A journey through time: Six places to explore in Kaiserswerth


A journey through time: Six places to explore in Kaiserswerth

In northern Düsseldorf, you can travel from the Middle Ages to the modern day in a single afternoon.

Timber-framed buildings, a former imperial stronghold and expanses of green space along the Rhine are just some of the attractions of Kaiserswerth. Now a suburb of Düsseldorf, it is actually the oldest settlement in the area. These days the town is home to around 8,000 people who enjoy the best of both worlds – an idyllic village ambiance within a few kilometres of a large, vibrant city. Here, more than a thousand years of history are only a short walk away from trendy restaurants and independent shops. Discover the charms of this very special place, which became an imperial town in the 12th century.

Back to the past

If you would like to explore a bit of history in its original setting, start your tour of Kaiserswerth with an impressive historical monument. The Kaiserpfalz, or imperial palace, is located by the banks of the Rhine. Only ruins now remain of the 12th century building, once an important outpost of German emperor Friedrich Barbarossa. The site had originally been home to a monastery, founded by a monk called Suitbert (more about him in the next section). Today, you can clamber about among the remains of the mighty walls, made from bricks, quarried stones and trachyte blocks, but the roof, windows and doors are all long gone. The buildings were severely damaged during a period of French occupation in 1702. The Kaiserpfalz has undergone several restorations, most recently between 1998 and 2002. The site is now open to the public and draws visitors from all over Germany. To make sure you don’t miss anything on your tour of Kaiserswerth, follow the numbered blue signs as you’re walking through history.

The olden days, take two

The star on the roof of Kaiserswerth’s St Suitbertus basilica can be seen from far and wide. The former abbey church is located on Stiftsplatz square, a historical setting with eleven lime trees that represent the four points of the compass and the seven sacraments. Saint Suitbert founded a monastery that was the origin of the town of Kaiserswerth, which eventually became part of Düsseldorf in 1929. The basilica’s most treasured possession is a golden reliquary shrine from the 13th century that contains the bones of the saint. Suitbert was an eight century missionary from England who had been sent to convert the Germans to Christianity. In the wall of the churchyard that faces the Rhine you can find other gravestones, some dating back to 1837. The church itself has always been popular with musicians and orchestras due to its excellent acoustics. The church organ has more than 2,700 pipes.

Still going strong

Some are painted pink, some have green and blue shutters – the many baroque 17th and 18th century houses around Kaiserwerther Markt are among the area’s most distinctive features. The vast majority of them are very well preserved or restored. Dating from 1635, the old customs house is a particular treat for anyone interested in remarkable buildings. It’s hardly surprising that almost the entire area inside the walls of the old fortress was heritage-listed back in 1988. The protected buildings date from the 16th and 17th centuries. Kaiserswerth fortress had five bastions.  

A nod to modern times

Kaiserswerth may be one of Düsseldorf’s historical highlights, but it is by no means antiquated or out of touch. Far from it, especially in and around the centrally located market area. The Wunderhaus boutique at Kaiserswerther Markt 38 offers all the latest fashion trends, while Deli & Friends serves up classic Italian fare. At the Nordik House at no. 5 you’ll find beautiful household items, and there are of course shops selling all the necessities of daily life. In the summer months, visitors and locals alike can often be found queuing outside the Lido ice cream parlour at no. 14, which has been trading since 1960.

Relax and unwind for a few hours 

In Kaiserswerth, you’re never far from the calming effects of water. You could spend hours walking along the banks of the Rhine. Alternatively, you could strap on your inline skates or get on your bike and cycle to Duisburg. You could even board the ferry and cross over to Meerbusch. But before you do any of those things, why not make the most of the idyllic peace under the crowns of ancient oaks and beech trees at Galerie Burghof? This neoclassical building, dating from 1872, is a great place to enjoy a cool, refreshing glass of Schlüssel Alt. From your table in the beer garden you’ll be able to watch passing ships on the Rhine and admire the remains of the Kaiserpfalz palace.

A fitting conclusion 

Even if Kaiserswerth hasn’t been on your bucket list up to now, you may well have heard of the Im Schiffchen restaurant (Kaiserswerther Markt 9). This is the ideal place to round off your visit. In the evening, the antique ship’s lanterns at the front of the beautiful brick building from 1733 will light your way. Located at one end of the main shopping street, the restaurant is famous for its superb French cuisine. Unsurprisingly, the menu reads like a love letter to haute cuisine, with superlative compositions consisting of outstanding ingredients. As part of your fine dining experience you might end up tasting lightly smoked sturgeon foam with wasabi cream, small Breton lobster and grand cru chocolate. Or you could dine à la carte, with options that include gilt-head bream in salt dough, with octopus, shellfish and lemons from the Amalfi Coast. Simply settle into your plush chair or bench, close your eyes and let the different aromas work their magic. We wish you bon appétit! 

Title image: Düsseldorf Tourism

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