“Zeche Zollverein”: Industrial World Heritage near the city of Essen, Germany

Once a father realised his son was not exactly bright, he simply registered him as a worker at the Zeche. Back in the days, up to 20.000 tons of coal had been mined here, at what was once the most modern coal mining facility in the whole world. Such was the heyday that everybody here could raise a family on coal … ” WowI listen to the stories rolling off the tongue of our passionate guide, one storyteller of a kind, standing right inside the epicentre of Germany’s coal mining industry about 100 years ago. It is crazy. I try to imagine the hopes and misery of the people working here, believing in the miracle of (economic) progress and whose everyday life must have been hard indeed. The Industrial World Heritage Site & Mining Complex “Zeche Zollverein” close to the city of Essen in the northwestern Ruhr district of Germany is something you should really come and see. Part of its “charm” comes from the unique combination of, say, a gourmet restaurant set inside a former coking plant, a multimedia museum housed next to gigantic furnaces. The industrial mining complex is clearly alive: Visitors mingle, events take place, agencies rent co-working spaces here, there is even a public pool as well as the gourmet restaurant. Anything else? “We are just about to open another large restaurant for our tour groups”, Martina Tendick, who is responsible for tourism development at the site, explains. Her eyes are alight with the passion for sustainable management of this precious World Heritage site, located close to the European cultural capital city of Essen. What an exciting visit I enjoy here!

Angekommen in der Zeche Zollverein, werde ich bei strahlendem Sommerwetter von Martina Tendick in Empfang genommen. Der nette Herr am Empfang repariert in der Zwischenzeit sogar meinen Koffer ... Wahnsinn! :D

Having arrived at the Zeche Zollverein, I am greeted by this splendid summer weather as well as charming Martina Tendick, tourism manager at the site. Meanwhile, the guard at the door does a great job repairing my suitcase … people are clever here, really. Thank you so much for your help!


Ein Überblick über die Anlage der Zeche & Kokerei: Dieses Modell hilft, sich die Dimensionen vorzustellen.

A view over the so-called “Zeche” as well as the mining & coking plants: This model helps to imagine the dimensions of this 100 hectares site.


Im red dot design Museum besichtigen wir viele innovative Industrie- und Designpreise aus der gesamten Welt: Der Kontrast zum vormaligen Schwerindustrie-Standort ist spannungsgeladen und wahnsinnig interessant.

At the red dot design museum, innovative design awards are being exhibited from all over the world: A truly fascinating and stimulating contrast with the old mining complex.


Beispielsweise auch hier: Blick auf das Gourmetrestaurant nebst ehemaligen Verbrennungsöfen ...!

Another example of this is the combination of a gourmet restaurant right next to these huge furnaces …


Hier würde ich schon alleine ob der Atmosphäre und Einzigartigkeit des Erlebnis gerne wiederkehren!

… I would be really tempted to come back here just for the difference in atmosphere! Something unique.


Weiter geht es hinauf zum Besucher- und Informationszentrums des Welterbes: Über eine der längsten Außenrolltreppen der Welt, werden wir wie vormals Steinkohle hineinbefördert.

Up, up we go: This escalator, one of the largest of its kind, takes us up like “former coal bricks” and into the building which now houses the World Heritage Visitor Centre.


Rund um das Thema "Sommer in der Zeche Zollverein" finden zahlreiche Veranstaltungen statt.

Summer at the Zeche Zollverein means many (outdoor) events are about to take place.


"Glühende Stiegenaufgänge" symbolisieren mittels spannender Lichttechnik den Bogen aus Steinkohleförderung, Kokerei (Kohlegewinnung) und glühendem Eisen der Schwerindustrie, für die Koks zur Befeuerung verwendet wurde.

“Glowing staircases” using special lighting technique pay a tribute to the process of coal mining, coking & using them for powering the large furnaces used to produce iron and steel. A whole new industry set in motion here back in the days …


In der größten Anlage des Geländes, nahe des Schacht XII zum Abbau der Steinkohle in der Erde, befindet sich heute ein modernes Multimedia-Museum welches Aufschluss über die damaligen Lebens- und Arbeitsbedingungen gibt.

This modern multimedia museum offers a glimpse into the (hard) everyday life of workers at the plant here.


Ein Museum zum "Anfassen"!

I really this interactive and modern museum which is focused on innovative means of cultural interpretation. With my study background of culture & authenticity at World Heritage Sites, this visit has been particularly interesting to me.


Vom Dach des Gebäudes weist mir Martina Tendick den Blick auf die angrenzende Kokerei: Hier wurde (und wird zum Teil auch heute noch) Steinkohle zu Koks verarbeitet.

From the top of the building, Martina Tendick points out the former coking plants where, to this present day, coal is “coked” in large furnaces, albeit at a much lesser volume.


Der größte Förderturm der Anlage steht als stolzes Wahrzeichen des Welt-Industrie-Erbes Zeche Zollverein.

The largest mining tower of the era is what rises above the “Zeche Zollverein” industrial heritage & mining complex as a symbol of the past.


Unbedingt an einer Führung teilnehmen: Erst durch die Geschichten guter Erzähler wird die Faszination und Dimension der alten Anlage lebendig.

Do make sure you take part in a guided tour: It is only thanks to the lively interpretation and vivid storytelling that all the history and imagination of people living and working here in the past truly comes to life.


Really really exciting. I would recommend everybody (including myself 😉 ) to come back here and spend an entire day at the site: Pool, museums, gourmet restaurant and the unique idiosyncrasy of this old mining complex telling stories of a glorified past. Next to all the World Heritage Sites that I have already experienced as part of my trip through Germany – “cruise-cycling” along the Romantic Rhine valley, being dressed like a Roman at the Römerkastell Saalburg, walking through gardens & palaces of Augustusburg near Brühl, “fighting” at the gladiator school in Trier or eating typical German Bratwurst at the Historic Wurstkuchl Sausage Tavern in Regensburg – the Zeche Zollverein industrial mining complex near Essen is clearly worth seeing. A must-see in terms of German history and architecture: Thank you so much to all of you who made me feel quite strongly about this place!

Angekommen in der Zeche Zollverein, werde ich bei strahlendem Sommerwetter von Martina Tendick in Empfang genommen. Der nette Herr am Empfang repariert in der Zwischenzeit sogar meinen Koffer ... Wahnsinn! :D

See you next time at Zeche Zollverein!


Disclaimer: I have been invited by the German Tourist Board in order to travel to & experience several World Heritage Sites in Germany. All opinions are my own.

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1 comment

Marius 11 April 2014 - 10:55

Extraordinary this industrial heritage site for technique lovers and your presentation is mobilizing.
I think I’ll convince some friends who enjoy experiencing various traditional crafts too (pottery, wood, leather) to take soon a vacation in the Essen area, if we’ll find solutions to mix such attractions


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