This is no official area, but I couldn't think of a better term. Basically, this is the Rhein river area in the province of Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany's most populated state.
The main city and tourist attraction is KÖLN (Cologne). The city got the crap kicked out of it in WWII, but miraculously, the majestic Dom (cathedral) survived. Even though we generally don't recommend such attractions, this is a must. Now most guidebooks devote several pages to Köln, but there's really no need. You've seen the Dom, and most english speakers will recognize eau de cologne. However, in fact, you will want to try the real Köln water: the famous Kölsch beer. The rest of Germany looks down on the Kölsch tradition, mainly because it served in wimpy glasses instead of the humongous pails you usually get in Bavaria. There are numerous house breweries/pubs to choose from, all brewing their own distinctive style. So tank up, and then you're ready for for some fussball...
Obviously Köln has a rich soccer tradition. The main club is 1.FC Köln, which is also the only team to ever win anything. The little sister Fortuna Köln is good enough to be annoying and occasionally put together a good run. It's certainly one of the least supported clubs in Germany. Preußen Köln continues the tradition of Viktoria, whose main role is to get pummeled.
Just east of Köln, LEVERKUSEN is a worthless town unless a) you have a headache/stomach ache b) you want to see some decent soccer. So I guess that makes an important stop. The town is essentially the private fiefdom of the Bayer Chemical Company, makers of Bayer Aspirin and Alka-Seltzer. If you take a tour of the factory, and get a headache, ask for Tylenol or Bufferin. That is a sure way of ingratiating yourself. Of course, the main reason to visit is the soccer club, Bayer Leverkusen , which after years of neglect, has developed into one of the unheralded strengths of German soccer.
South of Köln is the city of BONN, made famous by John Le Carre's novel Small Town in Germany. Oh yeah, it's also the capital of the Federal Republic. But it is soon to be relegated to the "who cares?" category, as the capital is being transferred to Berlin. The Germans were all upset that other Europeans laughed at them because they had such a wimpy capital, so they seized on reunification as an excuse to move the bureaucrats to Berlin. So Bonn will soon go back to it's sleepy status, with the only attraction being it's little soccer club, Bonner SC.
Heading west on BAB4 from Köln (or southwest on BAB 44 from Düsseldorf), just at the Belgian-Dutch border, is the city of AACHEN. This town is usually popular for tourists, as this was the ancient capital of Charlemagne or Karl der Grosse. Both the French and Germans claim him as one of theri own, but since France is nowhere to be found on the map, the Germans have the edge. Enough of the geopolitical history lesson, why should I visit, you may well ask. The main reason is that it is the home of a beloved traditional club, Alemannia Aachen. Their real claim to fame is that they were one of the first German clubs to assign permanent numbers 1-99 to all their players, instead of the traditional 1-11 that was common.
OK, time for a quiz: What is the top yuppy city in Deutschland? Stuttgart? München? Frankfurt? Eisenhüttenstadt? Odds are, our next stop, DÜSSELDORF takes the title. Generally a modern city, with an international airport that may be an alternative to Frankfurt. With over 600,000 inhabitants, maybe it's time they changed the name to Düsselstadt. However, the Let's Go Germany 98 contains an ominous statement: "Duesseldorf is a city of museums." Now I know that you want to just skip it all together, but the next sentence contains possibilities: "Most cluster around the Hofgarten". Well, there you have it. Avoid the Hofgarten or Grabbeplatz, and you should be safe. Another place to probably avoid is the Königsallee, which is full of chic shops etc. Of course, D-town is an expensive city too, so your wallet won't be safe, but what the heck. The place to head is likely to be the Altstadt, which is close to the Rhein, and is boasted as being "Europe's longest bar." It's claimed ther are some 500 pubs jammed in here. This would be a good place to try the distinctive Düsseldorfer Alt, the famed local brew of choice. In the southern part of the Altstadt, on Bergerstraße, is the Zum Uerige, which houses one of Germnay's more famous house breweries. An interesting aside is that Düsseldorf hosts Europe's largest Japanese community, mostly businessmen undermining Europe's state subsidized economies with dumping tactics. But enough ecomomics Quatsch. Here you'll find Japanese restaurants, Japanese stores where the employees don't speak German, but bow politely and say presumably nice things to you, like"Ah so deska, Ichiban-baka san". You can probably even get Japanese beer in the restaurants, where you can loudly proclaim that it's better than any crappy German beer, secure in the knowledge that no Germans will be around to beat you up.
For such a large city, you'd expect major soccer, but you'll be somewhat outraged. The local club, Fortuna Düsseldorf suffers from an almost scandalous lack of support. At least the other yuppy cities support their clubs, but no luck here.
Now it's time to head west. Into the suburbs and the bordering industrial town of NEUSS, which may be a place to stay if the Duüsseldorf budget requirements are too shocking. There is a good brewpub, Im Kessel, near the main train station. The local soccer club, VfR Neuss, is strictly amateur quality. If that doesn't suit your fancy, keep on going another 25km until you hit MÖNCHENGLADBACH. This was the British headquarters of NATO, so it has a distinct Limey flavour. Luckily, it doesn't effect the the soccer club, the once powerful Borussia Mönchengladbach, which was actually Germany's dominant team in the 1970s. The decline of this famous club has been heralded by European football journalists and announcers, as they no longer have to spell or pronounce it's name.
Continuing northeast, some 20Km brings us to KREFELD, whose belching smokestacks and pollution announce itself as gateway to the Ruhr. The only reason to check this out is that it is host to one of Germany;s all-time scrappy teams, KFC Uerdingen. This was once owned by Bayer Chemical, who although have since abandoned sponsorship, happily continue to pollute from their facilities in the Uerdingen district.
(c) Abseits Guide to Germany