby or the purchase of a refrigerator, everything is a reason to celebrate in Dusseldorf."
That's what our tour guide told us and it's just as well; Dusseldorf has an alcohol for every occasion.
And the Schmittmann distillery has a lot worth celebrating. Alongside their award-winning cherry liqueur, Schmittmann creates a range of flavoured gins that slide down easily. From the Nutella-like hazelnut to juniper berry, they all put a different spin on the classic spirit. No tonic needed.
The gins are available in even the smallest of bottles, so you can take your favourites home with you - even if you're a hand luggage only kind of traveller.Where to try it: Book a distillery tour to find out more about the craftsmanship behind the distillery.
All the alt beer
Well, you couldn't come to Germany and not try beer, could you?
Before you order a round anywhere else, there are two places to sit down for a pint (or a 0.25ml - you're in Germany, after all).
The owners of Dusseldorf's newest brewery wanted to attracted a young, female clientele when they opened a decade ago. It's worked, and now a mixed crowd flocks to Brewery im Füchschen. Head here for a lively evening drink to wake you from your post-food slumber.
Where to try it: Im Füchschen is located in Dusseldorf's main bar street (where else?). Ratinger Str. 28, 40213 Düsseldorf.
After sampling the menu at Dusseldorf's newest brewery, head on over to the city's oldest brewery, Brauerei Schumacher. Order a portion of pickled egg - the locals' choice - with your beer. Just be warned: one portion is two whole eggs!Where to try it: Oststr. 123, 40210 Dusseldorf.
Coffee from around the worldEvery city has its share of quirky coffee shops nowadays, and Dusseldorf is no exception.
Rösterei VIER combines the Instagram-worthy setting with a team that is passionate about the bean. From Indonesia to Ecuador, the small Dusseldorf coffee house works directly with farmers around the world to offer a selection of coffees for every java junkie and puts sustainability at the heart of everything. And what's better than good coffee with a conscience?Where to try it: Try a slice of banana slice of banana bread with your coffee. Marktplatz 12, 40213 Dusseldorf.
Try a Taiwanese tea ceremony
I'm sure you've noticed by now, but Dusseldorf is a city of international influences and our next stop will take you straight to the Far East.
Step inside Shennong Tea House and you might think you've stepped off a plane to Taiwan. With a vast selection of teas for every taste-bud, it's a true tea lover's paradise, but the highlight is the tea ceremony.
Tea is still a growing passion in Germany but is one that Justus Hopmann, the Tea Master and General Manager of Shennong, brought back from his time in Taiwan. He still maintains close contact with the tea production in Nantou County and leads traditional Taiwanese tea ceremonies to share his passion with guests.
Where to try it: The tea ceremony at Shennong Lounge is a must for any tea drinker and private classes can be arranged for special occasions. Muensterstr. 11, 40477 Dusseldorf.
ImmermannstraßeThe Asian influence in Dusseldorf doesn't stop at tea.
It would be impossible to talk about Dusseldorf’s food scene or culture without mentioning Immermannstraße and the surrounding area. Known colloquially as ‘Little Tokyo’, Dusseldorf’s Japanese quarter is an important part of the city.
Big in both personality and presence, Dusseldorf’s Little Tokyo isn’t like other Japan Towns you might have visited before. It’s much more subtle. More modest. In fact, you could probably walk through it without even noticing.
Peer into any window, however, and your eyes will dart from picture to text to picture. In true Tokyo style - and in the most un-German fashion - every display errs on the side of sensory overload. Look up as you wander past a row of ramen shops and you might see a Japanese man sitting on his windowsill, enjoying his mid-morning cigarette. Or step into a supermarket where every product has an ‘imported from Japan’ label stuck on it.
Examining row upon row of sake, matcha and peach-flavoured everything, I felt like I was right back in Japan. It was surreal. It was unexpected. And it was probably the moment I fell a little bit in love with Dusseldorf.
If you’re looking for a European city with a difference AND a fantastic foodie scene, don’t overlook Dusseldorf. It's an easy day trip from Munich or Cologne, even if there’s a good chance that Dusseldorf might not have even made it onto your radar yet… but isn’t that all the more reason to go?
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