Zollverein – A UNESCO World Heritage site

Last updated Nov 22, 2021
ZOLLVEREIN Essen

Zollverein is an old coal mine located in Essen, Germany. Since 2001, it has become part of the UNESCO family as a world heritage site. There’s a lot to do and check out here. Join us as we explore this unique place and give you all the tips and tricks for a great visit to the site!

Zollverein was an Old coal mine and coking plant

The mine closed in 1986 and the coking plant in 1993. The whole area is about 100 hectares and today, you can easily spend a whole day here, exploring the area. One of the biggest attractions is to join a guided tour of the old facilities and learn more about the coal industry and the Ruhr area. Today, the buildings are restored and there are several different museums and things going on here.

Think culture, history, and art in a nice mix and then you can get an idea of how a visit here might be. For both of us – the first impression of this place was that it reminded us of Verket in Avesta. Zollverein was finally shut down because it became too expensive to get the coal out. However, all the workers had plenty of time to make arrangements for new jobs so no one was fired when the mine closed down.

ZOLLVEREIN in Essen from above
Zollverein was an Old coal mine and coking plant

Take a guided tour of Zollverein

The tours are offered in German and in English and they are offered several times a day. Most of the guides are also people that previously worked in the mines so they know Zollverein like the back of their hand. Our guide is Fritz Berger. Even if he never worked inside the mine, he comes from a family of mining. We have joined a group in English and we are people from different parts of the world.

We walk around with Fritz and he shows us different parts of the factory and several videos of how the mining industry changed over the years. For example – in the beginning, the workers walked down to the mine by ladders. It took them one hour to get down and two hours to get up. I can’t imagine working all day and then having to climb a ladder for two hours to get up. Fritz makes the tour super interesting and it is a pleasure to join his tour. The only downside is that you are not allowed to go down to the actual mine.

Take a guided tour of Zollverein collage

The Ruhr Museum

The Ruhr Museum is not ”just” about the coal mine. No, it tells a story about the whole Ruhr region. There are lots of things to explore and to see here and new thing mixes with old ones. For example, there are lots of things that they found during excavations in the area. It’s impressive, it’s interesting and it is great to see. A visit to Zollverein is not complete without visiting the museum.

Fossils are mixed with beautiful gemstones. Sculls that were found in ancient graves and replicas from ancient animals. All of this is found in an awesome environment and you want to get lost here among all these cool things. Some of the exhibitions are temporary while others are permanent. Stroll around and let your imagination take you to ancient times while visiting the Ruhr museum.

The Ruhr Museum Entrance
The Ruhr Museum

Portal of Industrial heritage

A great beginning during your visit to Zollverein is to start with a visit to the Portal of industrial heritage. Make your way to the 360 movie that’s played inside. We got to see a movie called Ruhr 360. It’s special to see a movie that is played in that way. We were hoping to get more information about Zollverein but the movie was more a cascade of things that the Ruhr area has to offer and not so much about the coal mine. If you are in a hurry, you might skip the movie but if you have the time it’s a good idea to see it. It takes 20 minutes and is colorful.

After seeing the movie, we visited the lookout point. Yes, you need to climb pretty many stairs but, in the end, it’s all worth it. The view from here is really nice and you’ll get a great insight into how big this place actually is. After admiring the area you are ready to continue to explore the area at Zollverein.

The view at Zollverein - Portal of Industrial heritage

The Red Dot Museum

The Red Dot Museum is housed inside the old kettle house and this is an interactive place. It’s a place of design and here you can see loads of amazing inventions. A great thing is that you are allowed to touch the things in the exhibition. Mini pressed all the buttons and became a child again. There are coffee machines, robots, toothbrushes, and lots of creations that have helped to change the world of design.

The place is huge, 4 000 square meters divided into five floors. There’s a whole room that is dedicated to apple, their computers, and phones. It was such a trip down memory lane seeing the first computer, then called Macintosh, and being a thick computer in different colors. Walk around, press buttons, and admire the past, the present, and the future at the Red Dot Museum.

The Red Dot Museum collage
Red dot museum in Essen

Plan your visit to Zollverein

To have the best experience while being here, plan to spend at least about 4 hours at Zollverein. If you are booked for a tour, make sure to be on time before it starts. A good place to start is to visit the Portal of Industrial Heritage. This gives you a great overview of the area. Watch the movie and then work your way to the Ruhr Museum. Take your time here, admiring the exhibitions, and then get back to the yard.

Visit the Red Dot Museum and get your cup full of design. If there’s still time – grab something to eat at the Restaurant Casino Zollverein. Stroll around the area and just enjoy the UNESCO world heritage site. Zollverein is a unique place that has a rich history. We were most amazed by the fact that all the people that used to work here all got new jobs and had time to figure out what they wanted to do and didn’t get sacked.

ZOLLVEREIN - A UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE

Other things to do at Zollverein

Inside the area, there’s also a forest of sculptures that you can check out. As always in places like this – the gift shop has really high quality and there are several things that you might want to buy to bring back home with you. Walk around and find your own special place. Admire the huge buildings from the courtyard and imagine how this place used to be when it was used as a coal mine and coking plant.

If you want, you can also hire bikes and explore the area that way. There’s also a pool and/or an ice rink here during summer and winter. The people behind this place really thought of everything. They created an area that is fun for all ages and walks of life. Here, you’ll find art and history all in the same area. And if you like it here, you might also like to visit Falu Gruva in Sweden, it is also a World Heritage Site.

Information about Zollverein

Address: Gelsenkirchener Strasse 181, Essen.
Entrance fee: Different between the different sights and museums. For the guided tour of Zollverein, it costs 9,50 euros per adult.
For tickets and more information, visit Zollverein website.

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