Discover Germany, Issue 36, March 2016

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Page 42

Special Theme

Best of NRW Left: Teutoburg Forest. © D. Ketz Tourismus NRW Top right: Perfect city breaks in NRW. © KoelnCongress

North Rhine-Westphalia:

An inviting destination for all generations In the heart of Europe with its outstanding transport network and infrastructure, North Rhine-Westphalia is not just popular for Germans – in fact, when it comes to visitors it is the second most popular state after Bavaria and ahead of BadenWürttemberg. TEXT: TOURISMUS NRW | TRANSLATION: EMMIE COLLINGE

It is a state where you are never far from a museum, as it happens to be Europe’s most culturally rich region with 900 museums welcoming 13 million visitors annually. Moreover, North Rhine-Westphalia boasts no fewer than five UNESCO-listed sites; each a tourist magnet in their own right including the Cathedral in Cologne. Aachen’s Cathedral is also listed and the two palaces in Brühl – Augustusburg and Falkenlust – were both added to the UNESCO List in 1984 alongside their gardens and parks for their value to the German rococo movement. Yet there is a wholly different and more industrial era reflected in the cultural landscape too, namely in the form of the Zeche Zollverein in Essen, once the world’s largest and most modern anthracite conveyor system, which joined the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2002 as a coal mine and coking plant duo. The newest addition

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to the World Heritage list is the Corvey Castle in Höxter, which marks the first UNESCO location in Westphalia. In terms of culture, North Rhine-Westphalia is not just home to 91 public theatres, 40 private stages, three casinos, a multitude of orchestras and the host of countless concerts, it also features a ‘musical mile’ from Cologne through Dusseldorf, Duisburg, and Essen right across to Bochum.You will also find nine recreational parks and ten zoos and animal parks. The Rhineland’s carnival is surely one of the state’s most popular events, although the numerous Christmas Markets and annual events such as the ‘Extraschicht – The Night of Industrial Culture’in the Ruhr region, as well as Dusseldorf’s ‘Rheinkirmes’, the largest funfair on the Rhine, should not be overlooked.

Right: Industrial heritage in Essen. © Tourismus NRW e.V. Ketz

Geographically, North Rhine-Westphalia features more than 60,000 hectares of water, including 1,500 kilometres of rivers, 360 kilometres of canals and more than 200 lakes.The well-known River Rhine weaves 226 kilometres through the state and given the presence of huge inland waters such as the Eifel Rur Dam, you could argue that North Rhine-Westphalia is the land of lakes, with no fewer than 78 dams. Aside from the 14 wildlife parks, which take up more than 25 per cent of the state’s surface area, there are many smaller areas of greenery to discover too. For unspoilt nature and wild animals, the Eifel is home to the state’s sole national park. For those looking to boost their health and wellbeing, there are over 30 therapeutic baths and spas offering diverse wellness and fitness programmes. Cyclists will be enamoured with around 14,000 kilometres of way-marked cycle routes across the state. Unsurprisingly, North Rhine-Westphalia’s cycling infrastructure is held up as an example within Germany. Similarly, hikers will be spoilt for choice as they encounter some of the country’s most significant hiking trails criss-crossing North RhineWestphalia, known as the Top Trails of Germany, including the Rothaarsteig, the Eifelsteig or the Hermannshöhen routes.