Essen with kids: top 5 sights!
You can visit the city of Essen with kids just fine in a day. The city has a number of fun activities in store for kids, making it definitely worth visiting from the Netherlands in a day. From Utrecht you can get there by car in less than two hours, and the city is great to combine with other cities in the German Rurh region.
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Essen was heavily bombed during World War II, leaving little of the old downtown. Still, the city has enough to offer for families to have an excellent day there. Following our visit to the city, we list the best sights and activities in Essen with kids for you.
Essen with kids #1: Zeche zollverein
Declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2001, the Zeche Zollverein industrial complex is one of the most famous sights in the city of Essen. The famous double shaft tower is one of the most famous symbols of Germany’s Ruhr region, so the complex is well worth a visit when visiting this region with the family.
You can visit the site for free, and especially if you like a beautiful industrial setting, a tour of the complex is definitely recommended. You can walk around here for hours. You can also book a guided tour of the grounds at the information center.
The site is located in the northeastern part of the city and by streetcar you can get there from downtown in twenty minutes. By car it takes about 15 minutes from downtown and you can park your car there for free. We drive there on Saturday afternoon and that day the weather is really lovely and ideal for a nice walk around the grounds of Zeche Zollverein.
The complex houses two different museums: the Ruhrmuseum and the Red Dot Design museum. The Ruhr Museum presents the history of the industrial era with photographs. The museum still has the old machines and pipe systems in their original state in some places. The Red Dot Design museum is obviously all about Design (kitchen appliances, cars, strollers) and you are allowed to touch almost anything here.
We visited the Ruhr Museum and also went to the UNESCO World Heritage viewpoint. At the viewpoint you have a nice view of the surroundings and the complex. In the museum we see the history of the complex, but there are also other things to admire such as the skeleton of a mammoth. After visiting the museum and the viewpoint, we take another tour of the grounds. You can do this for free.
It’s quite a complex and you can do quite a big walk around and, of course, shoot lots of pictures of the old complex. At the complex you can also get some food and drinks. For example, there is a beer garden at the complex, where you can eat simple dishes like fries with curry sausage outdoors. By the way, this is not the only restaurant located in the complex. There are a total of seven other restaurants and cafes at the complex.
In total, we were here for about two hours, but by then we had by no means seen everything. If you want more information about the museum, the complex and admission prices check out the Zeche Zollverein website.
Essen with kids #2: Phänomania Erfahrungsfeld
Located near the Zeche Zollverein complex, this museum is dedicated to discovery through various experiments. You have a total of 120 stations on the indoor and outdoor grounds, where kids can see, feel, hear and experience how certain natural science phenomena work.
In addition to the experiments the kids can do, the staff also gives demonstrations such as how a fire tornado works, for example. The museum is not super big, but you can easily entertain yourself here for two to three hours. There is also an opportunity to eat and drink at the museum. Also an ideal option when the weather is a bit cooler in Essen.
Outside you have several more play equipment for kids, where they can climb and scramble. The price of the museum is quite high though (especially when compared to other museums and activities in Germany). For more information on opening hours, prices and the various exhibits, check out the museum’s German-language website.
Essen with kids #3: the Gruga Park
We always do like it when we can also take a walk in a beautiful park during a city break with our daughter. A good option in Essen with kids is the Gruga Park. This park is located in the south of the city and by car you can get there in ten minutes. This park really surprised us in a positive way and we really thought this was a top park!
You pay a few euros entrance fee for part of the park, but you can have a nice stroll among the beautiful gardens and some animals (after 6 p.m., entrance to all parts of the park is free). For example, the park has a botanical garden, with many different types of trees and plants. Furthermore, a tourist train runs through the park, where you can take a tour for a few euros.
In the park you will find really super many playgrounds, where the kids can play and you can say that the park is completely focused on kids. We spent about three hours here in the park, but on a summer day you can easily spend a whole day here in this park in Essen with kids.
In the park you also have plenty of eateries, where you can have something to eat and drink with the family! You can easily spend a few hours here entertaining yourself in the park. At the edge of the park is also a large outdoor pool with several diving boards, small slides and a sunbathing area (Grugabad), where for a few euros you can also cool off on a hot summer day in the city.
Essen with kids #4: werksschwimmbad essen
One of the most special ways to cool down on a hot day in Essen with kids is surely the Werkschwimmbad at the complex of Zeche Zollverein. This small pool which measures 12 by 5 meters, stands amidst the machinery in the factory complex and is also a work of art. The pool consists of two containers welded together, and peepholes have been created under the water, giving bathers a view of visitors to the factory complex.
The pool is only open for a limited time and you have to make a reservation for the pool online. Obviously don’t expect a very relaxing pool afternoon, as the space is small, but it is a very special way to take a dip with your kids. Please check the pool’s website for opening hours .
Essen with kids #5: Christmas market Essen
The Christmas market in Essen is a well-known Christmas market and is among the coziest Christmas markets in Germany. There are a total of 250 stalls in various squares throughout the city. The Christmas market is especially popular for its lights. Especially in the evening, it is a tremendously beautifully lit Christmas market with more than 450,000 lights.
For kids, there’s plenty to do at the Christmas market, too. At the Kardinal-Hengsbach-Platz, kids can do crafts and make their own gingerbread house. On Burgplatz is a 56-meter-high Ferris wheel, from which you have a great view of the city of Essen with kids.
As in many German cities, a medieval market can be found here and many special local dishes can also be found at the market. The Christmas market starts in the last week of November and ends just before Christmas starts. So during this period, it is a great option to visit the city of Essen with the family.
Essen with kids: Mintrops Concierge hotel
The first time we visited the city of Essen, we slept at the Mintrops Concierge Hotel. They have beautiful apartments here with the facilities of a hotel. We could park the car in front of the door for free and what we really liked was that this hotel is next to the nice Gruga Park. In addition, the apartments are modern and there is a nice balcony with the rooms. Breakfast the next morning was also very good and we left the hotel with a well-filled stomach. We wrote about the hotel the blog Mintrops Concierge hotel with kids.
Essen with kids: Ghotel hotel & Living Essen
The second time we visited the city of Essen, we slept at Ghotel Hotel & Living Essen. This hotel is right in the center and from the hotel you can walk to the city’s shopping district in a few minutes. The hotel is modern and our room had a bed added for our daughter. The breakfast at this hotel is very extensive and we really found it a huge recommendation. We wrote about this hotel the blog Ghotel Hotel & Living Essen with kids, in which we share all our experiences about this hotel.
Further information Essen with kids
Discount cards: there are several discount cards you can purchase for Essen and the region. The choice of map depends on how often you will visit the region and for how long. You have an annual pass for the entire Ruhr area that is valid from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, and with it you can get in at 90 attractions for free and at more than 50 attractions for half price. If you plan to visit a number of amusement parks in Germany, for example (but also amusement parks in the Netherlands such as Slagharen), then you can quickly have the price of the card out of your pocket.
If you visit the city of Essen by car, you will need an environmental sticker. These can be ordered from the ANWB website and will be sent to you within 5 days. To do this, you need to enter the car’s registration number and report code (found on the registration certificate) and then the correct color will be selected.