Essen - description of the city:

Essen is located in Germany on the River Ruhr. It is in the North Rhine-Westphalia and Ruhr area of the country. The population of the city is around 567,000 of as the end of 2012. In the year 2010, the city was the culture capital for Europe on behalf of the entire Ruhr area. 

The city was founded in the year 845 and was one of the most important steel and coal centers for Germany until the 1970s. Workers from all over the country came to work in the city. From 1929 through 1988, the city was the 5th largest in the country. Since that time the city has developed a large tertiary sector and is often called “the desk of Ruhr area.” The city is where 13 out of the 100 largest German corporations call home. Many of the regions authorities are located in the city as well. The Roman Catholic diocese chose the city to serve as their seat in the year 1958. 

There are several landmarks worth visiting while in Essen. The Zollverein Industrial complex is the most well-known landmark of the city. For many years the coal mine and the coking plant were some of the largest of their kind in all of Europe. Shaft XII has become a major symbol for the area and has been called one of the most beautiful coal mines of the world. It was named as a world heritage site by UNESCO in the year 2001. The coking plant and coal mine grounds are free to enter, but there are paid guided tours available for those who are interested. 

The Essen Abbey is now the Bishop of Essen’s cathedral and is a Gothic Hall church made out of sandstone. This is another place that is worth visiting while you are in the city. 

There are several notable landmarks in Essen. If you’re visiting the city as a tourist, here are some sites that you don’t want to miss. 

Zollverein Industrial Complex 

This is the most famous landmark in the whole city. For several years, the coal mine and the coking plant were among the biggest of their kind in Europe. Shaft XII was designed in the Bauhaus style, with a cool winding tower. The tower has become a symbol for the entire Ruhr area, and it is considered a true masterpiece of technical design and architecture. Some observers have called it the most gorgeous coal mine in the entire world, and the German Bauhaus design style is certainly a very alluring architectural style. UNESCO designated it as a World Heritage Site in 2001. Can you imagine that? Not many people would think that an industrial complex could become a World Heritage Site. The complex had been dormant for quite awhile, and there was a chance it would be demolished, but it underwent some redevelopment. Luckily, the site was saved from destruction. A number of different design and arts organizations settled mostly in the area of the former coal mine. A restoration plan for the coking plant was put into action, too. 

The coal mine and the coking plant are both accessible for free, and there are also guided tours for a fee. There are a number of tourist attractions in the area, and one of the coolest is the Red Dot Design Museum. You can also find the Ruhrmuseum, which is a museum that covers the history of the area, which had been in existence from 1904. This museum opened up in 2010. 

Essen Minster and Treasury 

The old church of Essen Abbey and now the cathedral of the Bishop of Essen is a Gothic hall church constructed out of light sandstone. The very first church in the vicinity dates all the way back to the mid-800s. The church that’s there now was developed after another church had been consumed in a fire in 1275. However, the noteworthy crypt and westwork have survived for centuries. The cathedral is situated right in the middle of the city that grew up around it. The church is not that stunning visually and the church that is close by, St. Johann Baptist, which is situated right inside the pedestrian precinct, is sometimes mistakenly thought to be the cathedral. The cathedral treasury is an extremely important historical site because most of the artworks have been preserved. The most valuable exhibit, located inside the cathedral, is the Golden Madonna of Essen. The cathedral houses the most ancient sculpture of the Madonna (that we know of) and one of the oldest free-standing sculptures in Europe. Some of the other notable exhibits include Emperor Otto III’s crown, the oldest Christian candelabrum, and many other art works from Ottonian times. If you’re a fan of ancient European history, this is an excellent site to check out. You’ll find a lot of art works, sculptures, and artifacts that are among the oldest in the world of their kind. Plus, you’ll get to see what a very old German cathedral looks like. 

Old Synagogue 

The Old Synagogue was opened at the turn of the 20th century, and it was called the New Synagogue at that time. It was the main meeting place of the Jewish community before the war. The structure is one of the of the biggest and best windows into Jewish culture before the war in Germany. After the war, the site was purchased by the city, and it was used first as an exhibition hal and then designated as a cultural meeting place and tribute to Jewish culture. 

Villa Hugel 

Alfred Krupp, the German industrial tycoon, built this mansion in 1873. It has more than 250 rooms, and there is a surrounding park of approximately 70 acres. The property had almost 650 staffmembers in the past, and it was just a single-family home when the mansion had so many staff-members. At the time when it was built, the villa had some amazing technical features and quirks, like a central heating system, internal and external telegraph systems, and water and gas works. The Krupp family was forced to leave the home in 1945, when the Allies took it over. The home was given back in 1952, and it is currently the site of a foundation. The mansion was opened for big exhibitions and concerts thereafter. 

Kettwig and Werden 

Located in the southern part of the city, the boroughs of Werden and Kettwig have a unique character and style all their own. Werden was annexed in 1929 and Kettwig was annexed in 1975. These cities have preserved their character for the most part, even after they were annexed. The majority of the northern boroughs were severely damaged throughout World War II and they lost their town centers. The southern parts were not damaged as much. 

Kettwig was annexed in 1975, but it still struggles to gain its independence, which was mostly shaped by the textile industry.

Tourist Attractions 

There are a number of tourist attractions in Essen. It is not just an old city with cultural landmarks. There are a number of things to do for tourists. Let’s take a look at several of them. 

Alvar Aalto’s Opera House 

In 1959, there was a design contest held by the city to see who could come up with the best design for the best opera house. Fin Alvar Aalto, one of the best architects in Europe, won the contest. However, the project would be delayed for ten years because the plans were held up in a continual refining process that involved the city council. Plus, the city council was devoting much time and effort to the construction of the new city hall. The city hall project took time and money away from the opera house. After the city hall was completed, the city wanted to build the theater. However, Aalto had died during that significant delay period. The city didn’t even want to resume the opera house project until 1979. It was very unfortunate, and it is even more of a shame considering that the opera house is a far superior architectural achievement now than the city hall. The city council might have made the wrong choice. Didn’t the citizens of Essen deserve a grand opera house sooner? It certainly could have brought in more tourist dollars during that time. Another architect was given the task of completing the structure, but Aalto’s wife was given a final say on everything. The construction began in 1983, and the building was finished in five years time. The very first performance took place in 1988, and it was almost 30 years to the day after the contest had been won. 

Grillo Theater 

The Grillo Theater is located in downtown Essen, and it is currently the main venue in the city for drama, and it acted as the opera house for several years while the Aalto opera house was in development. 

The Grillo Theater was utterly destroyed during World War II, and it was redeveloped in a minimalist style after the war. It was just called “Opera House” until the new Aalto Opera House was opened up. 

Red Dot Design Museum 

The Red Dot Design Museum is located in the boiler house of the Zeche Zollverein. Luckily, the architects left behind some of the old design. They struck a nice mix with the old architecture of the design exhibits there. 

Museum Folkwang 

Museum Folkwang is one of the best museums in Germany for late 20th century contemporary art. The new museum structure was just opened in 2010. The passages and halls are spacious, well lit, and fun to walk through. There are a number of sculptures and paintings. 

You can see art from Vincent van Gogh, Rodin, Kirchner, Monet, Kandinsky, etc. The Folkwang has some of the most well-known paintings from the masters of Expressionism and Impressionism. You will see sculptures and paintings that you’ve probably seen on postage stamps, calendars, and books. 

Ruhr Museum 

The recently opened Ruhr Museum in Zeche Zollverein is definitely worth visiting. You can purchase an entry ticket to the Ruhr Museum or a combination ticket for all the different attractions in the building. 

The Ruhr Museum gives a lot of insights into the industrialization of the area, how the people used to live in the past, and a whole lot more. Even people that aren’t usually into museums will probably enjoy this one, especially if you like what you see when you’re visiting Essen.

See Essen The Next Time You Visit Germany 

Be sure to visit Essen the next time you’re in Germany. It’s a historic city, and there are several cultural landmarks as well as new sites for tourists to enjoy while they’re passing through. Essen is a city that has the best of old and new, and the museum there will show you how the city changed throughout the decades.

Country Germany
International title Essen
Population 593,085 people
Timezone Europe/Berlin
State North Rhine-Westphalia
Geographic coordinates Latitude: 51.45 x Longitude: 7.01667

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