Hiking and shopping, nature and culture, plenty of outdoor fun, and a huge variety of places to stop for refreshments: the city and countryside are close enough together in North Rhine-Westphalia that the best of both worlds is actually within reach. Our advice for hiking tours with (big) city flair is, therefore, not only ideal for uncertain weather conditions, but also for families and other groups that need to reconcile a wide variety of wishes. The best thing about it is that the paths in and around Cologne, Bielefeld, Essen, Paderborn, and Tecklenburg will give everyone a chance to experience their own moments of joy together.
The modest name doesn’t even hint at the true dimensions of this trail. At a total length of about 170 kilometres, the "Kölnpfad" is impressive not only in terms of the distance. Hikers following it will get to know the green outskirts of the metropolis as they discover lesser-known corners far from the cathedral and the old town. A detour to the heart of the city is possible at any time thanks to very good bus and train connections. The trail can be done as a whole or broken down into sections to match individual preferences. The eleven sections keep returning to the river Rhine, through some very different parts of the city on either side of the riverbank, as well as into the surrounding countryside: Cologne’s highest elevation, the 118.4-metres-high “Monte Troodelöh” and Schloss Bensberg in Bergisch Gladbach are some of the panoramic highlights on this circular tour. www.koelner-eifelverein.de
The ZollvereinSteig in Essen brings together world-class industrial heritage and the nature of the Ruhr Area. The hiking trail, opened in 2022, leads from the UNESCO World Heritage Site Zollverein through the green north of the city of Essen, past the Rhine-Herne Canal, through parks, allotments, and a number of slagheaps. While these mountains of the Ruhr Area afford some great vistas, a certain degree of fitness is, of course, required on them. No worries, though: There is many a chance to stop along the way – including an opportunity to visit the Stauder brewery, which has been brewing its Pilsner in Altenessen for 150 years.
www.visitessen.de | www.visitessen.de/zollvereinsteig
From castle to mountain
Bears, modern art, and half-timbered historical farmhouses are some of the other section destinations on this circular trail, as are the castle and the mountain. The approximately seven-kilometres-long route not only takes you past many of Bielefeld’s sights, but also through parks and the nature of the Teutoburg Forest. The Heimat-Tierpark Olderdissen, where admission is free of charge, invites visitors to see bears, wolves, wild cats, and similar animals; the Kunsthalle Bielefeld with its surrounding sculpture park, the idyllic Bauernhaus Museum exhibiting historical mills, barns, and cottages to bring back rural life of the past, and Sparrenburg castle, a proper highlight with some panoramic views of the city and surroundings are good places to stop for a brief visit.
This path runs along a very special watercourse: At a length of no more than about four kilometres, the Pader is Germany’s shortest river. If this route from the approximately 200 springs at the centre of Paderborn to the mouth of the river Lippe near the former prince-bishop’s residence Schloss Neuhaus is too short for your taste, it is easy to extend this tour to a length of up to twelve kilometres. Choose from a number of route lengths as well as various places to stop for refreshments, playgrounds, and two mini-golf courses to ensure varied breaks, in particular for families.
Black-and-white half-timbered houses from the 16th to 18th centuries provide many pretty eye-catchers in the old town of Tecklenburg. The six-kilometre-long premium “Tecklenburger Romantik” town hiking trail leads through and around the town. It is one of only five paths with this quality seal in Germany. It will take you through the old town to the market square, the Otto Modersohn Museum, the Tecklenburg ruins, and the spa park with its Kneipping pool and herb garden.