According to market research, tourism is back to 77% of what it was pre-covid, which is just fantastic news! The industry has almost fully healed from the long-lasting effects of the lockdown, and we couldn’t be happier about it. And thanks to sustainable powerhouses such as Germany, ranking in the top ten of all European Countries in the YouGov Travel & Tourism Sustainability Ranking, named one of the countries dealing the best with climate change by the NVI, ranking fifth out of 117 countries by the The World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Development Index in sustainability, and listing sixth by the SDG Index, sustainable travel is on everyone’s minds. With 51 Unesco World Heritage Sites and over 230 miles of hiking trails, Germany (and more specifically Essen) is calling your name this year for your next adventure. It’s the place to be to embrace German Nature and/or experience Barrier Free and sustainable travel, especially with the Deutsche Bahn train system being unparalleled in its efficiency and making waves in sustainability. (They even have vegan currywurst on new DB trains, which I know that many of you would love to read about).
But rather than talking about Germany overall, let’s talk about Essen. It’s likely that you haven’t heard of Essen before, so we’re going to change that today. Essen was an industrial city for centuries with its primary residence being those who worked in the coal mine and similar industries. You see, for 135 years, the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex served as the world’s largest coal-mining facility, employing 8,000 minors during its peak, most of which lived nearby in Essen. In 1986, the coal mine was decommissioned, the walls were torn down, and it was transformed into a museum, a center for events, and much more. It even has a swimming pool and an ice-skating rink on its premises now. So, when visiting Essen, it’s important to visit Zollverein Coal Mine and learn about this city’s history prior to venturing out and seeing all that Essen has to offer. I highly recommend a visit into the Red Dot Design Museum in its complex, too, which analyses and displays what truly makes a good design.
Since the close of the mine, Essen has had a focus on green living and sustainability, shedding its industrial past and allowing people to see its chic modern beauty, which has been heavily influenced by its past industries. There are many exciting and inspiring things to do in Essen, and we’re going to tell you all about them!
Visit the Villa Hügel
The Villa Hügel is a massive estate where the Krupp family lived after Alfred Krupp had the home designed with ‘modern’ elements in 1846. For its time, it was incredibly advanced, with Krupp asking for interior heating and cooling systems during a period well before that was a normal occurrence. It sits gloriously on a hill overlooking the waters of the nearby river in all its charm and glory. This home is a center of history and culture for the region and one that you really have to see for yourself, for the architectural elements, the culture, the artistic flare, and the historical download. There is so much to the Villa Hügel, and with new rooms open to the public as of this year, it’s worth the visit to see for yourself!
If you have the time, I encourage you to read up on the Krupp family legacy that they left behind in Essen, too. The Krupps created a literal community of homes for their workers and even started an early form of health insurance for them. After hearing all about the Krupps at Villa Hügel, it’s safe to say that they were quite ahead of their time.
Go Urban Hiking
Hearing about Essen’s industrial roots may make you immediately think there’s no gorgeous outdoor activities to do, but you would be wrong. There are miles and miles of hiking trails all throughout Essen which paint the perfectly picturesque urban hiking experience. You can start on the outskirts of town and walk above the lush fields and overlook beautiful river views before hiking more into the city, itself. You can enjoy a nice meal over the water if you’d like to stop for a delicious vegan meal, and I would be remiss if I failed to bring up the remains of the Isenburg Castle which sits in beautiful serenity on top of the riverbanks. It’s one of the most charming scattered castle remains I’ve seen. You can read more about Essen’s hiking trails here:
Take a Tour Back Through Time
Okay, when hearing the term ‘virtual reality’ (VR), I think we all get a strong idea in our heads at this point. But the historical virtual reality experience in Essen really takes that whole idea to the next level. It’s unlike anything I’ve experienced before. You start at the tourist information center outside the main train station, get your own device, glasses, and earphones, and start off on a historical tour of the town. You follow a GPS system that appears in your field of vision to different points of interest where scenelets play out before your eyes. But it all happens while you can still see what’s going on around you. The scenes are over-layed in a semi-transparent way over our modern reality. It’s one of the most impressive and exciting VR experiences I’ve seen to date, and you definitely have to try this out for yourself!
Visit the Museum Folkwang
I, personally, am both an art and museum fanatic, so getting to visit the Museum Folkwang was truly a highlight of my time in Essen. What I think is so incredible about this museum is its attention to detail and the flow they’ve created throughout the museum. Careful attention is paid to showcase a variety of cultural pieces from different time periods around the world in a seamless way, and it also incorporates classics from some of our favorite and most famous painters such as Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh. We were told that the museum is actively looking to push diversity and feature female artists, and their modern art selection is unlike anything I’ve seen before. In fact, they even have a section devoted to NFT art, and this seems as modern and fresh as it can get. I haven’t honestly seen NFT art featured anywhere else. So, if you’re an art lover, I cannot stress enough how much a visit to the Musuem Folkwang in Essen is a must-visit. Plus, it’s free!
All in all, Essen will do more than surprise you, it will inspire you. I hope you have been convinced to add Essen into your next adventure into Germany. Remember, add Germany into your next European adventure, after all, it retains a number 1 ranking in the National Brands Index, and when you do, be sure to embrace sustainability and stay a little longer to help reduce your carbon footprint.