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North Rhine-Westphalia

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Germany Western Part: The Rhine & Ruhr Area

15 Dec 2006  I live in the area and take my guests from abroad there
4.5 of 5 stars based on 6 votes

The western part of Germany offers everything: History, culture, art, architecture, landscape, museums, nightlife, food, beer, wine... Strangely, this region is somewhat neglected by tourists from abroad but offers many outstanding attractions which are easy to reach by car or by train. This goList offers also tips for business travellers who have a day or two to explore something of the surroundings of their destination.

  • 1. Cologne
    Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia

    Cologne is a fantastic city with a bit of everything. Cologne's skyline is dominated by the magnificent gothic cathedral but the twelve romanesque churches are also landmarks. Of course, you visit the cathedral, see the ancient shrine of the three magi and the masterpieces of medieval art. Don't forget to visit the treasure chamber. See also at least one of the twelve romanesque churches - Gross St. Martin is the largest one and easy to reach. Visit the gothic city hall and enter the basement where you can explore the remnants of the Roman palace (praetorium) and a section of a 2000-year-old sewer (you can walk inside for about 200 metres). Walk through the Old Town and along the riverside and have a rustic meal with local beer (Sion and Frueh are famous breweries serving regional fare). Visit the Roman-Germanic museum with masterpieces of Roman architecture and the very bess Roman glass artifacts. Visit the Wallraff-Richartz-Museum with its collection of medieval art and/or the Museum Ludwig with a world-class collection of modern art. All these attractions are in easy walking distance around the main station.

  • 2. Dusseldorf
    Dusseldorf, North Rhine-Westphalia

    Dusseldorf has four main attractions: The riverfront, the old town, the art district and the shopping mall. The riverfront at the Rhine is a playground of urban life, crowded with walkers, skaters and open-air restaurants day and night. The old town is among Europe's greatest entertainment districts. Full of bars and restaurants. Uerige is a microbrewery serving local beer inside and outside. Within the Old Town, you find the old harbour (with a historical Rhine ship), the renaissance city hall, two splendid baroque churches and a quite and fine gaslamp district, the Karlstadt, with fine baroque architecture. Dusseldorf is also a center of art, with two outstanding collections, K20 (20th century art) and K21 (21th century art). The MuseumKunstPalast hosts outstanding exhibitions (currently Caravaggio). And Dusseldorf is home to Germany's most elegant shopping street: The Koenigsallee, an tree-lined alley along the Dussel river with most elegant shops.

  • 3. Rhine Valley
    Rhine Valley, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany

    The Rhine Valley is a highlight of landscape. Image a broad, rather fast-flowing river surrounded by steep mountains, many of them covered with vineyards and topped with medieval castles, many of them ruined. At the base of the mountains, you will find neat, romantic villages nestled between riverfront and rocky slopes. There are three ways to explore the Rhine Valley: By car, by train or by boat. The beautiful section of the Rhine Valley is between Bingen (in the south) and Remagen (in the north), the most interesting castle is the Marksburg (Braubach near Koblenz), the most beautiful monastery is Kloster Eberbach (Eltville), the most dramatic landscape is the Loreley rock, and romantic villages are everywhere.

  • 4. Aachen
    Aachen, North Rhine-Westphalia

    Aachen's main attraction is the cathedral where Charlemagne was crowned exactly in the year 800. So, expect a masterpiece of romanesque architecture with gothic annexes which were added later. You call still visit Charlemagnes throne, a huge chandelier symbolizing heavenly Jerusalem and a well-stocked treasure chamber. See also the magnificent gothic city hall. Have a rustic lunch or dinner in the historic Postwagen restaurant at the side of the city hall. And if your budget allows, stay overnight in the Quellenhof, one of Europe's best grand hotels with a breathtaking pool and spa.

  • 5. Neanderthal

    This is the valley where the first prehistoric human skeleton was found, proving Darwin's evolution theory. Today, the Neanderthal has three attractions: The Neanderthal Museum which is one of the world's finest museums. You will find the original bones together with state-of-the-art reproductions of Neanderthal people. A high-tech audio system will tell you lively stories (in several languages) about prehistoric life. It is also a museum about history of mankind: of food, communication, housing, medicine, technology etc. Contemporary architecture and design. Secondly, you may visit the exact place where the bones were found. It is also well-designed. Thirdly, you may walk through the picturesque landscape around corrals with animals from the ice-age. There is a nice playground and places for picknick.

  • 6. Villa Huegel, Essen, Germany

    Villa Huegel is the former mansion of the Krupp family, wealthy steel tycoons. It thrones like a castle in a magnificent park overlooking Lake Baldeney and the river Ruhr. Inside, you will see impressive woodwork and a most beautiful library. It is a little bit like the German version of the Newport Mansions. Today, the mansion is a foundation and open to the public. It often houses outstanding, world-classe exhibitions. Also enjoy the huge park.

  • 7. Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in Essen
    Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in Essen, Essen, North Rhine-Westphalia

    A coal mine industrial complex being a tourist attraction? Sounds strange, but come and see for yourself. The huge complex of red brick buildings is a masterpiece of art-deco-inspired functionalist architecture. Explore the old industrial equipment and sense the magic of the place. Have an outstanding dinner in the Casino restaurant which serves contemporary gourmet cuisine in unique surroundings of concrete and machinery. Visit the international design exhibition "Entry". Or one of the frequent art performances. Zollverein is a special place and not without reason UNESCO world heritage.

  • 8. Schloss Nordkirchen, Germany

    This is magnificent castle in a magnificent park. If you are approaching the castle from the main entrance, the view is breathtaking. The "Westphalian Versailles" is surrounded by moats and a park full of sculputures. The building itsself is huge and well-decorated. There is a tour through the public rooms and the baroque castle chapel, but visiting the castle from the outside is rewarding enough.