A gigantic elephant made from glass, curved bridges, giant steel shapes emerging from rubble heaps, a herb garden nestled next to a former blast furnace – the Ruhr region has many extraordinary and unique buildings. The Emscher Park Cycle Route is a fascinating journey through industrial heritage in the Ruhr region, in North Rhine-Westphalia. But first, let’s go back to the beginning. The coal and steel crises in the 1970s brought structural change to the Ruhr region. When the crisis was in full swing, things looked far from rosy. But the 17 cities in the Northern Ruhr region, through which the Emscher River flows, came up with an idea to turn the fortune of the Ruhr around. The result was a huge project with a long name ‘International Bauasstellung Emscher Park’ (International Building Exhibition Emscher Park), or IBA for short. You can find a great summary of the project in German language on the University of Duisburg Essen’s website: uni-due.de/~gpo202/iba-allgemein.htm.
An extraordinary landscape grew from the derelict areas, unused industrial giants and dreary stretches of land, demonstrating what is possible when people work together. Rather than tearing everything down and covering up the sad crises, the Ruhr region’s history was included. The Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex is a good example of this. On your cycle Tour, you’ll discover world-famous industrial monuments as well as countless small projects that resulted from the IBA such as small nature paradises, walk-in artworks and lovingly restored and converted factories.
You can, of course, explore the entire region by bike – you probably wouldn’t have landed on my profile otherwise. Starting from the city of Hamm, this 250-kilometre (155-mile) route leads past the most important industrial sites in the Ruhr region, to the River Rhine and returns to Hamm, a little further south. As the route is circular, you can join it anywhere. The route is signposted and follows many cycle paths. You’ll find plenty of accommodation in the towns en route. The rail network is well developed so you can hop on a train and skip a stretch if you want. I’d also like to recommend the numerous beer gardens and restaurants along the cycle path. They are cycling friendly and have fair prices. So get on your bike and explore the steel giants and nature reserves along the Emscher! My personal tip – walk or cycle up the slag heaps. You can enjoy a huge panorama from the top. You’ll never have seen the Ruhr region like this before!
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Last updated: November 5, 2021
The Emscher Park cycle path begins in the east of the city of Hamm at Maximilianpark. If you arrive by train, you can reach the starting point from Hamm main station in around 20 to 30 minutes. Before you start pedaling to explore the treasures of the Emscher Park Cycle Path, it is worth visiting Maximilian…
The second stage continues west, mostly near the Rhine-Herne Canal. Right at the beginning you cross the Waltrop harbor bridge and take a look at one of the security gates, which is lowered in case of danger.
Only half an hour later it gets really exciting. The Waltrop lock park is an excursion into the…
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Today's stage is worth a trip in itself, because on the 50 kilometers you will immerse yourself in the fascinating world of industrial culture. A short detour to the Eisenheim factory estate is historically interesting. The first workers' settlement in the Ruhr area was built in 1846.
Back on the way…
On today's stage, in addition to other highlights of industrial culture, you will also encounter castles and mansions for a change. But one after anonther. From the Zeche Zollverein you drive on a former railway line that has been converted into a wonderful bike path.
There are interesting parks and small…
The last stage on the Emscher Park cycle path is on the one hand quite relaxed, on the other hand a nice summary of the whole tour: relics from the past industrial age and beautiful nature alternate.
Right at the beginning you drive through several small nature reserves. In some there are game enclosures…
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