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Wuppertal: A green city nestled between the mountains

Between the mountains and wooded areas, Wuppertal is a great place for recreation and relaxation. If you like hiking and enjoying nature, but also want the city-life experience, you’ll find ideal conditions for studying here. Other advantages include a compact campus and a very good infrastructure.

by Janine Funke

Holstein Stairs © Frank Vincentz/wikicommons
Holstein Stairs . © Frank Vincentz/wikicommons

Facts & Figures

Inhabitants:
343,000
Students:
22,070
Universities:
2
Monthly rent:
314 €
Tip:
Leave the big city life behind and relax at the zoo!
Website:
www.wuppertal.de

Welcome to Wuppertal

There are two main things which Wuppertal offers – gardens and parks for relaxing and playing sports and a well-developed infrastructure with good traffic connections. Situated among numerous hills and small mountains, the city of Wuppertal is one of Germany’s largest university towns with some 350,000 inhabitants. It also has many surprises in store for you.

You probably won’t go a day in Wuppertal without climbing or descending at least one flight of stairs. There are 469 stairways with a total of 12,000 steps around the entire city. The best-known stairway in town is the “Tippen-Tappen-Tönchen“ (Tip-Tap Tones) which sounds like you’re walking up and down the stairs in wooden shoes. The longest stairway is the “Jakobstreppe” with 155 steps connecting the district of Elberfeld-West and Nützenberg, and the most impressive stairway – architecturally speaking – is the “Vogelsauer Treppe” in Elberfeld-West.

Panorama of Wuppertal © Lars Steffens
Panorama of Wuppertal . © Lars Steffens

You also have to walk uphill to reach the University of Wuppertal. The university is situated on the Griffelberg in the southern part of the city. Even if you find the climb rather strenuous, once you’re at the university you’ll enjoy a great view over the Wupper Valley and the surrounding region. But don’t worry, there is a regular bus line that connects the campus to all the different quarters of the city.

This former industrial city looks back at an eventful history. Many of its historic buildings are located in the downtown district. The German philosopher Friedrich Engels is one of Wuppertal’s most famous sons; you can learn more about his life and achievements at the Engels House. The Von der Heydt Art Museum is worth visiting for its impressive architecture alone, as is the Wuppertal Stadthalle. You can enjoy the easy-going atmosphere of the city on a long stroll through downtown and the many gardens, parks and woods.

Vogelsauer Stairway © Werner Otto
Vogelsauer Stairway . © Werner Otto

One of the biggest attractions in Wuppertal is the suspension tram line which carries passengers 12 metres over and above the Wupper River from downtown to the surrounding city districts. The cars are suspended from a rail with wheels integrated into the roof which makes you feel as if you are floating in the air.

Living in Wuppertal

Even though the pulsating cities of Cologne and Düsseldorf tend to “steal the show”, Wuppertal certainly has much to offer! At Laurentiusplatz and Luisenstrasse – Wuppertal’s “unofficial student quarter” – you’ll find all kinds of cafés and pubs. You should definitely go to the Luisencafé where you are guaranteed to meet many other students. The Thalia Pub inside the Wuppertal Brewery is a bit cosier and more traditional. In the evening, you can go out to the unconventional Pina Bausch Dance Theatre or to one of Wuppertal’s clubs, such as the U-Club, the Live Club Barmen or the Butan.

My tip

The Wuppertal Zoo is absolutely worth seeing. The grounds are very beautiful with impressive landscapes and lots of room for the animals. You could even forget that you’re in a big city!

A major advantage of living in Wuppertal is its proximity to nature. You only need to take a short bike ride or public transport and you’ll find yourself in the Bergisches Land –a mountainous region nearby. You can go hiking, cycling and climbing in the surrounding area. The Ronsdorfer Reservoir is a popular destination only three kilometres away from Wuppertal. In the summer, you can go swimming in the lake or even camping with friends at the weekend at one of the surrounding camping areas.

Many students at the University of Wuppertal live in the outskirts of Wuppertal or in other cities in North Rhine-Westphalia. This is possible thanks to the excellent train connections. Within one hour you can travel from Wuppertal to Cologne, Bonn, Dortmund, Düsseldorf and many other cities.

Interview with Evgeniya from Russia

Evgeniya Yushkova is 27 years old and comes from Russia. After earning her master’s in European Studies at the University of Wuppertal, she started her doctoral programme there as well. She also works as a research assistant in the Economics department.

Picture of Evgeniya from Russia © Evgeniya Yushkova
Evgeniya from Russia . © Evgeniya Yushkova

How did you prepare for your stay in Germany?

I took German courses in Kaliningrad where I had studied before. Learning the language is something I’d recommend to anyone. Then I read the books assigned by the professors in German and prepared myself for the course. That was quite helpful for understanding the courses from the very beginning.

Did the university provide you with good support in the first weeks?

I believe the university caters very well to foreign students. There are programmes which offer orientation, semester kick-off parties, city tours and ice-breakers. The International Office helped me a lot too. The professors are open and friendly, which made it easy for me to integrate quickly.

Were you able to get accustomed to life in Wuppertal quickly?

Wuppertal is a very pretty and comfortable city to study in. The university is not too large, so you don’t feel like a number. The buildings are all located on a central campus which makes it easy to meet people quickly. Granted, Wuppertal might not be the prettiest city in the world, but students can find good, affordable living arrangements here, especially at the student hall of residence.

University © Medienzentrum Wuppertal
University . © Medienzentrum Wuppertal

What particularly surprised you about Germany?

I had been to Germany once before, so I didn’t have a real culture shock. I generally knew what I was getting into. Nonetheless, I was surprised that some clichés weren’t true. For example, the trains are not always punctual and the mail doesn’t always get delivered. Supermarkets are closed on Sunday – something else I had to get used to.

How did you find your job at the university after your studies?

If you’re interested and put your mind to it, it can go very fast – seek and you shall find! I’d suggest getting a job as a student intern during one’s studies, do internships and gain experience. Especially as a foreign student, it looks good if you’ve worked in the German labour market, even if you end up staying at the university.

Do you have any advice about what a successful application should look like?

I would say that everyone has to try to emphasise their special talents. One clear advantage which foreign students have is their foreign experience and the fact that they speak a second language absolutely fluently. Oftentimes they even speak three: German, English and their native tongue.

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