From grey to green, from coal to culture, the city of Essen has changed greatly in the last few decades. Collieries have turned into cultural centres, and parks now offer recreation where wastelands used to be. The premises of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Zollverein, for example, now let visitors enjoy several hundred different species of flora and fauna, including the kestrel or the natterjack toad. The historical interiors are now used as exhibition spaces by the Ruhr Museum, presenting the region’s history and its structural change in several thousand exhibits, and Red Dot Design Museum.
Relaxing along the river Ruhr
Idyllic nature offers recreational opportunities
This city offers recreation in nature not only on land, but also along and on the water. Attentive visitors prowling the Ruhr floodplains only need a little luck to spot cormorants and turtles. The dammed-up Baldeneysee lake provides wonderful relaxation opportunities while watching ships and boats glide across the water.
The Baldeney-Steig trail runs high above the Baldeneysee lake. Supplemented by the Kettwiger Panoramasteig since 2020, it is one of the city’s designated premium hiking trails, passing the Isenburg ruins and Villa Hügel. The latter used to be the headquarters of the famous Krupp industrial family, which built one of Europe’s largest companies in the 19th and 20th centuries. Now, visitors can explore the villa as a venue of exhibitions and experience the idyllic landscape around it on their own.
Historical town centres
Half-timbered houses and winding alleys
Other corners of the city also offer an opportunity to discover the past. The districts of Kettwig and Werden contain numerous half-timbered houses from past centuries that are just as impressive as the countless winding alleys. Visitors to Werden should also drop by the Folkwang Universität der Künste (university of the arts) that hosts more than 300 public events every year, ranging from small intimate theatre to large orchestra concerts.
A cultural metropolis
Shows, guided tours, and concerts
If you want to experience culture at its fullest in Essen, you will find plenty of opportunity for this in the heart of the city. The Essen cathedral gives guests a glimpse of the ecclesiastical treasures of the cathedral treasury. The Golden Madonna, for example, considered the oldest surviving fully sculptural figure of the Virgin Mary in Western art, is certainly worth a visit.
Places like the Grillo, Aalto, and Varieté Theater put rousing performances ranging from drama to opera on the stage. Stars of classical music perform at the Philharmonie. Museum Folkwang, named Museum of the Year of 2020 by Germany’s art critics, presents art treasures and top-class temporary exhibitions in its premises on the Museumsplatz.
A stroll through the pubs, bars, and restaurants
The popular “Rüttenscheider Straße” and the “Rüttenscheider Stern” are just a few metres away. The outing and strolling mile and its surrounding streets house many pubs, restaurants, and bars. Every one of them has its own specific offer. The iconic Ampütte and Sparfuchs pubs, for example, radiate typical Ruhr valley flair with an old counter often lined with Essen’s old-timers. The “Drehscheibe”, on the other hand, makes the hearts of Schlager pop music fans beat faster. Guests here may find themselves encountering self-proclaimed pop god Rene Pascal between the bar and the door. He not only owns the place, but also likes to sing there now and then.
In contrast to this, Essen’s southern district has an alternative and trendy focus with cosy cafés, second-hand shops, and handicrafts. Young artists and creative minds have settled around the Isenbergplatz and strive to offer visitors a sustainable experience. Sidewalks here are decorated with colourful designer furniture in summer; readings and concerts are held between the benches and chairs. Café Goldbar and Café de Prinz are typical examples of the extroverted attitude to life that characterises this entire quarter.
Exploring the pedestrian zone
The perfect starting point for shopping tours
Essen has gained a reputation as “the shopping city” thanks to its approximately 1,000 department stores and shops. The pedestrian zone is lined by shoe and fashion stores, flagship stores of major brands, and small boutiques as well as specialty shops. One of Germany’s largest inner-city shopping centres, Limbecker Platz contains more than 200 shops to ensure an unrestrained shopping spree. The Unperfekthaus across from it gives visitors the opportunity to watch international artists at work. It serves as a creative oasis and shared workspace that always welcomes an audience.