Essen is a major city at the heart of the Ruhr industrial area in North Rhine-Westphalia and was made European City of Culture in 2010.
The city of Essen was founded in the 9th century and grew into an industrial town predominantly due to the Krupp Family Steelworks. Until the second half of the 20th century, Essen was one of the most important centres for coal production and steelwork in Germany.
The Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex, one of the shining monuments to Essen's industrial history, is considered the most beautiful coalmine in the world and is now recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The pit, constructed according to the principles of the Bauhaus School, is used today by various cultural and artistic institutions. For example, the Design-Zentrum Nordrhein-Westfalen and the Ruhr Museum are both found here. In addition, you can visit the 269 rooms of the Villa Hügel, which once served as home to the Krupp family, and has now been transformed into a museum of art history and concert venue.
On your city trip to Essen you should also not miss out on the Folkwang Museum which covers the long history of photography and houses a collection of pictures from many different eras. The Aalto Theatre is the city's opera house and worthy of a visit not just for its performances, but also because of its impressive architecture.
Take a trip to the Essener Münster, a Gothic cathedral built from lime sandstone. Here you will find magnificent exhibits such as the Golden Madonna of Essen which is over a thousand years old and the oldest free-standing Madonna figure north of the Alps.
A more modern religious building is the New Synagogue (known today as the Old Synagogue), constructed in 1913 and used as a place of prayer by the Jewish community in Essen before the war. Today it still counts as one of the most impressive examples of Jewish culture and architecture from pre-war Germany.
If you have planned a full week trip, you should also take a detour to the Kettwig and Werden districts found to the south of the city. Here the traditional and iconic local character survives to the present day. Here you will find buildings like the Werden Abbey, already over a thousand years old, and the Kirche St. Ludgerus, a church raised to the rank of papal basilica two decades ago.
Even though Essen is without a doubt an old industrial city, in the past few years it has been notably rejuvenated thanks to its blooming modern culture.