Düsseldorf, ‘the village on the Düssel’, is the capital of Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia region and lies on the banks of the Rhine. It has long played an important role in European trade.
Neanderthal findings suggest the area around Düsseldorf has been inhabited for at least 52,000 years. It was first chartered by the Count of Berg in 1288 and became the capital of the duchy of Berg. This dynastic line ended with the assassination of Engelbert I in the following century.
The region succeeded to the Limburg and Jülich dynasties from the fourteenth century until the seventeenth century. It then became the capital of the Palatinate-Neuberg line. Düsseldorf suffered badly during the Thirty Years’ War (1618–48) and during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14) but was restored by elector palatine Johann Willhelm II. Briefly under Napoleonic rule at the start of the nineteenth century, the town became part of Prussia in 1815.
A large portion of the city was reduced to ruins by some 200 air raids between 1942 and 1945. After the war many of the city’s older buildings were restored.
As a banking centre and home of the German fashion industry, Düsseldorf is one of Germany’s most prosperous cities. It owes its historical prominence to the large Ruhr bituminous coalfield which allowed the area to develop as the centre of the most important industrial, mining and energy-generating area of Germany. Lohhausen Airport is 8 km north of the city. The main railway station is Hauptbahnhof and trains, trams, buses and U-Bahn all run within the city.
Places of Interest
Among Düsseldorf’s finest galleries is the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, which houses a display of twentieth century artists including Picasso, Matisse, Klee and Braque. Nearby is the Hochschule für bildende Künste (Academy of Art), housing several galleries. The building was designed by Hermann Riffart after the example of Italian renaissance buildings.
The Kunstmuseum includes a fine collection of Art Nouveau and Art Deco glass as well as Rubens’ altarpiece of The Assumption and Venus and Adonis. The Schloß Jägerhof, which houses the Goethe Museum, was completed in 1772 as a residence for the local gamekeeper. It has been much renovated over the years after bombings and burnings.
The city is home to the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, which can house over 1,300 people. Also famous is the futuristic looking Düsseldorf Schauspielhaus theatre, built between 1968 and 1970 and nicknamed ‘the cheese-box’.