Cities & Culture

The Ruhrgebiet: from industrial region to cultural melting pot

Essen: heritage-protected colliery Zollverein ©DZT (Francesco Carovillano)

Formerly Germany's coal-mining region, the Ruhrgebiet forms one of the largest conurbations in Europe and is now known for being one of the continent's densest cultural landscapes. Places such as Bochum, Dortmund, Duisburg, Essen and Oberhausen have come together to form a fascinating urban area full of surprises.

All 53 towns and cities in the Ruhrgebiet have one thing in common: They have successfully achieved the remarkable transition from industry to culture. What has emerged is Europe's densest cultural landscape with 1,000 industrial monuments, 200 museums, 250 festivals, 120 theatres and three musical theatres. Major international events, such as the Ruhrtriennale arts and music festival, take place at venues across the region and feature some of the most exciting performances currently to be found on stages and in concert halls anywhere. Visitors travelling through the region will be met with a down-to-earth warmth unlike anywhere else.

Although coal is no longer mined here, blast furnaces, gasometers and winding towers still dominate the landscape of the Ruhrgebiet and serve as venues for theatre, music, painting, dance, performance, sport, relaxation and more. They can be explored in Duisburg-Nord Industrial Landscape Park and along the Route of Industrial Heritage, a 400-km circuit through the Ruhrgebiet that takes in 54 striking monuments to Germany's industrial past and present. One of these monuments is the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Essen, which was recently named the European Green Capital. And it's no wonder why: Glorious nature thrives between the many monuments and cultural highlights – proof, if ever it was needed, that there are very few metropolises as surprising as the Ruhrgebiet.

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