Highest quality of life in NRW
NRW also offers plenty of room for variety and excitement outside of the state's vibrant economic life. This is why NRW is one of the most popular destinations in Germany with more than 22 million guests per year. Attractions for visitors from all over the world include the event and shopping facilities in Düsseldorf, Cologne and the Ruhr Metropolis. The cultural offerings are also first-rate: More than 900 museums and 130 theaters make the state one of the most diverse cultural regions in Europe, on a par with Paris and London. Five buildings in NRW alone have been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO: Aachen Cathedral, Cologne Cathedral, Augustusburg Castle in Brühl, the Corvey monastery in Ostwestfalen-Lippe and the former colliery Zeche Zollverein in Essen. It is precisely the industrial culture of the state that is unique in Europe. For activities in the outdoors, there are 14,000 kilometers of cycle paths and over 50,000 kilometers of hiking trails. And in winter, the largest ski area north of the Alps attracts hundreds of thousands of winter sports enthusiasts to the Sauerland region. The varied and diverse range of cultural and leisure activities allows visitors to discover something surprising and stimulating every day.
UNESCO World Heritage
NRW boasts five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, therefore earning it a place in the list of rich cultural landscapes:
Cologne Cathedral is the most popular German attraction with 6.5 million visitors annually. Aachen Cathedral is an important example of Carolingian architecture and the castles Augustusburg and Falkenlust near Brühl are regarded as a total work of art of the German Rococo with their architecture, paintings and gardens. And the former colliery Zeche Zollverein in Essen is one of the most impressive industrial monuments in Europe. And a newcomer in summer 2014: the Corvey monastery in Westphalian Höxter, one of the most important Carolingian monasteries.
Theater, concerts and music
With some 130 stages, NRW has the densest theater landscape in Europe. Renowned venues, including the Schauspielhaus Bochum, the Schauspielhaus Cologne or the Essen Aalto Theater, offer audiences a wide variety of entertainment. The Cologne Philharmonie and Konzerthaus Dortmund provide special musical treats – with classical and modern music, choir concerts and jazz. Dance and ballet fans are fully catered for at prestigious venues such as the Ballet of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein or Tanztheater Wuppertal. In addition, NRW has a huge range of festivals and concerts from jazz, rock and pop to well-known musicals.
With more than 900 museums, NRW is among the richest cultural landscapes in Europe, along with Paris and London. The Kunstsammlung (art collection) Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf, for example, shows works by the greatest artists of the twentieth century. The Museum Ludwig in Cologne houses one of the most important contemporary art collections in Europe. Other prominent buildings include the Art and Exhibition Hall in Bonn, the Museum Folkwang in Essen, the House of History in Bonn and Moyland Castle. In addition, ART COLOGNE, the world's oldest art fair, is held each year in the cathedral city.
Shopping and pleasure
NRW is also a genuine shopper's paradise. The state has by far the highest density of busy shopping streets. The Königsallee in Düsseldorf is one of the most elegant shopping streets in Germany and CentrO in Oberhausen is one of Germany's largest shopping malls. The state's cultural heritage also includes its culinary specialties: Gastronomic delights are provided by international restaurants, great beer pubs with gardens or cozy bistros with specialties from all over the world, as well as domestic offerings such as Sauerbraten (marinated pot roast) or the fast-food classic Currywurst with fries. World-class chefs bring the stars to NRW – there are 45 starred restaurants located here.
Sport and leisure
Another reason for the high quality of life in NRW is the numerous leisure and sports facilities. There are over 50,000 kilometers of marked trails for hikers, more than 100 lakes available for swimming and water sports fun on hot days, and 12 nature parks totaling around 13,000 square kilometers cover over 40 percent of the state's total area. The Eifel region is also home to the first national park in NRW. Golfers swing their clubs on the manicured greens of more than 170 golf courses. Even winter sports enthusiasts can go skiing and snowboarding in the indoor ski slopes in Bottrop and Neuss or in Winterberg, the largest winter sports region north of the Alps. High-caliber professional sports can also be followed in the sports state NRW. Nowhere is this more evident than in soccer: It is hard to find a density of soccer stadiums, top clubs and fans comparable to that in NRW. Attractive top events are held regularly in the high-tech arenas, such as those in Dortmund, Gelsenkirchen/Schalke and Cologne. In total there are 5,100 soccer clubs in NRW with around 1.5 million members in 38,000 teams. And at the CHIO Aachen, one of the world's major horse shows, the international equestrian elite gathers each year.
State of emergency
Helau and Alaaf! By tradition, the Carnival, also known as the "fifth season", begins at 11 minutes past 11 on 11/11. Starting on "Weiberfastnacht" (the Thursday before Shrove Thursday), a "state of emergency" is declared in the carnival strongholds Düsseldorf and Cologne in particular. Thousands of revelers celebrate in the street carnival, at "sittings" and carnival balls, or take part in the annual Shrove Monday processions.