Western Contrasts bus-bike2

Border Hopping and Industrial Heritage

German architecture including industrial heritage buildings are part of this germany trip

This tour will take you to three countries within a week.

Starting out from German Aachen you will explore Dutch Maastricht and Belge Brussels, then on to experience how Germany has transformed its industrial heritage sites into cultural spaces.

On a scenic bike ride you will glide past romantic moated castles, manors, churches and sleepy villages in the Münster region. Guided tours of cities, museums and sights like a transformed coal mine complex or a historical boat lift will reveal many hidden gems.


book-nowOur Highlights: Valkenburg Grottos – Brussels - Moated Castles Bike Tour – Guided Tour of Transformed Coal Mine Complex – Industrial Monuments and Museums – Historical Boat Lift



map of western germany including Belgium and The Netherlands day trips

Map of Germany


Day 1: Aachen – Day Trip to Maastricht, The Netherlands

Day 2: Valkenburg Grottos, The Netherlands – Brussels, Belgium

Day 3: Industrial Heritage in Essen – ‘Tetraeder Halde’ and ‘Zollverein’ Coal Mine Industrial Complex

Day 4: Ruhr Region Industrial Sites – Mining Museum Bochum and Gasometer Oberhausen

Day 5: Art Museum Folkwang – Historic Town Lüdinghausen

Day 6: Moated Castles Bike Tour

Day 7: Münster – Boat Lift Henrichenburg


Day 1: Aachen – Day Trip to Maastricht, The Netherlands

We start our tour in Aachen and soon experience first hand why Germany is often referred to as the heart of Europe. After a very short drive we cross the border into The Netherlands and visit Maastricht, which is also within walking distance of Belgium (we’ll go there on Day 2!).  

Maastricht is a great place to spend some time; it contains some magnificent buildings and culture, taking the form of plenty of old houses and buildings, lovely cathedrals and a spectacularly cobblestoned town centre. The city is also well known for its fine cuisine and excellent shops.

We enjoy a sightseeing tour with a local guide and take in the multicultural atmosphere before heading back across the border to Aachen, where we spend the night in a central hotel.

Day 2: Valkenburg Grottos, The Netherlands – Brussels, Belgium

Today we will spend time in three different countries! In the morning we drive from Aachen to the impressive Valkenburg Grotto in The Netherlands and enjoy a guided tour of this fascinating underground world.

The Romans started work on these municipal caves around 2000 years ago when they began mining the ground for the marl that they needed as building material.
Today they provide an exciting overview of various forms of artistic expression and the living conditions of countless generations of humans, as wall paintings and plaques give us a taste of the past.
This combination of nature and culture forms a unique story, a story that is made even more interesting by the mysterious character of the dark labyrinth of around 70km (!) of underground passages.

In the afternoon we head to Brussels, the capital of Belgium. As headquarters of many European institutions, Brussels might also be considered something of a capital for the European Union, and thus plays an important role in Europe. Brussels fits the definition of the archetypal "melting pot", but still retains its own unique character.
We go on a sightseeing tour with a local guide to learn more about this interesting city before we drive back to Aachen for the night.

Day 3: Industrial Heritage in Essen – ‘Tetraeder Halde’ and ‘Zollverein’ Coal Mine Industrial Complex

The next couple of days are dedicated to Germany’s Industrial Heritage.
First we drive to Essen, our base for the next two days.

We visit former mine dumps that have been cleverly transformed into recreational areas and landmarks that can be seen from a great distance and symbolise the change the Ruhr Region has gone through. The ‘Tetraeder Halde’ for example is a 50m high construction on top of a 65m mound and is made of steel tubes and twisted castings representing the region’s steel industry.

Then we enjoy a guided tour of the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex, an imposing former coal mine and coking plant that has been inscribed into the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites since 2001 and offers amazing insights into Germany’s Industrial Heritage.

Day 4: Ruhr Region Industrial Sites – Mining Museum Bochum and Gasometer Oberhausen

Essen is one of the many formerly industrial towns that together make up the so-called ‘Ruhrgebiet’ (Ruhr Region), the largest urban agglomeration in Germany.
Since the 19th century, these districts have grown together into a large complex with a vast industrial landscape, inhabited by some 7.3 million people. The city of Essen (representing the Ruhr Region) was selected as European Capital of Culture for 2010 by the Council of the European Union.

Today we visit two interesting sites in the Ruhr Region. We start at the ‘Bergbaumuseum’ in Bochum, a museum about mining technology, complete with pithead tower. We explore the accessible underground coal mine for some first-hand experience of Germany’s industrial past.

The next site we visit, the ‘Gasometer’ in Oberhausen, is more than just an industrial monument. Built in the late 1920's and decommissioned about twenty years ago, Europe's largest disc-type gas holder is an impressive reminder of the heavy industry that characterised the Ruhr for more than a century.
As a venue it inspired artists of international relevance. In 2013, acclaimed artist Christo installed the world's largest indoor sculpture here.

Day 5: Art Museum Folkwang – Historic Town Lüdinghausen

Before we leave Essen, we visit the Museum Folkwang, one of the most prominent art museums in Germany with outstanding collections of painting and sculpture from the 19th century, Classical Modernism and the post-1945 period, as well as photography, to which Museum Folkwang has dedicated its own department since 1979.

We drive on to Lüdinghausen, where we will stay the next two nights. The town was first mentioned in the year 800 and boasts a great abundance of historical buildings, including several castles. We take a stroll together through this impressive townscape and then you have the rest of the day free to enjoy as you wish.

Day 6: Moated Castles Bike Tour

Lüdinghausen is situated in the Münster Region “Münsterland”, which is famous for its castles, e.g. Castle Nordkirchen and Castle Lüdinghausen. The region offers more than 100 castles, all linked up by the bike path 100 Schlösser Route.

Today we go on a bike tour (ca. 40-45km) that will take us to romantic moated castles (“Wasserschlösser”), stately manors, historical churches, and dreamy villages on the typical “Pättkes” (mostly flat, well paved bike trails). The very best way of experiencing the magic of the “Münsterland Wasserschlösser”!

We stay a second night in the beautiful town of Lüdinghausen.

Day 7: Münster – Boat Lift Henrichenburg

We head to Münster, which is authorised to call itself "The World's Most Liveable City". Over 450 cities from around the world participated in the annual urban competition in 2004, organised by UNEP, the United Nations Environment Programme.

But before we explore the city we visit a nearby gigantic boat lift ('Schiffshebewerk Henrichenburg') that was inaugurated by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1899. The lift was the biggest and most spectacular structure on the Dortmund-Ems-Kanal without which it would not have been possible to navigate to Dortmund Port.

In Münster we then go on a city sightseeing tour with a local guide that knows and loves the many interesting facets of this attractive city and will happily bring many interesting stories to life. One of the things not to be missed is definitely the baroque castle and the adjacent botanical gardens.

We enjoy a last night together in Münster. Individual departure after breakfast the next morning.
We are happy to help arrange your arrival and departure or book additional services for you (such as additional nights).


Maastricht, an important Dutch city, is situated on both sides of the river Meuse and early archaeological finds suggest that already in Neanderthal times (600 - 350,000 years ago) it was populated. Maastricht developed from a Roman settlement to a religious centre, a garrison city and an early industrial city. Today, it is known as a city of history, culture, local folklore and education. Click to read more

Brussels is the de facto capital of the European Union and hosts the principal EU institutions as well as the headquarters of the NATO. But it is also known as a purveyor of fine chocolates, excellent beers and delicate lace.

Fortunately the two World Wars did not damage the city badly, so today you can enjoy the spectacular architecture of the Renaissance and Baroque period. Click to read more

The city is situated along the river Ruhr in the largest urban agglomeration in Germany called the Ruhrgebiet (Ruhr region), or more colloquial Ruhrpott, Pott or Revier, which all refer to its history of coal mining and steel production. Nowadays Essen is a vibrant city with lots of businesses located there and the arts alive and well in the region. Visiting the mines during your stay in Essen, you will be able to experience the amazing architecture prevalent at the construction periods. Click to read more

Gasometer Oberhausen
Oberhausen is home to the tallest Gasometer (Gas holder) in Europe at 117.5m high and has been open for exhibitions since 1994. Even though the exhibition space is restricted to the bottom 4.5 meters of the building, the rest of the structure can be explored via a glass panorama lift, other lifts and stairs leading to the top. From up there a unique panoramic view of the whole of the western river Ruhr can be enjoyed which, during clear weather, extends over 35 kilometres. Click to read more

The city is situated in the Münster region and can boast a range of castles in its vicinity: ranging from earliest defensive estate (Castle Kakesbeck) to Middle Ages design (Castle Vischering) to Renaissance castle (Castle Lüdinghausen).

As befitting a region dominated by waterways and not mountains: cycling is BIG here! Click to read more

As early as 793 AD Münster played an important role in the region and Charlemagne had sent the missionary Ludger to evangelise the Münsterland region. He became the first ordained bishop of Münster and the first cathedral was completed in 850.

Enjoy your stay with your local guide showing you all the special hideaways and treats, giving you a taste of relaxed living in northern Germany. Click to read more

You can find more info and background stories about the interesting sights of this tour in our blog articles overview page.

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Photos: Deutsche Zentrale für Tourismus / Fotolia



























Dates, Services & Price


All our tours are available on customized dates between June and September.
We can guarantee departures if you have a group of 4 or more - contact us

This tour links with Rhine and Romans and Cosmopolitan North and/or can be booked with any of our other tours.
We are happy to help arrange your transport, additional nights or any other services as required.


What's Included:

• 7 day tour in Minibus, excursions and activities as detailed in itinerary

• 7 nights in good mid-range hotels (German standard 3 stars) incl. breakfast

all accommodation in double or twin rooms, single room optional with surcharge

• 2x 3 course dinner (Essen & Luedinghausen)

• Traditional Currywurst (local specialty) in Bottrop

• Snacks & drink on cycle tour

• Maastricht (The Netherlands)

  - Guided city tour

  - Entrance fee and guided tour in Valkenburg Grotto (The Netherlands)

•  Brussels (Belgium)

   - Guided city walk

• Essen

   - Guided tour Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex and museum entrance fee

• Bochum

   - Mining museum Bochum entrance fee

   - Gasometer Oberhausen entrance fee, Christo exhibition

• Folkwang/Essen

   - Art museum entrance fee

• Münster region

   - Bike hire for cycling tour to 'Moated Castles in Münsterland'

• Münster

   - Boat lift Henrichenburg entrance fee and guided tour
   - Guided city tour

• Professional bilingual & bicultural tour guide (English/German) throughout your whole trip

• Most guided tours are for the members of our group only and carried out by local guides


EUR 1.785 p.p. for  4 - 6 participants (discount available for groups of 7 or more)



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