Ever Heard of Essen?By Lyn Shaw -
When you think about German city breaks, folks tend to consider Berlin, Munich, Hamburg and maybe Cologne. But what about thinking outside the norm and visit what was historically known as their industrial heartland, the Ruhr area in mid West Germany. It’s certainly cheaper than the more well known tourist cities and there’s a sense of visiting the real deal.
Flying into Dusseldorf and travelling 30 minutes east by bus, train or taxi you reach the main Ruhr city of Essen. There are numerous hotels to stay in including the Atlantic. Although it is 20 minutes outside the city, it is located next to Grugapark with its lido, and the Messe conference centre – the site of Europe’s largest car show held in early December. There is also The Mercure, located next to their Philharmonic Hall and the famous Folkwang museum. Or, for those looking for something familiar, the Holiday Inn in the city centre itself. All these hotels have accessible public areas, lifts and large rooms with walk-in showers.
But what has Essen got to offer?
Firstly, it’s a shopper’s dream. Limbecker Platz is supposedly the biggest mall in Germany, including perks such as flat pedestrian streets and a huge shopping mall. Even better, items are good value for money; £30 for a dress is quite reasonable, especially with the quality associated with German goods.
Secondly it’s a foodie paradise – in fact, Essen in German means “you can eat well here” – and you certainly can with a multitude of restaurants from every corner of the world to suit all tastes and bank balances. A few shout outs though for Zucca, a very popular cafe in Ruttencheid. The Fritzpatricks Irish bar also in Ruttencheid, which offers a great homemade lamb stew with a karaoke bar in the back. The Vapiano chain, serving Italian food made to order in front of you. Last but not least, the Cowboystyle steakhouse in Ketwig, where the range of steaks are actually explained in detail for once!
Essen loves its music, from buskers in the streets to live bands in pubs and clubs. And for 3 days in August and September, is host to the free Essen “Original” music festival with 6 stages spread across the city catering for every genre. Heavy metal to jazz, to hip hop to rock to disco – there is something for everyone. Such fun, good spirits and open air bierkellers, what more could you ask for?
Something else to visit in the city centre is the cathedral which holds the Golden Madonna from 980 AD. It also has an amazing Gothic crypt, like something out of a Dan Brown novel!
Essen is rightly proud of its industrial heritage and just 2 miles north lies the Zolverein Mine – a UNESCO World Heritage site covering 100 hectares.
With entry costing just 8 euros, the enormous coal washing plant contains the Ruhr museum – a well laid out and lift accessible attraction with intelligently designed exhibits. But the main feature is the plant itself with the giant coal machinery still in place. For another 8 Euros an English speaking guide will take you round, explaining the how, what, why and when of mining. I thoroughly recommend the tour – very interesting and thought provoking.
Finally Essen has brilliant transport links and it’s an easy trip for an hour to reach Bonn, Cologne or Dusseldorf. This is particularly great fun at Christmas time when you can zip around comparing and contrasting each city’s Christmas market. Personally, I like Essen’s own as it’s accessible, relatively compact over 3 different squares. All in all, it is also cheaper and friendlier than its neighbours!
And so now you have heard of Essen...why not give it a go, what’s not to like?
Limitless Lyn Shaw