Cultural highlights in Essen
A great variety of cultural attractions are waiting to be discovered in Essen, ranging from various museums and exhibitions to World Heritage sites. The city on the Ruhr is well worth an exploration tour.
In January 2010, the new wing of the Folkwang Museum, designed by the British star architect David Chipperfield, was officially opened, arousing strong interest in the media. In the new, bright rooms, the works of art from the last three centuries are presented just as brilliantly as the collection of the German Poster Museum.
The “Vincent & Paul” gourmet restaurant located in the new tract offers its guests a range of exquisite international cuisine.
With its outstanding art collection, the Folkwang Museum, established in 1902 by Karl Ernst Osthaus in Hagen, ranks among the country’s most famous museums. After Osthaus’ death, the Folkwang Museumsverein, an association of art enthusiasts in Essen, acquired the collection for the Municipality of Essen.
World Heritage Zollverein
The central shaft system, opened in 1932 and designed by the architects Fritz Schupp and Martin Kremmer in New Objectivity style, was the largest coal mine with the highest output in Europe until it was closed in 1986. From 1990, the Zollverein shaft XII was restored and in 2001 declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO, together with the coking plant and shaft 1/2/8.
Today, a great variety of cultural activities shape the programme of events around the “Eiffel Tower of the Ruhr District”, which attracts up to 800,000 visitors per year to the grounds. Every day, you can immerse yourself in the history of the coal mine on a tour along the “path of coal” and choose from numerous exhibitions, concerts and dance performances as well. A free-standing, 58-m-long escalator will take you to the first point of entry for visitors, the visitors’ centre in the remodelled coal preparation plant.
The coking plant, which was closed down only in 1993, is the third important part of the Zollverein World Heritage complex beside the shaft systems XII and 1/2/8. At every sunset, visitors will experience an impressive synthesis of the arts. The entire system is flooded with spectacular lights. In summer, visitors enjoy the art project of the corporate swimming pool, in winter they can explore the industrial monument on skates, using one of the most bizarre skating rinks in Europe.
Insights into the history of the region are provided by the Ruhr Museum, which was opened in the coal preparation plant in January 2010 as the first museum for the entire Ruhr district region.
The Essen cathedral treasury presents evidence of the city’s glorious history. The sacral works of art exhibited here are of priceless value and display the power and wealth of the noble abbesses who ruled the Convent and the city of Essen from the 9th until the 19th century. The Golden Madonna is regarded as the Occident’s oldest fully three-dimensional sculpture of Saint Mary.
In the 9th century, Bishop Altfrid founded the secular convent for ladies from the high nobility, around which the city developed. Thanks to the close family relationships with the Ottonian dynasty, the canonesses lacked neither wealth nor political influence. One sign of this worldly power is the child’s crown of Otto III, a gift from his godmother, the Essen abbess Mathilde. On the other hand, he four processional crosses from the Ottonian period are insignia of piety. Of these masterpieces, only six are still preserved today worldwide.
In the early summer of 2010, the Old Synagogue was reopened as a unique “House of Jewish Culture” in Germany. The five exhibition areas inside the building give insights into the life and daily practice of Jewish congregations around the world. This has opened a new chapter in the eventful history of the building.
Like almost all Jewish places of worship, the Old Synagogue, opened in 1913, was set on fire and almost completely destroyed inside during the “Night of Broken Glass” in 1938. In 1959, the Municipality of Essen acquired the former house of worship. In the course of reconstruction, all mosaics were painted over, the torah shrine removed, and the dome, under which 1,400 people could formerly assemble, was dismantled.
This palatial residence not only demonstrates the wealth of the entrepreneurial Krupp family, but also the economic significance of Essen during the era of industrialisation. Alfried Krupp had the villa, which was entered in the land register as a single-family house with 220 rooms, constructed in a 75-hectare park between 1868 and 1872.
Villa Hügel is furnished with valuable tapestries, precious Italian panelled ceilings and an impressive library. Today, it is a regular venue for chamber concerts and high-profile international art exhibitions. The historic Krupp collection and the exhibition “Krupp today” can be viewed in the guest house.
Red Dot Design Museum
Whether wrist watch or accessory, mobile phone or TV set, every one of these objects is an example of human every-day product culture. At the Red Dot Design Museum, common objects become cult objects. What all of these widely different exhibits have in common is their excellent design, for which they have been awarded the internationally coveted and recognized “Red Dot”.
The museum houses the world’s largest exhibition of contemporary design. On more than 4,000 square metres, some 1,000 products from all over the world are presented. With its location inside the boiler house of the Zollverein World Heritage site, the museum has become a pilgrimage site for fans of culture, architecture and design from around the world.