Our column this week features a question submitted by a reader via Twitter:
Planning Dusseldorf to Amsterdam for 2 days/1 night. Any ideas on the itinerary?
Düsseldorf and Amsterdam are both wonderful cosmopolitan cities with so much to offer! When I have limited time in a destination, I like to combine a cultural institution of some sort, with plenty of strolling to get a feel for the city.
Get an early start on your first day in Düsseldorf and if you're interested in modern art, the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen (Art Collection of North Rhine-Westphalia) is excellent. It has several different spaces—one with important 20th century artworks by artists including Picasso, Klee, and Richter; one with edgier artworks since about 1980; and the Schmela Haus, which is used for experimental art. After the museum, head over to the the Alstadt, or Old Town, for lunch. It's a small area (1/2-square-mile) that's jam-packed with cafes and restaurants.
In the afternoon, you can stroll along Königsallee (locals call it the Kö), Düsseldorf's main shopping avenue. The wide and elegant boulevard is lined with designer boutiques and chestnut trees. From there, you can explore the lovely Hofgarten Park and, if you're in the mood for more museums, check out Schloss Jägerhof, home to the Goethe-Museum, on the eastern edge of the park.
I'd suggest having dinner and staying overnight in Düsseldorf, then heading to Amsterdam early the next morning, arriving late morning. The Hotel Orangerie, right near Düsseldorf's Altstadt area, is convenient and budget friendly, and a great location if you're looking for nightlife since the Alstadt gets lively in the evenings.
If you opt instead to transfer to Amsterdam in the late afternoon or evening of your first day, make sure to book one of the fast trains so you don't get in to Amsterdam late at night. Amsterdam's Hotel Fita is popular, reasonably priced, and conveniently located. It's comfortable without being overly designy.
Whether you wake up in Amsterdam on your second day or arrive in the city via train that morning, head out for a stroll along the city's iconic canals—or join the locals on two wheels and rent a bike. Once you've worked up an appetite, try one of the rijsttafel (literally translated as “rice table”) restaurants for lunch, where you're served a variety of “small plate” Indonesian dishes, most of which are eaten with rice, hence the name. Blauw is a bit off the beaten path, but is said to be one of the best rijsttafel in town.
There are plenty of museums to occupy an afternoon in Amsterdam. The Anne Frank House, where Anne and her family hid for two years from the Nazis, is one of the city's must-sees, but the Rijksmuseum, which reopened in 2013 after 12 years of renovations, is one of the country's greatest art museums. Its vast holdings include world-famous masterpieces from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. For something totally different, the original Heineken brewery has been turned into the popular interactive Heineken Experience, which includes samples.—Caroline Trefler, Senior Editor, Cities and Culture (Follow her on Twitter: @CTrefler)