Located to the south of Düsseldorf’s city centre, next to the river Rhine, Unterbilk is an up-and-coming area. Over the past few decades, the neighbourhood has seen rapid evolution. Once home to factory workers, it became a student hub in the 1990s and is now a fashionable area popular with young families.
Take a walk
The newly developed Medienhafen harbour area on the edge of Unterbilk is a great place to start exploring the neighbourhood. A walk along the Rheinuferpromenade – Rhine Promenade – allows you to take in the ultra-modern buildings and stunning riverfront vistas. The Medienhafen also offers plenty of opportunities for eating out, from the Michelin-starred Berens am Kai restaurant to more casual burger joints. For commanding views over the Rhine, head to Pebble’s Terrace at the Hyatt Regency Düsseldorf hotel, which serves grilled food and refreshing drinks throughout the summer months.
As you move away from the riverfront, the scenery starts to change. Buildings designed by renowned contemporary architects are replaced with an older residential setting. Through the centre of it all runs Lorettostrasse, a tree-lined avenue that gives a taste of the wide variety of boutiques and cosy eateries you can find in the area. Locals rave about the sesame gelato from Gelateria, an ice-cream parlour that was around long before Unterbilk became fashionable. Uwe van Afferden is a menswear shop with a focus on retro style, stocking labels from Nudie Jeans to Schott, while Modlord caters to those with a taste for British fashion.
Also on Lorettostrasse is Bittersüss & Edelweiss, a must-visit for chocolate lovers. Opened by chocolatier Kathrin Lohaus in September 2015, the store sells artisanal chocolates, handmade with high-quality ingredients. Lohaus is quick to highlight what makes the neighbourhood stand out. ‘Unterbilk has changed a lot over the past few years. Its independent retailers are a beacon of individuality, shops which one can’t necessarily find in the city centre any more,’ she explains.
A short walk through the neighbourhood is all it takes to see that Unterbilk is indeed a haven for small, local businesses and that Bittersüss & Edelweiss isn’t the only one showing an independent spirit. Wander just a little way from Lorettostrasse and you’ll find Wandel Antik, crammed to the brim with antique treasures. Less than five minutes’ walk away, Hab & Gut will satisfy the needs of those with a penchant for interior décor, offering ceramics, candles, stationery and homewares.
Old meets new
The history of Unterbilk is still visible today, although the warehouses and factories, once a hive of industrial activity, no longer serve their original purpose. Instead, they’ve been transformed into exciting new retail spaces such as Taste Greece. Here, founders Nadia Challah and Giorgos Pachiadakis personally source quality foods from Greek producers. The finest olive oils, wild capers from the Cyclades, Greek mountain teas and aromatic wild fig jam are just some of the delectable products on offer. The team’s main focus is on wholesale, but the shop also opens to the public twice a week and occasionally hosts events.
Challah and Pachiadakis know Unterbilk inside out, having been residents for over 20 years. They’ve seen the area become the buzzing place it is today and know exactly what their clients are looking for. ‘Our warehouse is very nice and the layout is authentic and full of love. Many people have had enough of over-stylised shops; they prefer something simple, authentic and cosy,’ they explain. ‘Here at Taste Greece, you get the feeling you’re among friends.’
Passion for fashion
A few doors down is ELA Selected Clothing, a mainstay of Düsseldorf fashion. Founded by Gabriela Holscher-Di Marco in 1977, it’s a concept store with a rich history – famous bands such as Kraftwerk and Die Toten Hosen have all sourced outfits here. The store moved to Unterbilk in 2011, where Holscher-Di Marco found ‘the ideal place for her vision’ in the Liesegang-Fabrik, a former factory that she chose for ‘its close proximity to the many artists, designers, creatives working in the area, as well as the cafés, restaurants, galleries and boutiques.’ Inside the sleek white warehouse space, customers will find collections by independent designers as well as established labels, from ultra-cool Danish label Henrik Vibskov to Holscher-Di Marco’s own line.
Away from the mainstream atmosphere of the city centre, Unterbilk is a thriving neighbourhood. Its status as a fashionable area may be recently acquired, but businesses have been quietly congregating here for years and the area is filled with things to discover. It’s hardly surprising that, according to Nadia Challah, ‘It’s not just local residents that go out and shop in the district; people from all over the city now come to Unterbilk.’ A trip to Düsseldorf isn’t complete without a visit to this vibrant area.