Header Tiger & Turtle Duisburg , © Ruhr Tourismus, Jochen Schlutius

Tips for free days out

Castle grounds, mu­seums and con­certs

On a tight budget? Not to worry. In your NRW, there are plenty of in­ter­est­ing things to see and do for free.

With castle grounds to ex­plore, fas­cin­at­ing mu­seums to vis­it and loc­al in­dus­tri­al her­it­age to dis­cov­er ? our list of free or in­ex­pens­ive days out in your NRW is sure to in­spire you.

Day trip des­tin­a­tions with a stately air

The baroque gar­dens, majest­ic castle grounds and ter­raced gar­dens dot­ted through­out NRW provide hours of leis­urely en­joy­ment with no ad­mis­sion charge. In Rhine-Erft-County, for ex­ample, the grounds of Paf­fen­dorf Castle are open to vis­it­ors sev­en days a week. The nat­ur­al dis­cov­er­ies that await in­clude an­cient red­woods, gingkoes and west­ern gi­ant ce­dars. Along­side the tree plant­a­tions, the land­scape is dom­in­ated by ex­panses of wa­ter and marsh­land plants. Every month, vis­it­ors can take a guided Sunday nature walk along the In­den wa­ter mead­ows or climb the Sophi­en­höhe hill.

The castle grounds in Brühl along with the castles of Au­gus­tus­burg and Falken­lust were in­cluded in the list of UN­ESCO World Her­it­age Sites back in 1984. A par­tic­u­lar high­light is the em­broid­ery-like vista of cir­cu­lar foun­tain basins and mir­ror pond lined with or­na­ment­al box trees.

Not in world her­it­age league but just as im­press­ive are the Gar­dens of Kleve on the Lower Rhine. These are the cre­ation of 17th-cen­tury Branden­burg gov­ernor Jo­hann Mor­itz, who wanted to trans­form the town of his res­id­ence in­to an un­par­alleled park land­scape ? the res­ults of which are still en­joyed today.

Stay­ing on the Lower Rhine, Kamp Ab­bey has a ter­raced garden on the site of a former vine­yard which calls to mind the grounds of Sans­souci in Pots­dam. The spec­tac­u­lar park with its steps, ter­races, flower­beds and foun­tains is laid out with per­fect sym­metry and is open to the pub­lic free of charge all year round.
www.nieder­rhein-maas.de | www.kleve.de

The park sur­round­ing Tür­nich Castle near Co­logne is also open to the pub­lic. Wa­ter from the Erft river is used to fill the moats and ponds, and these fea­tures along with the orch­ard park, the wood and the nat­ur­al mead­ows form an ex­tens­ive bi­otope host­ing a wide vari­ety of wild herbs, fungi and birds. A par­tic­u­lar high­light is the 300-metre-long av­en­ue of 111 lime trees, which provides wel­come shade in the heat of sum­mer. For an ex­tra treat, it is well worth bring­ing a euro or two to en­joy a de­li­cious slice of cake in the castle café.

Mak­ing the most of nature

Hikers can dis­cov­er Eifel Na­tion­al Park on a free guided tour led by rangers and forest guides. The tour guides have a huge trove of know­ledge and an­ec­dotes about the re­gion and there is no need to pre-book. A dif­fer­ent route is offered on dif­fer­ent days of the week. On Fri­days, for ex­ample, the tour sets off on the Ab­bey Route with an in­ter­est­ing stop at Mari­awald Ab­bey.

On the Lower Rhine, a vis­it to the Rhine flood­plains provides a treat for all the senses, with the singing of sky­larks and the buzz­ing of wild bees provid­ing a re­lax­ing soundtrack. Many spe­cies of flora and fauna have found an ideal hab­it­at here. A huge choice of routes will help you ex­plore the nat­ur­al won­ders of the Rhine flood­plains, wheth­er you prefer cyc­ling or hik­ing.

Vis­it­ors who want to see more of the beau­ti­ful Lower Rhine should check out the Se­quoia Farm in the ?Kalden­kirchen­er Gren­zwald? forest on the bor­der between Ger­many and the Neth­er­lands. The park has been planted with gi­ant red­woods, dawn red­woods and coastal red­woods, but the old­est tree among the gi­ants in the Se­quoia Farm is ac­tu­ally a 220-year-old small-leaved lime.

In the hik­ing para­dise of Teuto­burg Forest lies the ?Dörenthe cliffs? nat­ur­al monu­ment. A climb to the top of the 40-metre-high series of rock form­a­tions is re­war­ded with a pan­or­amic view of Mün­ster­land. The most fam­ous form­a­tion is the ?crouch­ing wo­man?. Ac­cord­ing to le­gend, this was a wo­man who car­ried her chil­dren on her back to pro­tect them from a huge flood. Equally fas­cin­at­ing are the Ex­tern­steine rocks, which can be found in the nature re­serve of the same name at the edge of the Teuto­burg Forest in Horn-Bad Mein­berg. The rock form­a­tions are sur­roun­ded by a land­scape of heath, forest and moor.  

Cur­tain up ? the stage is set!

?The boss re­com­mends mu­sic? is the idea be­hind the ?phil­har­mon­ic lunch? of the Köl­ner Phil­har­monie. Every Thursday at 12:30, the or­ches­tra opens its doors to mu­sic-lov­ers who can listen to a half hour of re­hears­als for free.

Those who are more in­to com­edy are also well-catered for in Co­logne. Dur­ing the sum­mer, the Wirtzhaus ven­ue above the Atelier Theat­er puts on free com­edy shows fea­tur­ing new­comers and es­tab­lished en­ter­tain­ers alike.

An ec­lect­ic choice of mu­seums

Former post of­fice of­fi­cial Kle­mens Beck­e­mey­er has spent dec­ades col­lect­ing all man­ner of doc­u­ments con­nec­ted to postal his­tory. As well as tele­phones and post­marked stamps cost­ing just six pfen­nigs, Post­mu­seum Met­tin­gen also dis­plays doc­u­ments from the era of the mail-coaches. An ar­ray of uni­forms and badges bear wit­ness to the strict hier­archy that was formerly ob­served among post of­fice of­fi­cials.

His­tory buffs will also be pleased to find the Tüöt­t­en­mu­seum in Met­tin­gen. Three half-timbered houses con­tain­ing fur­niture and every­day items give vis­it­ors in­sight in­to the home life of the trav­el­ling sales­men known loc­ally as the ?Tüöt­ten?. Act­ive in the 17th and 18th cen­tur­ies, they foun­ded cloth­ing chains that are still around today like C&A and Peek & Clop­pen­burg. 

The sand­stone found in the Baum­berge hills near Mün­ster is known as the ?marble of Mün­ster­land?. Many castles and churches in the re­gion have been built from blocks of this stone, which is also pop­u­lar with sculptors. Vis­it­ors can learn more in the Baum­ber­ger Sand­stein-Mu­seum. 

The Mu­seum Folk­wang in Es­sen in the Ruhr Area houses a large col­lec­tion of paint­ings, sculp­tures and pho­to­graphs. Ad­mis­sion is free un­til June 2020 for the per­man­ent col­lec­tion and the spe­cial pho­to­graphy and graph­ic art ex­hib­i­tions. Vis­it­ors only have to pay for the ma­jor spe­cial ex­hib­i­tions.

The ?Städtische Galer­ie im Park? is a draw for vis­it­ors to Vi­ersen on the Lower Rhine. Hous­ing di­verse col­lec­tions, the mu­ni­cip­al art gal­lery or­gan­ises five to six ex­hib­i­tions per year, each run­ning for sev­er­al weeks. Young loc­al artists are also giv­en space here to dis­play their work. 

From ar­chae­ology to mon­ast­ic cul­ture to nat­ur­al his­tory: there is something for every­one in the 17 mu­seums of the ?Land­schafts­verb­and-West­falen-Lippe? re­gion­al as­so­ci­ation. With free entry to at least one mu­seum on cer­tain days of the week, there is no ex­cuse not to vis­it!

In­dus­tri­al her­it­age every­where you look

Vis­it­ors to the Ruhr Area should not leave without see­ing the re­mark­able coal mines or one of the de­com­mis­sioned smelt­ing works. Entry is free to the grounds of Zollver­ein Coal Mine in Es­sen and to North Duis­burg Land­scape Park. The Zollver­ein Coal Mine In­dus­tri­al Com­plex has been lis­ted as a UN­ESCO World Her­it­age Site, and is rightly re­garded today as an ar­chi­tec­tur­al mas­ter­piece and the most beau­ti­ful coal mine in the world! The Land­scape Park in Duis­burg is open day and night, and a vis­it after dark to ad­mire the spec­tac­u­lar light­ing is strongly re­com­men­ded.

Any­one in­ter­ested in see­ing the old­est ex­ample of in­dus­tri­al ar­chi­tec­ture in the Ruhr Area should make their way to Mo­ers. The star at­trac­tion here is the 48-metre-high wind­ing tower of Shaft IV. Em­ploy­ees of the ?Graf­schafter Mu­seums- und Geschichtsver­ein? mu­seum and his­tor­ic­al so­ci­ety vo­lun­teer to provide tours of the col­lec­tion and ex­plain how the ma­chinery worked.

A dis­play of art is the last thing you would ex­pect when climb­ing a slag-heap. The Ruhr Area has over 20 ac­cess­ible slag-heaps where min­ing waste, slag and build­ing rubble were formerly piled high. Today, these have been trans­formed in­to places for re­cre­ation and walk­ing and some even have art in­stall­a­tions. The Ti­ger & Turtle land­mark in Duis­burg, for ex­ample, is a walk­way that looks like a roller-coast­er while the ?Halde Beck­straße? slag-heap in Bot­trop boasts a struc­ture in the form of a tet­ra­hed­ron. Some of these man-made hills can also be found on the Lower Rhine. The ?Halde Nord­deutsch­land? slag-heap fea­tures a ?half-timbered house? struc­ture and a ?stair­way to heav­en?, both of which look par­tic­u­larly im­press­ive when lit up at night.
www.neuk­irchen-vluyn.de | www.ruhr-tour­is­mus.de

Oth­er things to see and do

Between Oc­to­ber and Janu­ary, the centre of Es­sen is trans­formed after dark by mil­lions of LED lights. Every year, a dif­fer­ent coun­try be­comes the fo­cal point of the ?Es­sen­er Licht­wochen? light fest­iv­al, with im­ages in­spired by art, cul­ture and tra­di­tion cre­at­ing a ma­gic­al im­pres­sion around the city.

In the warm­er sea­son, nu­mer­ous events and leis­ure activ­it­ies are or­gan­ised from Ju­ly to Oc­to­ber as part of the ?Unter freiem Him­mel? pro­gramme in Em­scher Land­scape Park. With over 100 events tak­ing place, in­clud­ing fam­ily fest­ivals, a scav­enger hunt, an ar­tis­an food mar­ket and pic­nics, there is def­in­itely something for every­one to en­joy.

Most foot­ball clubs in NRW provide free be­hind-the-scenes ac­cess to pro­fes­sion­al foot­ballers. Fans can at­tend open train­ing ses­sions to ad­mire the skills of their fa­vour­ite stars ? and even grab an auto­graph af­ter­wards if they are really lucky.

In­sider tips for...

Rheinradweg NRW, © Tourismus NRW e.V., Ralph Sondermann

Ex­cur­sions on the Rhine

Eifelblick Eugenienstein , © Tourismus NRW e.V.

Nature Fans

Das Restaurant "Glück und Seligkeit" in Bielefeld ist in einer früheren Kirche untergebracht., © glückundseligkeit.de

Un­usu­al gast­ro­nomy in NRW

Travel in­form­a­tion

Your way to North Rhine-West­phalia

Gate am Flughafen Köln-Bonn, © Oliver Franke/Tourismus NRW e.V.

Ar­riv­ing by plane

Zug am Fernbahnhof Düsseldorf Flughafen , © Andreas Wiese, Flughafen Düsseldorf

Ar­riv­ing by train

Arriving by car, © pixabay.com

Ar­riv­ing by car