Zollverein Essen Reviews
A large-scale World Heritage Aug 13, 2015
Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in Essen is one of the first large-scale coal mines and thus has been declared as UNESCO World Heritage in 2001. Between 1928 and 1932, the whole complex has been equipped with large-scale buildings, which enabled an increased productivity. Unfortunately, it is very hard to imagine the functionality of large-scale devices if a pipe is stretched over hundreds of metres, for example. Most of the area is free to visit.
Large-scale complex means that it covers some square kilometres, and it takes kilometres to walk from one part of the area to another area. At least, there are some signposts not to get completely lost. Once an hour, there is a shuttle bus running between major attractions. Those riding a bike have an advantage, even if there are some steps. Those walking on foot will soon get tired. There are some restaurants whose price level is dedicated to squeeze tourists. Just one block away, outside the heritage area, you can get two dishes and a bottle of wine for the same price as one dish inside the area. However, most visitors will be too tired to search a cheaper food option.
Light rail line #107 is running every 10 minutes between Essen Central Station and Gelsenkirchen, giving excellent connection to German railway network. Each area has an own designated free parking lot (A,B,C), which can be confusing for visitors.
Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex has many international visitors who want to increase their number of visited World Heritage Sites. Smaller coal-mines like Zeche Zollern in Dortmund are a better option to imagine how a coal-mine worked.
Part of the list Route der Industriekultur
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Zollverein: Coal Mine in Bauhaus Architecture Aug 26, 2010
The flagship of the Ruhr District's industrial heritage with the status of UNESCO World Heritage: Zollverein coal mine. The famous part is shaft XII, called „the world's most beautiful coal mine“ - designed in pure Bauhaus style by the architects Martin Kremmer and Fritz Schupp in 1927. When it went in operation in 1932 it was also considered the most efficient and modern coal mine in the world.
All buildings consist of steel framework with brick fillings. The head frame has become the landmark and logo not only of the Zollverein site but the entire industrial heritage trail through the Ruhr district.
To learn more about the history and the architecture, join a guided tour. The tours take you into the mine building next to the shaft where the coal first arrived - these buildings cannot be entered on your own. Details about tours and a contact email are on the website.
Walking the grounds of the former mine can be done for free and on your own. The area covers a total of 100 hectares and includes shaft XII with its Bauhaus style buildings, shaft 1/2/8 further north, and the coking plants. All industrial activities have ceased. On rare occasions a tourist train runs along the outer track. Other former railway tracks have been turned into footpaths. A network of paths and trails takes you almost everywhere. Take your time, walking the entire area can occupy you for hours. Get hold of a leaflet with a plan of the grounds at one of the info points.
Grab your camera and catch the impressive views of the giant industrial buildings. Also have a look at what is growing here. The soil in former mining areas is rich in nitrate. After the end of mining a secondary ecosystem has developped with a special vegetation.
When I first visited in 2005 some trails were still rough and strolling around on my own felt almost scary, especially in the coking plant area. In the meantime, due to the upcoming year 2010 as cultural capital of Europe, it has almost become too polished, too cleaned up and tidy.
The former Kohlenwäsche contains the visitors centre, the information portal with the movie theatre, and the Ruhrmuseum (see separate tip about the latter, I highly recommend it). The huge building behind the head frame served for cleaning the coal that came out of the shaft from rock and soil, thus the name. In recent years the block underwent refurbishing measures and was turned into the present museum and exhibition building which has only been opened in spring 2010.
The escalator: Access to the visitor centre on the 4th floor, where you buy tickets and then continue to all other attractions, is via a long escalator. It has been coloured and lit in orange to recall glowing coal and hot steel. A cool sight.
Information Portal: has some interactive information boards about places and topics connected with the Ruhr district and mining (sorry to admit I didn't really figure out how they work), and a small 360° movie theatre. The movie they show is about the Ruhrgebiet and its recent changes. It lasts about 20 minutes. The first part consists of just pictures without comment and a boring music - nice to look at but little to no information content. In the second part local people appear and give short statements about their personal view of the Ruhrgebiet (in German resp. local dialect, of course). The movie theatre has only 31 seats. In the morning it was half empty but later in the day, especially on weekends, lines can be expected. If you have to wait, skip it.
The (only) interesting bit of the information portal, which is worth the 1 € they charge as entrance fee, is the viewpoint on the roof at a height of 45 metres. The platform provides a bird's eye view of the entire mine and its surroundings and over to the skylines of downtown Essen and industrial complexes in the neighbouring cities. The landscape is amazingly green. The former grounds of mine, cokery, mining dumps and railway tracks is covered in trees, shrubs and wildflowers.
Kokerei: The coal from the shafts of Zollverein was transformed into coke, as was needed in the steel mills, on the spot. The coking plant is next to the mines. It is probably the most impressive building complex on site due to its sheer size and the complicated maze of steel structures, ovens, chimneys, tubes and tanks. From Shaft XII the coking plant can be reached in a short walk - follow the signs to „Kokerei“. Visiting the coking plant is highly recommended to anyone who has a camera. The complex is full of pictures worth taking. You can walk the alleys on your own and for free. Guided tours take you inside the coking plant buildings if you want deeper insight. They start at the information desk next to the cafe.
Recent development lead to lots of changes within the former factory complex. A cafe has been established in the head building. The ferris wheel is currently out of operation. Behind it, there is a swimming pool among the steel giants. An event agency has moved into one of the side buildings. For the summer an open-air cinema has been established. And so on...
How to get there: tram 107, the „culture line“, to „Zollverein“.
Part of the Travels in the Ruhr District travel blog
Zollverein in Essen - Coal Mine Industrial Complex Feb 23, 2009
The Zollverein industrial complex in Land Nordrhein-Westfalen consists of the complete infrastructure of a historical coal-mining site, with some 20th-century buildings of outstanding architectural merit. It constitutes remarkable material evidence of the evolution and decline of an essential industry over the past 150 years.
The area is split in three parts:
Part A: Shaft XII
Part B: Shaft 1/2/8
Part C: Coking Plant
The access to the whole area is free of charge. There is some parking and even a bike station. The Zollverein is World Cultural Heritage Site and part of the "Route der Industriekultur".
And even if there is a museum, art exhibitions, bars & restaurant, it's not as touristic as I thought. I mean ,you can't have the feeling of an overcrowed place, it's so huge!
You can simply spend a sunny day biking with your family, drink a coffee, go to the restaurant or make some guided tour (about 2h: 8€) to follow the path of coal amongst gigantic machines or get to know more about the impressive architecture.
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