Just over an hour by plane (or five hours by train), Dusseldorf is among the best short-range weekend break destinations. It has deep historical roots in the art world. The city’s Museum Kunstpalast launched in the 1800s with paintings by the Dusseldorf School, an offshoot of the German Romantic movement.
Paul Klee taught in Dusseldorf, at the Kunstakademie, and Joseph Beuys was a student here. As a result, there’s a fine crop of contemporary and historical art museums. As well as the Kunstpalast, K20 has a stellar 20th-century collection: German Expressionism, Kandinsky, Pollock, Picasso, Futurism, and more. And the former regional parliament building is now K21:26 rooms with a contemporary permanent collection and a shifting roster of site-specific installations.
A 2016 newcomer, the Philara Collection opened in a former glass factory. Exhibits focus on contemporary art gathered by collector Gil Bronner over a couple of decades, with a new rooftop sculpture terrace coming in 2017. The nearby Flingern neighbourhood has several smaller galleries. Major exhibitions for 2017 include Lucas Cranach the Elder at the Kunstpalast (8 April to 30 July).
Even below ground, there’s no escaping art. In February, Dusseldorf opened its new €840m (€678m) metro line, the Wehrhahnlinie. Six central stations were built to individual collaborative designs by architectsandartists who studied at the Kunstakademie, creatingad-free subterranean spaces wit h a striking variety of themes and media.
Meanwhile, one of Europe’s coolest art spaces, Kunst im Tunnel is a single elliptical gallery in a former traffic underpass below the pedestrianised Rhine promenade. The €14 DusseldorfCard gets you free or reduced admission to almost every sight, plus free public transport in the centre for two days.
Alongside the art, there’s a small but quaint Germanic old town complete with a Gothic town hall, Gehry architecture at Neuer Zollhof in the regenerated harbour and a luxe shopping mall designed by Daniel Libeskind.
The vast Rhine promenade is buzzing all summer, Little Tokyo has some of Germany’s best Japanese food, and the centre has five brewhouses selling different versions of Dusseldorf’s famous ‘A ltbier’, a top-fermented brown beer unique to the city.
Outlying neighbourhoods Unteibilk (especially around Lorettostrasse) and Flingern are perfect for boutique window-shopping. Summer dates for the 2017 diary include the Tour de France’s Grand Depart (1-2 July) and the biggest funfair on the Rhine (14-23 July).