Where to break the journey between Calais and Berlin? A quick look at the map showed that the Ruhr region of Germany was about halfway. Hmmm? Isn’t the Ruhr all heavy industry? Flicking the pages of the Rough Guide to Germany, I discovered that a disused iron plant had been transformed into a public park. That was it, our mid-journey pitstop was to be the Landschaftspark Duisburg Nord.
Industry and history both fascinate me. In the dim and distant past I was the Assayer’s wife at the Morwellham Quay industrial museum in Devon. Before the Teens arrived I was a BBC News producer specialising in Business and Economics, that meant I got to spend a lot of time in factories. Now it is a family joke that every family holiday has to include some kind of factory visit, Landschaftspark Duisburg Nord is the biggest one we’ve done so far!
What is the Landschaftspark Duisburg Nord?
Simply put Landschaftpark Duisburg Nord is a park made out of a disused iron plant. Sounds unlikely? It sounded pretty well impossible to me. The first time I travelled through the Ruhr was as a thirteen year old on a school trip. We came from rural Norfolk, sugar beet factories were the limit of our experience of industrial processes. The Ruhr was a kaleidoscope of different coloured gases as all manner of chemical plants, steel plants and coke works belched out effluent. That one of the biggest pig iron works should shut was unthinkable, that it should become a park unbelievable ….. and yet here I was taking my children to see just such a thing.
History of Meiderich Ironworks
In 1903 the first blast furnace of the Thyssen owned Meiderich Ironworks fired up and by 1912 there were five furnaces in total. Coal and Iron Ore were used to produce Pig Iron. Handily the Thyssen family also owned a coalfield nearby. During the 70’s (when my school coach drove past the plant) there was a crisis in world steel production, leading to the closure of the plant in 1985. 82 years and 37 million tonnes of pig iron later, the site was abandoned.
What on earth do you do with a 200 hectare heavily polluted industrial wasteland. Great rusting hulks of blast furnaces loomed over the landscape. Some bright spark came up with the idea of transforming the area into a public park. Trees would be planted, a gas holder would become a diving centre, ore storage bunkers could become a climbing centre and cycle paths created.
What to do at the Landschaftpark Duisburg Nord
You could easily spend a full day at the Landschaftpark. We only had three hours on a day that we had got up at 5am and driven 350 miles and had another 350 miles to drive the next day. You can walk, cycle, climb, dive, take in a movie, eat, drink, sleep all without leaving the park.
Blast Furnace 5 viewing platform
A steel staircase snakes up and round Blast Furnace 5 allowing you to climb up into the heart of ironworks. Pipes larger in diameter than a person writhe around you. The scale is massive. I’m sure that the views from the top are very impressive. Why didn’t I see them? Well, that staircase is made of open steel mesh enabling you to see just how far up you have climbed, after awhile we all admitted that the view was just fine from three quarters of the way up. Being so up close and personal with a blast furnace is incredible, it may be rusting and old but the sheer scale of it is hugely impressive. In the distance you can still see the remaining industrial plants smoking away.
Cycling and Cycle Hire
You can cycle round the park on well marked paths or if you are feeling intrepid follow some long distance cycle paths criss-cross the park. If you haven’t bought your own bike with you, don’t fret, it is possible to hire one. You will need to book the bike in advance on the Revier Bike website. Don’t worry the site is in English. All manner and size of bikes are available, grown up, child, tag along and electric. Prices start at €9 per day.
One of the gas holders has been transformed in Europe’s largest indoor diving space. There is an artificial reef and a wrecked motor boat to explore in the 21 million litres of rain water that fill the gas holder. If you have never dived before you can book a taster session for €44 including equipment.
Landschaftspark Duisburg Nord Light Show
Red, blue and green light washes over the vast bulk of the ironworks every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening. Word is that the show is spectacular, indeed it was what drew us to the Landschaftspark. However, we were defeated, having had a very early start we were simply too tired to wait until the sun went down at gone 9pm. The start of the light show is triggered by a twilight switch, so the start time changes each evening. In the winter showtime can begin as early as 5pm and in the summer as late as 10pm.
Eating at Landschaftpark Duisburg Nord
If you just want to grab a quick bite to eat there is a kiosk selling snacks. We were in the market for our main meal of the day and opted for the Main Switching House Restaurant where the Teens gleefully ordered the first Curry Wurst of the holiday, washed down with Spezi. What is Spezi? I hear you cry. It is a muddy mix of Fanta and Cola, discovered in Munich’s beer gardens and much loved by the Teens.
Staying at Landschaftspark Duisburg Nord
If you want to sleep in an old ironworks then you are in luck. The old administration building has been converted into a Youth Hostel. En suite family rooms are available. Prices start from €22.90 for Bed and Breakfast in a shared dorm or €27.90 per person in a private family room. You need to be a member of either the DJH (German Youth Hostel Association) or a member of Hosteling International to stay (membership of the YHA in the UK will get you in). We stayed at the Mercure Oberhausen which was conveniently close to the motorway junction for our onward journey to Berlin.
Getting to Landscaftspark Duisburg Nord
We drove to the Landschaftspark and simply put Landschaftspark into Sadie the SatNav who guided us there. Beware that there are two EmscherStrasse in Duisburg …. if in doubt you want the one that is in Duisburg Obermeiderich.
If you are coming by train, get off at Duisburg Hbf (Haupt Bahnhof or main train station) and follow the blue and white U signs to the tram station. Catch tram 903 in the direction Dinslaken to the Lanschaftspark-Nord stop. It is a 10 minute signposted walk from the tram stop.
Landschaftspark Duisburg Nord – Need to Know
- Emscherstrasse 71, Duisburg
- Open all day, every day
- Visitor centre open: Monday – Friday 9am – 6pm, weekends 11am – 6pm
- Blast Furnace viewing platform open all day, every day, except when bad weather makes it unsafe.
- Light Installation: Friday – Sunday dusk – 1am
- Restaurant: Tuesday – Thursday 11am – 7pm, Friday – Saturday 11am – Midnight, Sunday 11am – 8pm
- Admission is free but charges are payable for diving and the like.