17 Best Things to Do in Essen (2023)

If you are planning to visit Germany, we recommend you try visiting the city of Essen.

Why Essen?

Because the town promises scenic views and offers a traditional German culture to each visitor.

Essen is the second-largest city in the Ruhr region next to Dortmund. It is often called the “secret capital” because of its location in the city center.

And if Essen is not enough, you are only an hours drive away from other historic cities like Düsseldorf, Wuppertal and Hagen.

Essen has a population of around 580,000 people. Along with being called “secret capital,” it is also called “energy capital” because the country’s largest energy provider’s E.ON and RWE, has its headquarters in Essen.

Essen enjoys moderate weather. It is neither extremely cold nor sweltering.

With all that being said, of Essen, here are some of the places you can visit.

17. Soul of Africa Museum

Soul of Africa Museum
Soul of Africa (Wiki05/Wikipedia)

The Soul of Africa Museum emphasizes the collection of cultural and traditional history to preserve and knowledge of African heritage. It tries to collect famous artifacts and objects that are significant in the legacy of African history. The museum aims to have intercultural friendship and exchange between African and the locals of Essen.

The museum hosts special exhibitions on African slavery, its societal concerns like witchcraft and magic, and healing and protection, and many other topics from history, arts, culture, and politics. It is an ideal place to learn about the history of African civilization for adults and families with children. 

What tourists liked

Among the best museums in Essen despite its size
Guided tours about Africa and voodoo!

More info: Visit website

16. Stadtgarten Essen

Stadtgarten Essen
Stadtgarten Essen (Wiki05/Wikipedia)

Stadtgarten is Essen’s oldest garden located in the northern part of the city. Its origins date back to 1859. It expands to an area of around 6.87 hectares consisting of many ponds and sculptures. The oldest sculpture is The Fairy, sculpted in 1905. Other sculptures include the Infinite Loop carved in 1974 and sculpture group Mann im Wind I, II, and III in 2019.

It has a beautiful fountain measuring around 12 meters that illuminates with eight spotlights underwater. The authorities host local events and sports events like the famous sport ‘Boules’ played every Sunday. It is also a prominent host for the annual classic car tour and an experimental electronic sound event called the Park Sounds.

15. Glockenspiel am Deiterhaus

Glockenspiel am Deiterhaus
Glockenspiel am Deiterhaus (Wiki05/Wikipedia)

Glockenspiel am Deiterhaus is a famous bell towered building with a set of bells at the top of the building. The bells have a rich history mainly because the authorities hid in different farms during the Second World War to preserve them from being melted. The tower also has four movable figures that represent the mining history of Essen. It also has a gold plated chicken, also called ‘watchful chicken’ by the locals. 

Above the building, the movable figure, which is the miner hits the bell every half an hour and plays different well-known folk songs like ‘Am Brunnen vor dem Tore’ and the popular miner’s song ‘Good Luck.’ During winters, it plays Christmas carols instead of the traditional folk songs. 

Standing below the bell tower, you can get a good glimpse of the city’s daily bustle. 

14. Ronald McDonald Haus

Ronald McDonald Haus
Ronald McDonald Haus (Tuxyso/Wikimedia)

The Ronald McDonald Haus is a childcare agency and temporary home for families with sick children. It is located near Grugapark. The McDonald’s Children’s aid sponsors the childcare agency. It may be a childcare agency but does not look like it outside because of the imaginatively created architecture style. The famous architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser was the designer behind this beautiful building. 

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Germany regards Ronald McDonald Haus as one of their best charity houses for children in Germany. Families who have sick children can receive accommodation in this place as a change of setting from everyday life to refresh and get away from the stress of clinical routines. 

13. Phänomania Erfahrungsfeld

Phänomania Erfahrungsfeld ia a family friendly museum in Essen. It is an interactive exhibition for adults and especially for families with children for scientific learning. School trips can benefit from this museum by making it fun and educational. You can also host children’s parties with permission from the authorities. 

The museum teaches about science, the occurrence of physics, and nature in a fun and educational way that both children and adults can learn. Since the capacity per tour is limited in numbers, it is advisable to book your tickets in advance for a hassle-free trip. 

It has an area of around 4700 square meters to sprawl around and provides restaurants where you can dine out. The architecture of the building speaks for itself. 

12. Philharmonie Essen

Philharmonie Essen
Philharmonie Essen (Genista/Flickr)

The Philharmonie Essen or Saalbou Essen is a concert venue located in Essen near the Aalto Theater. Although it opened in 1864, the building, like many monuments, got destroyed during the 2nd World War bombings in 1943; the authorities rebuilt it by 1954. The most notable change between the old and new building is the roof, made entirely out of copper.

The central units of the building consist of the entrance and lobby, where the marble lobby is famous for its exquisiteness. The Alfred Krupp Hall is the main unit where the wood panels are colored in warm colors. It also has a festival room made of mahogany and three club rooms that can accommodate more than 40 people. If you get a chance, try to watch the Philharmonie of Essen, which was once voted one of Germany’s best orchestras.

11. Old Town Werden

Old Town Werden
Small town of Werden (Frank Vincentz/Wikipedia)

Old Town Werden is a delightful town that is twenty minutes away from the city of Essen. It has old buildings representing the charms of German village life, wooden houses, and streets of cobbled stones. The town center has small boutiques, shops, cafes, and restaurants.

Old Town Werden is ideal for people who want to escape from the city and enjoy a weekend getaway. The town organizes a farmer’s market every Saturday in the mornings between Folkwang University and Basilika. The town’s cafes and restaurants specialize in Italian, Spanish, French, German, and multi cuisines worldwide. Also, the city becomes a car-free zone making it ideal for families with children to play around.

10. Einkaufszentrum Limbecker Platz

Einkaufszentrum Limbecker Platz
Einkaufszentrum Limbecker Platz (Kungfuman/Wikipedia)

Einkaufszentrum Limbecker Platz is an inner shopping center situated on the northwest side of Essen. The construction started in March 2008 and opened for the public in October 2009. It has more than 200 shops inside the shopping centre and attracts more than 50,000 visitors and shoppers per day. It provides a parking space for more than 2000 cars and also around 80 spaces for bicycle parking.

The entire shopping center on the outside resembles a swinging dress, and the entrance reveals a glass exterior. Also, the aluminum exterior near the door with lights gives the impression of sequins on it. It is praised as an architectural masterpiece. If you love architecture, you must give this place a try. Also, it is ideal for families with children to hang out.

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9. Old Synagogue

Alte Synagogue
Alte Synagogue (Tuxyso/Wikipedia)

The Old Synagogue or Alte Synagogue is one of Germany’s best-preserved synagogue in Essen and is famous for surviving bombing during the 2nd World War. It was formally consecrated in 1913 and still stands now as an educational institute for promoting the Jewish culture of Essen and Germany.

Built-in the middle of the city, it is a monumental building attracting many tourists. The synagogue’s dome is made of stained glass filled with mosaics that reflect traditions of Jewish culture.

It offers exhibitions and events like plays and concerts that promote Jewish practices. If you are interested in historical religions, this synagogue is the ideal place for you to visit.

The synagogue does not charge any admission fees and provides audio guides in different languages for self-tour.

8. Aalto Theater

Aalto Theater (Tuxyso/Wikipedia)

The Aalto Theater is a venue for performing arts. It is the venue for Essen’s most famous opera Aalto Musiktheater and the popular ballet company Aalto Ballet. The authorities formally opened on September 25, 1988, and is a popular venue for opera, galas, ballet, and concerts.

The Aalto Theater’s name comes from the late Finnish architect Alvar Alto, the winning architect for designing the theatre but passed away before completing it.

The theatre has top-quality performances the whole year round from top-notch performers locally and internationally. The admission tickets range according to the variety of the show. The most attractive part of the Aalto Theater is the asymmetrical design of the seat in the auditorium.

7. Ruhr Museum

Ruhrland Museum
Ruhr Museum (Helen Simonsson/Wikipedia)

The Ruhr Museum was formerly called Ruhrland Museum. It is a museum that provides history about the natural and cultural information about German people and society. It specially showcases the culture of the people in the Ruhr region. 

The Ruhr Museum has a famous external escalator of 24 meters, considered the largest escalator in Germany. You can visit all levels, like the 17-meter level, which exhibits the structure and phenomena of the modern Ruhr area. There is also the 12-meter level which exhibits the archaeology and natural history of the Ruhr regions pre-industrial era. Another exhibit is the 6 meter level of the Ruhr region’s industrial age.

Overall, the Ruhr museum has four levels that are accessible to the public and has more than 400,000 visitors per year. 

6. Essener Münster

Essener Münster
Essener Münster

The Essener Münster or the Essen Cathedral was founded in 1958. The cathedral serves as the seat of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Essen. The museum is a classic example of Gothic and Pre-Romanesque architecture. The main attraction of the cathedral is the Domschatz or the treasury, which includes the famous Golden Madonna, which is the oldest figure of Mary. There are many gothic relics like the crown of Otto 3, the Theophanu Gospels cover, and Ottoman processional crosses.

The Essener Cathedral was once the hub of abbey life in Essen. It was not a church but was an abbey for nuns who sought solace and comfort from the world. The place that one should not miss is the crypt which consists of Agana’s three-aisled crypt. It contains relics that are near to the altar in the crypt.

5. Red Dot Design Museum

Red Dot Design Museum in Essen
Red Dot Design Museum (Holger.Ellgaard/Wikipedia)

The Red Dot Design Museum of Essen is the most prominent design museum in the world. It has a collection of more than 2000 objects of industrial production from Germany. The museum expands around 4000 square meters and is a five-story museum.

The objects displayed on the Red Dot Design Museum are displayed rotationally for the time being after a jury of international experts carefully selects the things. Since the museum’s theme is industrial design, the museum displays vehicles, electronics, lighting, and communication from well-known brands, including Audi, Phillips, and Apple designs.

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It is an ideal educational site for schools and families by learning through workshops and exhibitions that the museum hosts from time to time. It allows a free-will donation for the museum without any entrance fees.

4. Villa Hügel

Villa Hügel
Villa Hügel (Thorsten Schramm/Wikipedia)

The Villa Hügel is a 19th-century mansion in Essen previously owned by Alfred Krupp and his family from 1873 to 1945. It has a massive amount of 269 rooms on a 28-hectare park that beautifully faces the Ruhr river and the Baldeneysee lake. The mansion is a classic example of the late Neoclassical architecture era.

The mansion is open to all. It holds exhibitions and is a popular venue for the famous chamber orchestra, the Folkwang Kammer Orchester Essen. The estate has a three-storied residence on one part and a three-storied lodging house on the other part linked through a two-storied building, a winter garden.

From the outside and inside, it is a beautiful villa that should be on your must-visit list.

3. Museum Folkwang

 Museum Folkwang
Museum Folkwang

Museum Folkwang is a museum with a vast collection of 19th and 20th-century German art. Museum Folkwang was merged between the Essener Kunstmuseum and the private Folkwang Museum. Now the museum receives more than 700,000 visitors, both domestic and international, per year.

One of its best tourist attractions is the Deutsche Plakat Museum, also known as the German poster museum with more than 300,000 posters about German politics, economy, and culture.

The collections on Museum Folkwang contain 19th and 20th-century art and poster collection and collections of modern art, ancient art, art from non-European countries, and photography.

Some of the notable arts include art from Vincent van Gogh, Paula Modersohn-Becker, and Paul Gauguin. If you are a modern art lover, this is a must-visit place for you.

2. Botanischer Garten Grugapark

Botanischer Garten Grugapark
Botanischer Garten Grugapark (Wiki05/Wikipedia)

The Botanischer Garten Grugapark is a botanical garden in Essen that allows daily visitors. The Botanischer Garten Grugapark has so many sections. Some of the famous ones are the Alpinum sections that have the Carpathians and alpine violets. The Asian area has Asian hydrangeas and Japanese elm. The conifers planted in the garden have Europe’s most extensive collections like sequoias, dawn redwood, and also the oldest group of cryptomerias in the whole of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Besides these sections, it also has a Rose garden, Rhododendron valley, and rainforest collection, and a scenic pond called the Margathensee. All in all, it is a fabulous place for the whole family to visit.

1. Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex

Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex
Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex

The Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex or German Zeche Zollverein is listed as a World Heritage site since December 14, 2001, by UNESCO. Because it was built in the New Sobriety architecture style, this coal mine earned its fame as “the most beautiful Coal mine in the world.”

The famous Industrialist Franz Haniel founded the Zollverein Coal Mine as a testing site for charcoal, coal, coke, and steel production. The most visited place in this industrial complex is shafts 12, ½ and the cookery sites. It is an educational site for children to learn the history of the industrial revolution.

It charges no entry fee but needs admission tickets if you visit the nearby museums. It is fascinating and has a large space to spend the whole day with your family.

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