Cologne vs Dusseldorf: Which city is better to live in?


Updated on Apr 06 • 4 minute read

A battle of rivals has played out between the two metropolises on the Rhine: be it Cologne vs Dusseldorf in football, carnival, politics, or most importantly: beer. With a distance separating them of a mere 40 kilometres, people often commute from one city to the other as the decision can be tough; whereas Dusseldorf dazzles with its career prospects, the locals in Cologne charm their peers with their unique and open-minded spirit.

Cologne vs. Dusseldorf, which city matches me better? Ultimately, the answer hinges on your personality and your hopes for your stay in Germany.

Luckily, we've taken a detailed picture of both places for you.

Cologne vs Düsseldorf: What is the battle all about?

Kölsch or Alt? 1st FC Cologne or Fortuna? Alaaf or Helau? Cologne and Dusseldorf face off when it comes to business, football or beer, and it's felt that way for ages.

Cologne is considered a cosy cathedral city that captivates its visitors with its charm, while Düsseldorf is the noble Rhine metropolis, a real hotspot for business. But where does the never-ending competition come from?

Most people presumably no longer even know themselves. Legend has it that the "Battle of Worringen" in 1288 laid the foundation for the rivalry on the Rhine. In the 19th century, the rivalry is said to have really got rolling:

Cologne began to use its position as a port city to control trade across the Rhine

and secure a good standing in the trade chain. Dusseldorf followed suit and since then they have been copying the other city and striving to outdo the other city at all times.

Nowadays, of course, the rivalry is just a nice backdrop to break the ice or tease each other. Particularly at the carnival or in sport, both like to take the mickey out of each other for the fun.

Dusseldorf versus Cologne: Why life is better in Dusseldorf

A melting pot for finance and business, the go-to place for the fashion world: Düsseldorf offers its upscale society select art spaces away from the pseudo-skyscrapers, feasting in fine dining restaurants with Michelin stars and shopping on the with a Champs-Élysées flair.

Internationals from Asia in particular quickly feel at home in Düsseldorf. But what does Düsseldorf have that Cologne doesn't?

Economic engine of North Rhine-Westphalia

First and foremost, Düsseldorf is a business metropolis, the engine of the German economy in a sense. And so many international companies have also settled in Düsseldorf, boasting a range of career opportunities for internationals (without German language skills).

International flair

Düsseldorf has one thing clearly ahead of Cologne: Düsseldorf has far more high-quality Japanese restaurants. And this is mainly due to the good relationship Düsseldorf has with the Asian region, and Japan in particular. Such a good relationship, in fact, that once a year there is a Japan Day in Düsseldorf.

To be honest, you can live in Düsseldorf for years without having to speak a word of German. With its cultural diversity, many expat groups have also formed - a haven for any international.

Shopping galore

Where there is a lot of wealth, there is also a lot of spending. Düsseldorfers tend to belong to the upper social class, richer than the people of Cologne. And Düsseldorf is where the real shopaholics live, where many business people come and where high-end fashion is conceived. The in Düsseldorf is the little sister of the Champs-Élysées, a place to stroll.

High standard of living with a village feeling

Düsseldorf offers its residents a high standard of living, is super structured and clean. And even though it is the seventh-largest city in Germany, as a local you have quickly discovered all corners of the city, contrary to Cologne.

Compact and cosy pubs

When it comes to nightlife, Düsseldorf can't compete. And yet Düsseldorf has the longest bar in the world in the old town, where plenty of good bars and pubs are to be found. In contrast to Cologne, however, the pub culture is much smaller and more compact.

Cologne vs Dusseldorf: Why life is nicer in Cologne

With just over one million inhabitants, Cologne makes up a much bigger metropolis than Düsseldorf, which is just about half of Cologne's size. Ask someone to describe Cologne in three words and they'll tell you: carnival, media, easygoing.

A real media landscape

While Düsseldorf has secured the title of "writing desk of North Rhine-Westphalia", Cologne is home to the creative minds of the media landscape. In fact,

almost a third of all German television media is produced in the Cologne area.

The "C" in Cologne stands for culture

In Cologne, you can always broaden your cultural horizons: be it in one of the 40 museums (how about the Museum Ludwig?), one of the numerous open-air festivals and concerts in the huge Lanxess Arena or the vibrant theatre scene. The people of Cologne are truly hip and culturally minded.

There's always plenty to do in Cologne

The media metropolis on the Rhine is above all young and hip. With its carefree vibe in Ehrenfeld, the Old Town, Rudolfplatz or Zülpicher Straße, you'll find the people of Cologne sitting comfortably in their cafés and dancing at night at one of the many electro parties. This is probably not the least due to the large number of students who flock to Cologne.

Carnival all year round

Colognians call carnival their fifth season and somehow carnival continues to take over in Cologne all year round. After all, in Cologne, they take being funny seriously. There are two events in Cologne that are much bigger than in Düsseldorf: Carnival and CSD.

It hardly gets any greener

The people of Düsseldorf are always said to have a green city. Yet Cologne has far more parks and green spaces than Düsseldorf: while Düsseldorf has pretty much the only green space with its Rhine Park, Cologne features the Aachener Weiher, Volksgarten, Vorgebirgspark, Grüngürtel and much more.

Dusseldorf to Cologne by train: a stone's throw away

In just under 30 minutes, public transport will take you from Dusseldorf's main railway station to Cologne's main railway station, and vice versa.

So it's easy to get from Dusseldorf to Cologne by train, and you'll see that commuting between the two cities is anything but time-consuming - and neither is it nerve-wracking. Both Cologne and Düsseldorf have superb connections, so you can get anywhere in the Ruhr region from Düsseldorf to Dortmund, Duisburg or Wuppertal in 90 minutes at the latest.

Honestly, it's not easy to decide which gem on the Rhine to live in. And perhaps you won't even have to: the other city is really only a stone's throw away! (P.S. But when it comes to the carnival, you do have to pick sides. Whether you shout Helau or Alaaf clearly positions you as a Cologne or Düsseldorf resident).

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