The Top 20 Things to See and Do in Essen, Germany

Baldeneysee | © MichaelGaida / Pixabay
Anwesha Ray

There was a time when Essen used to be one of the most significant industrial hubs in Germany. Today, the cityscape of Essen is dominated by contemporary architecture. But remnants of its industrial past have been lovingly reserved and blended with the modern face of the city, making it an immensely interesting and characterful city to explore.

1. Zollverin Coal Mine Industrial Complex

Easily Essen’s most famous site, the Zollverin ensemble is a massive 100-hectare abandoned coal mine that was in action from 1847 to 1993. Today, this UNESCO site welcomes visitors to explore its amazing architecture and machinery on a self-guided (free) or group tour (paid).

Zollverein, Zeche Zollverein, Essen, Germany +49 0201 246810

Zollverin Coal Mine Industrial Complex | © Divebalu / Pixabay

2. Ruhr Museum


Red Dot Design Museum
© Holger.Ellgaard/Wiki Commons
Ruhr Museum, a part of the Zollverin complex, used to be a coal washery in the bygone times. The museum walks visitors through the inception, evolution and gradual decline of industry in the Ruhr region. You also get a peek into the lives of the workers who made their living from the mines. The museum also has a fascinating collection of information and artifacts of geological and chemical interest.

3. Grugapark

Park, Spa


Grugapark, the green lungs of Essen, has lovely themed gardens, a sculpture garden, flocks of exotic birds, a petting farm, a spa, a splash pool, playgrounds, cafes and even offers pony rides. An adorable train takes visitors on an enjoyable journey through the park.

Grugapark Essen, Virchowstr. 167a, Essen, Germany +49 020188 83 106

Ponies in Grugapark | © Wiki05 / Wikimedia Commons

5. Basilica of St. Ludgerus

The Basilica of St. Ludgerus appeals to architecture enthusiasts because of its elegant Ottonian and Romanesque architecture. Inside, you can see ancient murals and beautiful baroque altars from the 17th and 18th centuries. This is also the final resting place of the 8th-century Saint Ludger.

Brückstraße 77, Essen, Germany +49 201 490050

6. Villa Hügel


Villa Hügel
© Dr.G.Schmitz / Wikimedia Commons
The magnificent Neoclassical palace, Villa Hügel, was commissioned in the late 19th century by the most famous son of Essen, industrialist Alfred Krupp. This 269-room ornate mansion was fitted with all the modern luxury amenities long before their use was common. The Villa offers public tours.

7. Museum Folkwang


Museum Folkwang is famous for its admirable collection of art spanning all major European movements. Alongside famous paintings from legendary artists, the museum houses 340,000 graphics from the GDR, Weimar Republic and Germany.

8. Red Dot Design Museum


Red Dot Design Museum boasts unique, futuristic designs across several categories, including home appliances, vehicles, tools, electronics and furniture. The museum is a hall of fame for winners of the internationally-reputed Red Dot Design Award, and includes designs by iconic brands like Apple, Lenovo and BMW among others.

9. Essen Minster

Tourists, religious or otherwise, make it a point to visit Essen Minster because of the Golden Madonna of Essen, the oldest sculpture of Mary in the world. This incredible sculpture was created in the year 980 and is done in gold leafs.

Kettwiger Str. 42, Essen, Germany +49 0201 2204206

Essen Minster | © Tuxyso / Wikimedia Commons

10. Essen Cathedral Treasury


The treasury chamber at the Essen Minster is significant because of its ancient and priceless liturgical objects. Nowhere else would you get the chance to see for yourself such a mind-boggling range of Ottonian artifacts from the 10th and 11th centuries, including a ceremonial sword and 16 ancient Burgundian brooches.

11. Schloss Borbeck


Once home to the Imperial Abbots, this castle sits like a painting in the midst of lush English gardens, on a moat. You can catch an event at the halls of Schloss Borbeck or take a leisurely walk in the woodlands surrounding the castle.

Schloßstraße 101, Essen, Germany +49 201 681425

Schloss Borbeck | © Sir Gawain / Wikimedia Commons

12. Old Synagogue

Museum, Synagogue

The Old Synagogue, which was plundered and heavily damaged by the Nazis, was lovingly reconstructed after the war and today stands as a beautiful center for Jewish culture. Take a tour of the museum for a deeper understanding of Jewish traditions, customs, history and holidays. The architecture of the synagogue is unique because of its sound-amplifying effect.

Schützenbahn 1, Essen, Germany

Old Synagogue | © Tuxyso / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

13. Philharmonie

Concert Hall

The most famous concert hall of Essen, Philharmonie is known for its outstanding acoustics. Internationally-famous classical musicians regularly perform at Philharmonie. So, when you are in town, make sure that you look up their schedule.

Essen, Germany

14. Aalto Theater

Opera House, Theater

Aalto Theater, Essen’s Opera House, is often agreed to be one of the best opera houses in the entire country. Behind the wavy walls of this Opera House, gifted artists of global repute perform on a regular basis.

Aalto Musiktheater – Theater & Philharmonie Essen, Opernplatz 10, Essen, Germany +49 0201 81220

15. Margarethenhöhe


Margarethenhöhe is among the most important garden suburbs in Europe, and Germany’s first garden city. This 115-acre philanthropic project was funded by the Foundation of Margarethe Kruppe, wife of famous entrepreneur Friedrich Alfred Krupp. It consists of beautifully-designed houses, schools, shops and restaurants, and surrounded by miles upon miles of protected woodlands.
Essen, Germany

Margarethenhöhe | © YvoBentele / Wikimedia Commons


The historical town of Kettwig was absorbed into the city limits of Essen in 1975. It is worth visiting because of its picturesque half-timbered houses lining cobbled streets. The riverside promenade at Kettwig is the favorite haunt of locals on a nice day.


Werden’s cobbled alleys, slate-and-timber houses and cute shops pose a sharp contrast to the contemporary skyline of Essen city center. Fans of typical German towns would love this rural, quiet village a few kilometers out of Essen.

16. Glockenspiel


Daily, every full hour between 9 am and 8 pm, the carillon on the Glockenspiel chimes traditional German folk songs. During Christmas, the Glockenspiel does its part in spreading festive cheer by playing Christmas carols.

Rathenaustraße 7, Essen, Germany

Glockenspiel | © Wiki05 / Wikimedia Commons

17. Limbecker Platz

Limbecker Platz, Essen’s biggest mall, is the perfect place for some retail therapy. It houses almost all brands you can think of over three sprawling floors. Alongside, the mall has lots of great restaurants, cafes and bistros.

Limbecker Pl. 1a, Essen, Germany +49 201 1778960

18. Rathaus


While City Halls in most German towns have a medieval architecture, Essen’s Rathaus is a 23-storey concrete high-rise. Visitors are welcome to enjoy a panoramic view of the city from the 22nd floor at a height of 100m (328 ft) off the ground.

Rathaus, Porschplatz 1, Am Porschepl. 2, Essen, Germany +49 0201 880

Rathaus | © Wiki05 / Wikimedia Commons

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Edit article