By Simon Brandon
With a population of 650,000, Düsseldorf — the Rhine-straddling capital of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia — is a modestly sized but significant international business hub.
According to the annual Mercer Quality of Living Survey, which ranks cities according to factors such as housing, safety, transportation and the environment, Düsseldorf has the sixth-best quality of life in the world, a position it has held since 2010.
Residents clearly value the quality of their environment; in this year’s European Parliament elections, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (the Green party) more than doubled its share of the Düsseldorf vote — to 29.2 per cent, up from 12.7 per cent in 2014.
Although Germany’s economy is stuttering — its manufacturing sector is struggling and unemployment figures rose recently for the first time in six years — Düsseldorf’s economic prospects are more robust.
In fDi Intelligence’s most recent report on Europe’s cities and regions of the future, which ranks the continent’s urban centres in terms of their potential for attracting foreign direct investment, Düsseldorf secured fifth place in the large European cities of the future category. It ranked fourth for its future economic potential.
The city has a diverse industrial base: Düsseldorf is Germany’s second-largest banking centre behind Frankfurt as well as being home to chemicals company Henkel and the German operations of UK telecoms group Vodafone, for example.
Düsseldorf grew from a fishing village into an international business centre thanks in large part to its location on the Rhine, historically western Europe’s biggest artery for waterborne transport.
Today, alongside the city’s numerous motorway and high-speed rail connections, London, Zurich, Amsterdam and Paris are all within a 90-minute flight. Düsseldorf airport — Germany’s third-busiest after Frankfurt and Munich — is a 10-minute train journey from the centre of town.
Plenty for culture vultures
Düsseldorf punches well above its weight when it comes to cultural output. Electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk and film-maker Wim Wenders come from the city, while the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf art school has produced world-renowned photographers such as Andreas Gursky and Thomas Ruff.
The city has 26 museums and more than 100 art galleries, including the Kunstpalast, a municipal art museum, and the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, North Rhine-Westphalia’s state art collection. The latter’s contemporary international art is on display in the Ständehaus, the city’s imposing former parliament building.
Fashion and froth
Düsseldorf is Germany’s fashion capital, home to international fashion trade show The Gallery and one of the country’s most famous shopping streets, the Königsallee — the Kö for short. This line of boutiques, including Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton, stretches for a kilometre alongside part of the old city moat.
The city’s nightlife, meanwhile, is centred around the Altstadt (Old Town), a square kilometre of more than 300 pubs, clubs, cafés and microbreweries, earning it the moniker of the “longest bar in the world”. The local tipple is Altbier, a strong dark ale. Some of the best can be found at Uerige, a brewery and restaurant.
Photographs: Dreamstime; Bloomberg; Dreamstime/Hella Brandenburger