Nowadays it’s not exceptional for people to plan a city trip to the Ruhr metropolis, which would have been unthinkable a few decades ago, because the city of Essen was simply speaking unattractive. You have the opportunity to live in this cultural hub in a superbly furnished flat, where even tourists feel comfortable during their holiday and there's all kinds of things to discover.
The Ruhr region has developed from an ugly duckling into a metropolitan region with Essen at its centre. The places of interest that we mention here are not only, but for the most part, located in Essen. The region is well connected and all cities and most sights are easy to reach by public transport.
What is there to do in Essen? 10 places of interest in the Ruhr region
- Zollverein Coal Mine (Eiffel Tower of the Ruhr)
- Ruhr Museum
- Villa Hügel
- Essen Cathedral
- Red Dot Design Museum
- Gruga Park (Botanical Garden)
- Krupp housing estate Margarethenhöhe
- Old Synagogue
- Folkwang Museum
Zollverein Coal Mine
Affectionately called the Eiffel Tower of the Ruhr by the locals, the winding tower of the former coal mine can be seen from afar. Even the miners who worked here considered the colliery the most beautiful in the world. The industrial monument is now a World Heritage Site and is located in an event park that also houses the Ruhr Museum. The park offers other museums, restaurants, cafés - you can spend a whole day here without getting bored.
Coal was mined here from 1851 to 1986. You can take a lift to a depth of 950 metres and experience the atmosphere in which the miners worked every day.
The Ruhr Museum is located on the grounds of the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex. It is located in the former coal washing plant and has over 6,000 exhibits on the history of coal mining. Here you can find out how coal is made and how the region has become one of the world's largest metropolitan areas.
Until 1945, this was the family residence of the Krupp family, which has been mentioned in the books of Essen since the 16th century. The dynasty lived on 8100 m2 in 269 rooms for almost 1 century. Not all rooms are open to the public, but visiting the rest has been possible since 1953.
The villa was built from 1870 onwards and, significantly, consists of an iron construction. For fear of the destructive force of fire, wood was largely dispensed with during construction. Alfred Krupp was a great entrepreneur of the 19th century and provided the idea for the Villa Hügel.
Essen Cathedral was built in 1275 as a Gothic hall church. A feature that sticks out is the treasury, which houses the most important church treasure in Germany. The most valuable work of art is the 'Golden Madonna' from 980, the oldest fully sculptured image of the Virgin Mary in the world. A total of four ‘Gemme’ crosses from the High Middle Ages are also in the treasury, which is also unique. ‘Gemme’ is an old german word for precious stone (gemstone).
Red Dot Design Museum
Product design, communication design or the basics of good design - you can experience all these things and more at the Red Dot Design Museum. This museum is also located on the grounds of the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex. It is one of the eight best design museums in the world, alongside such famous institutions as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Design Museum Danmark in Copenhagen and the Smithsonian Design Museum in New York. Students from the University of Media, Communication and Business come here to swap the lecture hall for a tour of the museum for a day.
Especially in summer, we are drawn to the outdoors. If you want to swap your desk for a green space, then the Gruga Park is the place for you. You can work very disciplined and sit down on a bench, but there are also plenty of distractions. The park was created on the former marshy area in the 1920s when a site was sought for the Horticultural Exhibition in 1929. After the Second World War, potatoes were grown here for the poor population of the city of Essen. In 1965 the Federal Horticultural Show was held in Gruga Park. Today, visitors from all over the world enjoy this important sight. You can travel 3.5 kilometres in the park on the Gruga train, getting off at the Orangerie, Mustergärten and Tummelwiese stops. The Botanical Garden and the Tropical House are further attractions of the Gruga Park. In the winter months of February and March, the city of Essen organises the so-called 'Park Lights'. Sculptures as well as trees and bushes are illuminated with different coloured lights throughout the park, giving it a mystical atmosphere.
Lake Baldeney was created at the same time as Gruga Park. It is a man-made lake and was used as a disposal basin for suspended matter that polluted the air. It is ideal for canoeing, swimming, sailing and rowing, and you can also enjoy all kinds of leisure activities on the shore. At Seaside Beach, a man-made sandy beach, you can meet friends for a cocktail and bury your feet in the sand. Of course, you can also cycle, walk or inline skate around the lake. It is a popular attraction for all Essen residents.
Krupp housing estate Margarethenhöhe
The garden city, built from 1909 onwards, was one of the first in Germany. Here there is a market square, cafés and restaurants between the picturesquely decorated facades of the terraced houses. Margarethe Krupp gave her name to the estate, which she created because there was a lack of functional yet attractive housing. The estate is not far from the Gruga Park. Perhaps after a busy day in the park you would like to end the day here with a lovely dinner?
This building also carries a superlative, as it is the largest free-standing synagogue in Germany. The church building, dating from 1913, was badly damaged on the inside by pogroms during the Second World War, but the solid construction protected the exterior, which still looks the same today as it did then. Here you can learn about Jewish culture.
The museum's origins lie in Hagen, but it moved to Essen as early as 1921. In 2010, the city of Essen's Capital of Culture Year, it took on its present form. Here you will find around 600 works of modern art and collections of German and French art from the 19th and 20th centuries. Paintings, sculptures, photography and graphics - there is an exhibition for every taste. The range is supplemented by temporary exhibitions.
What else is there to see in Essen? Here are a few tips
The SOA Museum (Soul of Africa) shows many artefacts from the black continent, especially from Central and West Africa. The aim of the museum is to create relationships between Europeans and Africans. You can marvel at many Voodoo exhibits, because the origin of this religion lies in West Africa, even if today it is rather associated with Haiti, where Voodoo gained a foothold through the slaves.
Borbeck Castle is located in the district of the same name. The baroque moated castle in the 42-hectare park serves as a cultural and meeting place. The music department of the Folkwang University is housed here, along with a wedding room and parts of the municipal adult education centre. Civil weddings are also celebrated here.
Phänomania Erfahrungsfeld. Behind this unwieldy name is a museum with over 80 stations, all of which are interactive. Located on the grounds of the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex, it is not only children who can experience things with all their senses.
The district of Kettwig is popular as an excursion destination because fewer buildings were destroyed here during the Second World War than anywhere else in Essen. The historic town centre is picturesque and invites you to stroll around. Until 1979, Kettwig was an independent town 12 kilometres from the coal-mining town of Essen in the countryside.
Near Bottrop there is the Tetraeder to marvel at. The pyramid-shaped viewing terrace is 120 metres above sea level and because the Ruhr region is so flat, you have a great 360° view from here.
Also in Bottrop is the Haniel slag heap (Halde Haniel) elevated to 190 metres. Agustin Ibarrola's installation of totems made of over 100 railway sleepers and the amphitheatre are attractions that deserve your visit.
If you want to go pedal boating in summer, visit the Brehminsel. Located near Werden's old town, the 8-hectare island is a popular destination.
One of the oldest churches, the Church of St. Lucius, was built in the 9th century and restored in the middle of the 10th century and has since been used for church services again.
The oldest park in the city is the Stadtgarten (City Garden), built in 1859 and located near the main railway station, which was important for supplying the city with decent breathing air, as coal mining of course is not good for the air we breathe.
What is typical for the city of Essen?
Bömskes are typical of Essen. They are sweets in the local jargon and they come in bags and are bought at a stall. If you have a sweet tooth: treat yourself!
And if you want to have an extraordinary meal, then order at Pottsalat. You can't sit down there, but you can pick up your food or have it delivered. On the menu are things like 'Asparagus Tarzan' or 'Fitte Gitte'.
You can find really delicious ice cream at "Mörchens Eis" in Rüttenscheider Straße and at "I am Love" in Moltkestraße. They have really unusual flavours like 'blueberry-lavender' or 'matcha tea with white chocolate'.
Essen has a charm all of its own that brings industrial history to life. If you're a fan of the big screen, you can visit the oldest art house cinema in the Ruhr area here, the Galeria Cinema, which only has 45 seats. In contrast, the Lichtburg has 1250 seats in its largest auditorium - premieres are often shown here and sometimes celebrities attend. The Lichtburg is Germany's largest cinema.
Want to do some quick shopping at night? No problem! Similar to the Spätis in Berlin, Essen also has its kiosks, drinking halls and stalls, some of which are also open at night. They sell not only Bömkes, but also that litre of milk you so desperately need.
In Essen-Holsterhausen there is a petrol station dating back to 1924, the oldest in Germany and still in operation.
Playing football has always been popular in the Ruhr area. The bar "11 Freunde" became famous through the series of ‘Fantalk’, which was recorded there by Sport 1 until 2018.
What are the ‘Must-dos’ in Essen?
Zeche Zollverein also has a pool. You can swim and lounge here in the sun between the Kokerie and the winding tower in summer and ice skate in winter.
The Essen City Trail is an event organised by Bunert Events. You can cover the 9 kilometres at your own pace, city experts will show you the most exciting corners of Essen. Starting from Brunnenstraße 21 in the Stadtgarten Essen, you will explore a route with sights that will be announced shortly before the event. The route is marked, but you can also download it and let your smartphone guide you.
It's worth coming to Essen for the Werden Open-Air Festival. The event takes place on Whit Monday and is free of charge. Artists such as Biffy Clyro and Mighty Oaks have already performed here.
Near the regatta course there is a high ropes course and the aforementioned Seaside Beach. Both are great for a day out with friends, as there are also restaurants to hang out and have a meal.
The bar 'Bandits like us' in Rüttenscheid hosts playback singing and Advent singing, where you can deliver an unforgettable performance on the glittering stage. If you've got the 'ramp gene', don't hesitate to go, because great people make for a great atmosphere here.
On the last Saturday in June, shuttle buses will take you to all the major industrial monuments in the Ruhr region. With just one ticket you can see the Jahrhunderthalle in Bochum, the Zeche Carl in Essen, the Duisburg inland port and much more.
Essen and the Ruhr are an interesting corner of Germany with many leisure activities. The longer you stay here, the more you will experience and the better you will appreciate the people of the Ruhr with their gruff yet warm nature.