In between two major events, the French Open and Wimbledon, some of men on the ATP tour travel one more time to Germany to compete in the Gerry Weber Open from June 7th to 15th. With the access to four outdoor grass courts, this is the only grass court tournament in Germany. Even three of the top 10 players, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Milos Raonic, have hit the road to Halle, North Rhine-Westphalia, to prepare for Wimbledon.
What you may not have known about North Rhine-Westphalia, which shares a border with Belgium and the Netherlands, is that it’s the most populated of 16 states in Germany, and maybe one of the most entertaining. 4 of the country’s 10 largest cities are located in this state. The city Halle might not be one of their biggest attraction, but in an one to two hour drive you’ll reach the heart of the state, which includes many major cities to explore. I am even more excited to give you a virtual tour of this area because it is where I am from (who knew?! ;-))!
Starting with Dortmund, a huge soccer metropolis, the first place you have to visit is of course, the Westfalenstadion. This is the home to Borussia Dortmund and the best soccer fans in Europe (I bet you can’t tell who I support). You also don’t want to miss the Dortmunder U, a former brewery building that is now used as an event center. A massive U adorns the roof of the building making it one of the more iconic landmarks of the city.
Another remarkable landmark is the Florian Tower, a television tower established in 1959. Back then it was the highest free standing structure in the whole country. Nowadays it acts as an observation deck, where you have a view over the whole city as well as what remains from the Industrial age. For a better understanding of what the industrial age meant to the city or even the whole area, visit the Zollern Industrial Museum, a major stop on the European Route of Industrial Heritage.
My favorite city by far is Dusseldorf, which is just an hour away from Dortmund. It is the capital city of the state which is known for its hoppy beer, “Altbier” (Old beer). Besides that, walk pass the Königsallee (or just “Kö”) to get the ultimate shopping experience as the street offers many luxurious and unique stores. After your lavish shopping trip, settle in the Altstadt (“Old Town”), which is both the historic town centre and entertainment district. It is a great place to relax and try different bars and restaurants. There is a reason Germans refer to this part of the city as the “longest bar in the world”.
Following Old Town, you can walk along the Rhine River Promenade which helps you feel like you’re in a proper vacation destination rather than in a major metropolitan German city. Go on a boat tour to explore the city from the Rhine River perspective and you’ll be even more impressed (I promise). If you ever have a chance, stop by the city during “Carnival” season (also called the fifth season), which runs from November until February. It starts November 11th at 11.11 am as people start dressing up in costumes to attend “Carnival” parties. There is a huge parade through the city at the end of the season in February.
Cologne, the largest city in North Rhine Westphalia and fourth largest in whole Germany, is also known for his “Carnival” season. But just so you know, you won’t find Dusseldorfs’ Old Beer at their celebrations since they have their own beer style known as the “Kölsch”. Inevitably carnival, beer and of course soccer have created a slight rivalry between the two cities Cologne and Dusseldorf.
It takes just another 45 minute car drive or even train ride to get to Cologne. This city is the place visitors love the most in my home state. In the center of the city you’ll encounter its most famous monument, the Cologne Cathedral. Looking up on the two twin towers of the 516 ft standing cathedral, the whole building feels like its straight from the pages of a storybook. Make sure you climb up the 500 stairs to the top of the Cathedral, as the view is definitely worth it.
To bring your North Rhine Westphalia trip to an end, as well as to a climax, buy tickets to the chocolate museum that is just steps away from the Cathedral. After the tour you’ll know more than you ever thought possible about cocoa and chocolate. At the end of the tour you are even allowed to taste fresh made chocolate out of a fountain. Sounds like German paradise, right? Maybe it would only be better if it was beer.