Germany’s Ruhrgebiet region was once the leading force in coal mining and steel production. Today, the area between Duisburg and Hamm is studded with a myriad of attractions. From touring decommissioned sites which remember the glory days of the industrial revolution, marvelling at international art galleries and museums to celebrating one of Germany’s favourite football teams – here are the best experiences to have in the Ruhrgebiet region.
The region’s most iconic landmark is the world-renowned Zeche Zollverein complex in Essen. No other industrial site represents how much of an impact the industrial revolution had on the Ruhr Metropolis. It’s only fitting that the ‘world’s most beautiful coal mine’ has been converted into a museum and event space allowing people to learn about the colliery and its role within Germany’s coal mining capital. Visitors can choose from around 30 different guided tours around the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
More industrial charm is being kept alive at the Duisburg Landschaftspark. Rather than dismantling the old steel factory, the rails tracks, bunkers, sewage canals, blast furnaces and conveyer bridges of the 180-hectare complex were transformed into a whole range of attractions. These days you can stare down on the metal maze from vantage points, relax in courtyards and gardens and explore the site on several walking trails. The former gasometer has even been turned into one of Germany’s most unique scuba diving sites.
If you’re a football fan, a trip to the Signal Iduna Park Dortmund is a must-do. Borussia Dortmund is one the most iconic and best-loved teams in the Bundesliga and even former coach Jürgen Klopp couldn’t help but shed a few tears when he said his goodbye. You either book tickets for a guided tour of Germany’s largest football stadium and catch a glimpse of the impressive logistics behind the venue, peek into the locker rooms and take a seat on the south terrace; alternatively you can simply purchase a match ticket and experience Dortmund’s goosebump-inducing home game atmosphere first hand.
Both thrill-seekers and those traveling with kids are in for a treat when they visit the Ruhrgebiet region. The city of Bottrop is home to Movie Park, one of Germany’s largest theme parks. You have the obligatory wooden roller coaster, free fall tower and spinning tea cups but many of the attractions revolve around a film theme. Board the Star Trek rollercoaster on its way to another galaxy, escape the zombie apocalypse at the Walking Dead Breakout or enter the world of King Arthur and Merlin on the Excalibur ride.
The industrial revolution did not only help develop the Ruhrgebiet region but the coal mines and steel works also brought incredible wealth to individual entrepreneurs, some of whose names will sound familiar: Thyssen and Krupp for example. Villa Hügel outside of Essen’s city centre gives an impressive insight of how the Krupp family lived. The grand mansion encompasses more than 250 rooms which are decorated with wood panelling, oil paintings and period furniture. You can explore the villa and vast garden at your own pace for a fee of €5.
You might be surprised to hear that the Ruhrgebiet region is home to a top-notch fine art gallery. The Folkwang Museum in Essen displays notable 19th and 20th century paintings, sculptures and photography from some of the leading artists of the last two centuries, including works by Kandinsky, Picasso and Matisse. And the best part: the permanent exhibition is free of charge.
The Gasometer in Oberhausen is one of the most important landmarks of the Ruhr region and the restoration in the 1990s put it to good use. Rather than storing gas, the complex now gives space to events and exhibitions. The 1999 ‘The Wall’ installation by the famous artist couple Christo and Jeanne-Claude helped establish the Gasometer as a popular venue. Another highlight is the observation deck atop the 117-metre-high tower which gives a birds-eye view of the entire region.