One of the amazing ways to spend the summer holidays is to go road-tripping! And how about a road trip from Belgium to Germany with stops along the way. And spend a day or two in Germany before returning back home. In this post, I will also share the best things to do in Essen, one of the prettiest German towns.
Road trip from Belgium to Germany: Things to do in Essen
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post and I was invited on a press trip, but all the experiences and opinions are my own.
Travel time and distance from Belgium to Germany: Essen to Essen
The travel time from Essen in Belgium to Essen in Germany is about 2 hours and 15 minutes if you drive nonstop. The road distance is 209.3 km via A58, A67, and A40.
You can easily make a day’s worth of road trip as you stop along the way, and savor all the pretty moments!
To travel between the two countries, you will also drive through the Netherlands, and can explore it as well.
Note that all these three countries are part of the Schengen zone, so you can travel visa-free between them. Car rental can be booked in Belgium for this road trip.
These are the 2 possible routes I recommend,
Option 1 Germany Belgium road trip:
Essen, Belgium > Roosendaal, Netherlands > Arnhem Centraal, Netherlands > Oberhausen, Germany
In the first option, you will start from Essen and then head to Roosendaal and Arnhem Centraal in the Netherlands. Your stop in Germany will be Oberhausen before reaching Essen.
This is what you can explore in the following areas,
- Roosendaal: Need retail therapy? Head over to Designer Outlet Roosendaal. Home to over 85 stores, you will find everything from clothing to shoes and with over 30-75% discount. You can also hang out and sit down for brunch or lunch after shopping!
- Museum Tongerlohuys: Museum Tongerlohuys is a specialty museum located in Roosendaal. You can spend 30 minutes to an hour there checking out the various exhibits.
- Arnhem: Arnhem deserves a longer visit if you are into history, as it is home to one of the most infamous battles of World War II.
- Other attractions in Arnhem include the Burgers’ Zoo and the Open air museum. Plus you can also stop to shop here.
- Oberhausen: Oberhausen in Germany makes for a perfect stop before arriving in Essen for the night. This formed Germany’s coal-mining region in the past and was a bombing target in 1945.
Option 2 Germany Belgium road trips:
With more stops along the way, here is an additional route to follow from Essen Belgium to Germany.
Essen, Belgium > Breda, Netherlands > Tilburg, Netherlands > Eindhoven, Netherlands > Duisburg, Germany > Oberhausen, Germany > Essen, Germany
- Breda: Located in the Netherlands, Breda is known for its charming and historic town centre. It is home to beautiful old buildings that also include churches and markets. Plan to stop at the Breda Castle, which is also located at the centre.
- Tilburg: Stop at this University town, for shopping or a bite to eat. You will love the ambience of their city centre, so definitely worth visiting!
- Eindhoven: The birthplace of Philips, this is the 5th largest city in the Netherlands, Eindhoven is filled with stunning architectural buildings. But there are pockets of greenery within the city, where you can stretch your legs as you embark on this road trip.
- Duisburg: With this stop, you enter Germany, and do visit this charming city of Duisburg. Duisburg is home to nature and architectural delights. Its close proximity to Düsseldorf makes it great for exploring both. Duisburg is located at the junction of the Rhine and Ruhr Rivers, and it has the world’s largest inland port.
- Oberhausen: This is your final stop on this route before arriving in Essen in Germany!
Things to do in Essen, Germany in 2 days
Essen is a city in the Ruhr area of North Rhine-Westphalia, West Germany. It is located on the Ruhr river and is the largest city in the Ruhr region.
The city has a long history as an important cultural and religious center. Many of the city’s attractions are located in and around the Old Town area.
Along with historical and cultural sites, Essen is also home to a number of large companies, including ThyssenKrupp, Siemens AG, and Gelsenkirchener Bergwerks-AG.
The city also has a number of tourist attractions, including the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex, the Folkwang Museum, and the Cathedral of Essen. Other notable sights include the red-brick castle Schloss Borbeck, the Margarethenhöhe estate with its Jugendstil architecture, and the teepee-shaped gasometer.
The city has a vibrant nightlife, with numerous clubs, bars, and restaurants. Essen is also home to a number of festivals and events throughout the year, including the Ruhrfestspiele festival of arts, the Jazzopen jazz festival, and the Rock Im Revier rock music festival.
Here is how you can spend a weekend in Essen, after an epic road trip!
Day 1 of Germany road trip itinerary: Arrive in Essen, and explore
Once you arrive in Essen, check in to Art Hotel located in Körschen Hindenburgstrasse 6, 45127 Essen. The hotel is situated close to the city center and very affordable.
Depending on your arrival time, you can either check in and relax or go sightseeing.
City tour of Essen
Embark on a sightseeing tour through the city area. The main station is a good starting point, and you can always park your vehicle and use other means of transportation in the city.
High Cathedral of Essen
Head to the Essen City Center, home to everything that is culturally stimulating. Begin at the High Cathedral of Essen.
Essen Cathedral has a rich history of over 1150 years. It dates back to 850 when a small convent was founded here and was the site of much religious work for women that was performed in the early and high Middle Ages.
The main highlights include its late Baroque interiors, and you must check out the Essen Cathedral Treasury. Access to the Cathedral has an entrance fee. It starts at 8 euros for families. Highlights of a visit include the late Baroque interior and its Treasury.
Old (Alte) Synagogue of Essen
Up next is the Old Synagogue. The Old Synagogue of Essen is considered to be one of the largest, and best-preserved sites to appreciate Jewish culture in pre-war Germany. It was built in the year 1913, and today you can check out the historical exhibits, and stories.
This freestanding structure is designed in Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, and Byzantine Revival architectural styles.
Access to Essen’s Alte Synagoge is free. However, you can make donations on site, if you like. This helps to maintain the site, and keep it open for visitors to see.
You must have heard about or seen the Colosseum in Rome, Italy. This one is similar in the sense that it is a theatre – a musical theatre. The building is also an impressive sight to behold. You can watch a show, along with food and drinks!
Next is a drive along the Gruga Park to the oldest part of Essen – Werden. It is located in the southern part of the city of Essen. Werden is home to an old basilica and charming small cafes.
Founded in 796, the Basilica of St. Ludgerus, the former residence of the Werden abbots, is today the seat of the Folkwang University and the Lucius Church.
Head to Lake Baldeney to visit the Villa Hügel, which was the former home of the Krupp family. The Villa Hügel is a 19th-century mansion, which was built by the industrialist Alfred Krupp in 1870-1873 as his main residence.
It was the home of the Krupp family for seven decades, until after World War II. Since 1953, on the initiative of the last company owner, Alfried Krupp, major internationally important art and cultural history exhibitions have been held here regularly to this day.
The Villa Hügel became one of the most important cultural centers in the country. Outside the exhibition times, the historical living quarters, the extensive park and the historical Krupp exhibition can be visited.
Spend a few hours at the complex admiring the building and exhibits on display. The entry fee starts at 5 euros (for adults).
Before leaving for the city center, you can also visit the Baldeneysee lake area, and maybe go biking. There is also a magnificent reservoir, located in the south of the city.
Gruga Park – Botanischer Garten Grugapark
Have more time? Visit the beautiful botanical garden – Gruga Park, which dates back to the year 1929. Grugapark is a central park and was opened as the first Große Ruhrländische in the city.
There is an entrance fee of 10 euros per person, to explore the park.
For the evening (more options)
To finish off an exciting day of sightseeing, you can either go to Rüttenscheder Straße or enjoy dinner and drinks at the Tiger Rooftop Terrace Restaurant. Both spots are located near the hotel.
Day 2 of Germany road trip itinerary: Visit stunning historical and cultural sites in Essen
Kickstart your day 2 of the Essen itinerary, with more cultural appreciation starting with the World Heritage Zollverein.
Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex
Explore the coolest Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex, which was awarded the designation of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. If you love machines and industrial history, this is the place to be!
On-site, you can see exhibits of not only industrial art but also culture and creativity.
The stunning building was the largest coal mine in the world at one time, and also the largest coking plant in Europe. Along with its size, and interiors Zollverein is considered to be one of the most beautiful coal mines in the world.
Guided Tour: Coal and Mine (Colliery)
The landmark of the old and new Ruhr area: World Heritage Zollverein. The 35-hectare site is now divided into three areas and includes shaft XII (area A), shaft 1/2/8 (area B), and the coking plant (area t).
Until its decommissioning in 1986, the central Zollverein XII mine was not only the most modern, but also the “most beautiful colliery in the world”.
Together with the Zollverein coking plant and the foundation pit 1/2/8, it is now one of the world heritage sites of mankind. This is where 12,000 tons of coal used to be mined and processed.
Visitors can immerse themselves in the industrial past on the monument paths of the Zollverein colliery and coking plant. The recommended Denkmalpfad or Heritage Trail, is a must-do at the coal mine site, as it offers all visitors an immersive experience into the time when the Zollverein plants were still active.
Numerous guided tours present the Zollverein in all its facets.
Red Dot Design Museum
Also located at the complex is the unique Red Dot Design Museum. Here you will discover the world’s largest and probably most unusual exhibition of contemporary design. There are around 1,000 products from all over the world that are presented in an area of more than 4,000 square meters – all of them awarded the Red Dot prize.
The names of the designers and companies read like a who’s who of design. You will find a similar museum in Singapore too, but this one has the breathtaking architecture of the boiler house of the Zollverein colliery and of course the stunning exhibits waiting for you to explore.
The entry fee starts at 7 euros.
Margarethenhöhe in Essen
Fancy a nice afternoon walk? Head to the English garden, set up by the Krupp family. The journey leads to Margarethen höhe, a settlement donated by Margarethe Krupp in 1906 and built in the style of an English garden city.
The idyllic district was donated by Margarethe Krupp in 1906 on the occasion of the wedding of her daughter Bertha.
Essen in the early 20th century was made up of the workers and employees of the Krupp steel company. According to the plans of the architect Georg Metzendorf, comfortably furnished apartments were built in two-story houses for workers and employees.
Finish sightseeing for the day at a renowned art museum in Germany, the Museum
Folkwang in Essen. This museum takes you through a challenging journey through art history.
At the art museum, you will find both German and French painter’s exhibits from the early 19th century, to modernist paintings after 1945. There are displays of arts and crafts objects, including photographs.
Entrance to the permanent collection of Museum Folkwang is free of charge.
So there you have it – an epic Belgium to Germany road trip with an extended stay in Essen!
Essen is a city rich in history and culture, and I highly recommend visiting. Here you will find world-renowned museums, art galleries, and architecture located throughout the city.
Plus there is greenery, a lake view and more. So whether you’re interested in industrial history or contemporary design, there’s something for everyone in Essen Germany.
Or are you looking for other things to do in Germany? Discover here the best itinerary for two days in Berlin. Or what about a seven-day road trip visiting the most wonderful German cities and castles.