Essen travel guide

Essen Tourism | Essen Guide

You're Going to Love Essen

Boasting superb museums like the Folkwang and UNESCO-listed industrial complexes, Essen has lesser known delights to discover as well, including some gorgeous religious sculptures from the Dark Ages.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Essen

1. The Folkwang Museum

This superb art museum is one of the treasures of the Ruhr Valley and is home to works by Van Gogh, Renoir, and Manet, among many others.

2. A UNESCO-Listed Industrial Heritage

The Zollverein Coal Mining Complex is one of the most impressive in the world, and the guided tour is not to be missed.

3. Beautiful Religious Art and Architecture

Essen may be industrial, but it has a stock of stunning churches to visit. The highlight is Essen Minster, where you can see a golden sculpture of the Madonna, made in 980 and the oldest of its kind in the world.

4. Find Out about the Achievements of German Design

The Red Dot Museum showcases the best in design (and gives out awards to the year's best creations), and it's a fascinating place to visit if you have an interest in interiors and furnishings.

5. Fantastic Events for Motorsports Fans

Every December, Essen hosts one of the world's biggest fairs for motorsports lovers. If you are a fan of BMW or other German-manufactured vehicles, there's no better place to be.

What to do in Essen

1. UNESCO-Welterbe Zollverein: A UNESCO World Heritage Site

This former industrial site is part of the European Route of Industrial Heritage. First developed in 1847 as a coal mine, it remains open as a monument to the coal industry which created one of the world's largest industrial centers at the time. The complex, and Shaft 12 in particular, is considered an impressive example of industrial and architectural design. The Ruhr Museum is located in the former Coal Washery, and includes over 6,000 exhibits relating to the history of coal mining in the area, along with temporary exhibits, and a calendar of events.

2. Museum Folkwang: Turning Mines and Factories into Masterpieces

Located in the southern half of Essen, the Folkwang houses an exceptional modern art collection. When Essen and the surrounding area ruled the roost in German industry, local magnates put together an incredible hoard of masterpieces, including over 340,000 political, cultural, and sporting posters, expressionist works by German masters like Franz Marc, modernist pieces by Joan Miro, and 19th century paintings by icons like Van Gogh. Recently refurbished with the help of major architect David Chipperfield, the museum is a thriving artistic center.

3. Essener Dom: A Miracle of Reconstruction

Although it might seem like a classical Gothic cathedral (which is what it used to be), Essen's cathedral actually has a much more impressive story. During World War II, the church was destroyed by Allied bombers. After the war, the locals got together to reconstruct it, brick by brick, before restoring its artworks to create a magnificent symbol of civic revival. Venture inside to see some wonderful works, including the Golden Madonna, thought to be the oldest sculptural depiction of the Virgin Mary north of the Alps, as well as the 11th century candelabrum.

4. Botanischer Garten Grugapark: A True Garden of Delights

Southern Essen's tourist highlight is definitely the Grugapark. This botanical wonderland was laid out in 1927 as an educational institution. Nowadays, it's still a busy research center, but is also a feast of flowers, cacti, and other natural delights. The bonsai garden is an obvious standout, but it's just great fun (and incredibly relaxing) to tour the themed sections, which stretch from Mediterranean orange groves through to American forest valleys and Alpine natives. There's also the Musikpavillion next door, where Sunday jazz concerts attract big crowds throughout the summer.

5. Alte Synagoge: An Absorbing Testament to Essen's Jewish Community

There aren't many more powerful monuments to the Holocaust than Essen's Alte Synagogue. Opened in 1913, the synagogue had 5,000 members in 1933, making it one of the largest congregations in Europe. Nowadays, following the atrocities of World War II, the synagogue has helped to spearhead a Jewish renaissance in modern-day Essen. A lively meeting point for people of all faiths, it houses a fascinating museum of Jewish culture, covering everyday life and worship, as well as the history of the building itself.

1. UNESCO-Welterbe Zollverein: A UNESCO World Heritage Site

This former industrial site is part of the European Route of Industrial Heritage. First developed in 1847 as a coal mine, it remains open as a monument to the coal industry which created one of the world's largest industrial centers at the time. The complex, and Shaft 12 in particular, is considered an impressive example of industrial and architectural design. The Ruhr Museum is located in the former Coal Washery, and includes over 6,000 exhibits relating to the history of coal mining in the area, along with temporary exhibits, and a calendar of events.

2. Museum Folkwang: Turning Mines and Factories into Masterpieces

Located in the southern half of Essen, the Folkwang houses an exceptional modern art collection. When Essen and the surrounding area ruled the roost in German industry, local magnates put together an incredible hoard of masterpieces, including over 340,000 political, cultural, and sporting posters, expressionist works by German masters like Franz Marc, modernist pieces by Joan Miro, and 19th century paintings by icons like Van Gogh. Recently refurbished with the help of major architect David Chipperfield, the museum is a thriving artistic center.

3. Essener Dom: A Miracle of Reconstruction

Although it might seem like a classical Gothic cathedral (which is what it used to be), Essen's cathedral actually has a much more impressive story. During World War II, the church was destroyed by Allied bombers. After the war, the locals got together to reconstruct it, brick by brick, before restoring its artworks to create a magnificent symbol of civic revival. Venture inside to see some wonderful works, including the Golden Madonna, thought to be the oldest sculptural depiction of the Virgin Mary north of the Alps, as well as the 11th century candelabrum.

4. Botanischer Garten Grugapark: A True Garden of Delights

Southern Essen's tourist highlight is definitely the Grugapark. This botanical wonderland was laid out in 1927 as an educational institution. Nowadays, it's still a busy research center, but is also a feast of flowers, cacti, and other natural delights. The bonsai garden is an obvious standout, but it's just great fun (and incredibly relaxing) to tour the themed sections, which stretch from Mediterranean orange groves through to American forest valleys and Alpine natives. There's also the Musikpavillion next door, where Sunday jazz concerts attract big crowds throughout the summer.

5. Alte Synagoge: An Absorbing Testament to Essen's Jewish Community

There aren't many more powerful monuments to the Holocaust than Essen's Alte Synagogue. Opened in 1913, the synagogue had 5,000 members in 1933, making it one of the largest congregations in Europe. Nowadays, following the atrocities of World War II, the synagogue has helped to spearhead a Jewish renaissance in modern-day Essen. A lively meeting point for people of all faiths, it houses a fascinating museum of Jewish culture, covering everyday life and worship, as well as the history of the building itself.

Where to Eat in Essen

Dining out in Essen has a cosmopolitan feel, and there's plenty of choice. Standouts include Casino Zollverein (in the industrial complex) and the timber-framed Hülsmannshof. Meals will cost around EUR15 for entrees, and about EUR30 per head in total.

When to visit Essen

Essen in February
Estimated hotel price
£38
1 night at 3-star hotel
Essen in February
Estimated hotel price
£38
1 night at 3-star hotel

Christmas brings the motor show and festive markets, while late summer brings events like Rü Oktoberfest, while attractions like the Folkwang Museum are appealing at any time of year.

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Temperatures
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Celcius (°C)
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How to Get to Essen

Plane

Düsseldorf Airport (DUS) is the nearest airport. From there, take the train to Essen Hauptbahnhof (EUR10, 20 minutes).

Train

Essen's Hauptbahnhof (Hbf) has excellent rail connections with other German cities, including Munich, Berlin, and Cologne.

Car

The A2 runs from Berlin to Essen via Dortmund, while the A3 runs from Frankfurt. From Düsseldorf Airport, take the A52 straight into central Essen.

Bus

VRR runs buses from major cities in the Ruhr (including Düsseldorf Airport), while Eurolines offers long distance services to Berlin and foreign cities like Paris.

Airports near Essen

Airlines serving Essen

Lufthansa
Good (1,381 reviews)
United Airlines
Good (2,466 reviews)
American Airlines
Good (3,903 reviews)
KLM
Good (292 reviews)
Air France
Good (298 reviews)
Turkish Airlines
Good (1,074 reviews)
Delta
Excellent (2,657 reviews)
British Airways
Good (939 reviews)
SWISS
Excellent (359 reviews)
Qatar Airways
Good (932 reviews)
Iberia
Good (667 reviews)
Air Canada
Good (641 reviews)
Emirates
Excellent (663 reviews)
Austrian Airlines
Good (196 reviews)
TAP AIR PORTUGAL
Good (371 reviews)
Ryanair
Good (1,167 reviews)
Scandinavian Airlines
Good (307 reviews)
Etihad Airways
Good (203 reviews)
Finnair
Good (450 reviews)
Vueling
Good (263 reviews)
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Where to stay in Essen

Accommodation highlights include the Hotel Essen Motel One and the City Hotel Essen, while the Atlantic Congress Hotel Essen is a highly rated hotel near the Essen exhibition center.

Popular neighbourhoods in Essen

Rüttenscheid - known as Essen's creative hub, Rüttenscheid is the place to find great bars like Menehune Cocktailbar, boutiques like Stakks, and a host of wonderful Asian eateries.

Kettwiger Straße - this pedestrianized street in Essen city center is the main shopping area, featuring apparel stores like Peek & Cloppenburg as well as the enormous Lichtburg cinema and the city cathedral.

Bredeney - Essen's most laid-back neighborhood, Bredeney is prosperous and elegant, and an excellent place for families to stay.

Most popular hotel in Essen by neighbourhood

Where to stay in popular areas of Essen

Most booked hotels in Essen

Essener Hof Sure Hotel Collection by Best Western
Excellent (8.6, Excellent reviews)
£49+
Select Hotel Handelshof Essen
Excellent (8.1, Excellent reviews)
£52+
Ramada by Wyndham Essen
Excellent (8.1, Excellent reviews)
£49+
Intercityhotel Essen
Excellent (8.1, Excellent reviews)
£47+
Sheraton Essen Hotel
Excellent (8.1, Excellent reviews)
£91+
Hotel Waldhaus-Langenbrahm
Good (7.8, Good reviews)
£79+
See all hotels

How to Get Around Essen

Public Transportation

EVAG runs a bus, tram, and light rail system across the city. Basic tickets cost EUR1.50 and day tickets cost EUR5.50.

Taxi

Expect to pay around EUR5 for the meter drop, then EUR3 per mile when traveling by taxi in Essen.

Car

Essen's car rental options include Europcar, Sixt, and Hertz, and you should find rates as low as EUR15 per day.

The Cost of Living in Essen

Shopping Streets

Kettwiger Straße is the main city center shopping street, but the Limbecker Platz shopping mall is even larger, with a vast number of German and international brands.

Groceries and Other

Supermarkets in Essen include Lidl and REWE, where you can expect to pay about EUR2.50 for a gallon of milk.

Cheap meal
£10.15
A pair of jeans
£70.20
Single public transport ticket
£2.30
Cappuccino
£2.35