My kind of place: Germany's financial and business capital has all the right ingredients for a great weekend break
Dusseldorf: home of the smart money
All work and no play would make Düsseldorf a very dull boy. Happily, then, there's much more to this handsome metropolis - Germany's international business and financial hub, not to mention one of its wealthiest cities - than you might suppose. The fruits of the city's strenuous labours can be best enjoyed on the River Rhine's east bank, where you can join both the suited and booted and the off-duty in supping locally made drinks at Altstadt (home to the world's longest bar), while art aficionados peter off through the charming Old Town to whet their appetites with a generous smattering of museums and galleries. Shopaholics will quickly see why the label-loaded city is considered the "Knightsbridge of Germany", while fun-seekers will find Düsseldorfers are far from buttoned-up. The city's waterside setting is a springboard for summer festivals, with the Largest Fair on the Rhine funfair drawing four million revellers each year in July. Düsseldorf is positively booming.
A comfortable bed
Few hotels emulate the city's well-heeled persona quite so well as the Breidenbacher Hof Hotel (www.capellahotels.com/dusseldorf; 00 49 211 16 09 00). The refined property marries time-honoured decor (it dates to 1812) with 21st-century glamour (its guest book cites everyone from Pink to George Clooney), and the best way to go all out is with a stay in its sophisticated presidential suite. Standard rooms cost from €330 (Dh1,583) per night, excluding taxes and breakfast.
Get ahead of the curve by checking in to the slick Radisson Blu Media Harbour Hotel (www.radissonblu.com/mediaharbourhotel-duesseldorf; 00 49 211 31 11 910). Set in Medienhafen (or Media Harbour), this area was all but dead in the water until it was redeveloped to form one of the city's hippest hangouts. Return after a day's sightseeing and enjoy harbour views from floor-to-ceiling windows. Standard rooms cost from €204 (Dh979) per night, including taxes and breakfast.
Downsize to the charming Sir Astor Hotel (www.sir-astor.de; 00 49 211 93 60 90) and retire to one of 20 rooms, each decked out in an Africa-meets-Scotland theme (think tartan carpets, floral features and zebra prints). It's as eclectic as it sounds. Double rooms cost from €109 (Dh523), per night including taxes and breakfast.
Find your feet
Düsseldorf's compact form and Rhine-side setting makes it a very easy city to navigate - and none more so than on foot. The best place to get your bearings is the centrally placed Altstadt (or Old Town). Remember that the exclusive Köenigsalle is to its east, the Rhine to its west and it's nigh-impossible to get lost.
Meet the locals
The Rheinuferpromenade is as popular with locals as it is with visitors thanks to an endless stream of al fresco cafes, authentic drinking holes and an easy-going vibe. While away the afternoon here before meandering along the Rhine, stopping just beyond it to mingle with media types at Medienhafen. Here the city's architecture is at its quirkiest with black plastic figurines (dubbed "flossies" by locals) climbing one building and a Frank Gehry tower looming over the harbour.
Book a table
If you don't mind an element of the tourist trap, book a table atop the city's tallest tower at Rheinturm Restaurant Top 180 (www.guennewig.de; 00 49 211 86 32 00, Ext 0). It has the best citywide vistas, bar none. Inside, an elevator whisks you 172 metres skyward to the restaurant, which rotates 360 degrees as you dine on bistro-style fare (though with one lap taking an hour, there's little chance of feeling nauseous).
For novelty factor, allow the blue-aproned waiters of Brauerei zum Schiffchen (www.brauerei-zum-schiffchen.de; 00 49 211 13 24 21) to regale tales of what is the city's oldest restaurant, dating to 1628 - even Napolean has eaten here. Today it's all tavern-style rooms and hefty helpings of German specialities, from homemade liver dumplings for €11.90 (Dh57) to wicked apple strudel for €5.20 (Dh25).
Claiming the former Thompson-Siegel powerhouse, Dr Thompson's (www.drthompsons.info; 00 49 211 92 15 88) has become the go-to haunt for Düsseldorf's trendiest foodies since its 2011 opening. High ceilings and exposed brick form an edgy backdrop to its Mediterranean inspired cuisine, a highlight of which is the do-it-yourself grills (beef or seafood costs €32-€35 [Dh153-Dh168]). Pick the right night and you'll be raising a fork to the sounds of top live DJs.
The Königsallee (known as Kö by residents) translates as Kings Avenue for good reason. The immaculate, tree-lined boulevard has enough big-name boutiques to keep Victoria Beckham busy for days, with names like Mulberry, Chanel and Gucci unravelling alongside an idyllic canal.
What to avoid
With its upmarket neighbourhoods, Düsseldorf is a safe place to holiday - what may prove risky is locals' reaction if you compare the city unfavourably to its arch rival, neighbouring Cologne. Some things are best left unsaid.
A short drive outside the city centre will take you to the pretty pastel-pink palace Schloss Benrath (www.schloss-benrath.de). Built in the 1700s for Prince-Elector Charles Theodore, the picture-perfect rococo mansion poses before manicured gardens and the history-hungry can take a tour inside its wings - though be prepared to swap your shoes for complimentary slippers to save its beautiful, original floors.
If you go
A return flight with Etihad Airways (www.etihad.com) from Abu Dhabi to Düsseldorf takes some six-and-a-half hours and costs from Dh3,430, including taxes.
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