A former industrial powerhouse and now a thriving, green city, Essen has plenty to offer. From high-profile concert halls in repurposed factories to an elegant industrial complex with Bauhaus architecture and a titanic coal washery, there's something here for everyone.
A major highlight is the Grugapark, laid out in 1927 as an educational institution. It's a great place to spend a few hours, with everything from cacti to bonsai and Mediterranean orange groves to American forests and Alpine natives.
The neo-Gothic Marktkirche St. Georgii et Jacobi, also called the Nassauer Landesdom on Schlossplatz, is the main church of the Protestant state capital of Hesse, Germany. It was designed by Carl Boos between 1853 and 1862.
Among its most famous features are the late Medieval wooden altar depicting scenes from the Passion of Christ and patron saints George and James, a huge organ made out of parts of older instruments, and the carillon that houses 49 bronze bells, the largest of which weighs 2.2 tons.
Guided tower tours are offered at certain times. You can also see a wax death mask of Marin Luther in the church’s side room.
Grugapark is one of the largest city parks in Europe and attracts over 1 million visitors a year. It features large grass areas, botanical gardens, a palm house and numerous playgrounds.
It also has an animal park with exotic animals, a petting zoo and a music pavilion. Its main feature is the Hundertwasserhaus, which was designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser and looks like it's painted into the landscape!
You can also go jogging here every evening after official opening times until 9.30pm and without an entrance fee. During the day, there are also various sport activities on offer.
3. Old Synagogue
Located in Essen's city centre on Steeler Strasse 29, the Old Synagogue is one of the largest, most architecturally impressive and best preserved testimonies to Jewish culture in pre-war Germany. It is now a museum and memorial for German-Jewish history and Jewish contemporary culture.
The building was built by master builder Edmund Korner in 1913 and is the only free-standing major synagogue that survived - at least externally - the Second World War. It is now a unique cultural monument, with permanent exhibitions for Jewish, German-Jewish history and Jewish contemporary cultural activities.
The Old Synagogue also features a museum area that tells the story of Essen's Jewish community, as well as displaying artifacts from their ritual life. The museum is also a meeting point for members of the local Jewish community.
4. Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex
The Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in Essen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany is an iconic symbol of the Ruhr region. It was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.
The rusty giant is the largest former industrial site in Europe and houses a number of museums, art galleries, restaurants, and leisure activities. It’s a must-see for anyone who’s interested in the history of heavy industry in the Ruhr area.
The industrial monument was founded in 1847 by Franz Haniel, a Duisburg-born industrialist who needed coke for steel production. He was inspired by test drillings that showed a rich layer of coal in the Katernberg region and divided ownership among his family and the landowners of the Zollverein territory.
5. Essen Cathedral
The Essen Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral, the seat of the bishop of the Ruhr diocese. It is the largest church in Essen, and one of its best-known monuments.
- It is a Gothic church that was made baroque in the 18th century. The western part of the church, the “westwork”, features a sculpted altarpiece, while the side chapels have a wealth of murals.
- During the 10th and 11th centuries, it was endowed with invaluable objects by the abbess Mathilde II, including a bronze candelabrum created at 1000 BC and the Golden Madonna of Essen, the oldest known representation of the Virgin Mary in Europe.
- Today, the cathedral is a museum with works from countless famous artists. It is a great place to visit when you are in Essen.