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Essen was recently named European Green Capital, a sign of the city's impressive transformation into a green oasis – the perfect excuse to plan a visit. Take the opportunity to see the extent of the change for yourself and enjoy everything Essen has to offer as a city that has successfully drawn on its industrial past to firmly fix its gaze on the future.
Here are the top things to see and do in Germany's third greenest city.
For fans of history and culture
Essen, a city known for its industrial past linked to coal mining, now enjoys a thriving cultural landscape that puts it on a par with Europe's most popular destinations... and these two characteristics make for a rich, fascinating blend.
The Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex – A symbol of industrial development in Europe and an architectural gem (it was inspired by the Bauhaus movement), the mine has now become a centre for culture and art. Today, the Zollverein complex is home to the Zollverein School of Management and Design, exhibition halls and the Ruhr Museum.
The medieval cathedral and its treasure – The cathedral is home to the Golden Madonna, a historically significant piece from the Early Middle Ages. This full-length sculpture of Mary is the oldest of its kind in the world.
The Red Dot DesignMuseum – The world's largest exhibition of contemporary design displays secular and cult items. You can find thousands of design icons that have received the Red Dot Award, a highly coveted prize of international renown.
Museum Folkwang– Since the museum first opened its doors in 1922, it has been known the world over for its exceptional collections of German and French paintings. You can expect to find masterpieces by the likes of Van Gogh, Cézanne, Braque, Monet, Munch, Turner, Warhol and Baselitz.
The Villa Hügel – Villa Hügel, which has been a cultural centre since the 1950s, reflects the wealth of the Krupps, a family of industrialists, as well as the economic role the city of Essen played during the years of industrialisation. The villa, whose 269 rooms occupy over 8,000 m² of floor space, sits above the Ruhr valley and Lake Baldeney, surrounded by a 28-hectare park.
For those in search of a stroll and some retail therapy
If you love going out in the countryside or treating yourself to a proper shopping session, Essen has everything you need: parks, lakes and botanical gardens (it is the European Green Capital 2017, after all), as well as malls and designer shops.
The old town of Kettwig – Take the time to travel to Kettwig (by train) and wander through the cobbled streets of this picturesque town, admiring the traditional-style houses, some of which date back to the 14th century, or simply do a bit of shopping in the boutiques dotted here and there. To enjoy the countryside to the max, hop aboard a boat and sail down the Ruhr to reach Mülheim – when you're ready to make the journey back, Essen is just a train ride away.
Lake Baldeney– This lake, 8 km in length, is the perfect place to enjoy a romantic jaunt, either on foot or by bike. The lake is surrounded by sailing clubs, restaurants and a private beach (complete with deckchairs!), making it a fantastic leisure destination.
The Christmas market – In the country of Christmas markets, Essen is no exception. Gifts and German delicacies are sold from almost 250 cabins, as a crown composed of thousands of lights shines overhead. The market extends to Willy-Brandt-Platz, Rathenaustraße, Kennedyplatz and the Flachsmarkt. Step back in time as you approach the cathedral; the surrounding area is home to the medieval Christmas market.
The Moltkeviertel quarter – Located in the south-east of the city, this quarter was built at the dawn of the 20th century. In those days, it was a one-of-a-kind model for the modern town, thanks to its infrastructure and high-quality architecture. A refined residential quarter, Moltkeviertel consists of large green spaces. See for yourself: Visit the Grugapark, one of Germany's largest parks at 70 hectares, and its sublime botanical gardens.
Essen, a shopping city – With more than 1,000 shops and outlets, the city of Essen is able to satisfy even the most demanding of fashionistas: From the exclusive boutiques found in the Theatherpassage and Lindengalerie to Limbecker Platz mall, home to 200 brands.
Convinced? Book your journey!
Planning a trip to Essen? Get straight to the city centre with Thalys or ICE trains. Tip: the earlier you book, the cheaper your tickets will be!
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* Unless expressly stated otherwise, all fares quoted are per person/per leg (VAT included) based on an online reservation for a 2nd class return from Brussels. Please note, terms and conditions apply. Tip: As the number of seats at the lowest fares on Thalys, Eurostar, TGV® and ICE trains is limited, we recommend that you book your trip as early as possible. Most international trains allow reservations to be made from 3 to 4 months before the date of departure (or from 6 months for Eurostar and ICE).
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