In North Rhine-Westphalia’s hilly and wooded Bergisches Land, Remscheid is a city comprising an assortment of small towns. You need only look at the sickle on Remscheid’s coat of arms to know how this city made its living in days gone by.
With forges across the landscape Remscheid was a tool-making city, and established far-reaching trade links way beyond German borders. Wilhelm Röntgen, who discovered the X-ray in 1895, was born in Remscheid, and there’s a museum about him and his epoch-making discovery.
Also in the 1890s, two pioneering projects gave the city the highest railway bridge in Germany, Müngsten Bridge, and the very first drinking water dam in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Remscheid:
1. Müngsten Bridge
At 107 metres above the Wupper River, on the Remscheid-Solingen boundary, the steel-built Müngsten Bridge is the highest railway bridge in Germany.
The 465-metre structure took shape from 1893 to 1897 and its main arch has a span of 170 metres.
If you’d like to ride over this landmark it is part of the Wuppertal-Oberbarmen–Solingen Railway and is used by the Rhine-Ruhr S-Bahn Line 7. One of many fun rumours swirling around the Müngsten Bridge is that when it was completed Kaiser Wilhelm II refused to attend the opening ceremony, because it was named after his father Wilhelm I instead of him.
2. Müngstener Brückenpark
The best way to view the Müngsten Bridge from below is at the Müngstener Brückenpark, a recreation area that was founded a decade ago during a region-wide employment project.
The valley under the bridge is a thing of beauty for its cliffs, dense woodland and meadows with wildflowers.
A restaurant has been set up in the park’s visitor centre, serving traditional Bergisch food, and there are facilities like a mini-golf course and a man-powered ferry on rails.
Known as the Schwebefähre, this ferry crosses the Wupper a little way south of the Müngsten Bridge.
The mechanism is similar to an old-time railway handcar and if you’re feeling up to the task you can help the ferryman to get to the other bank.
3. Deutsches Röntgen-Museum
The man who first detected X-rays, Wilhelm Röntgen, was born in Lennep, part of Remscheid.
He would win the very first Noble Prize in physics in 1901 for the discovery he made in 1895. A little way from his birthplace in Lennep there’s a museum for Röntgen in a patrician house on the Gansemarkt.
In newly configured galleries, the museum explains Röntgen’s background and has technical equipment going back more than a century.
Along with modern X-ray machines there’s exact reproduction of the experiment Röntgen devised to make his discovery.
An intriguing piece is a “Glass Woman”, one of a series of trailblazing anatomical models created by the German Hygiene Museum to show the circulatory system, nervous system and organs in unprecedented detail.
4. Schloss Burg
Although officially in Solingen, this Medieval wonder is only 10 minutes by road from the centre of Remscheid.
And being so close there’s no excuse not to discover the ancestral seat of the Counts and Dukes of Berg.
The castle is embedded in woodland 100 metres above the Wupper River and was at the peak of its power during the High Middle Ages, until Düsseldorf became the capital of the Duchy of Berg in 1380. After being ransacked by the Swedes in the Thirty Years’ War the castle was a ruin until it was restored piece by piece in the early 20th century.
The property stands as a museum for the Bergisches Land, and is loaded with diverting exhibits like a historic apothecary and armour room.
Check before you visit in summer to make sure you’re in time for the castle’s re-enactments and medieval-themed markets.
5. Seilbahn Burg
The chairlift at Unterburg was the first cable-car in North Rhine-Westphalia and has been carrying pedestrians up the challenging slope to Schloss Burg since 1952. In that time it has been updated, first in 1961 and then in 2013 when it was equipped with the latest control system.
The chairlift is just shy of 250 metres long and has a vertical climb of more than 90 metres.
Of course, the natural benefit of riding in the open air is the scenery of the Wupper, steep wooded hills and traditional Bergisch houses.
6. Eschbachtalsperre (Eschbach Dam)
Projects like the Eschbach Dam helped Remscheid grow in the industrial age.
This was the first dam to be built in the country for the supply of drinking water.
And a bit like the Müngsten Bridge it was a cutting-edge piece of engineering that was almost unprecedented in Germany.
The design was drawn up by the hydraulic engineer Otto Intze and the work was carried out by the iron industrialist Robert Böker.
A project like this had the dual appeal of supplying Remscheid’s tool mills with a steady flow of water, where before they had been forced to close during times of drought.
The scene is picturesque and there’s a nature trail around the reservoir.
In the woodland nearby you may stumble on a stone cross dating to the 16th century, marking the place where a man, Josef Weizels, was attacked and killed by bandits.
A memorable public space in Remscheid-proper is the main square and scene of the weekly market and Christmas market.
The landmark that will catch your attention here is the Neo-Renaissance town hall on the west side of the square.
This was built from 1902 to 1906 and its 58-metre tower dominates the scene.
Below, atop a tall pedestal is the statue of a lion, the traditional symbol for the Bergisches Land.
The market trades on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 07:00 to 13:00. There are more than 30 stalls selling poultry, regional sausage, cheese, vegetables, fruits, eggs, pastries and flowers, in a tradition that goes back to 1755.
8. Haus Cleff
In the Hasten district is probably the finest property in Remscheid, a Rococo house built in the late 1770s by tool manufacturers, the Hilger brothers.
The house has come through some interesting times, as for a while in the 1810s, when Remscheid was under French occupation, it housed “La Mairie”. Then from 1847 to the First World War it was the family home of the Cleffs, who were also prominent tool merchants.
The house is still decorated with furniture from this period and is preserved as a museum to reveal the lifestyle and tastes of Remscheid’s bourgeois in the 19th century.
In October 2017 Haus Cleff was closed for renovation, so be sure check the website before you come.
9. Deutsches Werkzeugmuseum
Remscheid’s status as a centre for tool-making goes back five centuries, and this legacy has been honoured at a museum just next to Haus Cleff.
The Deutsches Werkzeugmuseum starts with Stone Age hand-axes and continues right through to 21st-century high-tech precision tools.
The museum contrasts the tools manufactured in small, water-powered workshops with the mass-produced instruments made with steam power from the 1800s onwards.
One of the headline exhibits is a steam engine and flywheel four metres in diameter, while outside you can peek inside original hammer and saw forges from 1890. The museum’s staff are all handy with tools, and if you come by bike they’ll even perform a check-up in exchange for a small donation to the museum.
The most romantic townscape in Remscheid is in Lennep to the east of the municipality.
Untouched by the war, the old centre is taken over by typical “Bergisch” houses, with slate-clad walls and triangular gables.
The tangle of cobblestone streets in the old centre has 116 listed properties.
Some are Medieval half-timbered buildings (there’s a beautiful example at Kraspütt 3), but one of the things that gives Lennep such character is a calamity that took place in 1746. A fire claimed most of the town, and Lennep was rebuilt quickly in a uniform Bergisch Baroque style.
11. Evangelische Stadtkirche (Lennep)
The largest monument in Lennep is the town’s main protestant church, which also burnt down during the fire in 1746. The reconstruction started soon after the fire and the new Bergisch Baroque building was finished in 1756. The most noticeable feature is the hefty sandstone tower, crowned with an onion dome that is illuminated beautifully at Christmas.
Both the tower and the church’s gable are covered with iron anchor plates for reinforcement.
The thing to check out inside is the organ, dating to 1779 and fitted by the Kleine brothers.
12. Falknerei Bergisch Land
In the Bergisches Land countryside on the way to Ronsdorf there’s a falconry and bird of prey centre.
The high point of any visit are the live flight demonstrations when you’ll see these eagles, falcons, owls and other birds of prey swoop overhead.
The centre offers a range of special experiences, from becoming a falconer for a day to smaller one-off opportunities like feeding owls, walking with a bird of prey on your hand or taking part in private flight demonstrations outside hours.
13. H2O Sauna- Und Badeparadies
If you’re stuck for ideas for family days out, Lennep has a massive pool complex.
In summer you could bring little ones to the outdoor pool, which is surrounded by lawns for picnics.
Also in the open-air is a heated saline pool, which remains open all year round, even in sub-zero temperatures.
Inside there’s a lap pool for serious swimmers, an adventure pool for family fun, another saltwater pool and a shallow area with games and obstacles for toddlers.
H2O is about pampering and relaxation as well as exercise, and has saunas, steam rooms and a wellness area for massages and a variety of beauty treatments.
14. Allee-Center Remscheid
The east side of Theodor-Heuss-Platz in Remscheid is the location for the largest shopping centre in the Bergisches Land.
Now more than 30 years old, the Allee-Center Remscheid was built on land that had been left undeveloped after bomb damage in the war and has over 100 shops and services.
These include all the fashion brands you’d want from a city centre like H&M, Esprit and C&A, as well as typical German brands like the Deichmann shoe shop, electronics retailer Saturn and the nationwide book chain Thalia.
If you work up an appetite there’s also a cluster of cafes and fast food joints inside.
15. Christmas Market
The festive season is a magical time to be in Germany, and Remscheid is no exception.
Kicking off in late November there’s an a miniature village of wooden huts on Theodor-Heuss-Platz.
Right in the middle of all this is a 600-square-metre skating rink, and after a while struggling to keep your balance you can treat yourself to classic German season delicacies.
In the evenings there’s a carefree, sociable feel to the village, which might have something to do with the generous helpings of Glühwein (mulled wine). Some classic treats to try are roasted almonds, Lebkuchen (gingerbread), popcorn, candyfloss, chocolate fruits and grilled meat like Bratwurst and steak.