Between Oberhausen and Gelsenkirchen on the Rhine-Herne Canal, Bottrop is a Ruhr city that still has some heavy industry. A couple of active collieries are still in business, supporting coal-derivative factories. Spoil tips are a fixture on Bottrop’s landscape, and these giant peaks have been converted into public spaces, planted with woodland and spruced up with modern art.
And where industry has disappeared in Bottrop it has been taken over by family attractions. Take the Zeche Prosper II colliery, now featuring a spooky indoor horror show and the longest indoor ski run in the world. And also in Bottrop is Movie Park, a theme park where stunt shows and roller coasters bring Hollywood films and TV shows to life.
Let’s have a look at the best things to do in Bottrop:
1. Quadrat Bottrop – Josef Albers Museum
In the Stadtpark is a museum for the Bottrop-born artist and educator Josef Albers.
A noted member of the Bauhaus school, he emigrate to America when it was shut down by the Nazis in 1933. There he remained active and is remembered for instituting a seminal art education programme.
For that reason many important figures like Chancellor Helmut Kohl and then Vice President George H. W. Bush attended the opening of this museum in 1983. You can follow the progress of Albers’ career, from his early Expressionist paintings to glass works, landscapes, engravings and photomontages.
Space has also been made in the building for a natural and local history exhibition that has a mammoth skeleton, as well as a modern gallery that stages exhibitions of Concrete and Constructivist art.
Outside is a sculpture garden with modern and contemporary pieces by the likes of Walter Dexel and Max Bill.
2. Tetraeder Bottrop
At the top of the Halde Beckstraße spoil tip is a bizarre but engaging piece of public art designed by architect Wolfgang Christ in 1995. This hollow, walkable tetrahedron was added as part of the Internationale Bauausstellung Emscher Park, a ten-year programme that left the Ruhr rich with public art and modern architecture.
The tetrahedron is based on the “Sierpinski triangle” and has a stairway that coils up to just below its highest point.
Here, around 100 metres above sea level, you can pick out the Ruhr’s landmarks like Essen’s Hauptbahnhof and even see as far as the Rheinturm in Düsseldorf.
3. Schloss Beck
At the very north of the municipality, in the Kirchhellen-Feldhausen district is a Late Baroque palace conceived by respected architect Johann Conrad Schlaun for a high-ranking military man.
There’s a dual appeal to Schloss Beck: Grown-ups will appreciate the architecture dating back to the 1770s and the fully restored interiors.
Kids meanwhile will be crazy about the theme park in the grounds.
This was built in the 1960s to help fund the restoration, and has carousels, small roller coasters, a miniature train, a splash ride, a lake with rowboats and a tree canopy path.
Inside the palace a few of the rooms have child-friendly dioramas, and there’s even a spooky dungeon in the cellar.
4. Movie Park Germany
Just next door to Schloss Beck in Bottrop-Kirchhellen is a theme park all about Hollywood, the movie business and the magic of the silver screen.
The attraction is organised across seven themed zones like for example the Old West, Santa Monica Pier, Streets of New York and “Nickland”, based on Nickelodeon and its shows and characters.
Each zone has rides, stunt shows, mazes and audiovisual shows based on movies and TV shows like Ice Age, The Walking Dead and many more.
If you come in autumn you’ll be in time for the Halloween Horrorfest, when the park has six horror-themed mazes and more than 250 actors playing scary characters.
5. Grusellabyrinth NRW
Keeping things scary, Bottrop is also home to Germany’s largest themed horror attraction.
The Grusellabyrinth NRW also employs a large cast of actors, and has 16 labyrinths, themed trails and interactive shows, all with high production values and wide array of props.
These can all be found in the former washhouse and changing area of the colliery, Zeche Prosper II, in a cavernous hall with industrial-era brick architecture.
Grusellabyrinth NRW caters to adult and teenage fans of horror, but also has lighter and more family-friendly experiences appropriate for children aged eight and up.
6. Halde Haniel
Another gigantic spoil tip, Halde Haniel is one of the highest prominences in the Ruhr, cresting at 185 metres above sea level.
It was built in the shape of two spirals and made up of spoil from Bottrop’s Prosper-Haniel mine.
There are a few things to see around the crest of Halde Haniel.
One is a cross at what used to be the tip’s highest point.
This is at the plateau of the southern spiral and was erected to commemorate Pope John Paul II’s visit to the region in 1987. Leading to this monument are 15 stations of the cross, as well as installations of antique mining equipment.
And close by is the Bergarena, an outdoor amphitheatre that seats 800 and puts on theatre and opera performances in summer.
On the hill’s lower reaches, nature has also taken hold on Halde Haniel, which now have a mantle of thick deciduous forest.
7. Alpincenter Bottrop
Visiting an industrial city in the Ruhr, you may not have expected any winter sport, but the city actually has the longest indoor piste in the world.
The slope at this facility, which opened in 2001, is 640 metres long and 30 metres wide, and the snow has a depth of 40 cms.
Since 2011 the centre has been generating most of its own power via one of the largest solar power plants in the region, with 18,600 panels.
Over the last 16 years or so the Alpincenter has also added some outdoor attractions, like a one-kilometre-long summer toboggan run on rails, and a high ropes course with 13 stations.
8. Indoor Skydiving Bottrop
Right beside the Alpincenter is another record-breaking sports attraction.
Opened in 2008 Indoor Skydiving is exactly as the name suggests: You can experience freefall skydiving without having to leap from a plane.
The centre uses one of the highest vertical wind tunnel in Europe, and it’s also one of the world’s most technologically advanced wind tunnels.
The turbine generates consistent airflow as fast as 286 kph, simulating the environment, dynamics and sensations of a genuine freefall , minus the danger.
You don’t need any previous experience, and children as young as four can join in the fun, all with the guidance of expert instructors.
9. Zeche Prosper II
Now, while coalmining has almost died out as an industry in the Ruhr, Bottrop is one of just a few municipalities that has an active mine.
Dating back to 1861, the Prosper colliery is still in business.
Of the nine shafts sunk over the last 150 years, two are still in use: Prosper IV and Prosper V. Away from this activity, Prosper II hosts many of Bottrop’s attractions like the Alpincenter, Tetraeder and the Grusellabyrinth.
But one sight we haven’t mentioned is the ensemble of Prosper II’s majestic headframe and machine tower, dating to the 1910s.
This pair can be seen across the landscape and have been kept as a visitable industrial monument.
Between the Emscher River and the Rhine-Herne Canal, the BernePark is an outdoor attraction laid out for the Ruhr’s stint as European Capital of Culture in 2010. In the spirit of the Ruhr the BernePark has revaluated industrial architecture and combined it with art and nature.
You wouldn’t know it today, but until 1997 this was all a sewage treatment plant.
A lot of the machinery and infrastructure has been left in place, including bulky concrete tubes that are now cabins for the park’s hotel.
The basins that used to contain sewage are now gardens, and the Emscher Cycle Route courses through the park.
Visit the former machine hall, now a restaurant with a spacious outdoor terrace if you’re in need of cold refreshment in summer.
11. Glockenspiel Bottrop
At Hansastraße 10 you’ll come to Bottrop’s glockenspiel, set above a watch and goldsmith shop since 1957. The glockenspiel was installed by Gerd Triffterer, owner of the store below, and is composed of 25 bronze bells, cast by a Dutch foundry and with a total weight of more than a ton.
In 1982 the metallic figure of a miner was placed above the largest bell to recognise Bottrop’s mining heritage.
There bells can play 17 different tunes that change according to the season.
If you want to hear it play, there are hourly chimes between 10:00 and 18:00, except during lunch hours, as well as shorter chimes every 15 minutes.
As you navigate Bottrop’s streets you may stumble upon small brass plaques on the pavement.
These belong to an ambitious, Europe-wide project by the artist Gunter Demnig to recognise victims of national socialism and the holocaust.
The project was begun in 1992, 50 years after Heinrich Himmler signed the Auschwitz-Erlass (decree), ordering Roma and Sinti prisoners to be sent to extermination camps.
Bottrop’s numerous Stolpersteiner were laid between 2005 and 2011, labelling the homes of victims of the Nazi regime and offering some information about their fate.
One of the better known figures was Bernhard Poether, a Roman Catholic priest and dissident who lived at Förenkamp 27 who was murdered at Dachau in 1942.
13. Schloss Horst
This historic Renaissance Palace isn’t strictly in Bottrop as it lies in Gelsenkirchen’s municipality, but is hardly ten minutes in the car from Zeche Prosper II. Schloss Horst is one of the best preserved and most noteworthy noble properties in Westphalia.
Since 1988 the building and its enchanting park has been owned by the city, which has turned it into a cultural centre and historic attraction.
The Glashalle is a hall for events, where the central courtyard has been covered with a glass canopy and highlights the palace’s preserved, three-storey facades.
The museum sends you back to Schloss Horst’s heyday in the 1500s and recalls how blacksmiths, stonemasons and carpenters made their living.
Also effortlessly close is a park on what used to be the Zeche Nordstern colliery, which closed down in 1993. The complex wasn’t allowed to sit idle, as no sooner was the mine decommissioned than plans were afoot to remodel it into a park for the Bundesgartenschau (Federal Garden Show) in 1997. Today the Nordsternpark is an anchor on the Ruhr’s Industrial Heritage Trail and on the European Garden Heritage Network.
There’s an open-air amphitheatre on the Rhine-Herne Canal, docks for cruises on the water in summer and a 63-metre mining tunnel.
Nordesnpark has all manner of public art, like the Herkules von Gelsenkirchen, a playful 18-metre statue of Hercules 100 metres above the park atop the former engine tower.
15. Christmas Market
From mid-November to just before Christmas Day there’s a market in the prettiest spot in Bottrop.
Rathausplatz is overlooked by the Neo-Renaissance town hall, dating to the start of the 20th century.
For these five weeks the air is filled with the unmistakeable scents of German Christmas, like roasted almonds, mulled wine, Lebkuchen, Bratwurst and popcorn.
There are 60 stalls on the square offering all these treats, as well as handicrafts, decorations and toys.
The market also has a special tent/crèche for kids, with puppet shows, games and entertainers, while parents can sneak off for a glass of mulled wine.