Welcome Service of University of Duisburg-Essen

Ruhr & Culture 

The cities of Duisburg and Essen are situated right in the middle of the Ruhr. With more than five million inhabitants and an area of about 4,435 square kilometres, the Ruhr Area – or simply "the Ruhr" – is one of the largest metropolitan areas in Germany and the fifth largest in Europe. It takes its name from the Ruhr River, a 219-km-long right tributary of the Rhine River. In the last years of the 18th century, the Industrial Revolution in Germany started in the region along the Ruhr River, where coal was deposited close to the earth's surface.

For over two hundred years the Ruhr Area was the heart of German coal and steel manufacturing. The workers who once powered the area flowed in from all over Europe, looking for jobs, and with such a mixture of cultures, they learned that working well together meant needing to depend and rely on one another. As a result, people from the region are known for being open and tolerant, character traits proudly expressed in their interesting dialect, direct way of talking, and special type of humour.
In the mid-1900s the story of the Ruhr area took a twist. The coal and steel industry began to decline and people in the Ruhr area were faced with the question of what to do with all the old factories and steel mills dotting the landscape. Instead of tearing the structures down they decided to do something different: they gave them a new purpose. Now, you can go rock climbing on the side of an old factory, watch a concert in an old board room, listen to a symphony or go to an art exhibit in a coal mine. In fact, the region boasts cultural activities unmatched in any other area of Europe: more than 200 museums, as well as theatres, popular and classical musical events, opera, world-class ballet, art exhibitions, a rich café and pub nightlife, movie theatres, memorials to the culture of industry, bike tours, lakes, nature parks, and, of course, its sports teams, including internationally competitive football clubs.

The Ruhr has evolved into a cultural magnet with a multifaceted urban landscape. These were two of the reasons prompting the European Union to name the Ruhr Area, spearheaded by the city of Essen, the "European Capital of Culture 2010".
» More at: European Capital of Culture 2010

In addition to the numerous big companies and small and medium-sized enterprises that have traditionally made the Ruhr their home, the area is now a prime locations for research centres and their spinoffs as well as for technology parks with close ties to companies representing a broad commercial and industrial spectrum. At last count, there were around 170,000 students enrolled at institutions of higher learning in the Ruhr, making it the region in Europe with the highest university density.
Nowhere else in Europe will you find such a concentration of art, industrial architecture and culture side by side with opportunities for entertainment, sports and shopping. The rich cultural feast laid out for the Ruhr's inhabitants has as many layers as puff pastry. Many cultural venues can be reached quickly, thanks to the good road network and excellent system of public transport in the region.
» More at: Ruhr Metropolitan Area


As a city on the water, including the Rhine River, the Ruhr River, the Rhine-Herne Canal and several lakes, Duisburg is not only the largest inland port in Europe but also a centre for recreational activities in and around the water. The harbour itself, rebuilt to include the so-called ‘gastronomic mile’, plus the former smoky and dusty coal mining grounds now converted into an adventure park in the Landschaftspark Nord (‘Duisburg North Country Park’), embodies the marvellous transformation of a contemporary Ruhr Area city. Numerous museums and the Duisburg Zoo have made Duisburg one of the area’s most popular excursion sites, frequented not only by foreign tourists but by native residents in and outside the Area.

» more at: City of Duisburg


The City of Essen, whose Gruga sports and concert centre serves as a mecca for exhibition planners and visitors, has much in addition to attract the visitor and resident alike: the Domschatz (literally: the "cathedral treasure") has been recently renovated, as has the Alte Synagoge. The Aalto Theatre and the newly constructed Philharmonie provide Essen with two special concert halls and theatres. The city's industrial monuments include the Krupp family home (the Villa Hügel, now a museum and site of intimate concerts), the UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site ‘Zeche Zollverein’ (a disused coal mine) and the historical housing estate Margarethenhöhe. The Baldeneysee (a large lake created by damming the Ruhr River as a water purification project in 1931) and the Gruga Park provide many opportunities for leisure activities in and around the water, such as sailing, hiking, and bicycle riding

» More at: City of Essen

Dates and events

The search engine www.meinestadt.de permits the active search for daily activities of all kinds. The Ruhr Guide (www.ruhr-guide.de) expands the search beyond city boundaries. The following Web site can be consulted for theatre programmes, concert halls, or special historical sites: www.ruhrlink.de.
In addition, in cafés and pubs numerous free activity calendars and monthly magazines (Coolibri, Heinz) report on new restaurants, small art exhibits and large parties and events.



The Ruhr Area is not just an agglomeration of polycentric large cities with diverse historical industrial sites and different cultural traditions, but, in addition, a geographically mixed natural area. At the interface between the Westphalian Lowland Plains, the Lower Rhine Embayment and the Rhenish Shield, the area is comprised of about 40% of land occupied by buildings, 40% agricultural land use and 20% forest regions.

This percentage is rather untypical for an industrial region, in which, moreover, a great deal of countryside, several recreational regions and numerous lakes are located close to large cities. Many allotment gardens and parks are integrated into the European Garden Heritage Network (EGHN): http://www.eghn.org/ruhrgebiet. Duisburg is located at the mouth of the Ruhr, and both Duisburg and Essen were the starting point for the medieval ‘Hellweg’ (a road guaranteed open for the passage of trade). In short, the Ruhr Area has several picturesque points of interest that can be reached on foot or explored with a bicycle (www.ruhrtal.de/). Such a varied landscape accounts for the surprise expressed by many first-time German visitors who know the region only from its outdated reputation as the ‘Ruhrpott’ (related to a German term for a coal mine).