A Hike Through the Ruhr Area

The Portal of Industrial Heritage shows the past, the present and the future of the Ruhr Area

Walk past former coking plants, famous breweries and historical settlements, through the past, the present and the future of the Ruhr District – on your visit to the Portal of Industrial Heritage. At this special place, between huge machines and thick concrete walls in the Coal Washery at Zollverein, the region becomes tangible.

Portal of Industrial HeritageUNESCO World Heritage Zollverein

Interactive stations and exciting exhibits tell stories about the protagonists of the past, about how they used to work and live.

In addition, the natural and cultural sites of today are presented in a multimedia format and invite visitors to discover the region. The next destination could be … 

The face of the Ruhr Area

Blast furnaces, gasometers and pithead frames have characterized the Ruhr Area, Europe’s largest industrial region, for decades. In a density unparalleled anywhere else in Germany, they are now important witnesses to the Ruhr District’s 150-year industrial past and likewise stand for the structural transformation towards the Ruhr Metropolis.

Gasometer, Oberhausen, From the collection of: UNESCO World Heritage Zollverein
Inner Harbour, Duisburg, From the collection of: UNESCO World Heritage Zollverein
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Yet, the former production sites are not places of wistful remembrance, but have long since developed into vivid industrial-cultural spaces for living, working and commerce and also into attractive event venues with a supra-regional appeal. The most important component of this concept is the Industrial Heritage Trail.

The industrial heritage is not limited to the Ruhr Area, though. No other German federal state has such a wealth and variety of industrial monuments as North Rhine-Westphalia.

Across the state, networks and themed routes lead to coal mines, gasometers, coking plants, blast furnaces, production sites and ship lifts, about which guests can inform themselves at the Portal of Industrial Heritage for their forthcoming visit.

Tactile model, Portal of Industrial HeritageUNESCO World Heritage Zollverein

With this coal, fingers stay clean.

At the Portal of Industrial Heritage, the diversity of industrial culture on offer is also presented in showcases with original objects. Additionally, tactile models, including faithful reproductions of coal and coke made of cast resin, add further levels of experience, especially for people with visual impairments, without getting any fingers dirty.

Tactile model, Portal of Industrial HeritageUNESCO World Heritage Zollverein


“Steam locomotive number 38 22 67” was built in 1918. There are more than 3.500 engines of this type, and in the past, they could be seen almost everywhere in Germany. Since they travelled at a speed of 100 km/h, they were particularly suitable for local traffic.

But it also pulled the coaches on the legendary luxury passenger train Rheingold. The last trains were taken out of service in 1975. Number 38 22 67 is now in the Railway Museum in Bochum, one of the largest of its kind in Germany. 

Film RUHR.360° at the Portal of Industrial HeritageUNESCO World Heritage Zollverein

All around the Ruhr Area

Immerse yourself in the Ruhr District: the panorama film “RUHR 360°” presents moving images from a region in motion. Rambling through forests and rolling mills, rowing on the river, big emotions in the fan curve, coal mining at a depth of 1.000 metres, an opera performance in an underground station – and encounters with people, whose home is on the river Ruhr and who tell their stories.


Zollverein UNESCO World Heritage SiteUNESCO World Heritage Zollverein

The observation platform on the roof of the Coal Washery, the largest building at Zollverein, affords views in all directions, sweeping over the diversity of Zollverein, over industry and modern architecture of the nearby towns, over culture and sports, slag heap landscapes and lots of greenery.

Circular Thickener at the Portal of Industrial HeritageUNESCO World Heritage Zollverein

Photography in the Circular Thickener

When the machines in the Coal Washery were still making a lot of noise and thousands of tons of coal were being processed in the building every day, the Circular Thickener prepared the coal slurry bound in water for further processing.

Circular Thickener at the Portal of Industrial HeritageUNESCO World Heritage Zollverein

Today, the space between the grey concrete walls is used as an exhibition venue for contemporary photography. Not only a museum space, but also a place for encounters and debates.

Photo exhibition in the Circular Thickener

Kraftmuseet. Norwegian Museum of Hydropower and Industry in Tyssedal, NorwayUNESCO World Heritage Zollverein

Industrial culture in Europe

Zollverein is not only a central anchor point of the German Industrial Heritage Trail, but also of the European Route of Industrial Heritage (ERIH). This network is also presented at the Portal of Industrial Heritage. With its approximately 2.000 sites in 50 European countries, ERIH offers an exciting voyage of discovery to the milestones of European industrial history.

Steam Tram Museum Hoorn-Medemblik, the NetherlandsUNESCO World Heritage Zollverein

The backbone of this route is formed by more than 100 anchor points, which in turn constitute starting points for regional routes. They reveal how even smaller industrial plants have changed the geographical and social landscape – as small cogs in the big wheel.

London Museum of Water & Steam, Brentford (GB)UNESCO World Heritage Zollverein

Industrialization has changed the face of Europe. And today, the continent is once again experiencing a profound upheaval. The technological progress results in the closure of many industrial companies. People are losing their jobs. Entire regions are searching for a new identity and are gearing up for the future. What is left behind is a rich industrial-cultural heritage, which ERIH brings to life with exciting journeys of discovery into the depths of coal mines, to the dizzying heights of blast furnaces, into machine halls gleaming with chrome and noisy factory floors.

ERIH dance event “WORK it OUT 2018” at Hansa Coking Plant, DortmundUNESCO World Heritage Zollverein

WORK it OUT – The ERIH dance event

Across the continent, a participatory event gets Europe’s youth dancing – in, on and in front of imposing industrial backdrops: WORK it OUT. In the European Cultural Heritage Year 2018, the dance event celebrated its premiere. 

ERIH dance event “WORK it OUT 2019” at the LVR Industrial Museum Hendrichs Drop Forge, SolingenUNESCO World Heritage Zollverein

Industrialization has shaped the lives of people in Europe to this day: no car without the steam engine, no computer without electrification, no medical progress without laboratories. These correlations are also exciting for young Europeans – and may even tip the scales, when it comes to choosing a career.

ERIH wants to inspire more young people to discover the common industrial heritage, and WORK it OUT is an important component of this.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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