The company towns in the Ruhr Valley are the unmistakeable face of the industrial heyday and captivate interest in their role as witnesses to another era. They tell the individual stories of the lives of the miners’ families and their descendants, some of whom are still living in the popular neighbourhoods to this day. The workers' towns were built at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries by the coal mines and industrial companies as “colonies” for their workers and other staff.
Highlights of the company towns
The showpieces include the Margarethenhöhe in Essen and Siedlung Eisenheim workers' town in Oberhausen. The architects built them all from one mould, in the style of the English garden city. Here you can visit the model homes and learn interesting facts about the living conditions then and now. There are also smaller and less well-known company towns awaiting you in the Ruhr Valley, inviting you to take a stroll through their streets.
An eye for detail
The façades of the houses in the company towns are often designed in the same way, yet each building stands out from the other with its playful details. Other workers' towns make an impression through their diversity; there are 21 different types of houses in the company town of Teutoburgia in Herne, for example. Carefully and lovingly restored, many company towns, which often have listed status, have managed to preserve their distinctive identity. They are as lively as ever. Whether young or old, those who live there are proud of their towns and are happy to tell tales from days gone by.
The nicest workers' towns
Even more workers' towns worth visiting
It is one of the largest company towns in the Ruhr Valley: The Old Friedrich Heinrich Settlement in Kamp-Lintfort The coal mine and company town were established at the beginning of the 20th century in the amongst the fields and meadows, in the style of the garden city by the Parisian company Friedrich-Heinrich. It therefore has an incredibly varied look and feel about it. It served as a settlement for those who worked at the coal mines. Officials did not live there. Even the Old Friedrich Heinrich settlement was not safe from the threat of demolition, but it was preserved and today, it offers appealing and sought-after accommodation once again.
Old Friedrich-Heinrich Settlement
More information on the settlement can be found on the website for the town ofKamp-Lintfort.
The Siedlung Altenhof II workers' town in Essen used to house primarily elderly people, people with disabilities, and people living on their own, who could live in the workers' town for free. Large parts of it have been well preserved to this day and it is well worth a visit. Just like the Margarethenhöhe Garden City this company town was also built by Krupp. The objective was not just functionality, but also aesthetics, and therefore elements of the English garden city were also incorporated. Although the buildings were not designed in the timber-framed style, the workers' town offers a picturesque setting thanks to its slightly hilly landscape and winding streets.
More information on the Altenhof II workers' town can be found on the Industrial Heritage Trailwebsite.
As the name suggests, the Bottrop mining town was also designed in line with the image of the English garden city. It provided housing for the miners of the Zeche Vereinigte Welheim (Vereinigte Welheim Colliery). It suffered terrible damage during the Second World War, however, the workers' town was always rebuilt. Since then, the whole Garden Suburb Welheim has been comprehensively modernised and adapted to meet today’s living standards. Lavishly designed green spaces, large buildings, squares and avenues still offer an appealing place to live today. With around 650 buildings, it is one of the largest company towns in the Ruhr Valley and allows you to appreciate the development of the worker's town over the course of time. Just a few minutes away, you can enjoy the view over the Zeche Prosper Haniel (Prosper Haniel Colliery) and the workers' town from one of the most popular viewing points in the Ruhr Valley, the Tetraeder Bottrop. Nearby, the alpincenter Bottrop calls, with exciting ski runs or the summer toboggan run.
Garden Suburb Welheim
More information on Garden Suburb Welheim can be found on the Industrial Heritage Trailwebsite.
In the former village of Hervest, today a district in Dorsten, the workers' town of Hervest was built for the miners of the Zeche Leopold (Leopold Colliery). Around 1000 people lived in Hervest back then; the village did not therefore provide the mine with a large enough workforce. The workers' town was built in the style of a garden city. Consequently, the houses had different types of roofs, lots of greenery was planted in the town and there were lots of open spaces. Moreover, each house had its own garden. The Brunnenhof (a courtyard with a well) formed the centre of the town. It not only offered green spaces, but shops were also set up and thus social life took place here. After a stroll through the town and across the Brunnenhof, we recommend a detour into the Creativquartier Fürst Leopold (creative district of Fürst Leopold). There are now galleries and exhibitions, iconic culinary experiences and cool events on the site of the disused mine.
Hervest mining town
More information on the Hervest mining town can be found on the website for the Ruhr Metropolis.
The workers' town of Flöz Dickebank in Gelsenkirchen-Ückendorf was established relatively recently in comparison to other workers' towns. Built from 1972, it was the new home for miners working in the Holland, Alma and Rheinelbe collieries. As with most towns like this, the decision was made for it to be demolished; however, dedicated citizens, who did not want to give up their home, managed to prevent this from happening. There is still a feeling of community among those who live there; political meetings and community gatherings take place regularly.
Flöz Dickebank workers' town
Virchowstraße / Flöz Sonnenschein
More information on the workers' town can be found on the Industrial Heritage Trailwebsite.
The Lange Riege workers' town in Hagen is an especially precious jewel among the workers’ towns and has a particularly idyllic and quaint atmosphere thanks to its many timber-framed houses. It is not one of the typical company towns that arose as a result of the boom in the coal and steel industry in the Ruhr Valley. Its history stretches back over 300 years, as the town has existed since 1665. Highly skilled bladesmiths from the Bergisches Land (a low mountain range region in North Rhine-Westphalia) were recruited and found a lucrative place to work here. In close proximity to the Lange Riege town is the LWL-Freilichtmuseum Hagen (Hagen LWL Open Air Museum), which is always well worth a visit. Here, you can see what the bladesmiths made and learn all about their trade. A wonderful location to combine visiting a museum with a walk around the workers' town, and to learn about the work and life of a blacksmith in a more immersive manner. For the art fans among you, we recommend a visit to the art district in Hagen, which is a real highlight of the art and cultural scene, with the Osthaus Museum and the Emil Schumacher Museum.
Lange Riege workers' town
More information on the Lange Riege workers' town can be found on the website for the city of Hagen.
This workers’ town in Duisburg has a particularly moving history. Many inhabitants have fought vigorously for what you can still see today. The workers'town should have been completely demolished and those who lived there were only able to preserve a part of it by conducting a hunger strike. Today, it has a listed status. The look and feel of the Rheinpreußen workers' town is incredibly diverse; different types of houses, façade designs and lots of trees give it a homely atmosphere. The history of the town has brought the residents together, and there are regular activities in the town to which everyone is welcomed with open arms. To round off the day, climbing the nearby Rheinpreußen spoil tip is a good way to finish. The large miner’s lamp on top of the spoil tip makes for quite a spectacular view, especially at sunset. From here, there is a nice view over the western Ruhr Valley.
Rheinpreußen workers' town
More information on the Rheinpreußen workers' town can be found on the website for the city of Duisburg.
This will take you on a little journey back in time: Visiting the Schüngelberg workers' town in Gelsenkirchen lets you discover all of the elements that characterise mining. Things to see include the pits, the mine railway and the Rungenberg spoil tip, all of which are worth a visit alongside the workers’ town. The types of building are incredibly diverse and were added to in various stages, most recently through the IBA Emscher Park. These days, the town mostly houses former miners and a large part of it has a listed status.
Schüngelberg workers' town
More information on the Schüngelberg workers' town can be found on the Industrial Heritage Trailwebsite.
The Vogelsang workers' town, located in the west of Heessen, a district in Hamm, was built in 1920, and named after the manager of the "Mannsfeldsche Kupferschiefer bauende Gewerkschaft” (a copper shale mining company), Dr Karl Vogelsang. The Vogelsang workers' town ranks among the prettiest company towns in the Ruhr Valley, forms parts of the “Industrial Heritage Trail” and can easily be accessed using cycle routes.
Many individual buildings have been preserved in their original form. The same goes for many details, such as windows and doors, which are still in their original condition. Thanks to the way its entrance, square and streets have been designed, the town forms a closed entity and has thus retained its role as an important street in Hamm-Heessen, as originally set out in the town planning, to this day.
Careful restoration in the 1990s contributed significantly to Vogelsang’s status as a listed ensemble today, a rather rare example of a closed workers’ town from the early 1920s that now offers its residents a good quality of life and a nice environment to live in.
Vogelsang workers' towns
More information on the Vogelsang workers' town can be found on the Industrial Heritage Trailwebsite.