The Rheinuferpromenade - for strolling and daydreaming
Photo: Philipp Schiwek
The world is full of them; legendary promenades where life vibrates, where bohemians and business folk meet each other while shopping or strolling, simply places to be. For some years there has been another highlight joining the famous boulevards and Dusseldorf has it, the riverfront and harbour, Rheinuferpromenade and Hafen.
In earlier days, the river shore was traditionally used to load goods out of and into boats and barges transporting merchandise and goods into the Old Town, the Alte Stadt. That is why the Dusseldorf trade port had influenced the Rhine immensely even up until the 20th century; affected by all its landing stages, by its countless boats and by its labour force. Today, there are just a couple of barges and pleasure boats that set sail here and tours on the water are offered regularly from April until October.
The old trade port, the former ugly duckling in Dusseldorf, has been transformed into a splendid architectural masterpiece: to the media harbour, Medienhafen. It is called that way since several media companies, WDR, Antenne Düsseldorf, nrw.tv and QVC have settled there a few years ago. It is life style orientated as well with fashion companies and designer stores as easy to find as upscale restaurants, clubs and discos. Even the partly contemporary, partly conventional architecture is extraordinarily charming with the NRW Parliament building, the skyline influencing Rhine Tower, the semi-glass WDR TV Studios in huge contrast to the futuristic Media Centre and the special asymmetrical.
The Gehry-Buildings by the way are the city’s newer landmark, are unconventional, original, imaginative and are the most photographed buildings in Dusseldorf. It took only two years, from 1998 until 1999, to erect this complex, which almost didn’t come to fruition. Following entries to a competition in cooperation with the city of Dusseldorf in order to attract international architects to reconstruct the old Zollhof in the early 90s, London architect Zaha Hadid was selected to do the job. But due to conceptual problems the Californian star architect Frank Owen Gehry eventually received the contract and designed marvellously fresh houses rich in contrast and with diverse materials.
The promenade is a sidewalk on the east banks of the Rhine of about three kilometres in length. Glancing across the Rhine, the pretty houses in Oberkassel can be seen. On the far bank, the biggest fun fair, Kirmes on the Rhine, the second largest in Germany takes place every year in the third week of July.
Inline skating, riding bicycles or walking along the Rhine shore has only recently become possible. For years, an extremely noisy road carrying 55,000 cars per day had separated the city centre from the river. In a major architectural project of the last century and with immense expense, the divide was repositioned in a tunnel that represents the most important inner-city connection between north and south in Dusseldorf. The tunnel is considered to be a masterpiece of structural engineering and trumps in terms of safety. At the same time, the promenade was built on the lid of the tunnel. It was finished in 1995 and received numerous national as well as international architectural awards.
Thus the Old City returned to the Rhine and quality of life improved considerably. Many sycamores line the alleys and cycle paths from the Parliament buildings, Landtagsgebäude at the Medienhafen to the Oberkasseler bridge. These trees have slowly but surely returned a green lung to inner Dusseldorf. The whole Rheinuferpromenade is a car-free area now and traffic calming was successful. On sunny days one can meet extraordinarily many people here. They stroll across the promenade, sit on the benches, play patenque, enjoy the picturesque view, watch street performers or simply relax. Locals and visitors indulge sitting in small bars sipping an Altbier and gazing at the sunset. Tiny cafés, formerly store rooms at the time of the old harbour, so-called Kasematten and pubs exist in abundance. Even the wide outside staircase next to the wavelike construction out of blue slabs, the Freitreppe am Burgplatz is perfect for chilling.
No doubt the spectacular panorama and the lovely view of Dusseldorf's skyline with its bridges, passing ships and architecture is a must see on any journey to the capital of NRW. Enjoy.