Follow the “Industrial Heritage Trail” throughout the Ruhr district and explore how one European region has found their way from a dying coal and steel industry into the future of innovation and creativity.
By Agnete Vestergaard-Kristensen
Ruhr is the largest urban agglomeration in Germany. A region, that has managed to develop into an urbanized cultural treasure box in the historically industry based area. Ruhr was an industrial area with almost 300 coal mines in operation in and around the central
cities of Duisburg, Essen, Bochum and Dortmund in the first decades of the 20th century – the center of the German economic miracle of the 1950s and 1960s, as very rapid economic growth created a heavy demand for coal and steel.
However after the crisis of the 1970ties German coal was no longer competitive. Likewise the Ruhr steel industry went into sharp decline. Ruhr needed to go new ways.
The heritage trail
20 years later the Ruhr district became a part of the newly-defined European metropolitan area Rhine-Ruhr. The area also became part of the European wide heritage trail. A network connecting museums and exhibitions that, in Ruhr, present the industrial revolution during the last 750 years in the area. It includes 400 km of road network and about 700 km of bicycle tracks with 52 main attractions on the trail through the Ruhr district.
A visible sign of economic change in the Ruhr is the CentrO shopping centre in Oberhausen which opened in 1996. It is built on the grounds of the former Gutehoffnungshütte (ironwork) and forms the core of the “Neue Mitte”, an urban entertainment centre,
comprising a shopping mall, cinemas, event venues, discos, museums, hotels and fun parks, all
of which offer an entertaining approach to art and culture. The new centre is a combined anchor point for all the cultures in the Ruhr. It attracts more than 20.000.000 foreign visitors a year.
Today, the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region accounts for roughly 15% of the GDP of the German economy, which would place it as the 3rd largest GRP of metropolitan area in the European Union, and the region is home to twelve Fortune Global 500 companies, among them Deutsche Telekom AG.
Another attraction on the heritage trail is the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex at Essen, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the many tourist destinations within the region that attracts over 12 million tourists per year.
The Zollverein was once the most up to date colliery in the world and a symbol of the highest mining output in Europe – 12.000 tons of coal per day. Today the site is a creative portal for culture with innovative exhibitions of contemporary art.
Ruhr showcases the modern day transformation of a dying grey industry; a successful and blossoming creative business. A cultural highway of the future.