We’re less than 95 days away from the Tour de France Grand Départ in Düsseldorf, so I think it’s about time to start the planning your trip, don’t you think?
Perhaps I’m a little bias because I live in Düsseldorf, but I have no doubt that this year is going to be one of the best years yet… and it’s my goal to prove it to you.
While a typical weekend in Düsseldorf is jam-packed with things to do, places to visit and people to see, the weekend the Tour de France comes to town will be a weekend you can’t miss. It’s more than just cycling. It’s an opportunity to explore a new city, embrace the German culture and be part of sports history in the making.
So, let’s get you ready for the Grand Départ in Düsseldorf, shall we?
Thursday, June 29th: The Grand Dèpart
On Thursday, June 29th, the Grand Départ will kick off with an opening ceremony in the Düsseldorf Altstadt (old town). In the late afternoon, the 198 cyclists will begin the first stage of the Tour de France along the Rhine River. There will be tons of entertainment, food, and drink scattered throughout the old town and along the banks of the Rhine River.
What does that mean? You’ll have the opportunity to combine a tour of the old town and an evening drink along the Rhine all during the kick-off of the Grand Départ in Düsseldorf.
(I’m going to obnoxiously point out that I’m standing next to Christian Prudhomme, Director of the Tour de France.)
Here are some things to add to your weekend bucket list:
- Go on an Altbier Safari and embrace 5 delicious traditionally brewed Düsseldorf beers around the old town
- Visit the Kunst im Tunnel (Art in Tunnel) exhibition along the Rhine Promenade, grab a glass of wine and watch the sunset
- Check out Café Velo, a pop-up café located on the Marktstraße of the old town created to celebrate the Tour de France Grand Départ in Düsseldorf
Friday, June 30th: Schloss Benrath & The Festival of Lights
The official reception of the Grand Départ will be taking place at the Benrath Castle (a large pink castle overlooking a beautifully landscaped garden) on the evening of Friday, June 30th. The Lichterfest (festival of lights) be taking place on the castle grounds as well with a grand finalé of fireworks to end the evening. So while there will be lots of time to explore the city of Düsseldorf during the day, you’ll want to make sure you make way to the castle during the evening.
The best ways to see the city of Düsseldorf is by transit or bike. So, you can either grab a Düsseldorf Card at one of the Tourist Information points, or you can rent a bike and explore the city in the fresh air.
If you’re looking for a few tips on places to see and restaurants to visit along the way, check out a few of these tips:
- Visit some of the beautiful gardens around Düsseldorf like the Botanical Gardens, the Japanese Gardens, Nordpark and the Hofgarten
- Go on a guided tour of the newly built subway system (Wehrhahnlinie) filled with the wildest of architectural designs
- Visit the Schlossturm or the Rheinturm for cake, coffee, and an aerial view of the city (both located along the Rhein Promenade)
Saturday, July 1st: The Games Begin
Saturday, July 1st will be the official start of the Tour de France. The 198 cyclists will start at the Düsseldorf Trade Fair and continue along the Rhine River Bank towards the Old Town. It will be a 14-kilometer stretch during the first stage of the Tour de France.
You’re here to experience the Tour de France, so there’s no chance you’re leaving the city for some more explorations. However, why not just explore and experience the Tour de France all in one place?
There are numerous landmarks and hot spots along the first stage of the Tour de France, here are a few you might want to check out:
- Walk along the Königsallee and window shop (or shop… if you have that kind of money) along the luxury shopping street of Düsseldorf
- Cross the bridge to the Oberkassel district for a cup of coffee and a closer view at the grass-grazing sheep along the Rhine (but seriously)
- Spend some time relaxing with the locals, having a BBQ and drinking beer at the Rheinpark
Throughout the entire day, the city streets will be filled with outdoor parties, live broadcasts, and live music. The dilemma you’ll face is figuring out how to fit it all in, in one day.
Germany’s famous “KRAFTWERK” will be hosting an open air concert at the Ehrenhof gardens the Saturday evening. While the tickets have been sold out for ages, you can enjoy the music from a distance or try and find a live broadcast at a bar.
Sunday, July 2nd: Stage 2, the Media Harbour & Beyond
The second stage of the Tour de France will begin at 12:00 pm on Sunday afternoon from Burgplatz (the center of the Old Town). The cyclist’s journey will take them through the outskirts of Düsseldorf and beyond, so this is a great opportunity to get outside of the Old Town and explore a little bit beyond.
At each one of the suggested visits below, you will be able to find a spot to watch the cyclists passing by:
- Visit the Düsseldorf Media Harbour and learn all about the amazing architecture of the buildings (including the City Gate and the Frank O’ Gehry buildings)
- Go on a hike through the Grafenberg Forests and visit the Grafenberg race tracks
- Take the train to Neandertal for a nature escape and check out the awesome Neandertal Museum
If you decide to stay in the Old Town, there will be tons of live broadcasts and LED video walls to watch the race including the following locations: Rheinpark, Burgplatz, Landtag and the Untere Rheinwerft.
(Oh hey, look! There’s me with the Mayor of Düsseldorf… no big deal!)
If you’re still looking for more to do, you can head over to Life in Düsseldorf for hundreds of more tips to exploring the city. If you’re just looking for an easy click, here is my 5 Day Guide to Exploring Düsseldorf. More importantly, have an amazing time celebrating the Grand Départ in Düsseldorf!