When you think of visiting Germany, which cool places come to mind first? Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich? Maybe Hamburg and Bremen. Be honest, did you even think of the Ruhr area? You know, the former industrial center of Germany? Where the mining industry reigned, where factories lined the streets and worker houses sprung up, creating a huge agglomeration of tightly interwoven cities. Doesn’t sound quirky enough for your taste? Then you definitely need to visit because you’ll be blown away. (And no, not from the steam. The area is clean and smoke-free nowadays.)
I am German but I hadn’t considered holidays in the Ruhr region myself, let alone cool stays. I knew of the clichés, I didn’t see the appeal. To be honest, I didn’t even bother to look up if all of that applied anymore. But I travel to so many countries instead of Germany that it was time to change that. You can’t judge a place from hearsay – especially from old and handed down hearsay. You never know until you’ve seen it yourself and that’s what I did. Ruhr Tourism invited me over and I was super excited to have my expectations challenged.
A Heart for Art at the Unperfekthaus in Essen
It started off with my futile attempt to find run down areas covered in graffiti. Everything was so new and renovated! Even the harbour area (yes, inland!) was comprised of shiny new company headquarters. Unexpected! But then I hadn’t even explored my own hotel yet! I stayed at the Unperfekthotel in Essen. The name already is weird enough for my taste. It basically translated to “Imperfect Hotel”.
The Unperfekthotel is part of and directly borders on the Unperfekthaus. Right next to a giant mall on top of the subway station, it stands out as a colourful spot in a regular shopping street. The building reminded me a little of Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. Tubes were winding their way across balconies and underneath hanging flower boxes with herbs in them. In bright yellow letters, the hotel letters were attached to the front. A giant leather chair stood next to the entrance and picnic benches in rainbow colours.
If I had to label it – which is hard, to say the least – I’d say it is a creative hub. The front area is dedicated to a fancy yet comfortable bar and café area, where visitors can dig into the buffet brunch. Once you climb the stairs, be prepared for a maze of rooms and staircases. Every room in it is entirely unique and different. Walls are covered with prints, paintings and graffiti.
In one room, stuffed animals greet you next to a working bench and old computer equipment. Outside on the balcony, a carpenter is hammering away. Next door, an artist has displayed their latest oil paintings. Change your location and you can change your perspective. For a fresh breeze, hit the rooftop. The house is full of wonders and I’ve been told that there is an entertainment toilet with a TV screen as well!
Little USA at the Road Stop Motel Dortmund
For those on the move and wanting to stay outside of the city, why not consider a motel? Yes, Germany has those as well but it is the USA that is known for its stop and ride one night accommodation. This concept was taken up by the Road Stop Motels and the particular charm of the North American country condensed. What is the US of A known for? NYC, Vegas, the Wild West? All that you can find here.
There are various locations all over the Ruhr area, but I was happy to discover the different rooms in Dortmund for starters. I had a hard time choosing between the prison cell and the flashy Las Vegas room. After all, when do you get the time to sleep behind bars in a tiny room with a toilet right next to you? (Yes, I did get to see both a police station and court room abroad, but that’s different.)
In the end, the Vegas room it was for me. And now I know why both rooms are popular with families. (Naughty) Kids get send to the prison room while the parents chill on the round bed next to the white and gold tub. The Vegas room is decked with chips and cards. Sink and toilet paper dispensers are part of an old slot machine. At night, the iconic neon sign and dancing disco ball light up the room.
Of course, I couldn’t help myself and peek into the other rooms as well. The NYC Central Park room had a tree right next to the canopy bed. In the Jim Beam room the toilet was to be found behind a tin divider next to the bed and classic wooden tub. Next, was the LA room all in white and red with bubble chair and sunny feel. But the motel still mostly is and originally was a stop for food refuel. All decked in US memorabilia and a rustic cowboy feel, you can feast on big burgers, fries and milkshakes. No need to ask whether I did just that. Nomnom.
More Cool Stays and Unique Accommodation in the Ruhr Area
The Ruhr area is up and coming and working hard on turning its industrial heritage into quirky gold. Former industrial parks are turned into fun meeting and event spots, old buildings are reclaimed by startups and unique accommodation can be found in many different locations now. During my trip around the Ruhr area, I heard of former building vans transformed into hotel rooms by tranquil streams.
You can sleep in water pipes or in a piece of art! For these, you have to book in advance because they are insanely popular and can only be booked in summer. I am sure more and more of these quirky cool ideas will spread and come into being here in northwestern Germany. If you want to be one of the first to experience them, now you know where to look.
(Here is some inspiration, but it’s in German.)
Which of these cool stays would you want to stay in? (Could even be both and ALL the rooms.)
I would like to thank Ruhr Tourism for sponsoring my trip around the Ruhr area and letting me experience these fantastic and unique accommodations.
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