It always seems to be the case that proximity breeds rivalry. This is definitely true in the sporting world, with cities often divided by the support for one team or another and one-team towns going head to head with another town just down the road. And it’s the same along the banks of the Rhine in Germany’s North-Rhine Westphalia. The cities of Dusseldorf and Cologne are two of the biggest in the country, are situated just a 30-minute train ride from each other and are both excellent destinations for a European city break. However, residents of each will always claim their hometown is far better than their Rhine rival.
This blog post doesn’t ask you to pick between these two German giants, as they are both worth visiting in their own right. Instead, it’s more of a look at their differences and what you can expect from a trip to both.
Altbier vs Kölsch
Whilst both cities developed in very difference ways, the main difference that gets discussed between residents of Dusseldorf and Cologne is the quaff-ability of their respective beers. Cologne’s tipple is ingrained into the three ‘k’s that the city lives by. Along with Karnival and Kölnisch Wasser (eau de Cologne), Kölsch is at the heart of everything good that happens here. The light-coloured beer is served in glasses that have lovingly been dubbed ‘test tubes’ and always comes in a measure of 0.2 litres.
Further down the Rhine, the people of Dusseldorf are busy singing the praises of their altbier, so called because it is brewed using old, traditional methods. The fact that it is top-fermented gives the beverage its dark colour and full flavour. If you don’t know which you would prefer, there’s plenty of fun to be had in finding out.
Fortuna vs FC
These two terms refer to the football team of each city - Fortuna Dusseldorf and FC Köln. Other nicknames for the two sides are Flingeraner, which refers to the humble roots of Dusseldorf’s team, and The Billy Goats, a name derived from the mascot for FC Köln. Both teams play in red and white (albeit with the predominant colours reversed) but have enjoyed contrasting fortunes in recent years.
Fortuna find themselves struggling in the second tier or German football whilst FC Köln are currently plying their trade in the country’s top division. Nevertheless, fans turn out in their thousands every week to cheer on their home team.
Modern vs Old Town
Both destinations have a mixture of historic and modern buildings, but it’s safe to say that Cologne excels in the former whilst Dusseldorf has some interesting examples of the latter. The impending Gothic cathedral, Germany’s most visited landmark, is Cologne’s architectural highlight but there are many other churches, houses and monuments which offer a look into the city’s past – especially in the charming Old Town.
Dusseldorf, on the other hand, prides itself on the modern design of some of its most impressive buildings. The Kö-Bogen, found at one end of the Königsallee, along with the Gehry Buildings and the Colorium put the city at the forefront of modern architecture and are great additions to the skyline.
High-end vs Easy-going
The aforementioned Königsallee (King’s Avenue) is the one of the richest streets in Europe and is a heaven for anyone who likes to relax with a bit of retail therapy. Stores such as Chanel, Gucci, Tiffany & Co and Louis Vuitton can all be found along a 1km stretch of road that is made all the more picturesque by the canal running adjacent and the park at the end. This famous street, and the fact that Dusseldorf is an international business hub for companies all over the globe, results in the city having a high-end and commercial vibe.
Conversely, Cologne can be described as being more laid-back and is home to an abundance of art and culture. There are museums dedicated to a variety of different things – from the Romans to chocolate – and a wide range of indoor and open-air festivals bring the city to life every summer. The city’s sense of humour is highlighted during carnival season when everyone dresses as clowns and floats parade down the street throwing sweets at passers-by.
As you can see, these two Rhine rivals definitely have their differences but they are united under the umbrella of welcoming destinations to visit. If you would like to enjoy a Dusseldorf or Cologne city break (or see both places in one trip), contact us today.