Though North-Rhine Westphalia is often associated with declined heavy industry rather than holidays, those who make the effort to scratch the surface of Germany’s most populous state will find that it offers more diversity than any other in the country. Home to bustling urban centers and medieval gems unchanged by time, it offers a number of fascinating spots to visit – here’s our pick of the best.
Düsseldorf, by the River Rhine, is a city of amazing contrasts. The city skyline boasts lovingly preserved ancient churches, the ornate pink Benrath Palace and the Kaiserpfalz ruins, while at the same time dazzling visitors with glitzy futuristic architecture like the Gehry buildings. While a stroll along the old town square is equivalent to a walk down history, Königsallee treats you to some of the most glamorous shopping in Europe. Whatever you do, don’t leave town before feasting your eyes on a city panorama from the Rheinturm observation deck and sipping a chilled Altbier at the longest bar in the world by the Rhine.
When it comes to exciting cities, Cologne has few contenders in Germany. The city is chock-a-block with attractions, the most noteworthy among which is undeniably the UNESCO-listed captivating Cologne Cathedral. Additionally, a holiday in Cologne promises picturesque bridges, unique museums and many nature spots. Thanks to its myriad attractions, adults and children enjoy the city alike. And, should you visit in February, you’ll get to witness the happiest carnival in all of Germany.
Münster is a 1,200-year-old university town that shyly awaits you with its treasure trove of stunning medieval architecture, rich culture and green oases. The ancient Münster Cathedral (St Paul’s Cathedral) defines the skyline of Münster and the Gothic architecture of Münster’s City Hall (Rathaus) right next door prompts every passer-by to stop and admire its beautiful facade. When you wish to break away from the concrete and unwind in the midst of nature, simply hop away to Münster’s very own lake, Aasee.
Bonn has many feathers in its cap – it is among the most ancient German cities, the legendary Beethoven was born in this town, it is the former capital city of Germany, has an enviable heritage and boasts top-notch educational institutes. When in town, don’t miss the stunning Poppelsdorf Palace, the 1,000-year-old Bonn Minster and a visit to Museum Koenig.
If bricks, arches and walls could talk, Aachen‘s would tell stories of centuries of fascinating history. Today, thousands of travelers head to Aachen to treat themselves to luxurious spa and wellness holidays. However, the real appeal of Aachen for travelers lie in its painstakingly-preserved architecture dating back several centuries, the most important among which is the magnificent Aachen Cathedral.
Monschau, a gem of Germany’s Eifel region, arouses even the most pragmatic heart with its palpable air of romance. Set aside a few hours to simply get lost in its winding alleys lined with half-timbered houses. Fill the rest of your time in town visiting Rotes Haus (the former headquarters of the textile-industrialist Scheibler family turned into a museum), Monschau Castle and Glass Works. Hiking the Eifel region and taking a cruise down the Rursee are also tempting and vastly enjoyable options.
The entire town of Xanten resembles a page torn from a history book. While most of the world has changed beyond recognition in the past centuries, time seems to have overlooked Xanten. Each of its landmarks, like the medieval town square, the stunning cathedral, picturesque lakes, and museums – breathes stories of millennia of history.
Once a ‘steel city’, Dortmund has today acquired a worldwide reputation as the hub of technological advancement. But the city is not only for business travelers. This glitzy, bustling spot promises enormous doses of culture in the form of interesting museums, theater and media art. For families, the best destination in town is undoubtedly Dortmund Zoo, home to 1,500 creatures across 230 species.