As in most German cities, there's an Altstadt (Old Town), with a Marktplatz (Marketplace), a Gothic Rathaus (Town Hall), and a few old buildings and churches. Near the Rathaus on Burgplatz are two of the city's most famous landmarks, the twisted spire of St-Lambertus Basilika (St. Lambertus Church) and the Schlossturm (Castle Tower), both of 13th-century origin. A short walk to the east takes you to St-Andreas Basilika (St. Andreas Church).
The Altstadt has been called "the longest bar in the world" because of the 200-plus bars and restaurants found here. The favorite drink is a top-fermented Altbier (old beer); it's a dark, mellow brew that must be consumed soon after it's made.
A walk up Königsallee, called the "Kö" by Düsseldorfers, will give visitors a quick overview of the city and its residents. This street flanks an ornamental canal, shaded by trees and crossed by bridges. One bank is lined with office buildings, the other with elegant shops, cafes, and restaurants. Here you'll see women dressed in the very latest styles. Düsseldorf is the fashion center of Germany. It's known for its Fashion Weeks, which attract designers and buyers from all over Europe.
If you walk up the Kö toward the Trident Fountain at the northern end of the canal, you'll reach the Hofgarten, a huge, rambling park. Here you can wander along paths or sit and relax amid shade trees, gardens, fountains, and statues, almost forgetting you're in the very center of the city. Among the monuments is one to the poet Heinrich Heine. The Hofgarten is a good central point for seeing the city's major attractions -- nearly all museums and cultural attractions are on its perimeter. Towering over the Hofgarten is Düsseldorf's most impressive skyscraper, the Thyssen-Haus. Residents call it the Dreischeibenhaus ("three-slice house"), because it actually looks like three huge monoliths sandwiched together. Northeast of the Hofgarten is Basilika St. Rochus, one of the city's finest modern churches.
Düsseldorf continues its bold march into the 21st century, especially in its once dilapidated but now trendy MedienHafen district. Originally this was a flourishing warehouse sector in the 19th century. Today it is often a showcase for modern architecture, especially in the office buildings and other works of Frank O. Gehry, winner of the Pritzker prize, the Nobel Prize of architecture. Of course, Gehry's far better known work is his celebrated titanium masterpiece, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.
Düsseldorf's most striking example of his work is the ensemble of "organic-looking" high-rises at Neuer Zollhof. This trio of buildings with their wavy lines can easily be spotted along the waterfront. Yachts and luxury cruisers stud the harbor at the foot of the Rhine Tower of MedienHafen. For the best view of these avant-garde buildings, including Gehry's controversial architecture, walk down the water-bordering promenade, Am Handelshafen, beginning at the Rheim Turm (Rhine Tower), heading toward Franziusstrasse.
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