Bielefeld: The city, that doesn't exist

The city of Bielefeld doesn’t really exist – if you believe the rumours which have been floating around the Internet since 1994. According to other sources, Bielefeld is a real and completely normal city. Who’s right? Find out for yourself and come to Bielefeld!

by Hanna Irabi

Bielefeld at a glance


Sparrenburg Castle, Photo: Irabi/DAAD
Sparrenburg Castle, Photo: Irabi/DAAD
Contrary to legend, Bielefeld does exist and is the largest city in the region of East Westphalia-Lippe with almost 325,000 inhabitants. Approximately 30,000 students live and study in this former linen-weaving town. While the new part of town (Neustadt) is known for its large shops and chain stores, the historic district (Altstadt) invites visitors to stroll down streets lined with lovingly restored patrician houses, specialty shops and small boutiques. You can stop by one the many small and large cafés which have opened in recent years and include the whole range of chic, old-fashioned, coffee-house style and alternative student cafés.
Overlooking the Altstadt lies the Sparrenburg, Bielefeld’s famous landmark which is only ten walking minutes away from the historic centre of town. Built in the 13th century, the fortress is situated on the 160-km long Hermannsweg, which is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful hiking trails in Germany.
You can also hike in and around Bielefeld and enjoy nature. You can be in the heart of the Teutoburger Forest – the so-called “Green Lung” of Bielefeld – within ten minutes via public transportation. Right at the edge of the ‘Teuto’, as Bielefelders affectionately call their forest, you will find the University of Bielefeld. The practical thing about Bielefeld is how close everything is by bicycle. For example, you can reach the city centre from the university within ten minutes. If you’re the kind of person that likes big-city excitement as much as small-town life, then Bielefeld is the right place for you. Fourteen museums, numerous independent theatres and several choirs comprise just one small part of the city’s rich cultural programme.



University of Bielefeld

Bielefeld University, Photo: Irabi/DAAD
Bielefeld University, Photo: Irabi/DAAD
With almost 18,000 students, the University of Bielefeld, built in the 1970s, is often described as resembling a train station hall. Although it may not be the prettiest university building in Germany, it’s certainly one of the most practical with 13 faculties and 82 degree programmes under one roof. The result is that everything is a hop, skip and jump away, which is why the university understandably boasts that no matter where you are in the building, you can get from Point A to Point B within five minutes. The close proximity between departments is also beneficial to the university’s concept of interdisciplinary academics. This has an impact on both the instruction and research activities at the university. For example, the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF) allows international experts from all disciplines to collaborate on joint research projects. The university library, which was distinguished as second best in the country by CHE-Ranking, and the many athletic opportunities offered free of charge are among the many advantages of studying at the University of Bielefeld.

University of Applied Sciences in Bielefeld
Founded in 1971, the University of Applied Sciences in Bielefeld has an annual enrolment of approximately 7,000 students. It offers a wide array of bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes in the areas of design, engineering, social sciences, economics, nursing and health sciences. A number of new bachelor’s degree programmes have been established in recent years, such as “Instruction and Mentoring in Health Care Professions”, “Apparatus-Based Biotechnology”, “Pedagogies of Childhood”, “Technology of Production and Plastics”, “Construction Project Management” and “Regenerative Energies”.

FHM University of Applied Sciences
The FHM is a nationally accredited private university of applied sciences which offers a wide range of bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes in the fields of business, media, communication and health care. Founded in 2000, the university is attended by approximately 1,000 students.

Recreation in Bielefeld


Siegfried Square, Photo: Irabi/DAAD
Siegfried Square, Photo: Irabi/DAAD
On sunny days, students like to go to the Oetkerpark on the west side of the city, but also enjoy quiet time on the Sparrenburg Promenade and at the Nordpark. On warm summer evenings, many students hang out together all night long at Siegfriedplatz or in one of the many cafés in the west side or downtown Bielefeld.
There are about ten clubs and discos around the city where students go to party. Rock, pop, electronic and reggae music top the programmes at the events. The entrance fees are relatively inexpensive at an average price of five euros. You can also find lots of motto parties at the Uni Bielefeld and the University of Applied Sciences, where you’re guaranteed to find cheap drinks and a great atmosphere. The Westend Party at the beginning of every semester is known far beyond the reaches of Bielefeld as the largest indoor university party in Germany with over 10,000 party goers.
In the summertime, movie enthusiasts can enjoy a programme of new and classic films at an open air cinema at the Ravensbergerpark. There are also city festivals, such as the “Carnival of Cultures” – a colourful carnival parade through the centre of town – or the medieval festival at the Sparrenburg castle. The culturally inclined not only have a lot to see in Bielefeld, they also have many opportunities to participate in cultural events. In addition to numerous independent theatre groups and choirs, there is also the university-operated radio station Hertz 87.9 which gives students the chance to produce their own radio reports and gain experience as radio announcers.
Bielefeld West, Photo: Irabi/DAAD
Bielefeld West, Photo: Irabi/DAAD
The rental prices in Bielefeld are relatively cheap. A room in a centrally-located flat-share costs between 250 and 350 euros depending on the size, while a room at student hall of residence costs about 170 euros including heating expenses. A total of 2,300 students live in ten student halls of residence around the city.
Five dining halls and countless restaurants and snack bars provide for the students’ nutritional well-being. In addition to meals served at the largest dining hall located directly on campus, students can find a variety of alternatives at other dining facilities. For example, the cafeteria in the Social Services Department on Kurt-Schumacher-Straße is very popular among students. It placed fourth in the Dining Hall of the Year 2010 competition and is known for its diverse selection of freshly made food.

Interview with Viktoriya from Bulgaria


Viktoriya has been living and studying in Bielefeld for the past eight years. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in German Studies, she began a master’s degree programme in “Interdisciplinary Media Sciences”.

Viktoriya, Photo: private
Viktoriya, Photo: private
You come from Bulgaria. What brought you to Bielefeld?
I always knew I wanted to study in Germany. After graduating from secondary school, I was allowed to apply to university in five cities. I picked four larger cities and had one more to choose. My German tutor suggested Bielefeld – a great city to study, very green, very friendly. And as luck would have it, my first acceptance letter came from Bielefeld! Later I received three more acceptance letters, but after seeing Bielefeld, I liked the city so much that I didn’t even bother visiting the other cities. I began my bachelor’s degree in German Studies in September 2002. In the beginning it wasn’t easy for me to combine my studies with everyday life in a foreign country. And on top of that, I had a single room, which was too bad because I didn’t have much contact with other people. Meanwhile, I’ve been living here for eight years and am working toward my master’s in Interdisciplinary Media Sciences.

How do you like the university?
I think it’s super that everything’s under one roof. It lets you take care of errands between classes, which is great if you don’t have much time. For instance, there’s a post office and small market located right inside the main university building. I also like the special departments (Editor’s note: Several departments at the university support especially disadvantaged students, such as those with physical or mental handicaps) and that there’s always someone you can talk to if you have a problem. What I don’t like so much is that, unlike in Bulgaria, there’s no fixed class to which one belongs. It makes it harder to stay in contact with people.

How do you like Bielefeld?
Many people say that there’s nothing going on here, but I find there’s lots you can do. There are so many cultural and athletic events available. But I also like the city itself – it’s not too big or too small. If I get cabin fever, I board a train for Dortmund, Hannover or Münster. In one or two hours, you’re there. That’s really not very far away. But in terms of everyday life, I think living in Bielefeld is ideal. The only thing I found rather difficult in the beginning was getting to know people. But once you’ve made a friend, they’re yours forever.

So what does your future hold?
Well, at the end of this year I plan on handing in my master’s thesis. While I’m writing it, I’ll also apply for internships and jobs in the area of advertising, public relations and market research. I definitely plan on staying in or nearby Bielefeld. I’ve only had positive experience finding jobs during my studies – my employers always cared about performance and not about where I come from.

Do you have a favourite spot in Bielefeld?
Yes, that would definitely be the Obersee in Schildesche. You can play sports there, they have great restaurants, a beach bar, lots of water, meadows where you can have picnics. That, for me, is the ultimate quality of life.

Useful Links


Trailer and novel about the Bielefeld Conspiracy
Student Advising and Counselling (ZSB)
Campus map
Dining hall menu
International Office
Brother-Sister Programme for international students
German courses at the university

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