From Coal to Classical

Recommended itinerary

6 days: 2 days in Essen + 1 day in Düsseldorf + 1 day in Cologne + 2 days in Bonn

Essen – Düsseldorf (approx. 40 min by car/50 min by train)

Düsseldorf – Cologne (approx. 50 min by car/30 min by train)

Cologne – Bonn (approx. 40 min by car/ 20 min by train)

Please check the current travel regulations in your state / country. By the way, our flexible rebooking options mean you still have plenty of possibilities even if your plans change at short notice!

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Stop 1 - Essen

Our Motel One Essen


From the hotel lobby, you can practically step right into Essen’s city centre. On Kettwiger Straße, Essen’s central shopping street, you will find Burgplatz, which is home to the Essen Minster or Essen Cathedral and is essentially the nucleus of the city. 
This church dates back to about 850 when a women’s convent was founded here, which in the Middle Ages was one of the most prominent religious institutions for women in the German Empire. Both the Cathedral and the Cathedral Treasury are open to visitors. You can also buy liquid gold: honey from the cathedral garden!

In summer, the Burgplatz also hosts the open air cinema of the legendary Lichtburg . Located in the heart of the city and with 1,250 seats, the Lichtburg is the biggest – and some say, the most beautiful – cinema in Germany. At some showings, local professional musicians perform to pass the time until the sun goes down and the film begins. Click here to view the programme.

The Essen culture trail (marked by blue cobblestones) takes you through the city centre and the Südviertel district: the four-kilometre trail leads you past various cultural sites and buildings, such as the Old Synagogue, the Friedenskirche church and Grillo-Theater. Start at the Folkwang footbridge.


The mining boom, the expansion of the railway and the rise of the Kruppschen steel factory into a global corporation were three essential factors that shaped the city of Essen in the 19th century. You can still see the effects and traces of this industrialisation in and around Essen to this day:

Zollverein Coal Mine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site: A visit to the world’s largest and most efficient coal mine is an absolute must. Click here for guided tours and more information (approx. 15 min by car/20 min by public transport).

Schacht 3/7/10: Fancy a picnic with a phenomenal view? How about on this 35 metre former mine shaft tower? Click here to book. If you suffer from vertigo, you can also enjoy your picnic UNDERNEATH the mine shaft tower.  

Red Dot Design Museum: As a Motel One guest, you clearly appreciate good design... So why not stop by the world’s largest exhibition of contemporary design? What began in 1955 as ‘Ständige Schau formschöner Industrieerzeugnisse’ (‘Permanent Show of Elegant Industrial Products’) in Villa Hügel is now the Red Dot Design Museum, with 2,000 international products on display in the former boiler house of the Zollverein mine.


Margarethenhöhe: This southern district is now an upscale neighbourhood with unique character. In the past, the houses here were used as residential buildings for city officials and employees of the Krupp works. At its centre is the Margarethenhöhe settlement, which was initiated as the first German garden city by Margarethe Krupp. The 115 hectare settlement, which grew between 1909 and 1939, is considered an example of ‘modern and healthy’ living and is a particular highlight for architecture fans, who can explore this ‘living monument’ on a guided tour or at their own pace (approx. 15 min by car/20 min by public transport).

Villa Hügel: This villa, where the Krupp family lived from 1873 to 1945, complete with ornate rooms and an extensive park, has become a symbol of the age of industrialisation in Germany. It is now open to the public (approx. 20 min by car/35 min by public transport).

Grugapark: Pay a visit to one of Essen’s top green areas, its Botanical Garden, complete with a petting zoo, aviaries, an observation tower and more! (Approx. 11 min by car/20 min by public transport.)

Lake Baldeney: This lake, originally designed as a water reservoir, is now a popular recreational area, which visitors can explore via a 14 km circular walk or on one of the boats of the Weißen Flotte.  

Werden Old Town: Unfortunately, there’s no longer any Old Town to speak of in Essen – but the Old Town in Werden makes up for it! Here, you can enjoy a lovely stroll through historic buildings (approx. 20 min by car/30 min by public transport).  

Heidhausen: Hiking in Essen? Of course! There’s a wide range of hiking trails to choose from – in the district of Heidhausen, for example, you can discover the highest point of Essen

The Ruhr Valley Cycle Path combines (industry) culture and nature on a fun 240 km trail. You can get on to the cycle path in Essen – for example, at Steele, Bergerhausen or Lake Baldeney – and follow it at your own pace. Here’s an overview.

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Stop 2 - Düsseldorf

Our Motel One Dusseldorf

Düsseldorf or Cologne – Cologne or Düsseldorf? We are well aware of the rivalry between these two cities! But why does it have to be a choice? Why not simply discover the best parts of both cities while you’re in the area? You don’t have to tell anyone which one you prefer!

Düsseldorf has its own leaning tower, the St. Lambertus basilicaThis landmark has shaped the Old Town skyline since 1394. The Heinrich-Heine-Geburtshaus is a popular spot among bookworms, especially when it hosts its regular readings and courses (programme). At the Classic Remise Düsseldorf, proud car owners can display their vehicles in glass-fronted garages and let visitors gaze at them. Maritime fans can also get their fill at Düsseldorf's Maritime Museum. The museum documents the 2,000-year history of navigation on the Rhine – and is also home to the last remnant of the city palace from 1386. A walk through the MedienHafen is an absolute must for architecture fans. Discover all the big names that have immortalised themselves and explore a fascinating blend of architectural styles and buildings. Finish off your cultural tour with a trip to Filmmuseum Düsseldorf, which is full of highlights from film history and film production, including old set models, cameras and technical equipment, as well as costumes and props from various films – how’s that for a happy ending!

With 260 bars and pubs, Düsseldorf’s Old Town – some parts of which date back to 1288, when the city was first founded – is not known as ‘the longest bar in the world’ for nothing. Cheers!

Either on one of Düsseldorf’s three city beaches on the Rhine Promenade with the Old Town behind you, or on Paradise Beach with the MedienHafen behind you and a great view of the Rhine knee. Or in the castle park of the electoral summer and hunting lodge Schloss Benrath, which is doubly protected as both a nature reserve and a listed building (approx. 20 min by car/40 min by public transport).

Get yourself over to the northern part of the city Kaiserswerth and up to the ruins of the ‘Kaiserpfalz’ of King Barbarossa from 1174, and enjoy a view of the Rhine (approx. 20 min by car/30 min by public transport – and in summer you can also catch a boat from Düsseldorf city centre!). The Rhine Tower is a little closer, a little newer and with a height of 240 metres the 10th tallest television tower in Germany. On sunny days, you can see all the way to Cologne!

History fans will love the small medieval village of Dormagen-Zons (approx. 30 min by car/ 1 hour by public transport), which is located by the Rhine and still completely surrounded by the original city wall – and for the little ones, there is the Märchenwald Altenberg (approx. 50 min by car/1.5 hours by public transport).

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Stop 3 - Cologne

Our Motel One Cologne

Everyone knows you can’t go to Cologne without seeing the cathedral! But here are a few other ideas too:

French flair is everywhere on Rathenauplatz. Here, surrounded by small, iconic cafés, pubs and handsome old buildings, you can play boules and enjoy a bit of ‘savoir-vivre’ in a beer garden. If you’re looking for young and trendy, head to Aachener Straße. Starting at Rudolfplatz, you can stroll along and stop at Salon Schmitz (furnished with some absolute design classics). Typical Cologne: Try a few bars further towards Neumarkt (just a stone’s throw from our Motel One Cologne-Neumarkt): bei d’r Tant and Thiebolds-Eck“ are two very ‘kölsche’ bars serving simple but delicious kölsch/German dishes. Stroll down south: In Cologne’s Südstadt district, around Chlodwigplatz on Bonnerstraße and Alteburgerstraße, you will find lots of little shops and great restaurants! And towards Rodenkirchen, you can also find some idyllic little spots by the Rhine. At the edge of the city centre, it gets a little more elegant and stylish on Dürener Straße. Take a stroll beneath the linden trees and browse the exquisite boutiques. 

From the South Tower of Cologne Cathedral or the viewing platform of the


, you can enjoy the stunning views of the city. If you would like to enjoy your view in motion, you can also ride the 55 metre Ferris wheel, currently located by the Rhine, which offers a stunning panoramic view of the city – and then sharpen your tastebuds afterwards with some tasty treats at the neighbouring Chocolate Museum.

Water-lovers can also admire Cologne from the Rhine. There are various themed boat tours - including evening tours with cocktails or day tours; you can even go all the way to Bonn, our fourth stop! 
And speaking of evening cocktails, get a bit of that exotic holiday feeling in the km 689 Cologne Beach Club – and gaze at the beautiful cathedral, which is lit up at night.

The ‘Flora’ in north Cologne is a 11.5 hectare garden that really brings into focus the importance of plants in our diet, technology and medicine. The Botanical Garden , established in 1914, is connected to it. It gets a bit wilder in the game park in the heart of the city: in the Lindenthaler Tierpark, which is more than 100 years old, you can see donkeys, goats, sheep and deer; admission is free! The Fühlinger See is actually a series of seven lakes and one regatta course. So make sure you pack your seven bathing suits (approx. 20 min by car/1 hour by public transport). Or maybe even your bike? If you would like a short bike trip, head to the Brühler Palaces – or rather the Augustusburg and Falkenlust UNESCO World Heritage Sites, complete with splendid parks (approx. 45 min by bike/30 min by public transport/20 min by car).

It’s worth stopping at Schloss Türnich in Kerpen. The fully preserved baroque castle, complete with a chapel, park, farm and a fun maze for the kids, is nestled in a beautiful natural landscape (approx. 35 min by car/1 hour by public transport). Or take a different path with a visit to the classic theme park Phantasialand in Brühl (approx. 35 min by car/1 hour by public transport).

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Stop 4 - Bonn

Our Motel One Bonn


The road to democracy: Many historic sites recall Bonn’s past as Germany’s capital and seat of government, such as the Federal Council and Parliament buildings (the Bundesrat and Bundestag) or the Kanzlerbungalow, which you can visit on a signposted circular tour through the former government district .

In the Haus der Geschichte, you can embark on a journey through the most important political events in Germany since 1945 (free entry).


Bonn has an incredible number of museums and galleries ranging from the university’s Egyptian Museum to the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig. Here are just two recommendations:

The Bonn Museum of Modern Art has approx. 9,000 pieces on display, with an emphasis on August Macke and the Rhenish Expressionist artists – as well as German art post-1945. 

The Bundeskunsthalle is an essential stop for any art fan. Here, you can view art from all eras, including contemporary art, and exhibitions on cultural-historical themes, archaeology, science and other fields. 


In his birthplace Bonn, Ludwig van Beethoven is present on every corner, in the form of historic sites and in artistic representations of his person, from the monument on Münsterplatz to lettering in front of the opera house. The Beethoven Haus offers visitors a detailed insight into his life and work. 

By the way, the Beethoven Fest, which was planned for this year to celebrate Ludwig van Beethoven’s 250th birthday, has been postponed for the most part to 20 August-10 September 2021. Classical music fans should be sure to check out the programme in advance!

Bonn also played a key role in the life of another German composer: Robert Schumann spent the last years of his life here. He is commemorated in the museum in the Schumannhaus.


If you need a short break from exploring the city centre, behind the Kurfürstlichen Schloss, you will find the Hofgarten, a green oasis in the heart of the city.

Just outside it is the recreation and leisure park Rheinauea network of footpaths of almost 45 km, the 15 hectare Lake Auensee, which is perfect for boat trips, a Japanese garden... The sky is truly the limit! (Approx. 15 min by car/25 min by public transport).

In Bonn, you can also set sail and cruise up and down the Rhine at your leisure. There are even Beethoven tours, murder mystery dinner trips and brunch tours (schedules available here).


In Bonn’s villa district Bad Godesberg, stroll around, admire the incredible houses and enjoy the view – as just above it towers the Godesburg, one of the first elevated fortresses by the Rhine (approx. 20 min by car/30 min by public transport).

The 321 metre Drachenfels (approx. 40 min by car/1.5 hours by public transport) is the most famous hill of the Seven Mountains range and provides a sensational view of Bonn and the Rhine valley. At the top are the ruins of Burg Drachenfels, which dates back to 1167 and is the subject of many mysterious myths and legends. You can reach it by foot, by car or on the historic Zahnradbahn in Königswinter.

Return downhill by foot and, halfway back, you can explore Schloss Drachenburg along with its castle garden. If you need to recharge, you can stop at the small pub Weingut Pieper, where you can settle comfortably in the beer garden with a glass of wine from the Mittelrhein wine region and raise a toast to a successful trip.

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Change of plan? With our flexible rebooking system, you have plenty of options!