Wednesday 7 August 2019


Dusseldorf may be the closest thing I have to a conventional “hometown, having been born there, but honestly every time I visit Dusseldorf for a long weekend I cannot believe what a gem of a place it is, a city that needs to be seen by more tourists and visitors considering the amazing mix of culture, fantastic food and things to do it offers, all at prices, quality and value for money one can only dream of in London. Yes, you may think Berlin is where it is at when it comes to exploring Germany but trust me, once you’ve visiting Dusseldorf, whether it is in the winter to make the most of the amazing Christmas markets, or, like on this occasion, at the height of summer to make the most of the ample outside drinking and eating venues the city offers (and possibly the most fun wine festival one can wish for), you’ll want to return time and time again.

It may only be a 45 minute flight away from London but if you are after a weekend city break, without annoying tourist crowds and the correlating price tags that come with more obvious European destinations like Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam and the like then follow this little guide below, book your flight and thank me later, I may be a one person Dusseldorf tourism board but only for the reason that its TOTALLY worth all the praise I can give.

Flying from City airport has been a total revelation to me and will be for anyone living in East London. Door to door it took me a mere 39 minutes to get to the airport from my flat in Hoxton which makes a huge difference when it comes to early morning flights. Usually those pre-9am flights mean one has to get up at 4am or not sleep at all to make it to Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted or even worse Luton and are guaranteed to leave you in a zombie like state for much of the leftover day.

It may not have the best facilities (I am yet to find something that comes even remotely close to a decent cup of coffee in departures) but when I do get the chance I will try and fly from City from now on. After all you save money not having to get on all the stupid additional trains to get you to the actual airport (particularly the Stansted express is a ridiculous rip off), you save a lot time and hassle and actually get to have chance of enjoying the day of your early flight at your destination.

Flybe is by no means a luxury airline but their little city hopper planes, which are literally tiny and more like a private jet, will get you there in under an hour and if you book ahead you will definitely manage to get a return for under £130.

I have done train journeys within the UK that were more strenuous and once you are landed in Dusseldorf, the central station is a 15 minute train ride on the S1t train line away, with the ticket only setting you back a very reasonable 2.9 euros. All in all getting to Dusseldorf COULD NOT be easier, even if you hate flying like me so there is really no excuse to not go!


I am always on the lookout for affordable yet stylish hotels where you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy boutique hotel vibes and a cool interiors, able to very much avoid a formulaic and rather sad Premier inn style room where they highlight of the your stay amounts to a badly stocked minibar.

I stumbled across Max Brown, a Dutch mini chain of boutique hotels with hotels in Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna and Dusseldorf on the Mr&Mrs Smihs website (FYI always a reliable source for hotel research wherever you go). There Max Brown 'Midtown' was listed as a newly opened boutique hotel in Dusseldorf where a boutique style interiors were supposedly combined with a refreshing approach of cutting unnecessary overhead costs, usually charged as part of the room rate, to offer stylish accommodation at surprisingly low prices, and I have to say that they fully succeeded in my eyes, and pleasantly surprised me with their modern way and forward thinking way of running a hotel.

But first things first let’s talk about the drool worthy 70’s inspired interiors with great attention to detail that you can find at the Max Brown Midtown. I adored the reception area - equipped with a huge vintage pool table, art books everywhere, palm print wall paper and a long wooden bar, instantly making you feel like you’ve walked into an incredibly stylish Beverly Hills villa that you are able to call your home for the weekend.

Rooms are bright and spacious, equipped with extremely comfortable beds, Crosley record players and finished off with quirky pop-art prints. There is no mini bar because, well, who really needs those anyways these days, but you do get great soaps, shampoo and shower gel at your disposal and a very cute pink kettle to make tea and coffee in the morning with. I adored the room and have stayed in a lot more expensive hotels where the design was no where near as well executed as was the case here.

The hotel location is also perfect for exploring Dusseldorf, a ten minute walk from the main station, and super close to the old town with all of its bars and restaurants as well as Dusseldorf’s answer to Bond Street, the Königsallee, where you can find just about any designer your heart desires plus some amazing cake shops like Konditorei Heinemann.

It is also right by the Japanese quarter of town, yes, Dusseldorf has a “Japan town” rather than a Chinatown so if you are into ramen and sushi you literally have some of the BEST spots I have ever been, way better and cheaper than any Japanese joints I’ve been to in London, literally at your front door – after all people come from out of town to eat the noodles at iconic ramen bar Na Ni Wa for a reason and happily queue for hours to experience the warming soups served up here.

We also didn’t take a single bus, tram or taxi during my weekend there which only further reiterates the ideal location of the Max Brown Midtown, perfect for exploring Dusseldorf by foot and really getting to know the city!

So considering all these major plus point WHERE do they cut the costs to make prices that little bit lower you may wonder? Well they do not have the best staffed reception / all day bar, a single staff member checking you in and mixing the drinks for all guests which can be a little manic at times but was actually totally ok here, with staff that across the board were simply wonderful and super forthcoming when it came to extra requests, storing our luggage and any other queries.

Breakfast (included in the room price) also was not life changing, very "help yourself to some bread and cold toppings and get out" but honestly the amazing room, service and interior outweighed these slight cut backs, most of them like the mini bar anyway things that are a little outdated and redundant for the modern traveller.

I felt so at home and well looked after at the Max Brown Midtown and adored the slick modern rooms that I can only recommend the hotel, especially for anyone wanting a boutique hotel experience at an exceptional price. Well done Max Brown for adopting their hotels to meet the needs of a 2019 young traveller who can as easily go for an airbnb so instead wants that extra mile when it design at a very good price, and here it is done just right!


Every summer the picturesque main square by Dusseldorf’s town hall, all cobbles and intricate house façades, plays host to a wonderful wine festival that me and my mother stumbled across by accident while on the look out for a pre-dinner drinking venue, and which was so utterly wonderful that I am already planning to travel back for it next year (while seeing my mum OBVIOUSLY).

Vineyards from the most prominent wine regions of Germany come to Dusseldorf every early August, built up their little stands and let you sample their different wines at ridiculously good prices, and I mean 2.5 euro for a very decently sized glass of white, red, rose or fizz.

There are so many stands that you can literally try your way across the German wine map and as they run by the families who own the vineyards you get super helpful advise on what to order and also get some real background info on the lovely vino you are about sample. There are also stands selling olives, bread, cheese and other nibbles, perfect to pair with the wine and soak up some of the booze and lots of long benches you can perch on while getting to know the very chatty and super friendly crowd also enjoying the festival.

In England you would have been charged entry for such a wonderfully organised festival while here I really felt I had gone on holiday, basking in the sun, drinking some of the best wine of my life, surrounded by people all in a great mood, wanting to make the most of a sunny day, making for a fantastic overall vibe. The festival is on every year during the first weekend of August for 4 days and especially during the weekend days try and pop by on an afternoon to make the most of the sun but also later in the night, its open until 12am and actually has free live performers in the evening that make it an even more fun experience. Would I love this festival in London? I would but I am more than aware it wouldn’t feel or cost the same and I for one can’t wait to go back next year for more German wine!


If you do happen to visit Dusseldorf before the next wine festival and need a cultural hit of some kind I can only recommend the current Martin Parr retrospective at the NRW forum, showcasing some of his most iconic work plus a series photographs where he captured local Dusseldorfers in their allotments (very funny at that). The exhibition offers a perfect hour break or two away from the hustle and bustle of the centre of town and is also a real bargain with exhibition tickets only costing £8 per person. The exhibition is still on until 10thNovember so plenty of time to check it out.


Wilma Wunder is a new casual dining spot, about 4 minutes walk from the hotel and with a lovely outside seating area. It may be a little commercial for a dinner, it is part of a bit of a chain expanding across Germany, but I LOVED their selection of fries which we enjoyed as an after dinner snack to soak up some the wine enjoyed at the festival. The must order at Wilma Wunder: their truffle fries and vegetable fries. SO, so good. Not one for dinner but perfect for a carby pit stop and great for people watching.


The absolute highlight of my trip in terms of food was hands down our Saturday night dinner at Williams Bar, a short walk away from the centre of town, towards the more trendy student area of Dusseldorf.

I have raved about the modern international food that gets served up at fellow Dusseldorf restaurant Munstermann Kontor many times, but this was next level outstanding, a dinner that would have easily cost triple in London bearing in mind the service, quality of food and flavour combinations we were able to experience. Our waiter was outstandingly attentive without being obnoxious and there was not one plate served up in front of us that didn’t wow us, including the complimentary bread at the start, which came with an exceptionally tasty yogurt beetroot dip.
My taglierini pasta with summer truffle, enjoyed as a rather extravagant starter, was flawless, but nothing could have prepared me for the utter flavour experience my main was. Indeed my sashimi tuna, a gorgeous piece of tuna fillet, seared to perfection and still raw on the inside, served with buttered greens, an incredible sweet potato mousse and apple celery chutney was simple outstanding, one of the best mains I have ever had, a picture on a plate and very decently priced at 24 euros considering the level of cooking and ingredients that had gone into the dish.

Not that it was easy to pick a main, everything on Williams Bar’s menu sounded outstanding (salmon filet with goats cheese foam, beetroot and potato puree and spring vegetables anyone or for the veggies amongst you how do you like the sound of artichoke risotto with sundried tomatoes and olives?!) and my mum also adored her Aberdeen angus steak served with spicy fries and a pitch perfect Cesar salad.

For dessert we went for Espresso martinis, the best I have had as Williams bar is also known for their cocktails and rightly so, served with some delicious brownie bites on the side, and finished off with a sprinkle of nutmeg on top that made the martinis almost too drinkable and the perfect end to a perfect meal.

A restaurant like Williams Bar would have queues Gloria style sneaking around the building every night were it in London, but here it is an unassuming corner bistro that is a well and truly a hidden gem, serving some of the best food I have ever had. Make sure you come for dinner here on any visit to Dusseldorf, you can book ahead, you can marvel at the cooking and you can dream of a return visit the minute you’ve had the last sip of your espresso martini. I cannot recommend this spot enough.


If you are after slightly more traditional German food or a quick, large and good salad check out one of Schwan’s many locations across Dusseldorf. They serve a kind of modern casual German cuisine in a nice environment, and prices are very reasonable especially if you are after quick, informal and filling dinner.

We particularly enjoyed their take on the traditional flammkuchen (thin, baked dough with various toppings not too different from a pizza stemming from the German region bordering with France) which came topped with brie, cranberry relish, sour cream and ruccola as well as their Cote d’ Azur salad – a huge salad of tomatoes, green beans, mushrooms, perfectly dressed tuna, olives and boiled eggs, a kind of fresh yet filling salad I really struggle to ever find done right in the UK, especially as a main course for dinner.

They also do Schnitzel, Currywurst and other German classics and really Schwan is a reliable spot for a good dinner that won't disappoint. We went to the old town location which is super close to Rhine, so perfect if you fancy a walk by the promenade to digest, and by plenty of bars and clubs if you fancy going out after. Avoid the tourist traps if you are after fuss free well cooked German food and go here, there is no lederhosen in sight but that is a damn good thing. 

Da Forno is my favourite gelateria in the world and it has been making their own ice cream for nearly a century. Yes, Da forno is a slightly rough around the edges and a bit of a walk away from the centre, roughly 25 minutes, but so, so worth it. Order a Spaghettieis (for those unfamiliar this is what I am talking about) and enjoy proper ice cream, a world away from your standard Magnum.  

No comments: