"Das Geleucht" auf der Halde Rheinpreußen in Moers, © Dennis Stratmann

Free ex­cur­sion ad­vice

For big and small, for young and old

Art and industrial culture, petting zoos and free-range animals, exhibitions, and adventure playgrounds: North Rhine-Westphalia, can offer a packed excursion program promising a varied, fun time for all age groups even on an empty wallet.

Various museums, for example, offer indoor and outdoor culture free of charge and periodically waive their admission fees. Subjects range from archaeology to industrial culture, from art and monastery history to natural history. A number of sites of industrial culture present themselves as gigantic adventure playgrounds that are suitable even for adults. One of them is the UNESCO World Heritage site Zeche Zollverein that can be explored, among other things, in a game of soccer golf. The gardens and parks around castles and monasteries that invite visitors to linger and explore free of charge are even older, yet just as much worth a visit. Anyone who fancies cuddling some bunnies or goats will find four-legged friends to pet and feed in one of the free zoos and game reserves.

Fallow deer in the zoo Olderdissen, Bielefeld, © Johannes Höhn

A good time with an­im­als

Vis­it­ing an­im­als in the pet­ting zoo and in the wild

Excursions become particularly attractive for children when animals are involved. NRW has quite a few free zoos and game reserves to pet and feed your new four-legged friends. Both the Alsdorf Zoo near Aachen and the Weeze Zoo on the Lower Rhine make petting zoos fun for the entire family. Heimat-Tierpark Olderdissen in Bielefeld is a destination worth visiting for night owls, as the home of bison, tarpans, wolves, lynxes, wildcats, and eagle owls, among other animals, only closes at 10 pm every day.

www.tierpark-alsdorf.de | www.tierparkweeze.de | www.heimat-tierpark-olderdissen.de 

Petting zoo in the Kaisergarten

There is even more to discover in and around the animal enclosure in Oberhausen’s Kaisergarten with its local animals. Several playgrounds and picnic areas are supplemented by the “Slinky springs to Fame” pedestrian bridge as a nice destination within walking distance. Its colourful arches serve as eye-catchers in daylight and in the dark alike, as does the nearby gasometer.

Exotic birds

Free-ranging peacocks are the stars of the Recklinghausen Zoo. The park generally houses a great many birds, with more than 25 different species living in a walk-in bird hall. Though it may be hard to believe, there are actually some flamingos living in the wild in Münsterland. The exotic birds are proper eye-catchers from March to September and well worth a visit.


Half-timbering in the open air museum Hagen, © Tourismus NRW e.V.

Free fun in the mu­seum

Art and ex­cit­ing (hi)stor­ies

The museums of the Landschaftsverband Rheinland and Landschaftsverband Westfalen offer indoor and outdoor culture free of charge when they invite guests to visit a selected choice of museums free of charge. Subjects cover anything from archaeology to industrial culture, from art and monastery history to natural history. Anyone younger than 18 generally can enjoy any LVR and LWL museums free of charge year-round, including various open-air museums, the Max Ernst Museum in Brühl, or the Schiffshebewerk Henrichenburg in Waltrop.
www.lvr.de | www.lwl-kultur.de 

Stars of Classical Modernism
Works by Cézanne, van Gogh, or Manet are part of the collection of the Museum Folkwang in Essen. These and other treasures of the collection can be viewed free of charge. Tickets are required for the special exhibitions only.

Kunstsammlung NRW, presenting art from the 20th and 21st centuries, hosts its KPMG Art Evening on every first Wednesday of the month. These events with themed tours and other programme elements from 6 to 10 pm are hosted free of charge in the two K20 and K21 buildings.

The permanent exhibitions of all municipal museums can be visited free of charge in Dortmund, including, among other things, the Museum Ostwall in the Dortmunder U with its exhibitions of art from the 20th and 21st centuries. Aachen gives families free admission to one of the city’s museums, including the Couven Museum, on every first Sunday of the month.

Sculpture tours
The Städtische Galerie im Park in Viersen in the Lower Rhine region has an indoor and an outdoor offering for its visitors, as a classicist villa and an adjacent sculpture park both present art for all age groups. One subject focus is on art in public space, including works by renowned contemporary sculptors such as Cragg, Heerich, Matta to be admired along with some temporary projects.

A total of 700 works by famous and lesser-known artists alike are exhibited in public spaces in other corners of North Rhine-Westphalia. The NRWSkulptur app is a digital guide to the different works across the state with specific route suggestions.
www.viersen.de | www.nrw-skulptur.de 

Panorama Zollverein Colliery with Sunset, © Tourismus NRW e.V.

Ex­per­i­en­cing in­dus­tri­al cul­ture

Worth a vis­it night and day

The industrial heritage in North Rhine-Westphalia is quite impressive, as no other federal state has such an abundance and variety of industrial monuments to offer. The best thing about it is that some particularly interesting spots can be visited free of charge. One of these is the UNESCO World Heritage site Zeche Zollverein, a masterpiece of mine architecture and one of the world’s most beautiful collieries. Free soccer golf, a mixture of soccer and golf, permits athletic exploration of the large premises, while the works pool affords another athletic attraction and a cool spot in summer. The Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, open around the clock and a place worth visiting after dark for its special lighting, has a diverse athletic offer to be explored on foot, by bike, or on a giant tube slide into a former storage bunker at the climbing garden and is reminiscent of a gigantic adventure playground.

Slagheaps and a historical shaft
Anyone curious about the oldest scaffolding of industrial architecture in the Ruhr area should drop by the 48-metre-high winding tower of Shaft IV in Moers. Volunteers from the Grafschafter Museums- und Geschichtsverein will guide visitors through the collection and explain the machines there.

Vast vistas and many even climbable pieces of art are waiting at the top of the mountains of the Ruhr area. More than 20 slagheaps open to visitors offer a mix of industrial culture and nature. The Tiger & Turtle landmark in Duisburg, for example, resembles a walk-on roller coaster, while a tetrahedron seems to be floating on the Beckstraße slagheap in Bottrop. Both of these works of art are actually climbable rather than being strictly meant for viewing.

Eifel National Park, child looking through binoculars with ranger , © Tourismus NRW e.V.

Ex­plor­ing nature

Wa­ter and forests

Rangers take hikers through the Eifel National Park free of charge and without registration almost every day. The trained guides offer first-hand knowledge on various subjects and talk about curious facts of the flora and fauna of the protected area every weekday.

Fun with water the Ems-Erlebniswelt
The interactive Ems-Erlebniswelt in Schloss Holte-Stukenbrock teaches children and adults alike about animals, people, and regions along the Ems River. The adventure garden allows young visitors to properly let off steam - spare clothes wouldn’t come amiss since things will get pretty wet here.

Walking among redwood trees
History meets nature in the Lower Rhine region, where the Sequoia Farm in Kaldenkirchen-Nettetal is the first place to cultivate sequoia trees in Europe. It houses some 63-year-old redwoods by now, with a unique grove of coast redwoods, primeval redwoods, and more than 400 other rare woody species. The oldest tree among the giants, however, is a small-leaved linden tree about 220 years old.

Schloss Paffendorf with moat, © Johannes Höhn

Castle parks and baroque gar­dens

Roy­al ex­cur­sions

Baroque gardens, refined palace parks, and monastery gardens across NRW invite visitors to linger and discover them free of charge. The density of stately homes is particularly high in the Rhine-Erft district, for example, with the grounds of Schloss Augustusburg and Schloss Falkenlust in Brühl, which number among the UNESCO World Heritage sites, as some absolute highlights among a great many beautiful gems. The baroque gardens and surrounding wooded areas, designed to the pattern of an English landscape garden, are open free of charge every day.

Ancient sequoias, gingkoes, and giant trees of life are growing in the park of Schloss Paffendorf. Water areas and bog plants also leave their mark on the landscape. Visitors are invited to go for a stroll here every day. Schloss Türnich, where the passing Erft River fills moats and ponds, is not far from here. The 300-metre-long linden avenue with its 111 linden trees to provide pleasant shade in summer is another highlight. Anyone ready to invest a coin or two after all should treat themselves to a delicious piece of cake in the castle café. This castle is, by the way, owned by Severin von Hoensbroech, who has some great plans for his little castle.

Monastery garden and spa park
Terraces, ponds, sculptures, and fountains have characterised the park of the Klever Gärten in Kleve in the Lower Rhine region since the 17th century. The adjacent forest garden offers exotic woody plants such as trumpet and tulip trees. The former Kleve Kurhaus, now an art museum, happens to be where Joseph Beuys, who grew up nearby, had his first studio. A former vineyard in Kamp-Lintfort, also in the area, is the site of the Kloster Kamp monastery with its terraced garden, also called the Sanssouci of the Lower Rhine. The impressive park with its steps, terraces, flowerbeds, and fountains, is highly symmetrical and open to the public free of charge year-round. Families can find a climbing playground at the base of the monastery.

  • Tetraeder Bottrop, © Dennis Stratmann
    Jule and Bente Wagner let off steam on the playground, © Jule Wagner
    Venues of the Ruhrtriennale such as the Duisburg-Nord Landscape Park have a decisive influence on the artistic work, © Tourismus NRW e.V.
  • Eingangsportal Schloss Türnich im Rhein-Erft-Kreis, © Tourismus NRW e.V.
    Augustusburg Palace in Brühl, © Johannes Höhn
    Terrace garden of the Kamp monastery in Kamp-Lintfort, © Arno Ingenlath

On to the next fam­ily ex­cur­sion

Find many oth­er di­verse ex­cur­sion des­tin­a­tions and pieces of ad­vice for great day trips here.

Read more