Art and Culture Castle Hostels Cities Germany

48 Hours in Duisburg: Family Fun on an Industrial Scale

LandschaftsPark Duisburg at Night
Written by Kirstie Pelling

48 Hours in Duisburg: Industrial, Interesting Family Fun

Duisburg and the surrounding area has the wow factor when it comes to industrial art and tourism. This unassuming city in Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia region has several world class attractions on its doorstep involving repurposed iron, steel and gasworks. And if you stay in the hostel in Duisburg’s Landschaftspark you are right in the centre of the action as we discovered in our summer collaboration with the Jugendherberge Youth Hostel Association. In this advertising post we give you an itinerary for a 48 hour stay…

LandschaftPark Duisburg
Duisburg LandschaftPark, a surprising holiday destination

 Gritty trumps pretty

Duisburg, Essen and the surrounding North Rhine-Westphalia region are rather more gritty than pretty. The rewards are here but they aren’t the chocolate box visuals some tourists might chase. When the sunshine throws gold dust on rust or you see a wild flower growing in a lone iron pipe, you will know why you came. This region was once the beating heart of Germany’s coal, iron and steel production. While the industry has depleted, the physical legacy still remains, scratched on the skyline like a charcoal sketch. But time has not stood still; several of the former plants have been redeveloped into world class tourist attractions with an undefinable beauty. Artists and architects have preserved and enhanced the character, turning them into shining examples of industrial tourism, often using the testimony of the people who worked there.

LandschaftPark Duisburg at Sunset
Rusting into the sunset at LandschaftsPark Duisburg

A Room with a Fiery View

Staying at Duisburg-Nord’s Meiderich hostel on the extraordinary Landschaftspark, we find an engaging urban area, rich in industrial heritage, deep in history and towering high above the landscape shouting “I am still here!”

Duisburg Hostel; a good base for your 48 hours in Duisburg

Industrial sunset

Our room looks out onto a corner of the Landschaftspark and at different times of day the view has a different personality. At sunset it beckons us into its depths with a glow that echoes the fire and heat from days gone by. At night the lighting, designed by artist Jonathan Park, is spookier, from the spaceship style rings around the towers to the red and blue tunnels that exude the past.

LandschaftPark Duisburg at Sunset
LandschaftPark Duisburg at Sunset

Ghosts of the Boardroom

The facade of Duisburg hostel was part of the main entrance to ironworks  as far back as 1907 and the 140 beds are located in the former administration building of the Thyssen plant. If you hear echoes of the past in your sleep then that’ll either be the ghosts of the boardroom, or the entertainers in the ironwork’s social club, which was housed here from 1953.

Duisburg Youth Hostel at LandschaftPark

48 hours in Duisburg: Day 1 – Exploring the Landschaftspark 

We spend Day 1 of our 48 hour itinerary in and around the city of Duisburg. We begin exploring the area around the Youth Hostel before heading further afield to the harbour and city centre.

Looking out over LandshaftsPark Duisburg
Exploring the LandschaftsPark at Duisburg

Urban Green at Duisburg-Nord Landschaftspark

The Duisburg-Nord Landschaftspark is iconic and unmissable. In fact in 2015 The Guardian called it one of the world’s ten best urban green spaces. The former pig iron plant, which is celebrating its 25th birthday as a tourist attraction, is constantly reinventing itself. We follow a simple orienteering trail. Armed with a GPS and a sheet of clues we head into the wider reaches of the park for a family treasure hunt. PR Claudia Kalinowsi explains the thinking behind it, “This site is large – the size of 200 soccer fields. We want people to see more than just the centre. It’s enormous but quiet and calming and beautiful in a way that’s hard to describe.” Our GPS tour takes us most of the morning. If we want to we can extend our stay by booking into the dive tank for a session, biking around the park or enjoying some evening outdoor cinema.

Exploring the LandschaftPark Duisburg
Explore places you never thought you’d reach in LandschaftPark Duisburg

Nature and renewal is stamping its mark on the past although you can get a sense of it as a working plant by taking a (German language) torchlight tour with one of eight miners who used to work here. There are a variety of unique ways to see the park, including diving in the gasometer that once stored blast furnace gas. Its hoped a new platform will expand the tourism offering.

Reflections in Canals of LandschaftPark
Given time nature reclaims. Windmill reflected in canals of LandschaftPark.

“It’s never ready, we are always going to be working on it,” laughs Claudia. “History is important but we are no museum per se. You must decide how you want to experience the park. Do you want to climb the blast furnace, do you want to learn by cycling a bike or taking a tour led by someone who worked here? If you have fun exploring you will learn about the history of the whole area.”

At sunset locals and tourists gather to take photographs of the sun going down in a blaze of light behind the wind turbine. Couples hold hands and wander arm in arm in the dwindling light. 

LandschaftPark Duisburg at Sunset
LandschaftPark Duisburg at Sunset

48 Hours in Duisburg: Day 2 – Exploring Further Afield

For dinner when in Duisburg try Koenig Pilsener Wirtshaus at the inner harbour. Our skillets of pork and chicken with mustard and creamy sauce filled us up and we had to take a walk before returning later on for ice creams that piled on the treats – oh Nutella you have ever tasted so good! If you like German beer, some of the tables have pumps built in. You can also enjoy beer tastings just across the river at Diebels Brewery at the Docks.You won’t find a more atmospheric place for a coffee than Kokerie café in Zollverein. No prizes for guessing what this restaurant used to be! Or for guessing where they got the decorations in the vases. Someone’s been cleaning the coal again! If you have kids they’ll enjoy eating at Café Ziegenpeter at the Rheinpark, with an artificial beach.

Zenda Zollverein – Plunge into a Coking Plant

Essen’s Zollverein was once the world’s biggest coal mine. It was a big part of the region’s Capital of Culture bid in 2010 and is a major fixture on the region’s Industrial Heritage Trail. On a weekend in Duisburg you’ll need a full morning to get through everything it offers. The Ruhr museum alone can take you on an expansive journey through the past. (And long – some tours last up to four hours!) If you still have time after that, the Red Dot Design Museum traces the evolution of domestic life. It’s basically your dream kitchen magnified several thousand times.

If you are limited for time we suggest hiring bikes. Riding around the complex helps you to get a feel for the scale of the colliery, and it’s fun to weave in and out of the railway tracks, past the big wheel and the great hall. For a small fee you can also explore by taking the little train that runs around the site.

Try and time your swim to avoid the afternoon tours of the plant if you don’t want an audience.

Adventure Activities near Duisberg

If you still have a few hours left we suggest you choose one of the following activities, all within easy reach of Duisburg.

Tiger and Turtle Walking Rollercoaster

From the Angerpark in the suburb of Duisburg, you can see steel and coking plants, docking stations, car storage parks and Dusseldorf airport. And winding through it all; The Rhine. This industrial landscape inspired the walking rollercoaster sculpture; Tiger and Turtle. Local guide Frank Switala says the 21 metre high ‘stroller coaster’ was designed as a protest against the speed we all live at. “We are living in a fast time today. Everything is changing so fast and very often people go on courses or to monasteries just to slow down. This is a place you can go and enjoy walking round.” Check out our post on this walking coaster.

In the suburbs you’ll find other mounds to climb, populated with quirky sculptures, all built on the past. Bottrop has the Tetrahedron; a 200 foot skeleton of a pyramid, embedded into an old mining heap. In Herton there’s a modern Stonehenge on pithead blocks where you can mark the change of the seasons. You should check out the astonishing exhibition space at Oberhausen that was once a gasometer.

Walking the Tiger and Turtle Walking Coaster at Angerpark Duisburg
Walking the Tiger and Turtle Walking Coaster at Angerpark Duisburg

Duisburg Harbour

Meanwhile if you are looking for shades of blue, the outer harbour in Duisburg itself is one of the largest in Europe. Take a boat cruise around it to see views unavailable from land. The inner harbour is fun too. Restaurants and the river Ruhr make for a pleasant stroll. Try your hand at pumping water from the river using the Archimedes screw or soak friends and family with a bouncing podium that turns you into a human water pistol.

Duisburg Waterfront

Restaurants in Duisburg

For dinner when in Duisburg try Koenig Pilsener Wirtshaus at the inner harbour. Our skillets of pork and chicken with mustard and creamy sauce filled us up and we had to take a walk before returning later on for ice creams that piled on the treats – oh Nutella you have ever tasted so good! If you like German beer, some of the tables have pumps built in. You can also enjoy beer tastings just across the river at Diebels Brewery at the Docks.You won’t find a more atmospheric place for a coffee than Kokerie café in Zollverein. No prizes for guessing what this restaurant used to be! Or for guessing where they got the decorations in the vases. Someone’s been cleaning the coal again! If you have kids they’ll enjoy eating at Café Ziegenpeter at the Rheinpark, with an artificial beach.

Staying at in Duisburg at the historic Duisburg Hostel

Duisburg Hostel is modern and comfortable, with lots of space to chill out. The hostel’s breakfast room looks out on the park. And over a complimentary breakfast your eye is drawn to the huge picture on the wall of miners at work in the fiery dark. There are mining artifacts everywhere; you won’t be short of a jackhammer if you need one and you can meet a mannequin steelworker on the way to reception.

But you won’t find any grime in this modern, well restored building. What you will find are comfortable beds accessorized with charging points, lights, lockers and a shelf. Our room has a separate ensuite shower and toilet Communal areas are smart, with drinks machines and a coffee maker. If you don’t fancy the games room, there’s entertainment on the doorstep; the park is free to enter and open day and night. And if you book early in the season, you can enjoy a movie in the open air cinema.

Duisburg Hostel

Practical Information

The best time to visit Landschaftspark Duisburg – Nord  is in the summer school holidays when it is lit up every night. If you go out of season, visit at weekends if you want to see the park lit up. Entry is free although there is a charge for an orienteering course pack (with a free gift if you complete the course).

The walking rollercoaster is also free and you can visit it at night for maximum illumination.

The Essen Zollverein site is always accessible. For details of the various museums, swimming times and tour times see the Zollverein website.

On the climbing wall at LandshaftPark Duisburg

Disclosure Note: This post is part of a campaign for German Youth Hostels Association, Jugendherberge, who provided our stay at Duisburg. All urban adventuring, biking over rail tracks, running around walking rollercoasters, words and photography are our own.

About the author

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.

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