From Roman excavations to an amusement park in a nuclear power plant
Castles, Christmas markets, nature and endless quirky quirky attractions in between. Germany’s Lower Rhine region offers visitors all of this and more.
The German region of Niederrhein may not necessarily be on the radar for many of you. Neighbouring cities such as Düsseldorf and Cologne are very popular among UK tourists, but what many people do not know is that the nearby Lower Rhine region offers a stunning natural landscape and several points of interest. Cycling on the Niederrhein route, travelling back to Roman times in Xanten, heading with the kids to Kernie’s Family Park, or visiting Moyle Castle – you can do it all! In this travel guide, I’ll explore all the highlights in the Niederrhein region, are you coming?
The best things to see in Germany’s Lower Rhine Region
The Lower Rhine region – known as Niederrhein – is part of the larger province of North Rhine-Westphalia. Some of the most important cities in the area are Duisburg, Mönchengladbach, and Krefeld. In addition, there are several small towns and villages that you may not have heard of such as the pilgrimage town of Kevelaer, the cosy Kleve with the iconic Castle Schwanenburg.
Your question is now of course: “what does this region have to offer me as a tourist”? The answer: really a lot! Below I will give you as comprehensive an overview as possible of all the sights and tourist attractions that this German area is rich in. I will start with the larger cities, after which I will tell you more about some of the other pearls in this area, ideal for a day out or a weekend away. For a mini-holiday you do not have to go far from home, so hop on a flight to Cologne or Dusseldorf and get exploring. Lots of fun is guaranteed!
The perfect city trip
Let’s start with an overview of the largest cities in the region. Each and every one of them is definitely worth a visit, with interesting sights, museums, typical German buildings, or unique attractions.
With almost 500,000 inhabitants, Duisburg is the largest city in the region. So why do we hear so little of it? The cityscape features the prominent Gothic Church of Our Saviour – and you can also shop around to your heart’s content in the centre of the city. The most interesting attraction of the city, however, is just outside the city centre: the Landschaftspark Duisburg. A former factory and blast furnace, it was abandoned for some time, until it was turned into a park. It’s free to enter and you can climb the former blast furnace 5, which gives a magnificent view of the region from a height of 70 meters.
Are you a lover of incredible art? Then you should also go to Tiger & Turtle – Magic Mountain, a roller coaster staircase designed by Ulrich Genth and Heike Mutter. Yes, you read that right! For me, it was incredible seeing a staircase that goes over your head … You can find it close to Duisburg and it’s definitely worth a quick visit.
The city of Mönchengladbach has a little more than 250,000 inhabitants. Those who are looking for sights cannot miss the football stadium of Borussia Mönchengladbach ; the impressive Borussia Park. For football fanatics, it is definitely worth a visit. Impressively, it is at the top of the list of Tripadvisor with things to do in Mönchengladbach! Other attractions are the small castle/museum Schloß Rheydt.
Located on the left bank of the Rhine, we find the city of Krefeld, with a population of just over 200,000. The first thing you will notice is the Weinbrennerei Dujardin Museum , a small museum that takes you into the world of Dujardin brandy. It goes without saying that you must also try a glass at the end of the tour. Prost! Not far from the centre of Krefeld you will find the picturesque castle that you see on the right: Museum Burg Linn.
Places of interest in Lower Rhine
In addition to varied city trips, this region offers a few nice, interesting and unique attractions that are definitely worth a trip to Germany. A picturesque castle, an amusement park in a nuclear power plant, romantic Christmas markets and Roman excavations…endless attractions and entertainment can be found here!
Schloss Moyland – a water castle and art museum in one!
This beautiful castle is located in the town of Bedburg-Hau. The village itself offers little attractions for tourists, but not far from the village you will find this romantic castle in an idyllic, natural setting. As if the decades-old castle – the original building probably dates from the 14th century. There has been a museum since 1997 with the world’s largest collection of works of art by famous German postwar artist Joseph Beuys.
The name Moyland appears for the first time in documents from 1307 and the castle was probably also built somewhere in this century. Over the centuries, the castle has changed owners many times. For example, in parts of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the castle was owned by the Prussian kings Frederick I and Frederick the Great. At that time the castle was also visited by the famous French philosopher Voltaire.
In the following decades, the castle had one owner after another. The last inhabitant of the castle was Adriaan Baron Steengracht von Moyland. In 1990 he donated the lock to the Stiftung Museum Schloss Moyland. Seven years later, the museum was opened to the public after a thorough renovation of the castle.
Today, the neo-Gothic castle houses a unique art collection. The art collection is very diverse with not only visual art, but also graphics and paintings. The most prominent, however, is the collection of works by Joseph Beuys. Beuys was a visual artist from Krefeld. As a local artist, there is no better location to exhibit his work than in the Niederrhein region, where he was born.
Kalkar Wonderland & Kernie’s Family Park
An amusement park on the site of an old nuclear power plant sounds pretty crazy, right? Don’t worry, this plant has never actually been used! This “breeding reactor” was originally built to supply electricity to many thousands of households in the region. Due to protests from local residents and problems with the construction, however, the project had to be cancelled, despite the fact that the complex of the nuclear reactor had already been completely built. The Dutch entrepreneur Hennie van der Most bought the site and in 1995 opened the amusement park Kernwasser-Wunderland. So it is actually an amusement park and an attraction in one! Since 2005, the name of the site has been changed to Wunderland Kalkar.
Located on the banks of the Rhine near the town of Kalkar, you will find hotels, bars and restaurants. Within the complex you will also find a complete amusement park; Kernie’s Family Park. The special thing about this small but certainly cosy amusement park is that after paying the entrance fee, you can enjoy unlimited French fries, soft ice cream, soft drinks, coffee and tea all day long! Plus, you can also make free use of all attractions in the park.
The Brüter Museum:
If you want to know more about the history behind the nuclear power plant, and about the operation of electricity and energy in general, this museum is definitely recommended!
As an outing with the family – especially with children – the park is really recommended, but it’s also great for company outings. If you also book a hotel stay here, you can make use of many sporting activities, from bowling to beach volleyball. Obviously, a park like this is the perfect place for a children’s party.
Experience Roman times in Xanten
Get to know Germany’s largest archaeological open-air museum! The Archaeological Park Xanten takes you to the time of the Romans and lets you experience life during Empire! It’s interesting, educational and lots of fun!
More than 2,000 years ago a Roman legion camp was built in this region at the mouth of the river Lippe in the Rhine. This would eventually become a Roman city called Colonia Ulpia Traiana . The city was inhabited by Romans and Germans until the fourth century AD, when the Roman Empire lost power and the city was abandoned.
In the Middle Ages, people returned to the area and here formed the city of Xanten. The Roman remains disappeared over the years, until 1935 when the foundations of the ancient amphitheatre were rediscovered. Around this, further excavations were made and large parts of the city from antiquity were found. Since 1977, the archaeological park has been opened to visitors. Since its founding, the park has not only become a popular location for school trips, but also for lovers of culture, history and Roman history
Nowadays you will also find the LVR-RömerMuseum on site. In this museum, there are many exhibitions on the history of the area and the old town of Colonia Ulpia Traiana. Anyone who goes to the archaeological park should definitely pay a visit to this museum!
Cycling through nature in Lower Rhine
The Niederrhein is an incredibly beautiful, green region – ideal for cycling or walking! Several extensive and well-marked cycling routes show you the way along the Rhine and the nature around with several cultural highlights.
An extensive cycling network
Relatively flat, paved roads on the dikes that meander along the Rhine. Distant views and full of forests and fields lay out before you. The Niederrhein route allows you to admire the best sights of the region!
The Niederrhein route is the longest cycle path network in Germany with more than 2,000 kilometers of roads!
It’s not just a bicycle road; it is the longest bike path in Germany! The main route consists of 1,215 kilometres of road. Together with the 820 kilometres of connecting roads, this creates a route network of more than 2,000 kilometres. Fancy a bike ride?
On the route, you will pass many characteristic buildings and other highlights, such as castles, typical German cottages, charming little villages, but also idyllic nature and a view to completely relax. Every year, on the first Sunday in July, the Niederrhein Cycling Daytakes place, where more than 30,000 cycling enthusiasts come to ride the route. Gurutip: Cycle along the historic Via Romana between Xanten and Kleve and afterwards grab a terrace with a view of the romantic Schwanenburgin Kleve!
Schwalm-Nette Nature Park
One thing I would highly recommend is the beautiful nature park, Schwalm-Nette, located along the German-Dutch border. Water determines the environment here, with many small rivers such as the Schwalm, Roer, Nette and Niers. As a result, there is a lot of nature, a great diversity of flora and fauna, and it is perfect for tourists who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
This vast nature park covers no less than 435 km2. In the are, you will find route markings with signs indicating where so-called Wasser Blicke are; points with beautiful views over the most beautiful lakes in the area!
Romantic Christmas markets in unique locations
Scattered all over the country, in countless towns and villages, you’ll find the best collections of small stalls full of Christmas decorations and gift ideas for the holidays. The whole is always beautifully decorated with Christmas lights, Christmas trees, Christmas music and enough mulled wine to keep you warm during Christmas shopping. Wander through the German Christmas markets and you really experience the most wonderful time of the year!
The Lower Rhine region also takes its German Christmas market tradition seriously and there are three Christmas markets that stand out above the rest. There’s several reasons why the Christmas markets here rival those in larger cities like Dusseldorf and Cologne.
Romantic Christmas market at Dorenburg open-air museum
Outside the Christmas period, the area around this idyllic water lock is the home of the Freilichtmuseum Dorenburg. In this open-air museum, located in the village of Grefrath, visitors can immerse themselves in the former lifestyle in the region. Among other farms with half-timbered houses, traditional handicrafts and authentic toys ensure that you really feel back in time. Even better, there are also plenty of regional products and specialities for sale, such as freshly baked bread or local brandy.
In the run-up to Christmas, more than 100 designers, artists and craftsmen settle down in cute wooden stalls around the moated castle. Expect a romantic Christmas market in a traditional style with thousands of lights, candles, fire pits and fire shows. The authentic setting and decoration ensure that you really feel like walking on a medieval market; magnificent!
Unbeatable romance: Christmas castle Moyland
Those who really want to visit a romantic Christmas market should pay a visit to the Christmas market at Schloss Moyland. During the Christmas period, it is already a beautiful sight. The Christmas market is a home for unbelievable art crafts. Do not expect the standard knick-knacks, but authentic pieces of art that will score well as a Christmas present. A visit to this market can be perfectly combined with a look at the museum.
Holidays in Germany in the Lower Rhine region
Hopefully, after reading my article, you have got a better picture of the region. Isn’t it amazing that we know Germany so well, yet there’s still so many places unknown to most of us! And if you’re visiting the neighbouring Netherlands anyway, there’s no reason not to hop across the border and get exploring!
This is of course one of the many hidden gems that I’ll be sharing with you during my spotlight on North Rhine-Westphalia this week, so be sure to keep checking back for even more inspiration!