One of the best things about flying into Düsseldorf International Airport (as opposed to Weeze, which is so far away that it's almost in another country) is that it's only a 15 minute, 16 euro taxi journey to the city centre, in one of those distinctive cream Mercedes cars.
After checking in at our hotel we headed out and our mission tonight was to discover the main selling point of Düsseldorf nightlife - the Altstadt, dubbed "the longest bar in the world" in reference to its numerous bars and restaurants.
We entered via Ratinger Strasse, at the beginning of the Altstadt and seemingly this is quite a popular street at weekends with the student set. Very quickly realise that unlike Cologne, Düsseldorf makes little concession to tourism and English-language menus are a rarity. Luckily, for me, faithful travelling companion has a very decent knowledge of German, and I had a dictionary and menu reader so all was well.
However, the other thing that became very apparent over the next few days was that red meat, pork and fish are the big attraction, and there is very little concession to vegetarians (or almost-vegetarians like myself, who only eat chicken). So it was pasta for me tonight at Brauerei Zur Uel (pictured above), the kind of typical German brauhaus which we'd expected from the city, and our first encounter with Alt.
There is only one beer in Düsseldorf, and that is Alt. It's a dark beer, served in small glasses which are just a little bit bigger than the Kolsch glasses from Cologne. Now I'm not a beer drinker, but I found Alt to be more drinkable than I had imagined.
After dinner we headed on down the winding streets as night fell, and it wasn't so long until we were in the most famous street in the Altstadt - Bolker Strasse, which was pretty busy for a Monday night. Yet despite the multitude of bars, the city is almost eerily quiet and peaceful. We explored further and wandered out to the riverside later on. The Rheinturm (a big tower) was illuminated in the darkness. The promenade in Düsseldorf has been developed with walkways, bars and restaurants and you can just imagine it being very lively in the long hot summer nights, but all was quiet on this dark May evening. Weather-wise it was a reasonably calm night, unlike the cold, windy weather we had left behind at home.
Arguably Düsseldorf's most famous bar is Uerige, which brews its own Alt, so we stopped off there before going home. I like the way the "kobes" (waiters) just come over with the beer trays and hand over the beer, marking each one ordered on the beer mat and then they are all added up when it's time to pay the bill.
Düsseldorf also has a U-bahn (underground) system but it had been a long day and I couldn't quite work it out, so we walked back to our hotel. My other immediate impression of Düsseldorf was that it was a very safe city - nothing happened to change my first impression, and never at any time did we feel unsafe.