Düsseldorf is the capital of Germany’s most populous federal state, North Rhine-Westphalia. Historically, the river Rhine has been Düsseldorf's natural link across borders. It has provided not only excellent trade opportunities but also brought about an extensive exchange of ideas, which, in turn, gave rise to the friendliness and open-mindedness that are characteristic of the people from the Rhineland.
From Düsseldorf, it takes an hour to the Dutch border by car, and three hours to reach the North Sea. There is an extensive highway system around the city, and trans-European trains leave the central train station every hour. Situated geographically and economically at the heart of Western Europe, the state capital with a population of 575,000 has built up strong international ties and has established itself as an important economic, academic, and cultural partner within the European Union. Düsseldorf is an internationally renowned banking centre and the home of continental Europe's largest Japanese expatriate community. The new and growing Harbour Media Centre provides the location for many companies which are engaged in communication and information technology. Electronics firms and start-up companies of the new economy also feature prominently in the city's business landscape. Düsseldorf's famous fashion industry contributes to the charm and "joie de vivre" of the city.
In the summer, the city’s elegant main boulevard known as the "Kö" (Königsallee) turns into a vast café, a place to see and be seen. Other tree-lined promenades, interspersed with beer gardens, offer inviting places to stroll and watch the boats on the Rhine or look at the eye-catching examples of Art Nouveau facades on the opposite bank of the river. Extensive parks provide grounds for sports activities as well as a setting for the annual "Biggest Fun Fair" on the Rhine. The Old Town district, which is still being carefully preserved, is a popular entertainment zone and one of Düsseldorf's most extensive pedestrian areas. It abounds with narrow a leys, restaurants, cafes and pubs.
In the early 17th century under the reign of Johann Wilhelm of the Palatinate (better known to the man in the street as Jan Wellem), the town began to thrive, laying the foundations for the rich and multifaceted cultural life that can be found today. The "German Opera" offers a classical and modern repertoire and remarkable ballet performances. There is also a lively theatre scene with an internationally renowned playhouse at its hub, a political cabaret, and numerous studio theatres as well as many busy art galleries. The concert hall stands out for its artistic design as well as its varied music programme. All aspects of modern art are very well represented at the State Art Collection, and the Düsseldorf Academy of Fine Arts is one of the three leading art schools in Germany.
Besides the Heinrich Heine University and the Academy of Fine Arts, Düsseldorf is the home of a number of research institutes and educational facilities, among which are the Robert Schumann Conservatory, the University of Applied Sciences and the Academy of Business Administration.