The German Rhine Region: Bonn, Cologne, Dusseldorf, and Japanese Food

The German Rhine Region: Bonn, Cologne, Dusseldorf, and Japanese Food

Note that my trips are paid for by me, myself, and I, so the opinions are my own and I'm not being sponsored by anyone. Also, most people in the major cities of Germany, especially young people, speak English.

For years a long time friend of mine, who´s German, has been telling me that Dusseldorf has great...wait for it...Japanese food. She has traveled several times to Japan, so I trusted her judgment. We decided to meet in Dusseldorf to eat Japanese food this summer when I had time off from work. I saw that Cologne and Bonn are close, so I decided to add those two cities to my culinary excursion.

First Stop: Bonn

I flew into Dusseldorf airport, because it had the cheapest roundtrip flights from Spain of the three cities. In typical European fashion, it is super easy to get between cities via train. I booked the train via the Trainline app from Dusseldorf Flughafen (airport) to Bonn Hauptbahnhof (central train station). The journey is about 1 hour and 20 minutes. I could have booked through Deutsche Bahn, which is the official website for booking trains in Germany, but it acts weird when I turn on the automatic translate feature. Tickets will list the platform number where you will catch your train, but always check the screens at the station. Sometimes platforms change at the last minute.

Bonn is a small city, so two to four days should be enough. I stayed for three days and was able to see everything that I wanted. If you are in Bonn, I highly recommend the following:

Note that all, except for Beethoven House, have free entry, and all have apps that you can download with audio guides in English. The House of the History of the Federal Republic of Germany has many exhibits from 1945 to present. If you are a history buff, you can easily spend hours there. 

In terms of food, I had one spectacular meal in Bonn at The Protea, which is a restaurant specializing in South African cuisine. The food and service were impeccable. 10 out of 10, highly recommend. 

Second Stop: Cologne

There are direct trains from Bonn that run every 30 minutes, and it takes 19 minutes to get to Cologne Central Station. I really liked Cologne! It has a nice and relaxed vibe. It is also very diverse. I had dinner at restaurants that specialized in Thai, Central Asian, and Croatian cuisine.

There are many sites to see in Cologne. Here are the ones I recommend:

  • Cologne Cathedral and the Three Kings Shrine (houses relics of the Three Wise Men).
  • Roman Ruins: There are Roman ruins peppered throughout the city. The Ubii Monument is only open the first Thursday of the month (2pm to 5pm), but there are Roman ruins near the Cathedral and in an underground parking garage next to the Cathedral. I heard that The Roman-Germanic Museum is nice, but it's been closed for a while.
  • Church of St. Ursula: €2 cash to see the room with human bones on the wall.
  • El-De House: Former Cologne HQ to the Gestapo. The ticket is €4.50 and the audio guide is €2. Cash only. The written descriptions are all in German, so the audio guide is necessary, but to listen to everything takes a long time. Expect to spend at least a few hours.
  • Chocolate Museum: It is recommended to get tickets online to avoid the long line at the ticket counter.
  • Farina House: The place where cologne was invented. It is recommended to get tickets online, because they sell out the day of.
  • DITIB Center: Mosque with cool architecture (I love religious architecture). To enter the prayer area, men must wear long pants and cover shoulders (no tank tops), women must cover legs, arms, and hair. Security loaned me a headscarf. I hadn't packed one, because I didn't know that Cologne had a cool Mosque. There are also cafes that sell Turkish tea, coffee, and confections. 

In terms of food, the standouts were Silk Road and Lint No. 7. Silk Road has amazing Central Asian food with cool wall decor. Lint No. 7 is a quaint cafe serving brunch items at a reasonable price. I went there twice.

Third Stop: Dusseldorf

There are many trains from Cologne to Dusseldorf, which takes about 25-45 minutes depending on the number of stops. The main purpose of this trip was to eat Japanese food in Dusseldorf with my friend. When I told my German friends living in Spain that I was going to Dusseldorf for Japanese food, they looked perplexed. Who would've thought that the third largest European Japanese community, after London and Paris, is in Dusseldorf. 

Okonomiyaki at Yaki-The-Emon restaurant 焼左衛門, which is a savory pancake common in Osaka

Unagi (eel) Week at Kushi Tei of Tokyo

Restaurants that we patronized:

My friend and I stayed at the Me And All Hotel, which is located in the heart of Little Tokyo and is an eight minute walk from the central train station. It even had a cool rooftop lounge decorated with Japanese-themed throw pillows and curtains. There is a large Asian market next door where I bought Japanese Kit Kats and gummies.

Rooftop lounge at Me and All Hotel

In the mid 1950s, Japanese companies began settling in Dusseldorf. Businessmen from Tokyo wanted to buy machinery and metal ore to ship to Japan as they rebuilt their country after WWII. Currently, there are about 8,400 Japanese nationals and 410 Japanese companies in Dusseldorf. ANA even has direct flights from Japan to Dusseldorf. Every year, Dusseldorf hosts the annual Japan Day Festival. If you don't want to take a 12+ hour flight to Japan, the next best thing is to visit Dusseldorf. 

We didn't do much sightseeing, but we did stroll through the shopping district (Dusseldorf is the fashion capital of Germany) and Rhine River promenade. I recommend going to the top floor of the Maritime Museum to have a drink and have wonderful views of the river.

The cheapest and easiest way to get to and from the airport is to take the S bahn S11 train from central station, which leaves every 20 minutes. You can go to the green machine at the train station and select the A3 Einzel ticket, which is €3.10.

I was in Bonn, Dusseldorf, and Cologne for nine days and that was plenty of time to see all of the sites on my list. I also took a one day business trip to Hattenheim and Rüdesheim am Rhein, which have some great wineries. There was a huge delay getting back to the big city from Hattenheim, because a WWII bomb was discovered near the train tracks and they had to reroute people via bus. Apparently, you are not a real German until you've been evacuated from workplace, home, or transport because of a bomb.


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