Literary City Guide | Düsseldorf, Germany
Tour Guide: EMMA CAMPBELL
Emma comes from New Zealand, where she studied art, psychology and German. She started a personal food blog after moving to Düsseldorf, where she works with small children. (Photos by Emma Campbell)
Relationship to Düsseldorf: My family and I lived in the area once as a child, and I returned on my own a couple of years ago. I met my husband here, and this is our home for now.
Writer you’d like to invite to dinner: Haruki Murakami
Chef you’d like to prepare the meal: Massimo Bottura
Writing soundtrack: A jazz playlist, if anything.
Pen or Pencil: Pen
Coffee or Tea? Coffee. And tea for lingering over.
Paperback or Hardback? Oh. It depends.
Müller&Böhm, Bolkerstraße. A bright and narrow bookstore located in the ground floor of the house where Heinrich Heine was born (the Heine Haus). They sell international titles and have a small English language section.
Heinrich Heine Antiquariat, Citadellstraße. A beautiful secondhand bookshop in the Altstadt.
Stern Verlag, Friedrichstraße. Large multi-level bookstore and local publishing house with a cafe in the atrium. Many international books are available also, and tables and chairs are dotted about on every level for reading.
Antiquariat Ahrens & Hamacher, Friedrichstraße. This somewhat sprawling antique and secondhand bookstore specializes in history and literature. There's also a reading nook downstairs.
Antiquariat Christoph Wilde, Birkenstraße. A small secondhand bookstore, charming and chaotic. Treasures to be found.
Frank Petzchen - Kochbücher & Kochseminare, Benratherstraße. A bookshop dedicated to cookbooks tucked in behind Carlsplatz! They also host cooking seminars.
University and State Library, Heinrich-Heine-Universität. The university library is, naturally, a place for literature. Be sure to leave your bag in one of the locker's provided and grab a basket for your things. There's also a small student cafe on the ground floor, to recharge your batteries.
English International Library, Kasernenstraße. Kept afloat by a dedicated group of volunteers, the International Library is tucked away in the fourth floor of Kasernenstraße 6, opposite the Carsch Haus. They host English language events, and have a reading corner with coffee and tea.
Heinrich-Heine-Institut, Bilkerstraße. The institute consists of a museum, library and archives dedicated to Heine's life and legacy. They have changing exhibitions as well as concerts and readings.
READINGS & CONFERENCES
Literaturtage & Bücherbummel. Two overlapping literary events hosted in June each year consist of readings and other encounters held all over the city – in museums, cafes and parks! – many of which are free, most of which are in German.
Literaturzentrum im Heine Haus, Bolkerstraße. The active literary centre in Heine's birth house, in association with bookstore Müller&Böhm.
Zakk – Zentrum für Aktion, Kunst und Kommunikation. A bit grunge-y, Zakk is always abuzz. From literary readings, poetry slams, discussion evenings, amateur comedy to eclectic parties – it has a broad cultural program for a diverse audience.
Damenundherren, Oberbilkerallee. A welcoming cultural society located in a former hair salon, they often host readings from local literary talent, as well as concerts by local artists and more.
Tube, Mühlengasse and Himmelgeisterstraße. A lovely art supplies store – everything you need to write and sketch with.
Goethe Museum, Jacobistraße. This museum in the beautiful 18th century palace, Schloss Jägerhof, is dedicated to the life and work of Goethe – who visited Düsseldorf twice, allegedly!
Cafe Hüftgold, Ackerstraße. A corner cafe in Flingern, home to good vibes, indulgent homemade cakes and a cosy living room atmosphere.
Brot & Butter, Steinstraße. Here, just off the Kö, is excellent coffee and too many delicious fancy things to covet: a bakery pumping out rustic loaves and a cheese counter to drool over. It's pricier than average, inevitably.
Pure Freude, Hohestraße. A beautiful french patisserie bursting with eye-popping cakes and macarons. From the glass storefront you walk through an art-filled alleyway (passing the kitchens) to a small courtyard and cafe where you may linger a lovely while. The name, appropriately, translates to 'Pure Joy.’
A PROPER MEAL
Naniwa, Oststraße. This ramen bar in the Japanese quarter is fantastic. It features an open kitchen and an authentic menu. Another favourite noodle bar in the area is Takumi, and a great low-key cafe is Tenten Coffee.
Pizzeria Pinocchio, Altestadt. I recommend Pinnochio, in part because of its highly unusual cave-like interior, but also, delightfully, because the food is fabulous and the service is even better. They take no bookings, so you'll likely be seated along the bar with an aperitif, watching beautiful pizzas being shoveled in and out of the wood-fired oven as you wait for a table.
Le Local, Münsterstraße. Cafe by day, candlelit bistro by night. A french find we hold dear to our hearts. There is nostalgic ambience in abundance, and a very delicious and reasonably priced menu. The service is great, too.
Brauerei im Füchschen, Ratingerstraße. A traditional Düsseldorf brewery established in 1848 – during Heine's lifetime. Here the atmosphere is warm and bustling, the food is good old-fashioned German brewery cuisine, and the beer, of course, is Altbier. There are many other fine breweries in the old town – Zum Schlüssel and Uerige are worth a visit too.
Zur Sennhütte, Rethelstraße. This tiny mountain hut-styled bistro, poised precariously beside the tracks at Zoo station, has only three indoor tables. In summer months this expands to include a leafy (charmingly haphazard) west-facing courtyard. Contrary to the size of the establishment, the menu is extensive, featuring modern European fare, while conversations are habitually interrupted by the roar of passing trains. A unique and often crowded place to enjoy the evening sun.
Hinkel Bäckerei, Hohestraße and Mittelstraße. The best bakery in town on the corner of Carlsplatz and a second branch 5 minutes walk away. Everything is delicious. Stare fondly into its windows, then go in and dare make your selection.
Carlsplatz Market. There are many delicious things to be found at the Wochenmarkt, which is open every day except Sunday. Wandering, slowly, among the variety of stalls itself is a treat.
“This is how Düsseldorf celebrates on weekdays”, said the squat man with the Schnauzer and the gleaming pocket square, swinging his arm out in a semi-circle; as though he himself had invited the crowd around us to Ratinger Straße. (Martin Halotta, 2014)
EMMA's 5 Favorites
1. Favorite view: Probably the view walking the Oberkasseler bridge, looking south towards the Old Town, and watching barges mosey up and down the Rhine.
2. Favorite place to write: At home, or at the University library.
3. Favorite museum: K20 – home to North Rhine Westphalia's modern art collection and excellent international exhibitions. Its post-modern counterpart – K21 – is on the other side of the old town. A free shuttle travels between them.
4. Favorite coffee shop: Pure Freude.
5. Favorite thing about Düsseldorf: The eateries and supermarkets of the Japanese quarter.