Essen a city in the North Rhine-Westphalia state in western Germany is situated between the Rhine-Herne Canal and the Ruhr River. The city’s rapid growth was stimulated by the development of ironworks, steelworks and coal mines in the 19th century. Essen was occupied by the French and suffered much damage during WW II as a center of the German war industry. Since then the city has been rebuilt and has large, modern administrative and office buildings and housing.
At one time coal was the leading industry but since that time all of the mines have been closed. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001 the Zollverein Coal-Mine Complex was once the largest in the world. Today this complex has become a major tourist attraction. In the wintertime people can come skating at the Zollverein Ice Rink built among the site’s old coke ovens. The outdoor area has become like a nature park with a wide variety of wildlife and botanical plants. People who love go walking enjoy the Ring Promenade where you’ll find three-and-a-half kilometers of trails circling this property. When visiting on weekend between may and October take a ride on the Sun Wheel, a 14-gondola Ferris Wheel rising above the old coke plant.
Within this industrial complex you’ll also find the Ruhr Museum, offering many interesting collection that relate to the region’s natural history and the art and culture of the Ruhr. This is one of the most important museums in this field in the North-Rhine-Westphalia. The museum has found its home in a former coal washing plant and encompasses the historically significant Shaft 12. The museum has collections of fossils and minerals and displays the tool and equipment needed to extract them. An attraction not to pass-by is the Portal of Industrial Heritage, an audio-visual attraction, including a 360-degree film and there are hands-on displays which showcase the city’s industrial heritage.
An important art gallery in the Ruhr is the Museum Folkwang, displaying paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries, European sculpture from the 13th century and many paintings and applied arts from outside of Europe. The museum was established in 1922 and found its home in one of the city’s most architecturally interesting buildings. It also features a vast collection of almost 350,000 posters, a photographic collection of over 50,000 images and many prints and drawings.
The old Roman Catholic Minster stands in the Burgplatz and was originally built as an abbey in the 9th century. It is thought to be one of Germany’s oldest cathedrals. The interior of the cathedral has a seven-branched bronze candelabrum dating from about 1000 BC and the Golden Madonna from the same period, considered to be one of the oldest sculpted figures of the Virgin Mary in Western Europe. Other impressive features include the Column of Ida, the cathedral’s oldest surviving fixture; the late 13th century gothic monument to Altfrid, Essen’s founder; and the spectacular sandstone Entombment of Christ, dating from about 1500. In the Bishop’s Palace visitors can admire the Essen Cathedral Treasury containing the most important and complete collection of religious art and artifacts in the country.
Close to the city center lies the lovely Grugapark, a 175 acre public park laid out in 1929 for the Great Ruhrland Garden Show. Highlights of the park include the Grugahalle sports complex, an observation tower, lots of old fountains and some restaurants. For children there is an animal enclosure, an aquarium, an amusement park and a narrow-gauge railroad. The most visited area of the park is the Botanic Garden, home to many plants from all over the world, including an Alpinum with plant species from Asia, North America and the local area. It is also worth visiting the beautiful Stadtgarten, the Municipal Park, home to the city’s main theater.
Serving as a place of worship and a memorial site is the Old Synagogue. It was built in 1913 and is one of the best-preserved and most impressive Jewish cultural sites to have survived WW II. The synagogue offers visitors concerts, theatrical performances and readings. There are exhibits that focus on the pre-war and war years and deal with topics such as Jewish persecution and resistance. The adjacent House of the Rabbi is used to house the city’s archives.
Visitors will find the lovely Villa Hugel located on the north side of the Baldeneysee, Essen’s largest lake. The mansion was built in 1873 for the Krupp Family, one of the region’s oldest and wealthiest industrialist dynasties. The mansion sits in a large park overlooking the Ruhr. It has 269 rooms and houses a collection of historical art and artifacts in the adjoining Kleines Haus. Periodic special exhibitions are displayed in the villa itself. In the summer months musical concerts are offered here and at any time guided tours are available.
Baldeneysee an artificial body of water was formed after the construction of a dam in 1933. It is one of the region’s busiest tourist attractions. It is most popular with water sport fans from canoeing to kayaking to sailing. On the lake are 20 sailing clubs and boaters can also rent simple pedal-powered boats by the hour. Tourists can get tour boats that ferry passengers to some of the lake’s most popular site such as the beautiful 13th century Schloss Baldeney and the Heisinger Bird Sanctuary. This is also a popular destination for fishing and for sunbathing on the beaches.
An historical borough of Essen is the Old Town of Werden. Here you can take a walk back into history. The town was established in the 8th century by St. Luger, the patron saint of Werden Abbey. In Werden you’ll find the impressive 13th century Abbey Church, one of the finest Late Romanesque churches in the Rhineland. The church has an incredible late Baroque interior and its Treasury, home to a bronze crucifix from 1060 and the St. Ludger’s Chalice, dating from about 900 AD.
The Virgin Mary Statue is located on the Dionysiuskirchplatz and decorates the eastern wall of St. Dionysius Church. It was built in 1911 and is a replica of the original grotto at Lourdes.
St. Dionysius is a three-aisled New Gothic Basilica built between 1862 and 1867 by architect Vincenz Statz.
The Marktkirche or Market Church is a Lutheran Church, listed on the German Monument Registers. The church dates back to 1054. In 2005/06 this church was re-built in large parts according to plans by architect Eckhard Gerber. The church has amazing insulation glass panes. The steel structure absorbs wind and dead-weight loads and is stabilized by the glass panes.