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Duisburg: Where green parks have replaced heavy industry

Situated at the confluence of the Rhine and Ruhr Rivers, Duisburg built its fortune on steel and coal. Now its residents have reclaimed their home town and enjoy green parks, spacious meadows and a bit of nostalgia. An ideal place to study and get to know German history and culture.

by Bastian Rothe

The industrial facilities and equipment of times past look like monstrous sculptures in the Landscape Park. © Sebastian Rothe
The industrial facilities and equipment of times past look like monstrous sculptures in the Landscape Park. . © Sebastian Rothe

Facts & Figures

Inhabitants:
488,468
Students:
42,145
Universities:
1
Monthly rent:
280 to 470 euros (for a room in a flat share)
Tip:
Take a walk down Weseler Strasse - Germany’s bridal fashion capital.
Website:
www.duisburg.de (in German only)

Welcome to Duisburg

When you arrive in Duisburg by train and exit the main station, the first thing you see is a treeless, desolate square – and sometimes a blustery wind blows into your face. But don’t let that change your mind about staying, because Duisburg is worth it.

This is where the Rhine and Ruhr Rivers converge, and its beauty is not immediately obvious to the casual observer. Which makes it all the more interesting to discover what the city has to offer. Only a few minutes away from the main train station, you’ll find the Inner Harbour – the "place to be" in Duisburg. The old storehouses around the harbour basin have been modernised and new buildings have been added in recent years. Alongside offices and shops, one now finds restaurants and bars where Duisburg’s residents enjoy warm summer evenings on the outdoor terraces.

Duisburg redesigned its Inner Harbour with attention to detail. © Sebastian Rothe
Duisburg redesigned its Inner Harbour with attention to detail. . © Sebastian Rothe

We recommend taking a walk through the North Duisburg Landscape Park in the summer time: This former industrial complex with its blast furnaces, factory halls and gigantic machines has been reclaimed and transformed into a green park. Every evening the old machines and towers are illuminated in different colours, creating a magical atmosphere.

As you explore the city, you’ll occasionally discover places that still bear witness to the city’s industrial past. Duisburg was once an important steel and coal mining town. Home to Europe’s largest inner harbour, Duisburg exported products to every corner of the world. But after the so-called "steel crisis" in the 1970s, the demand for Duisburg steel sank and numerous steel mills and smelting plants were forced to shut down. As a result, many people lost their jobs.

New apartment buildings have been built around the Inner Harbour. © Sebastian Rothe
New apartment buildings have been built around the Inner Harbour. . © Sebastian Rothe

Life in Duisburg

For a long time the city struggled to rebound from the collapse of its industry, but in recent years it has reinvented itself. Many people are dedicated to promoting the city and using the newly acquired spaces for art and cultural projects.

My tip

Pay a visit to Weseler Strasse! In recent years, this street has become Germany’s bridal fashion centre. Here you’ll find one bridal boutique after another, along with jewelry stores and outfitters. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, it’s always fun to watch the hustle and bustle! The selection is so large that even soon-to-married couples from the Netherlands, Belgium and France come here to shop.

Compared to Essen or Düsseldorf, you'll find beautiful and large flats at an affordable price in Duisburg. And its location couldn’t be better: Situated in the centre of North Rhine-Westphalia, you can quickly reach Dusseldorf, Cologne, Essen and the Netherlands.

Apartments and rooms in flat shares (WGs) are inexpensive, and when you go out with friends, you won’t have to spend very much money. The "Finkenkrug" is Duisburg’s oldest student pub and offers a wide selection of beers. Theatre performances, concerts and parties usually take place at the "Grammatikoff" on Dellplatz. Don’t be surprised if you some people call it "Hundertmeister" – that was the name of this legendary locale years ago.

Luscious green starkly contrasts the old industrial facilities. © Sebastian Rothe
Luscious green starkly contrasts the old industrial facilities. . © Sebastian Rothe

Even though Duisburg used to be very industrial, you'll find it full of nature today. In addition to the Landscape Park in North Duisburg, you should also visit the Six Lakes region. Some of the lakes are open for swimming, and around others there are trails and bike paths which you can take to explore the picturesque surroundings.

Interview with Alvaro Mauricio Romero-Diaz from Bolivia

Alvaro is 27 years old and comes from Bolivia. He is enrolled in the master’s degree programme "Mechanical Engineering – Production and Logistics" in Duisburg.

Why did you decide to study in Germany?

Germany is the best country in the EU. It is well-known for its industry and research sector, and it’s a very friendly country for students. The quality of instruction is very high, the costs are low and there are discounts for students, like the semester ticket.

Why did you decide to study in Duisburg?

Duisburg is a quiet town, but it has everything you need. At the same time, it’s strategically located because you’re close to other cities like Düsseldorf, Essen and Dortmund. What’s more, there are plenty of companies here, so students and professionals have good prospects for finding work.

Alvaro Maurico Romero-Diaz © Sebastian Rothe
Alvaro Maurico Romero-Diaz . © Sebastian Rothe

How did you prepare yourself?

I read a lot on the Internet, like which documents you need to enter the country. First I went to Berlin to learn German for one year, and after that I came to Duisburg to study.

What did you notice when you first arrived in Germany?

The order. Everything here is in a particular order. Routes, documents, administration - everything. And you can find everything you need.

Where do you live in Duisburg?

You can live in a student hall of residence or get a room in a flat share, but I didn’t want to do that. I looked on the Internet for a flat of my own and quickly found one. Now I live near the Inner Harbour and can walk to work in just a few minutes.

How do you finance your cost of living?

I found a job as a programmer at a company here in Duisburg. I work there 20 hours a week in addition to my studies. You’re not allowed to work more than that.

The Inner Harbour in Duisburg is the
The Inner Harbour in Duisburg is the "place to be". . © Sebastian Rothe

What’s your favourite place in Duisburg?

That would be the Inner Harbour which is really pretty and shows the new face of the Ruhr region. I like the mixture of old architecture and new buildings. There are so many cafés, bars, restaurants and museums, and there’s always something going on.

How did you make contact with other students?

When you go abroad, it’s easy to find people from your own country or region, like South America in my case. You simply have to go to events organised by the International Office. But I’m here to meet people from around the world. That’s why my motto is "be international" and "expand your horizons".

What advice can you give other students who want to come to Germany?

The important thing is to learn the language. When you arrive, you should already know a few words and sentences – that helps a lot. It also makes it easier to adapt because the culture here is different than other places. You can also find a lot of information on the Internet about what life is like in Germany.

Can you describe Germany in three words?

Order. Opportunities. Development.