With its cutting-edge architecture, rich cultural heritage and lively after-dark scene, Düsseldorf, capital of the North-Rhine-Westphalia region, is edgier than you might think. Whether taking a scenic boat trip along the Rhine or visiting one of many museums, concert halls or clubs, you'll quickly discover the breezy, sophisticated ambiance that permeates this small but energetic German city.
Düsseldorf's main neighbourhoods span both sides of the Rhine. Most of the cultural institutions and shopping areas – including famed retail boulevards Schadowstrasse and Königsallee, cultural treats like the Tonhalle and Museum Kunst Palast, and the atmospheric Altstadt (Old Town) – are conveniently concentrated around the city centre.
To the south, the redeveloped MediaHafen ("Media Harbour") area is dotted with buzzy bars and gleaming restaurants.
For a taste of the city's burgeoning alternative scene, head to the former working-class district of Flingern, where you'll find clubs in renovated factories and independent galleries. In contrast, well-heeled Oberkassel's attractions includeArt Nouveau buildings and leafy parks.
Düsseldorf's small but well-preserved Altstadt (Old Town) remains the focal point of the city, thanks in part to an impressive 260 or so pubs – it's not nicknamed "the longest bar in the world" for nothing! Here, you'll also find the imposing City Hall (Rathaus) and the soaring Basilica St. Lambertus.
The city offers a dizzying amount of art, ranging from the 20th-century works of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen (North-Rhine-Westphalia Art Collection) to the diverse array of sculptures, fine art and photographs displayed within the Museum Kunstpalast (Museum of Art).
A stroll along the boutique-lined Königsallee ("The Kö")is mandatory for shoppers and people-watchers, while architecture fans shouldn't miss a visit to the MediaHafen to see Frank Gehry's trio of shapely Neue Zollhof (New Customs House) buildings.
Most hotels in Düsseldorf are located around the Altstadt, making them highly convenient for visiting the city centre.
You could consider staying north of the centre if you're in town for one of the 50 international trade fairs organised by congress centre Messe Düsseldorf. The venue is a 30-minute direct train ride from the Altstadt.
For something quieter and more family-friendly, there are a few hotels in Oberkassel. Hotels around the MediaHafen oftenhave great views across the old harbour and riverside access.
Düsseldorf's public transport system is easy to use, though you'll find most local attractions accessible by foot or bicycle.
Düsseldorf's culinary scene is as dynamic as its cultural life. From pubs selling traditional beer and hearty local dishes to ethnic eateries that reflect the city's cosmopolitanism, you'll find an abundance of quality budget, mid-range and fine-dining options.
The buzziest cluster of traditional cafés, restaurants and pubs can be found around the Altstadt and surrounding city-centre area. Zum Schlüssel is one of the oldest and most popular joints. This area also offers international options such as pizza, sushi and burgers.
For a restaurant with a view, book a table at the Rhine Tower's Günnewig, which slowly revolves 168 metres above the city.
The small but perfectly formed Carlsplatz food market, which runs every day except Sunday, offers everything from local cheeses and wines to biscuits and flowers. Those who love impromptu food events will appreciate the weekly Street Food Thursday at Stahlwerk in the alternative district of Flingern.
Though justifiably famous for its high-end fashion shops, Düsseldorf offers a decent variety of retail experiences that veer from budget and indie to luxury and vintage.
The famed Königsallee, referred to by locals as "The Kö", is where you will find the densest spread of luxury clothing designers (Gucci, Prada, Versace) as well as high-end perfume, antiques and jewellery shops.
For something less upscale, nearby Schadowstraße offers department stores and high-street shops, while the Altstadt is peppered with independent fashion and other boutiques.
Art enthusiasts might enjoy exploring the antiques shops and galleries of Carlstadt, which also has a weekly flea market.
With over 100 galleries and 26 museums, Düsseldorf offers a veritable feast of cultural treats. Most of the city's theatre and opera stages and exhibition venues, including the refurbished Oper am Rhein and Tonhalle concert hall, are within easy reach of the city centre.
Among the major highlights are the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, whose modern collection is spread over three venues, the Museum Kunstpalast and the NRW-Forum (North Rhine-Westphalia Forum for Culture and Business).
The city also offers surprisingly dynamic nightlife. Whether exploring the bars along the Altstadt, visiting the bohemian Salon des Amateurs or the lively vaudeville venues like the Apollo Varieté, you certainly won't be bored after dark.
Many of Düsseldorf's kid-friendly attractions are conveniently located within and around the city centre.
In good weather, you can enjoy a boat trip along the Rhine river, visit a petting zoo or enjoy a stroll along the Rheinuferpromenade or through one of the city's several pleasant parks.
If the sun doesn't come out, there are plenty of indoor options ranging from the Aquazoo, home to more than 400 animal species, to the entertaining Neanderthal Museum, a 20-minute train ride from the centre.