"Don't diss Duisburg!" Top 5 Page for this destination Duisburg by CatherineReichardt

Duisburg Travel Guide: 124 reviews and 464 photos

It's easy to be down on Duisburg - the largest inland port in Europe, and a highly industrialised town of 500,000 people slap bang in the heart of the Ruhrgebeit, a region renowned for its unrelenting commercial focus, industrial grime and what William Blake would doubtless have referred to as 'dark Satanic mills'. A colleague of mine reported that she had been there five times on business and had never known that there was anything worth seeing. So with that particularly British sense of protectiveness reserved for underdogs, I relished the challenge of trying to discover its hidden charms when I recently found myself there on business ...

Every industrialised country has one or more Duisburgs: cities that form the backbone of the economy and generate a disproportionate amount of the country's wealth, but which the rest of the population would rather forget about. And, on the few occasions when they actually acknowledge it's there, chances are that it's being sneered at. It seems to me that Duisburg is the Birmingham or the Pittsburgh of Germany, and every bit as much maligned. It comes across as a city with an identity crisis that doesn't quite believe in itself ... like a person who has finally had the braces removed from their teeth, but is still hesitant to smile ...

Based on its strategic location at the confluence of the Rhine and the Ruhr rivers (although, with respect, I find Weissborn's amusingly tongue-in-cheek description as the place 'where the Ruhr kisses the Rhine' just a little too fanciful even for my overblown prose :)), Duisburg has a long and proud history. Records confirm that the Romans considered the site sufficiently important to post a guard at this fording point over the Rhine, and the ford was later exploited by the unfortunate sounding 'Hellweg' (a significant medieval trade route) to cross the river.

When I started to research Duisburg, I was gobsmacked to discover that it was the home of Gerhard Mercator, the father of modern cartography and the clever bloke who first worked out how to represent the spherical earth on the flat surface of a map (the so called 'Mercator projection'). This is a serious historical heavyweight to have as a favourite son, and yet this association is so little known - exactly the sort of fascinating fact that you want to discover on your travels!

The upside of being a town that generates wealth is that you have a good amount of money to spend. As a result, Duisburg has a surprisingly upmarket Opera House (with an impressive programme) and a number of small but excellent museums. It also boasts some very provocative civic art by well known sculptors such as Nikki de Sainte-Phalle and Hans-Peter Feldmann which you may either love or hate (I personally fall squarely into the latter camp) but are very unlikely to feel ambivalent about!

And yet sadly one of the city's recent attempts to diversify into more cultural events backfired badly, when Duisburg hosted the 2010 Love Parade festival, and 21 young people were killed by a crowd stampede in a tunnel (with over 500 others injured). And, unlikely though it might sound, Duisburg was apparently hit by a tornado on 19 July 2004, which caused major damage to several buildings in the city centre, including the city theatre ... who says that nothing of consequence ever happens in Duisburg?

I must confess that my exploration of Duisburg took all of two and a half hours (including supper), which is all that my busy itinerary would allow me. And to be honest, I think that I probably saw most of the highlights, although there are attractions that I would have been interested to explore if I had had more time, such as the Zoo (which seems to boast some unusual animals such as beluga whales and Madagascan fossas) as well as a Legoland, which would be a useful fallback for families, particularly in bad weather. I didn't have time to visit a number of small but interesting looking museums, and as I was in the throes of resurgent bronchitis at the time, I also missed out on a business dinner in the revitalised port area which seems, based on other postings, to be quite a 'happening' place.

The good news is that if you're prepared to look, there ARE some highlights that will more than occupy your time in Duisburg, and, even better, given its unfairly grim reputation, you'll not have to fight crowds to access them!

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:It's likely to exceed your expectations - and hopefully not just because they were low!
  • Cons:There's no escaping the fact that it's still heavily industrialised with no 'first division' tourist attractions
  • In a nutshell:Nowhere near as dire as its reputation!
  • Last visit to Duisburg: Mar 2011
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (13)

Comments (8)

  • christine.j's Profile Photo
    Jan 1, 2015 at 2:53 AM

    Cathy, thank you for a great page about Duisburg with lots of information.You've given me some good ideas for what to do after seeing the koalas in the zoo. But I'm sorry to tell you that the pub Schacht 4/8 has closed. After reading your tip I wanted to check the menu and ended up on a fashion site.Too bad.

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo
    Jan 15, 2013 at 7:19 PM

    What a neat page! So much wonderful information and such lovely photo's. Thanks for all the hard work here.

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Dec 17, 2012 at 10:00 PM

    A few nice places to see here! Your work does get you around the world!

    • CatherineReichardt's Profile Photo
      Dec 18, 2012 at 4:12 AM

      Thanks for your lovely comments, Dee. Most of my colleagues assure me that you have to be paid to even consider visiting Duisburg - which of course I took as being exactly my sort of challenge!

    • balhannah's Profile Photo
      Dec 18, 2012 at 1:14 PM

      It looks a bit like that!

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Sep 23, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    I must admit I have never been to Duisburg except to change trains. Never even been to the opera there, though I have seen some of their productions in Düsseldorf. (I have just checked the Deutsche Oper am Rhein cast listings and find that I still know two of the singers in their ensemble, but I think they are cutting back on personnel.)

    • CatherineReichardt's Profile Photo
      Sep 24, 2012 at 12:11 AM

      Such a shame to hear that they're cutting back (but not very surprising in these times). And what an achievement: finding a German opera house that Don hasn't yet set foot inside! ;)

  • CatherineReichardt's Profile Photo
    Sep 13, 2012 at 9:15 PM

    Thanks for your kind comments Claus - as you might imagine, Duisburg isn't a page that attracts much traffic! I was expcting it to be much worse than it was, and I actually rather enjoyed my time there!
    Regards Cathy

  • cachaseiro's Profile Photo
    Sep 13, 2012 at 4:20 PM

    Really excellent page Catherine.

  • HORSCHECK's Profile Photo
    May 18, 2012 at 3:12 AM

    Catherine, gret page with interesting tips here. The Schacht 4/8 sounds like my sort of thing, although I usually wouldn't classify Kölsch as a beer. *winkygrin*

  • ettiewyn's Profile Photo
    Mar 17, 2011 at 8:47 AM

    Great page with very good tips! I think I have to do some sightseeing with my dad :-)) In fact, Kölsch is the only beer I like, I usually can't stand the taste of beer ;-)


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