The “most beautiful coal mine in the world”, landmark of the Ruhr Metropolis and symbol for an unbelievably exciting structural transformation: Zollverein. Many people were astonished when a colliery first became a World Heritage Site. It happened on 14 December 2001: The colliery and coking plant “Zollverein” was officially added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites as the “Zollverein Industrial Complex”. Since then, around 1.5 million visitors a year have come to what was once the largest coal mine in Europe. Come and explore the gigantic overground plants, which have remained in their original condition.
Today, the Zollverein is one of Europe’s most important industrial monuments, and offers an incomparable mix of art and culture. On your arrival, you will marvel at the 55-metre-high double-rack winding tower—the “Eiffel Tower of the Ruhr Region”. All the more interesting when one keeps in mind that an extraction shaft of up to 1,040 metres lies under the framework. Coal was last extracted here in 1986; up to that point, it had been a total of 240 million tonnes. An unimaginable amount, for which up to 8,000 miners toiled round the clock. The coking plant was added in the middle of the 20th century, and the colliery produced up to 8,000 tonnes of coke per day.
If you’d like to learn more about the Zollverein of yesterday and today, an extensive tour is available. Over 100 specially trained guides offer tours in eight languages, and with almost 30 different formats there’s something for everyone. A further highlight of the complex is the Ruhr Museum, opened at the start of the Culture Capital Year RUHR.2010 in the former coal washing plant. This museum focuses on the cultural and natural history of the Ruhr Region. In the boiler house, you’ll find the Red Dot Design Museum: with over 2,000 exhibits from around 45 countries, it’s the largest exhibition of contemporary design in the world. And the observation deck on the roof of the coal washing plant is not to be missed. The view here is simply breathtaking. And there’s much more: In the summertime, the sun wheel makes it rounds. Built for the exhibition “Sun, Moon and Stars” in 1999, you go underground in small gondolas in the old ovens of the Zollverein coking plant. Afterwards, you can cool off in the Works Swimming Pool, the most iconic swimming pool there is. In the wintertime, on the other hand, a skating rink along the former coking plant invites you to all kinds of sporting activities.
To learn about all the offers and attractions, it’s best to visit the RUHR VISITOR CENTRE in the former coal washing plant. The friendly staff here have tickets for all offerings, as well as extensive information about the Zollverein.
P.S.: Naturally, the Zollverein is a stop on the Essen city tours.