Located in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, in the northern part of the Ruhr region, Gelsenkirchen stood serenely as a tiny village for hundreds of years. In the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution swept through this corner of the country, and Gelsenkirchen would never be the same again.
By the early 20th century, Gelsenkirchen could lay a legitimate claim to being the most important coal mining town in Europe, leading it to be given the nickname, “city of a thousand fires.”
There are no longer any coalmines in the city, but Gelsenkirchen nonetheless continues to trade on its industrial heritage. Visit the former industrial park at Nordsternpark to get a sense of this commercial past, while also enjoying the varied attractions now on offer, including walking trails along the canal, an open air theater, rock climbing walls and a children’s play area.
Alternatively, if you wish to head back in time beyond the Industrial Revolution further into the town's history, take a trip to the Berge Castle. Built in the thirteenth century, the fortification expanded in the 1780s. The castle now plays host to all kinds of events, such as concerts and a traditional summer festival held every July.
Popular with families and younger visitors, ZOOM Erlebniswelt is Gelsenkirchen’s interactive zoo, offering a unique experience for all ages. Split into three sections—Africa, Asia and Alaska—the exhibits provide a genuine taste of the atmosphere in all of these habitats. Elsewhere around town you’ll find a variety of remarkable green spaces, with city parks, playgrounds, gardens and ponds. In the more built-up center of town you can also stroll through the Revierpark and Stadtgarten.
Gelsenkirchen’s famous professional soccer team, Schalke 04, plays regularly in front of 60,000 fans at the Veltins-Arena. The stadium has become renowned as one of the most modern in Europe since it was opened in 2001. Join the passionate fans in the Nordkurve section on game day, or check the calendar of pop concerts, operas and motorbike races that also take place there. You can also visit the museum, with exhibits detailing the history of the club, and even take a tour through the ground.
With Gelsenkirchen, the industrial heritage is just part of the story.