Essen, geographical and cultural heart of the Ruhrgebiet, is the 6th largest city in Germany. Founded in 852 as a convent for noblewomen and governed by abbesses for the next thousand years, its cathedral houses priceless examples of sacred art, including the 10th-century “Child’s Crown” of Otto III and the Golden Madonna, the oldest-known icon of its kind, valued at over €100 million.
The 19th century saw Essen explode into the largest industrial centre in Europe thanks to its coal mining and steel production, spearheaded by the success of the Krupp company. But later explosions in World War II — from Allied bombs — reduced much of the city and its factories to rubble, and Essen’s city centre is a testament to German post-war reconstruction.
Like other modern post-industrial cities, Essen has gone through several rebirths: employing out-of-work coalminers to build Lake Baldeney dam and a charming recreational area south of the city; coaxing some of Germany’s largest corporations to build headquarters there; and turning its once-dead factories into vibrant cultural centres and tourist sights. Essen’s amazing renaissance, buoyed by the recent decision to make it European Cultural Capital for 2010, should continue its upswing for years to come.
Read all about the Ruhrgebiet's industrial heritage and how to visit the highlights in our industrial tourism feature.
Essen's phone code is 0201.
Enjoy Essen, and remember to write in to tell of your experiences in town, and your opinion of this guide.
Essen In Your Pocket is part of the Ruhrgebiet In Your Pocket guidebook.
In Your Pocket guides are sold locally at tourist offices, and distributed in selected hotels. Ask for In Your Pocket.