Combining the legendary good cheer of the Rhineland with the cosmopolitan charm of an international exhibition city, Düsseldorf offers the visitor a wealth of memorable sights and experiences. The German Opera House, countless museums and theatres and numerous other attractions all attest to the city's standing as a major arts centre. Düsseldorf is also a paradise for shoppers - the Königsallee with its classy shops and pavement cafés is now firmly established as the unofficial public catwalk for the latest fashion trends.
The Rhine-Ruhr area with its state capital Düsseldorf is the biggest agglomeration in Germany, ahead of the Frankfurt-Rhine-Main region, Berlin and Stuttgart.
The Düsseldorf-Rhine-Ruhr area covers a similar area as the international metropolitan cities of Chicago, Paris and London, the population of 11.1 million reflects these dimensions. In comparison to that, the other metropolitan areas have populations of 8.0 million in Chicago, 12.3 million in London and 12.3 million in Paris.
Düsseldorf-Rhine-Ruhr in figures:
Home to a population in excess of 11.1 million
The base for 312,000 companies
Offers employment to more than 3.7 million people
Provides 45 universities and technical colleges with more than 300,000 students
In the 7th and 8th centuries, the odd farming or fishing settlement could be found at the point where the small river Düssel flows into the Rhine. It was from such settlements that the city of Düsseldorf grew.
The first written mention of the town Düsseldorf dates back to 1135 (then called Düsseldorp). It is written that under Kaiser Friedrich Barbarossa the little town of Kaiserswerth, lying to the north of Düsseldorf, became a well fortified outpost, where soldiers keep a watchful eye over every movement on the Rhine. (Kaiserswerth became an official district of Düsseldorf in 1929.)
In 1186 Düsseldorf came under the rule of Berg. The counts of Berg moved their seat to the town in 1280.
August 14, 1288 is one of the most important dates in the history of Düsseldorf as it was on this day that the sovereign, Count Adolf V of Berg granted the village on the banks of the Düssel the right to call itself a city.
Prior to that announcement, a bloody power struggle had taken place between the Archbishop of Cologne and the count of Berg, culminating in the Battle of Worringen. The Archbishop of Cologne's forces were wiped out, paving the way for Düsseldorf's elevation to city status, which is remembered today with a monument on the Burgplatz.
A market square sprang up on the banks of the Rhine and the square was protected by city walls on all four sides. In 1380, Düsseldorf was named regional capital of the Duchy of Berg. During the following centuries several famous landmarks were built, including the Collegiate Church of St. Lambertus. In 1609, the ducal line of Jülich-Berg-Cleves died out, and after a succession struggle, Jülich and Berg fell under the rule of the Counts Palatine of Neuburg, who made their main seat in Düsseldorf, even after they inherited the Palatinate, in 1685, becoming now Prince-electors as Electors Palatine
Düsseldorf's growth was even more impressive under the leadership of Johann Wilhelm II (r.1690-1716) in the 18th century, also known to his people as Jan Wellem. Heavily influenced by his wife Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici, the art lover designed a vast art gallery with a mammoth selection of paintings and sculptures that are currently housed in the Stadtschloss.
After the death of the childless Jan Wellem, the flourishing royal capital fell on hard times, especially Elector Karl Theodor inherited Bavaria and moved the electoral court to Munich. And destruction and poverty struck Düsseldorf after the Napoleonic Wars.
By the mid-19th Century, Düsseldorf enjoyed a revival thanks to the Industrial Revolution as the city boasted 100,000 inhabitants by 1882 before the figure doubled in 1892.
However, the First and Second World Warss soon plunged Düsseldorf into depression. During World War II, the city was virtually reduced to a pile of rubble as round-the-clock air attacks took their toll.
The Jewish community was decimated through deportation and murder as only 249 survived out of the pre-War population of 5,100. The Mahn-und Gedenkstätte für die Opfer des Nationalsozialismus (Memorial to the Victims of National Socialism) provides a horrific account of the darkest chapter in Düsseldorf's history.
Düsseldorf International Airport is located eight kilometres from the city. The Rhein-Ruhr airport, one of Germany's three biggest commercial airports, is just 12 minutes from the city centre with the S-Bahn urban railway system.
After Frankfurt and Munich, Düsseldorf International is Germany's third biggest commercial airport in 2000, with about 16 million passengers. Three of four passengers in North Rhine-Westphalia use the flight connections to the 180 destinations in total which the airport offers. Over 180,000 take-offs and landings take place in Düsseldorf annually, and over 100,000 tonnes of freight is handled.
The Deutsche Bahn train is another common way of getting to Düsseldorf. More than 1,000 trains stop in Düsseldorf every day. The central railway station at Konrad-Adenauer-Platz is located in Düsseldorf's city center.
North Rhine-Westphalia has a closely-woven autobahn network where almost all routes lead to Düsseldorf. Düsseldorf is directly connected to the A3, A44, A46, A52, A57 and A59 autobahns.
The art-loving Elector Jan Wellem and his wife Anna Maria Luisa of Tuscany from the house of Medici, were the founders of Düsseldorf´s first cultural in the 17th and 18th century. Heinrich Heine, whose 200th birthday was celebrated in 1997, Clara and Robert Schumann as well as Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy consolidate Düsseldorf´s claim to fame in the cultural world. Artistic impulses often originated from the Academy for Art in Düsseldorf and names such as Paul Klee and
Joseph Beuys are associated with it. After the Second World War the Rhinish city blossomed into an international trade and exhibition city. Nowadays, commerce and culture both shape the capital city of North Rhine-Westphalia. The Düsseldorf cultural scene encompasses traditional and avant-garde, classical and glamorous. The world-famous art collection NRW, the highly acclaimed Deutsche Oper am Rhein, and the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus, the artistic home of Gustaf Gründgens are major cornerstones in Düsseldorf´s reputation as a cultural city. Other highlights are e.g. the Musical theatre, the Löbbecke Museum/Aqua-Zoo and Benrath Castle. Thousands stream into historic Düsseldorf Old Town for the Rhinish carnival and the largest funfair on the Rhine, but also to experience the charm and gusto of the people here. The exclusive Königsallee and the splendid Rheinpromenade are the perfect setting for a stroll.
Düsseldorf is also home to the Kling Klang studio, which is the base of the avant-garde band Kraftwerk.