WHEN planning a holiday to Germany, places like Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt tend to get all the attention, rather unfairly hogging the spotlight and leaving cities like Düsseldorf somewhat ignored and forgotten.

However, this can work to Düsseldorf's advantage, as an air of mystery makes it all the easier for visitors like me to be delighted and surprised by all that the city has to offer.

My trip began with a quick hour-long flight from Bristol Airport with bmi via a small EMB145 plane that was snug but not cramped, with comfortable seats, surprisingly spacious leg room and a complementary snack and drink on board.

When our group of local journos landed on German soil, we walked over to the Maritim Hotel, which is like a luxurious bubble a stone's throw from Düsseldorf Airport.

It's easy to forget that there are planes roaring overhead when resting on a comfy bed in one of its plush and quiet rooms, having a few drinks in its warmly-lit bar, or eating in one of its very varied restaurants: German, Japanese and Italian cuisine plus an impressive breakfast buffet all under one enormous glass roof.

The hotel's location makes it a very convenient option for tourists and businesspeople alike, as it offers direct access to the airport terminal and a train station that can take guests right into the heart of the city.

Speaking of train stations, buying a Düsseldorf card to get free public transport and discounts on certain guided city tours, museums and souvenirs proved to be a very wise and affordable investment, as knowing that I could jump on a bus or tram or train without worrying about getting a ticket made exploring the city convenient and hassle-free.

More than 80 per cent of Düsseldorf’s buildings were destroyed during the Second World War and architects have taken this need to rebuild as an opportunity to go completely wild with their designs.

The MedienHafen used to be an industrial area and harbour where factories once manufactured pipes and glass but now it's undergoing a remarkable transformation into a trendy consultancy hub of restaurants and offices.

It's full of bizarre award-winning modern architecture from internationally-renowned architects, all built near the iconic 240 metre-high Rheinturm (Rhine Tower).

The fact that none of the buildings fit with each other visually creates a rather vibrant and quirky combination of glass and steel and enormous humanoid figures (really) that's quite a memorable sight.

In the Old Town, which is quite different from Swindon's Old Town, pretty stone churches built centuries ago which the bombs barely missed are scattered around cobblestone streets and a row of colourful brick buildings face towards the Rhine, which you can take a short cruise along for just a few Euros.

In many ways, it's the polar opposite to the MedienHafen as walking between the two areas feels like travelling from the future to the past, yet they are just a short walk from each other.

Well, everywhere is a short walk from everywhere else here: Düsseldorf is known as the city of small distances, with 635,000 people living together within a fairly cosy 40sq km.

Bordering Old Town is a picturesque boulevard known as Königsalle, with designer boutiques along both sides and split down the middle by the river Düssel which flows under bridges and through a park into the Rhine.

There's even more eye-popping architecture here - clean and angular 21st-century constructions stand side-by-side with the brown-grey stone blocks and columns of what normally comes to mind when you think of classic German buildings.

Düsseldorf is famous for its fashion, but our group of cash-strapped journalists couldn't afford any of what the shops were selling so we decided to go on an ‘altbier’ safari, trying several locally-brewed beers on a tour of the many microbreweries in the city centre.

We then tucked into a traditional meal at the oldest restaurant in the city, Zum Schiffchen.

While a colleague bravely tackled an enormous pork knuckle, I enjoyed a fine piece of schnitzel and we all had a round of the local herbal liqueur Killepitsch. When in Düsseldorf, do as the Germans do.

Like any city, your experience will vary depending on when you visit. Go into the centre on a Friday or Saturday afternoon and it will be full of boisterous Brits on stag parties who drink and shout and drink some more, helped along by the Ratinger Straße, a famously-lengthy street of bars and clubs that becomes a crowded hotspot for nightlife and partying when the sun goes down.

But strolling through the same area on a Sunday morning couldn't have been more serene.

Cyclists rode down the Rhine embankment promenade and dinged their bells, people sat and enjoyed a coffee in one of the many Old Town cafes and the streets were almost empty.

As I wandered aimlessly on that sunny morning, I stumbled upon a side-street that seemed to appear from nowhere, with cafes, restaurants and a small art-house cinema tucked away from the main avenues. Clearly, this is a place that rewards further exploration.

All too soon, it was time to leave. There were museums, parks and even a castle that were all crying out for a visit but there's only so much you can do in two days.

Instead of seeing them as missed opportunities, I'd rather think of them as reasons to return.

This city of opposites, where the historic is mixed unexpectedly with the cutting-edge and highbrow art museums are nestled among boozy bars and nightclubs, is well worth a visit.

Even someone like me, who isn’t tremendously interested in fashion or art or architecture, can be fascinated and charmed by the place.

I would happily recommend it to others as a great place to spend a long weekend, especially with the quick, cheap bmi flights and the affordable luxury of the Maritim that make it all the more attractive an option for holiday-goers.


bmi regional flies once daily on Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays to Dusseldorf and twice daily on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fares on the route start at £84 and include 23kg hold luggage, complimentary in-flight drinks and snacks, allocated seating, dedicated manned check-ins and speedy 30 minute check-ins. www.flybmi.com or call 0330 333 7998.

Maritim Hotel Düsseldorf offers room rates from 170.05 Euros per night with 533 rooms, including 27 Junior suites, 10 Master suites and one Presidential suite. www.maritim.com.

The Maritim features a wellness area with a sauna, a swimming pool, fitness and massage area and steam bath.

It also has a top-floor VIP lounge with excellent views over the city and space for events for up to 5,000 people in 33 rooms.

The “Classico” Restaurant with show kitchen serves Maritim’s signature breakfast buffet every weekday morning from 6. to 10.30 a.m. and from 6 to 11 a.m. on weekends

The “Bottaccio” Bistro serves international cuisine in elegant ambience with selected menus and Mediterranean dishes à la carte. Open from Monday to Friday 12 midday to 2.30 p.m. and 6 to 10.30 p.m.

Closed on Saturday and Sunday

The “Rheinische Stov” provides regional specialties with a unique old world flair. The restaurant is open from Monday to Friday: 2 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and holiday: 12 midday to 11 p.m.

“SushiSho” Sushi-Bar offers authentic Japanese cuisine and is open from Monday to Friday from 12 midday to 2.30 p.m. and from 6 to 10.30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday from 6 to 10.30 p.m.

“Gallery Bar” Serves coffee, tea, soft drinks and snacks under the hotel’s signature glass roof. Open from Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“Morely’s Bar” offers exotic cocktails, elegant wines and rustic beer specialities in a sophisticated atmosphere and is open daily 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.