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Lovers Leap State Park for Outdoor Lovers

Red bridge at Lovers Leap in Connecticut, USA

Recognized as a state park in 2002, Lovers Leap features 160 acres of historic ruins, hiking trails, and some of the most incredible scenery in the state. Located in western Connecticut, this walk-in park is open throughout the year, and is absolutely perfect for those who love spending time in the great outdoors.

The Legend of Lovers Leap
Many who visit Lovers Leap State Park wonder about how the park acquired its name, and this is all down to the story of a local Native American leader, and her English lover, who left her but intended to return one day. In despair about his absence, the woman threw herself, and her birch canoe, into the Housatonic River, just as her lover was returning to her. Even though he dived in to try and save her, legend has it that neither of them ended up surviving.

Hiking Trails
One of the highlights of Lovers Leap State Park is the hiking trails that criss-cross their way around the grounds. The Lovers Leap Trail is the main one, and is also the most popular, as this trail only stretches out for less than two miles, making it quite the leisurely walk, especially when rewarded with stunning views of Lake Lillinonah and the surrounding hillside areas. The Blue Trail is also worth checking out, as this takes you up to the highest point within the park. This is also the trail to take if you want to view some of the park’s historic features, such as the ruins of a castle.

Fishing
While Lovers Leap State Park is not known for being a thriving fishing spot, there is a great place to head to if you want a quiet afternoon by the water. Simply make your way to the old railroad bridge, which can be found between the Still and Housatonic Rivers, as this is a wonderfully serene spot that is often visited by several different species of fish, especially during the summer months.

Swimming and Canoeing
Being home to a large lake, a gorge, rivers, and several streams, Lovers Leap State Park is a great place to visit for some swimming or canoeing. While you will have to bring your own canoe or kayak, the boat launch at the end of Lovers Leap Road is the perfect place to access the water. This area also features a peaceful cove, the innermost part of which can easily be explored by boat. However, be aware that there are families of beavers that live here, and they may try to chase you away by using their tails to slap water into your boat. As you continue to carry onwards in your boat, you will come across many of the park’s historical features, some of which are best viewed from the perspective of the water. From the orange steel Falls Bridge, which was originally built in 1895, to the stone remains of an old paint factory, you will be able to experience some of the many ways in which the area was used over the years.

Lovers Leap State Park boasts some of the best scenic vistas that you will find anywhere in Connecticut, making it definitely worth the visit. While it may be a bit of a drive to access the park, the serenity and tranquillity that you will find here will make up for it, as will the awe-inspiring sense of history that you will feel as you explore the park.

Man picking grapes to make wine

Located in Guilford, Connecticut, Bishop’s Orchards is a family-owned and run farm that was first started in 1871. Today, the farm features a market, a winery, a CSA program, and so much more, making this a great spot to bag yourself some fresh wine and produce.

The Farm Market
The Farm Market is open throughout the day, and features an incredible range of fresh produce, all of which has come straight from the farm. From speciality vegetables and herbs to meat and dairy to dry foods, you will no doubt be able to find everything that you need here. The on-site bakery is also a must-visit, as they prepare fresh pies, breads, muffins and cookies on a daily basis. For those who want something more to eat, check out the Kitchen Department within the market, as there is a delicious array of prepared foods for sale here, with everything from 38 different soups to stuffed breads, sandwiches and side dishes. Many of these dishes change seasonally, so that the kitchen can make full use of the farm’s freshest produce.

The Winery
Bishop’s Orchards Winery, which first launched in 2005, has earned itself quite the reputation over the years, thanks to their diverse collection of award-winning ciders and wines. Their fruit wines are definitely a highlight, as these really accentuate the flavors of the seasonal annual fruits that are grown on the farm, with everything from strawberries and pears to blueberries and peaches. In addition to the dry, semi-dry and semi-sweet wine varieties that are produced by the farm, you will also find a tasty selection of hard ciders, which have collected over 318 medals to date. For those who would like to purchase a Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Sauvignon, or anything else, the farm’s winery also stocks a great selection of white, rose and red wines from other local wineries.

Woman picking raspberries in basket

Pick Your Own
In this day and age of one-stop grocery stores, many people often find themselves completely removed from understanding exactly where their food comes from, and this is something that Bishop’s Orchards are trying to change. Their Pick Your Own season takes place during the spring and summer months, and gives you the opportunity to pick your own fruit and vegetables directly from the plants and trees. While you are now too late in the season to pick strawberries, there is still plenty else to choose from, including raspberries, blueberries, apples, pears and pumpkins. For those who would like to enjoy the benefits of fresh produce without picking it themselves, you can always sign up to the farm’s CSA program, which requires you to purchase a “share” of the upcoming harvest, after which you will receive a tub of produce every week to enjoy.

While Guilford has quite a strong agricultural heritage, Bishop’s Orchards is one of the last few remaining commercial farms in the area. By adapting to changing market conditions, and being continuously innovative, this is a farm that has experienced success after success, and looks set to continue to do so for years to come.

Gillette Castle State Park in Connecticut, USA

Located in the towns of Lyme and East Haddam, the Gillette Castle State Park is perfect for a summertime day trip, as these are the months when both the castle and the park can be explored. Sprawled out across an area of 122 acres, the park consists of a number of unusual and unique features, guaranteeing a fascinating day out.

A Brief History of the Park
Gillette Castle was originally known as Seventh Sister, and was built in 1919 by William Gillette, who was famous for playing Sherlock Holmes in Buffalo. After he died and left behind no heirs, the State of Connecticut took over the park and renamed it the Gillette Castle State Park, before it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. While the park used to feature a railroad and steam train, this has now been removed and replaced with walking trails.

Self-Guided Castle Tours
Visitors to Gillette Castle can take a self-guided tour, although there are members of staff located within each room in the castle, so that they can point out some of the rooms’ unusual features. A dungeon-like room is where you enter the castle initially, after which you will then be able to go through to the rest of the house, seeing everything from its heated bed to its carved wood light switches. Another highlight are the doors within the castle, as each 47 of them are uniquely and intricately carved. When Gillette lived here, he had around 17 cats, and this is why you will also see a number of cat toys scattered throughout the castle, each one having been finely and meticulously crafted. The character of Sherlock Holmes was also a significant part of Gillette’s life, which is why you will see many quirky features around the castle, including several that enabled Gillette to play a number of pranks on his guests.

Terrace of Gillette Castle State Park in Connecticut, USA

The Library and Art Collection
The castle’s art collection and library can be found on the third floor, and this was only added to the castle in 1926, for the sole purpose of housing Gillette’s books and art. In addition to the many seascapes and landscapes that you will find on display here, visitors can also check out the original first edition Tarot cards, which were painted by Pamela Colman Smith.

The Castle Grounds
The castle grounds are a joy to explore, and beautifully frame the striking structure of the castle, no matter which perspective you view it from. The three mile long rail track, which has now been converted into a walking trail, is a great place to start, as this circles the entire property, ensuring that you do not miss out on anything. There are also plenty of woodland areas to explore, all of which are home to a wide range of natural diversity.

The Gillette Castle State Park is one of the most popular attractions in Connecticut, attracting around 300,000 visitors each year. While the park itself can be visited throughout the year, the castle is only open to the public from Memorial Day weekend until Columbus Day, so be sure to plan your visit soon.

Botanical Garden of National Museum of Natural Science in Taichung, Taiwan

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Taiwan is home to so many botanical treasures, and one of the best ways to view these is by visiting a few of the country’s botanical gardens. From Taipei to Taichung, here are the spots where you can see some of the highlights of Taiwan’s awe-inspiring natural beauty.

Botanical Garden of National Museum of Natural Science, Taichung
Taichung’s Botanical Garden of NMNS features 4.5 hectares of botanical gardens and welcomes around half a million visitors each and every year. Their gardens have won several different awards, as they are filled with colors and scents throughout the year. With everything from woodlands and walking trails to streams and ponds, this is a garden that showcases nature from all over the country, and even has a tropical rainforest to top it all off. For those who want to learn more about nature and growing plants, the garden offers an educational workshop that will teach you a few gardening techniques.

Taipei Botanical Garden in Taiwan

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Taipei Botanical Garden, Taipei
Located in Taipei’s vibrant Zhongzheng District, the Taipei Botanical Garden is sprawled out across 15 hectares of land, and boasts more than 1500 species of local plants. This is quite a historic botanical garden, and was first officially established in 1921 under Japanese rule, although the garden itself has been around unofficially since the late 1800’s. There are 17 different areas to explore within the garden, each one with a theme that displays a different variety of plants, and there are also nine ponds that each boast their own array of plant life. Also within the botanical garden are two historic buildings that visitors are able to explore. These are the Qing Taiwan Administration Building, which was built in 1888, as well as a herbarium that dates back to 1924, with both buildings displaying traditional architectural designs, making them a fantastic focal point for your photos.

Fushan Botanical Garden in Taiwan

Fushan Botanical Garden, Yilan County/Taipei County
The Fushan Botanical Garden sits on the boundary between Yuanshan Village in Yilan County and Wulai Village in Taipei County and is one of Fushan’s main forest research areas. Spread out across 40.5 hectares, this is the biggest botanical park in Asia, although only 20 hectares are open for the public to explore, as the rest if protected for conservation. There are over 7000 species of plants to be seen here, and these encompass just about every single plant that you would find in Taiwan, making this the most comprehensive collection of local plants in the country. The garden’s Administration Center is home to exhibits that explain some of the garden’s features in more detail and is also where you can book yourself in for a guided educational walk. With mountains, lakes, and lush greenery all blending together, the Fushan Botanical Garden really is one of the country’s finest green havens.

Taiwan boasts such an impressive range of unique natural beauty, with many of its plants not found anywhere else in the world. From the sprawling Fushan Botanical Garden to the intimate Botanical Garden of NMNS in Taichung, these are three of the best places from which to explore Taiwan’s stunning botanical treasures.

Shennong Street in Tainan, Taiwan

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The majority of travellers that visit Taiwan tend to head straight for Taipei, as this is the largest city in the country, as well as being its capital. However, while Taipei may boast a number of different attractions, there are several other, lesser-known, cities around the country that are also definitely worth visiting.

Tainan
Many would consider Tainan to be Taipei’s less-popular sibling, but this city is incredibly underrated, and actually has so much to offer. Packed with vintage cafés and picturesque temples, Tainan is filled with so much culture and heritage. If you are only in the city for a short amount of time, make sure that you visit the Anping District, as this area boasts everything from charming treehouses to historic forts, as well as a vibrant food street where you will be able to try a variety of local delicacies.

An overview of Kaohsiung, Taiwan

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Kaohsiung
Kaohsiung is known for its incredible architecture, such as with the World Games Stadium, which is the only stadium in the world to be powered completely by solar energy. Kaohsiung is also where you will find Taroko Park, an amusement park that features a number of different thrill rides, as well as gentler rides for those who are not seeking an adrenaline rush. There is a massive shopping mall that is a part of the amusement park, making this a great place to indulge in some retail therapy too. If you are in Kaohsiung overnight, the Liu He Night Market and the Ruifeng Night Market are both must-visit spots if you enjoy evenings filled with shopping and dining.

The famous bridge in Taitung, Taiwan

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Taitung
Taitung is located on Taiwan’s east coast, which is where the tectonic plates of the Philippine Sea and the Eurasian Sea meet, meaning that this region boasts an awe-inspiring geological landscape. Siaoyeliou is a sculpture park that is filled with rock formations that have been naturally formed by sea erosion, while Sansiantai Island is a nature reserve that is especially stunning during sunrise and sunset. You will also be able to see the famous eight-arched bridge in Taitung, as well as the Caves of the Eight Immortals, which is where the country’s oldest prehistoric civilization was discovered.

Street in Lukang, Taiwan

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Lukang
Located on the west coast of Taiwan, Lukang is another city that is steeped in history and culture. The Lungshan Temple has to be one of the first places that you visit, as this dates all the way back to the Qing Dynasty, and is not only the largest temple in the city, but also boasts a beautifully exquisite ceiling that does not contain a single nail. After exploring the traditional architecture all over the temple, head on down to Nine Turns Lane, which is a quaint, winding street that was designed to be able to withstand the high winds that frequently batter the city.

Taiwan is one of the ten most visited destinations in Asia, and it is easy to see why. Whether you head to Taitung on the east coast to look at some of the country’s finest geological wonders, or to Lukang on the west coast to soak up some history and culture, the various cities within Taiwan each have so much to offer.

Taipei 101 among the city's landscape

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The architecture that you will find in Taiwan is diverse, with everything from prehistoric stilt housing to postmodern design. For architecture buffs visiting the country, here are a few of the structures that you simply have to see.

Taipei 101
Taipei 101 is a truly iconic part of the city of Taipei’s skyline, and many would consider it to be the most famous building in the entire country. Its main standout feature is its height, as it measures an incredible 509 metres, and was, for six years, the tallest building in the world, until the Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai took over in 2010. While Taipei 101 may boast an exquisite postmodern style of architecture, you can still see plenty of traditional Chinese elements within it, making it beautifully unique to the city.

The World Games Stadium
Built in 2009 for the 8th World Games, the World Games Stadium in Kaohsiung is famous for being the largest solar-powered stadium in the world, and can be run completely by solar power. The roof features more than 8000 solar panels, and, over the course of a year, can produce enough energy for 80% of the power needs of the surrounding buildings. Since the stadium itself does not need so much power throughout the year, the excess power generated is sold off.

Beitou Library in Taiwan

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Beitou Library
Taiwan has been pushing for more green architecture in recent years, and the Beitou Library, which can be found in Taipei, is considered to be one of the greenest buildings in the country. With walls made out of American wood, but reminiscent of colonial Japanese architecture, and large windows that allow the natural light to seep deep into the building, this is a structure that will impress you straight away. The building also boasts a green roof, as well as low-maintenance vegetation, a method to capture rainwater, and a design that keeps the building naturally ventilated in the winter, but cool during the hot summer months.

Sun Moon Lake Visitor Center
Located in Nantou County, the Sun Moon Lake Visitor Center was completed in 2003, with the architect, Norihiko Dan, having won an international design competition for the honor of creating this masterpiece. This structure aims to mimic the relationship between man and nature, and with its gentle curves and ramped roofs, seems to almost be growing out of the landscape that surrounds it. All of the building’s roofs are green and can be walked on, while different parts of the building itself frame the stunning view all around. The reflective pools that surround the building mirror it in an impressive way, and almost seem to form a part of the lake that is just nearby, once again creating a connection with the natural landscape around it.

Taiwan has long since been pushing the boundaries when it comes to architecture, and many of its buildings have several awards behind them. From the sustainably green Beitou Library to the impressively tall Taipei 101, the architecture that you will see in Taiwan will no doubt provide you with so much inspiration.

Seattle Art Museum

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Home to hundreds of different museums and galleries, Seattle is the perfect city for those who are seeking a dose of culture and history. From the Seattle Art Museum to the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, these are three great museums in Seattle that you definitely will not want to miss.

Seattle Art Museum
The most prestigious museum in the Puget Sound, the Seattle Art Museum is located in the heart of the city, and has an eclectically diverse permanent collection. There are thousands of pieces of art to be viewed within this museum, ranging from ancient times to modern day pieces, with art from all over the world, including Native America and the Mediterranean. While the Seattle Art Museum does have three locations, with the other two being the Olympic Sculpture Park and the Seattle Asian Art Museum, its downtown location is where you will find the most comprehensive collection, so this is the one to visit if you are short on time.

Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture focuses on everything from palaeontology to archaeology to history and geology, and, having been founded in 1885, is the oldest museum in Washington state. The collection here is made up of over 16 million objects that trace the story of planet Earth from its earliest days, with their fossil collection often being one of the highlights for many visitors. In addition to their selection of real dinosaur fossils, the museum also boasts the bones of a sabre tooth tiger and the skeleton of a woolly mammoth, both of which are incredibly impressive. There are also plenty of exhibits here on cultural history, while the temporary exhibits ensure that returning visitors will always have something new to see.

Museum of Flight in Seattle, USA

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The Museum of Flight
The largest independent, non-profit, space and air museum in the world, Seattle’s Museum of Flight is a fascinating one. Humans were dreaming of flying for years, until this finally happened by the Wright brothers in 1903. Over the past century, humans have worked on perfecting their flying technique, and have come on leaps and bounds with this. Located at the south end of the Boeing Field, the Museum of Flight has been open since 1965, and is dedicated to celebrating the flying achievements that humans have accomplished. There are over 175 air and spacecrafts to be viewed here, and they span just about every era of human flight. There is even a SR-71A Blackbird reconnaissance plane here, which is famous for being the highest-flying, and fastest, jet ever to be made. Visitors are able to climb into the cockpit of this plane and take a look at all of its high-tech controls.

Whether you are interested in art, culture, history or technology, you can be sure that Seattle has at least a couple of museums that would appeal to you. However, if you only have a short amount of time to spend in the city, these are the three museums that should definitely make it on your itinerary, as they are some of the city’s highlights.

Aerial view of Seattle's Waterfront

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Seattle’s waterfront area is one of the highlights of the Emerald City, as it is full of energy and activity throughout the year. From enjoying some fresh seafood to taking a ride on the Seattle Great Wheel, make sure that you leave yourself enough time to thoroughly explore all that the waterfront area has to offer.

The Seattle Great Wheel
The Seattle Great Wheel is one of the city’s newest additions to the waterfront, and features closed, climate-controlled cars that seat up to six adults each. This is a great way to enjoy a stunning view of the city from above, as you will be able to see everything from downtown Seattle to Elliott Bay to West Seattle, all in under 20 minutes.

Fresh Seafood on the Pier
The Seattle Pier is one of the best places at which to enjoy some fresh seafood, and the view cannot be beaten either. While there are a few fine dining establishments around, some of the best food is to be found at the counter-service eateries that are dotted all around the pier, which serve up delicious classics, such as fried fish and chips, and clam chowder in a sourdough bowl.

Tourists viewing Seattle from a boat tour

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A Boat Tour
While there is plenty to explore along the waterfront on foot, taking a boat tour will provide you with a beautifully unique perspective of the city, while teaching you about its history and culture. There are a number of different tour options to choose from, ranging from hour-long trips to four-hour excursions, all of which offer something quite different.

Olympic Sculpture Park
The Olympic Sculpture Park is sponsored by the Seattle Art Museum, and is free for the public to visit throughout the year. As you would imagine, this nine acre space is filled with a variety of large sculptures and art installations, with the majority of them being quite unique and quirky, making this a great activity for the entire family. From within the park, you will also be able to enjoy spectacular views over other areas of the city, such as the Space Needle to the east and the Olympic Mountains to the west.

Exterior of Seattle Aquarium

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Seattle Aquarium
The Seattle Aquarium can be found at Pier 59, and showcases the sea creatures that live in the Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean. There are several exhibits to see here, and many of these are rotated, meaning that there will be new creatures to see each time you visit. In addition to viewing all of these creatures from afar, the aquarium also contains a tide pool that gives you the opportunity to touch anemones and sea stars, and there are also several other interactive exhibits that give you a hands-on learning experience.

There are so many different things to see and do in Seattle, but the city’s waterfront area has long since been one of its highlights. Not only are there plenty of activities and attractions here, but the overall vibe and atmosphere is filled with so much vitality that you will find yourself not wanting to leave.

The Central Public Library in Seattle, USA

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The flagship library of the Seattle Public Library System, Seattle’s Central Library first opened its doors in 2004. Featuring innovative glass and steel architecture, as well as millions of books and other materials, this is a great spot to visit if you are visiting Seattle for the first time.

Architecture and Design
The architectural design of the Central Library is quite unique, as it consists of several floating platforms that look as though they have been wrapped in a large steel net. However, the innovative design is not just limited to the building’s external facade, as its interior also features a number of interesting details. One of these is the Books Spiral, which twists its way up four stories, over a series of continuous shelves, enabling non-fiction books to be displayed in a way that does not break up their classification system. Other one-of-a-kind features includes the library’s beautifully designed Living Room, as well as its automatic book sorting system.

Self-Guided Library Tours
While it is possible to arrange a guided tour of Central Library, a self-guided tour enables you to control the pace, order and content of your tour, meaning that you can easily tailor it to suit your own personal interests. Cell phone tours are available, which require you to enter numbers into your phone at designated areas, after which you will be able to hear the information about that spot. Alternatively, you can also download the Central Library podcast on to your phone, as this features an audio tour that will lead you through all of the library’s highlights.

Aerial view of the interior of the Central Public Library in Seattle, USA

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Special Events
Central Library regularly hosts special events that are free for the public to attend, and these cover such a wide range of topics. From discussions on how Seattle can increase the amount of public space it has to readings by selected authors, do take a look at their website for the full schedule if you are interested in attending some events.

Public Art
The Central Library has long since tried to cultivate visual arts, and there are several pieces of public art on display within the building. These pieces were designed and created exclusively for the site at which they are in, with the artists having been selected after a nationwide search. From the tactile, carved words in the hardwood floor of the Evelyn W. Foster Learning Center, which were created by internationally recognized conceptual artist Ann Hamilton, to the electronic installation that sits above the reference desk in the Charles Simonyi Mixing Chamber, you will no doubt see fascinating art dotted all over the library as you tour it.

Friends of the Seattle Public Library Shop
Seattle’s Central Public Library is home to a wonderfully innovative gift shop, which can be found on level three. In addition to all of the books that are available to be purchased here, you will also find several custom items that have been designed and produced exclusively for the library, from artwork and crafts to cards and games.

Seattle’s Central Library welcomes over two million visitors each year, with around 30% of them being from outside of the city. This just goes to show how excitingly innovative the city’s Central Library is, as it has become one of the go-to spots for tourists visiting the city.

Medienhafen, Dusseldorf, Germany

Located on the River Rhine, Dusseldorf-Hafen is an urban borough in Dusseldorf which many would consider to be the liveliest spot in the city. In addition to being the city’s main harbour, Dusseldorf-Hafen is also home to everything from spectacular architecture to trendy nightclubs, making this an area at which you will definitely want to spend a bit of time.

MedienHafen
When the city of Düsseldorf decided to modernize their harbour, they brought in internationally renowned architects and gave them each free reign over a particular lot. This meant that everyone from Frank O. Gehry to Claude Vasconi were able to make their mark on the Dusseldorf skyline, and the architecture that you will see here is definitely impressive. Nevertheless, with its wrought-iron railings and historical monuments, the harbour still manages to retain its sense of heritage, and its reputation as the “architectural mile” only adds to this.

The VIEW Skylounge and Bar
While there are several bars dotted around Dusseldorf-Hafen, the VIEW Skylounge and Bar tends to be the most popular, and one of the reasons for this is because of the spectacular panorama it offers of the harbour below. The bar itself serves up food and speciality cocktails, alongside live entertainment, and, once you visit, it is easy to see why they have won so many awards.

Landtag building in Dusseldorf, Germany

Landtag of North Rhine-Westphalia
The Landtag of North Rhine-Westphalia is the state parliament of the region, and can be found in the Dusseldorf-Hafen district. There are tours available for visitors to take, which will give you the opportunity to follow plenary sessions, as well as learn more about parliamentary work. The tour will also teach you about the impressive architecture that can be seen all along the banks of the Rhine, making this a must if you want to learn more about these exquisite buildings. The set tour is available during the week, and, on weekends, the visitor’s center is open for the public to explore on their own. However, if you would like a tailored tour, get in touch with the visitor’s center in advance, as they will be able to arrange one for you.

Restaurants
With its innovative architecture and sweeping harbour views, Düsseldorf-Hafen is a great place to have a bite to eat. There are many different restaurants to choose from, with one of the most popular being Rocca Im Gehry’s, which is known for being one of the best steak houses in the area. The Mediterranean seafood at Meerbar is also worth trying, as are the burgers at Bob and Mary. For those who would like some vegetarian fare, head to Sattgrun, while those who would prefer to try some traditional German sausages can do this at Curry.

There is so much to see and do around Dusseldorf-Hafen, from exploring historic landmarks to eating at some of the best restaurants in the city. If you can, try to visit the area during both day and night, as the atmosphere here does change once the sun goes down.