The Ruhr area — or “Ruhrpott”, as Germans affectionately call it — is a former industrial area centrally located in North-Rhine-Westphalia. The region takes its name partly from the river Ruhr, which runs south of this densely populated region. Meanwhile, the word “Pott” comes from “Kohlenpott” (meaning “coal pot”) and alludes to the area’s coal-mining past. For over 2000 years, coal and steel production shaped the region’s development. However, the Ruhr area has recently undergone an astonishing transformation, turning one of Europe’s largest industrial regions into a melting pot of cultures and making the area a popular destination for visitors. This reinvention led to the Ruhr area becoming the first region to be named European Capital of Culture in 2010. The cities and communities of Bochum, Bottrop, Dortmund, Duisburg, Essen, Gelsenkirchen, Hagen, Hamm, Herne, Mülheim an der Ruhr, Oberhausen, Recklinghausen, Unna, Wesel and the Ennepe-Ruhr district form one vibrant and diverse metropolis today, with numerous historical and cultural attractions for visitors to enjoy.
Things to see and do
Reminders of the region’s former past can be found throughout the entire area. The former colliery Zeche Zollverein in Essen has become a UNESCO World Heritage in 2001 site hosting various cultural events and activities from theater performances to concerts and exhibitions.
Built in 1929, the gasometer in Oberhausen — a former storage facility for blast furnace gas — today houses art exhibitions. It is Europe’s tallest exhibition hall, offering a remarkable view of the area from the very top of the gasometer. Reach the observation deck with the glass elevator and enjoy the exhibitions from above.
The German Mining Museum
The German Mining Museum in Bochum invites you to experience the atmosphere in an authentic mine measuring 2.5 km in length. The museum offers insight into the world of mining. Various technical and historical objects are on display, making the museum a renowned research facility for the history of the coal and steel industry. Visitors can go all the way up to the top of the former headframe, from where they have a spectacular view of the Ruhr valley and the city beneath.
Landscape Park Duisburg Nord
The Landscape Park Duisburg Nord is a park surrounding a spectacularly renovated former steel mill. At night, a light installation by British artist Jonathan Park transforms the scenery into a fascinating sea of light and colour.
The Industrial Heritage Trail
The industrial plants once shaped life in the Ruhr region; today the remains of the region’s past still shape the cityscapes. The Industrial Heritage Trail invites visitors to embark on a journey through the different attractions industry has left behind. These sites are situated along a 400 km long circuit though the Ruhr valley, leading visitors from former steel mills to coal plants to smokestack workers’ settlements. Nowadays, the soot-shadowed gloom of the past has given way to clear blue skies over an astonishingly beautiful landscape.
Discovery by bicycle, by boat and on foot
In the Ruhr valley with its many cities and towns visitors will feel like they never left one city before they enter into the next one. Major cities such as Duisburg, Essen, Oberhausen and Dortmund are so close to each other that you can travel between them on the suburban railway or even the tram. The Ruhr area and its gorgeous valley attract many visitors every year. So mount your bikes and enjoy a ride through the beautiful Ruhr region. Cyclists can embark on tours along the river, in the countryside and through the remains of the valley’s industrial past. The Ruhr region with its RuhrMetropolis campaign makes it possible that visitors can rent bikes at more than 20 “Revierrad” bicycle stations throughout the region. However, the same idyllic bike paths are also open to hikers and pedestrians, and the truly ambitious can choose to embark upon the ancient Jacob’s Path (Jakobsweg) pilgrimage route, which leads through Dortmund via Essen to Spain.
Rivers and lakes
The Ruhr river’s “White Fleet” ferry boats travel up and down the river Ruhr and go all the way to the Baldeneysee. This former water reservoir in Essen is now used as a regional recreational park, where rowing clubs, sailing and surfing schools are situated.