Photo by Nordenfan – Wikimedia

Top 10 Things to do in Essen


Essen began in the 9th century after a women’s abbey was established in the town. Later, the town grew after it became an important coal-mining town during the Renaissance period. Essen is the 9th largest city in Germany.

This German city, a once-thriving industrialization hub, has now turned its former industries into museums, concert venues and cultural centres.

The Ruhr Museum in Essen showcases regional history while the Red Dot Design Museum showcases contemporary designs. The later museum is set in a former boiler house.

The Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in Essen was once the largest colliery in the world. This place is now a UNESCO Heritage Site and welcomes almost a million tourists annually.

Most of Essen’s top attractions are located near the Old Town. Here is a complete guide on the top 10 things to do in Essen.  

1. Go back in time to the Ruhr Museum

Photo by Nordenfan – Wikimedia

Ruhr Museum used to be a coal washery in ancient times. A visit to this museum will give you detailed information on the origin, advancement and the gradual decline of the coal industry in the Ruhr region.

You will also get a peek into how the workers of the mine lived. There is a collection of information and artefacts of geological and chemical interest.

What is interesting about this museum is how its design seamlessly fit into the abandoned coal plant’s set-up. An escalator brings visitors up to the first level and then a tour of the museum begins. 

Address: Gelsenkirchener Str. 181, 45309 Essen

2. Tour the Old Synagogue

By Tuxyso – Wikimedia

This is not only the oldest synagogue in Essen but also one of the largest and most architecturally relevant detached synagogues in Europe.

Inside the Synagogue, you will find artefacts from the Jewish culture and history of the European continent. They tell the story of everyday life and customs of the Jewish heritage.    

A tour of this Synagogue will give you an appreciation and great understanding of the Jewish religion. There are guided tours as well as audio guides. Visitors are required to maintain silence while in the Synagogue. 

Address: Edmund-Körner-Platz 1, 45127 Essen

3. Explore Grugapark and the Botanic Garden

This is a favourite park for many, especially during warmer weather.

The park has a botanical garden with a pyramid-shaped tropical house, a high-altitude garden with a waterfall, a farmer’s garden, a rose garden as well as a rhododendron garden.

While at the park, check out the aviaries; they have owl enclosures, flamingos and herons. There is also a petting zoo, a music pavilion with seating of 1,000 people as well as a sculpture garden.

Grugapark is home to the largest collection of conifers in Europe. The highlights of the park are a medieval herb garden, Mediterranean orangery and a beautiful water lily pond.

Address: Virchowstraße 167a D-45147 Essen

4. Villa Hügel

Photo Sourced from Wikimedia

This majestic mansion is located on the north side of the Baldeneysee, Essen’s largest lake.

It was built in 1873 for the famous Krupp family, they were the wealthiest families in the region. Villa Hugel has 269 rooms.

Inside the mansion, you will find excellent collections of historical artworks and artefacts. You will also get a glimpse of the family’s rich history and how they were a dynasty for more than 2 centuries.

There are special exhibitions and events that are held here every few months. In summer, the villa hosts musical concerts.  

Address: Hügel 15, 45133 Essen

5. Check out the famous Folkwang Museum

This art museum is home to art from every European movement from the 19th century Romantics to Abstract Expressionism in the 20th century.

The museum was established in 1902 and was moved to Essen in 1921. It is actually two museums merged into one. Art lovers will enjoy a showcase of the last two centuries of art.

You will see works from famous artists like van Gogh, Monet, Renoir, Paul Klee, and Gustave Courbet. The style of the museum is minimalist in nature and very functional.

There is a restaurant, a café, a library and a bookshop within the museum.   

Address: Museumsplatz 1, 45128 Essen

6. Aalto Theatre

This theatre was named after its architect, Avar Aalto. The opera house was opened in 1988, this was 30 years after his design was selected as the best in a competition.

Construction work of the theatre started in 1983, 7 years after Aalto had died. Its unique architectural design makes it one of the top opera houses in Germany.

The most common shows here are opera and ballet with occasional concerts. It can accommodate 100 musicians on an impressive six orchestra platform.

Address: Opernpl. 10, 45128 Esseneater

7. Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex

Photo by Nordenfan – Wikimedia

Zollverein XII is a former industrial coal mine that was established in 1846. It was operational for more than 140 years. The mine has been described as the most beautiful coal mine in the world.

This mine represents a period of opulence and architectural evolution. It is a UNESCO Heritage site. The architects credited with this incredible Bauhaus architecture design are Fritz Schupp and Martin Kremmer.

As the last remaining active mine to close in Essen, it opened its doors to the public for tours, events, and exhibitions. 

After the tour, enjoy a unique dining experience in one of the site’s unique restaurants.

Address: Gelsenkirchener Str. 181, 45309 Essen

8. Essen Minster

Photo sourced from Wikimedia

This is a must-see at Essen’s main church popularly known as the Golden Madonna of Essen. It was carved in the year 980 and was glazed in gold leaf. It is the world’s oldest sculpture of the Virgin Mary.

The westwork comprises three octagonal towers, a large central structure, skirted by two smaller towers. They have small windows with semi-circular arches.

Other notable features of the interior are a seven-branched bronze candelabrum dating from around 1000 BC.

This church was bombed during World War II but the westwork and the crypt were not badly damaged.

Address: Kettwiger Str. 42, Essen

9. Baldeneysee

This is the largest of Ruhr’s six reservoirs. Lake Baldeneysee is man-made thanks to a dam built in the 1930s.

The lake offers some of the best serene spaces for relaxation and exercise. You can hire a boat during summer and cruise on the lake.

Other water sport activities include canoeing, kayaking, surfboarding and rowing.

There is also a beach with a bar, playgrounds and a mini-golf course.

Address: Baldeneysee, Essen

10. Werden Old Town

Photo by Michielverbeek – Wikimedia

Access to this town can be through a tram or a bus from Essen. It is a quiet village with narrow streets and timber-framed houses.

Take your time and explore the streets, taste the local cheese, confectionery, pastry and ice cream shops.

There are also shops, boutiques and restaurants. Farmer’s market is held every Saturday morning between Basilika and Folkwang University.

This is a good place for getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Address: Essen, North Rhine-Westphalia