Our options: spend hundreds of pounds on a concert ticket at Wembley, OR spend less than a hundred to spend a day in Dusseldorf and see the exact same concert.
Well as you can imagine, it was a no brainer.
We didn’t think too much into it, we just booked a flight in and out, reserved our arena seats and boom we were sorted. We figured anything else we came across on that trip would just be an added bonus.
Fast forward a few months and it was days before we were meant to depart and we decided it was time to see what there was to do for 12 hours.
Turns out there’s not loooads to do. Let me start again, there are things to do, but not a lot of free things to do. Not that we could find anyway. Everyone I knew who had visited had only been as part of a business stop over. So no one had any decent recommendations. Google was happy to announce that the airport viewing park was number 11 on the highlights of things to do in Dusseldorf. Didn’t really inspire much confidence.
After an intense security check at the airport (a kind of check that I found incredibly violating and questionable) we decided to discuss our days plans over breakfast.
The plan: was to not have a plan.
We landed early morning into Dusseldorf Airport and found ourselves, by chance, on TripAdvisor’s 20th most popular attraction, the Sky Train. It was actually pretty cool! More cities should have these air suspended tram systems. Felt like we were on an episode of the Jetsons.
After a few dramas trying to get train tickets at the station, swiftly moving away from the abandoned suitcase that had appeared beside us, we jumped on the first train into the city, straight to central station.
We wandered the streets, headed to Rheinuferpromenade, passing beautiful buildings old and new. We sauntered into a few quirky shops and explored a church along the way, one with an interesting amalgamation of traditional and contemporary design features.
Not long after, it was time for lunch and so far our options weren’t looking great.
Halal-wise, we could’ve indulged in kebabs and donners as they seemed to be everywhere. But all we wanted was something small and something ‘local’ (preferably not fried). Menu after menu it became clear that sausage played a big part of what was on offer (quelle surprise), with not many appetising vegetarian options. Perhaps just a little bit of research would have been useful.
We passed a Turkish restaurant and the friendly owner somehow managed to coax us in, charming us with the promise of suitable meat-free options. Turns out we had two – cheese ciabatta or cheese and tomato ciabatta.
Despite the overwhelming variety, we decided they actually weren’t bad options so we didn’t bother re-robing and stayed put, taking some time out from the slight bit of rain we had just escaped from.
I had obviously slept on the flight over, so I had been dying to find a spot for us to rest and to freshen up. But of course we had chosen a café with the smallest toilet in the world. I entered top speed mode, changed my top, brushed my hair and was nearly done with brushing my teeth when a smart dressed diner entered and caught me mid spit.
One of my less classier moments. Luckily she didn’t look at me in disgust and definitely saw the funny side. Turns out she was from Saudi Arabia and it was such a surreal experience to reminisce about my former home with a complete stranger in a dingy bathroom whilst she applied her expensive looking ruby red lippy and I continued to cover myself in deodorant and perfume.
Well-fed, we set off once again on our adventure only to stumble upon a food market. Go figure.
Tip number one: Perhaps take time to ask locals for food recommendations when you are in a new area. Instead of settling for the first person to invite you in.
We continued on to the riverside, aiming to check out TripAdvisor’s 4th most popular attraction, the Rhine Tower. A large happy french-fry-shaped figurine caught the corner of our eye.
It was the Chip Man.
We were full, but not that full. And this was the second one we had come across so it almost felt rude not to. This place literally served nothing BUT chips. Not hand made ones either, just standard frozen chips with a heap of weird and wonderful toppings. The guys behind the counter were dying to practice their English skills, one of them wanting to know if he was good enough to brave the move to the UK (Not sure if he was aware we have a Brexit situation going on but didn’t seem the right time to break it to him).
Two fresh (from frozen) chip trays later and we were off walking along the promenade, wind in our hair, headed towards the tower. Just another beautiful afternoon in
Blackpool sorry Dusseldorf (it really did feel like we were having chips on the promenade at Blackpool though!?). By this point the sun decided to come out basking the shore line in sunshine and warmth, perfect timing for our stroll across the river bank.
Rhine tower, 240.5 metres concrete site towering above the city. For the first time ever on a city break we didn’t have to queue for an attraction. Couple of euros got us a ticket straight to the top in the super sonic lift.
The 360 degree observation deck and café area were pretty impressive. Again, it was refreshing not to be at a sightseeing stop that was swarming with tourists. We found ourselves a table to relax at and enjoyed a tea and pretzel break, whilst watching the world pass by below.
Back down to the bustling streets below, we casually strolled towards the far side of town where the arena was, stopping only for what was supposed to be a quick browse around Habitat, a shop we don’t have in the UK anymore but one which was always a firm favourite of mine. As we were about to leave the store, a comfy sofa in the window called out to us. Enticed by the soft fabric we decided to test it out and instantly sunk into it’s fluffiness.
What started as a quick test of a good looking couch ended in being approached an hour later by a shop assistant whether we actually required any help mid-way through our heavy conversation about politics. We casually assured her we were fine and then sprinted out of there as fast as we could.
Time had ticked on and we realised we didn’t have long to find a quick dinner snack and get ourselves over to the ISS arena. So we picked up the pace as we walked towards the North of the city.
An hour of walking and we weren’t going as fast as we needed to. We decided to settle for a kebab shop on route, after which we would hop on a tram or some other mode of transport to rush us down to catch the start of the show.
Wasn’t as great a dinner as we would have liked but it was fast, cheap and we were definitely full. My sister in particular was full from eating a large amount of ‘not-what-I-ordered’ onions that had been added to her bread dish.
Tip number two: Don’t just agree to have all the added extras in a restaurant just because you’re too scared to say no. It won’t end well.
Quick tram ride to Heinrichstraße and there it was, a bus labelled ‘Dusseldorf ISS Dome’. We ran at full speed to catch it, only to realise the driver wasn’t planning on going anywhere anytime soon as he pulled on his cigarette, relaxed and nonchalant.
Finally we were there, the ISS arena and like every other concert venue it was time for bag search.
Tip number three: If you are travelling to a concert abroad and that is the sole purpose of your trip don’t bother taking your DSLR.
Of course my DSLR camera was not allowed inside the venue and I had to leave it at the entrance with the security team. It was placed in a plastic bag, and stored in a crate until the end of the show. Not the most secure set up – but I should stress it was there waiting for me just as I left it when we returned at the end of the night.
The fun well and truly started when it was time to head home. In all our wisdom, we decided booking a hotel room was a waste as we were catching an early flight out the next day so our next stop that evening was to go straight back to the airport where we would be camping out for the night.
Finding a train station was proving a fair challenge, especially as G had managed to get us rejected from the only bus around by asking for the airport rather than the train station resulting in the driver assuring us that he couldn’t help and we should carry on. A group on foot headed to their parked car kindly led us halfway down and then left us to navigate the dark Dusseldorf streets on our own.
We found the tram but had no idea where it was going and no one else was really able to help either, mainly because their English was limited and our German was unfortunately non existent.
Tip number four: Even if you are only visiting for a short time, learn or familiarise yourself with some key phrases or download a translation app.
Just before my sister was about to throw herself into her best impression of a choo-choo train, an English speaker piped up with instructions to help us continue our journey.
We boarded the tram, which was basically an extension of the concert, revellers singing and dancing in perfect Spanish, pretty ironic considering we were in Germany.
fifteen minutes and one spilt drink on my jacket later, and we were back at Dusseldorf Airport.
No overnight lounges, just the one coffee shop and we had just over five hours to kill.
It was a long, but fun-filled night.
I use the word fun-filled loosely of course… trying to sleep whilst cleaning machines and hoovers sound off at full volume and uncomfortable armrests are jabbing into your sides is not easy even for me, the self-proclaimed can-sleep-through-anything sleeper.
Tip number five: Do not forget to take a scarf if you’re planning on camping out like we did. Or a travel blanket like the one Mo and I bought for our Brazil trip (why I didn’t think to take it this time is beyond me)
We woke to the smell of fresh bread, coffees and the buzz of everyday hustle and bustle in an airport. Flight boards started filling up, our destination London Heathrow making the list, and just like that it was time to board that plane again.
Throughout the day my sister had voiced her appreciation for this City, the best cuisine shes ever had, the best long boats shes ever seen, the best views she’s ever seen…
G and I aren’t quite sure what she saw that we didn’t, but what we did all agree on, was that it was definitely one of our most quirkiest trips to date.
Have you been to Dusseldorf? Slept overnight at an airport?