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Guided Tours: Denkmalpfad Zollverein

Basic Information

Denkmalpfad Zollverein (Monument Path Zollverein) provides guided tours through the authentic buildings and machinery of the former coal mine and coking plant. Zollverein is presented through three lenses: technology; work and workers; and history and recent transformation. Since the 1990s, Denkmalpfad has offered and developed guided tours in diverse formats and languages. Since 2009, digitally animated sounds, machines in virtual operation, and illustrations help to understand Zollverein’s historic function at Shaft Site XII. Approximately 155,000 people attend one of the ca. 9,500 tours offered each year. Training is part of an ongoing qualification programme among the ca. 100 tour guides. From 2018 onwards, the Denkmalpfad will offer extended activities at the coking plant area.

Long-term perspective: The Denkmalpfad Zollverein uses its experience to broaden the range of attractions, not only for tourists but especially for locals and specifically local schools. The Zollverein Mittendrin project has become a part of the Denkmalpfad, to support these ongoing and future education activities in the adjacent districts of Zollverein.


The Denkmalpfad Zollverein is the core element for informing and educating visitors about Zollverein. The diverse tours address various audiences, ranging from local schools to international visitors. They thematise the Zollverein’s technology and buildings; the products and production processes; the work and the workers, including working conditions, health risks, and workers' lives; the changes in technology and economy; as well as the environmental impacts and social meanings of the coal mine and coking plant today. The material substance of the former coal mine is used as a walk-in exhibition within the guided tours only. The new Zollverein Coking Plant path includes “education cubes” on specific topics such as production processes, environmental protection, architecture, and social movements. New cubes and elements will be integrated into the existing tours in coming years.

The Denkmalpfad includes specific attractions for schools and local institutions. It builds on five modules (titled Zollverein historical aspects, Zollverein in the course of time, Zollverein active experience, green, and urban) and will be expanded in the near future.

Part of the project is the structured training provided for tour guides, including feedback procedures, and the adaptation of tour formats through evaluation by target groups. Next to qualification and evaluation, the use of quality standards, expectation and need analysis, and quality surveys support various monitoring and enhancement processes.

Urban Development

The Denkmalpfad Zollverein programme contributes to the revitalisation and liveliness of the site. The activities attract visitors who might seek accommodation, food, or other events offered in the district. Activities and attractions that are beneficial for both sides, and their information and communication for visitors, can be expanded in the future. 

The programme responds to educational needs in the district, offering activities specifically for schools, and holiday programmes for young locals together with the Ruhr Museum. Although most activities are moderately priced, they may nevertheless be unaffordable for low-income families.
Therefore, the local school programme will be financially supported to provide activities free of charge. In doing so, the Denkmalpfad Zollverein meets one of the development demands of the district: to enhance education through extracurricular activities and places to learn.

Denkmalpfad offers freelance work opportunities and professional development through the training programme for tour guides, enhancing soft skills, communication skills, and expert knowledge. Most guides work as entrepreneurs, covering assignments in the Ruhr area.


The Denkmalpfad Zollverein department conducts primary research to inform its educational programmes. 

The various activities are evaluated through demand analysis of visitor numbers, visitor questionnaires, and by consulting the tour guides. This leads to adaptation of the tour contents, and to training guides on specific issues. These processes serve quality management and monitoring.


Denkmalpfad Zollverein is conceptualised, organised, and implemented by the Denkmalpfad department at the Zollverein Foundation. This core product realises the Foundation’s aim of promoting, conserving, and reusing the cultural heritage, wherein the opening and enabling of access are central issues. The Denkmalpfad project is structured through internal evaluation and adaptation processes in ongoing consultation with the conservation authorities and the site development department of the Zollverein Foundation.

The core resource is the historic fabric of the site, including the machinery and technical objects located in conditions of authenticity and integrity. They are objects of information and education about past times, transmitted to present and future generations. Further resources are activated through oral information and discussion with the tour guides, and through digital animations to illustrate the historic production, its processes, conditions, and impacts. The broad spectrum of tour formats in various languages addresses diverse target groups. 


Denkmalpfad Zollverein supports and strengthens the conservation of the UNESCO World Heritage site in its complexity of being both architecture and technical plant. Both are equally important for this form of reuse. Denkmalpfad not only presents the authentic conserved (although cleaned) material structures, but also reactivates their immaterial and sensitive dimensions as sound and atmosphere through narratives, stories, and animation. Former workers serve as tour guides, and add a personal and detailed perception of Zollverein’s heritage.

The Denkmalpfad concept includes the opportunity to present the controversial aspects of Zollverein’s history, necessitating explicit reference to topics such as environmental damage, exploitation of workers and nature, and involvement in wartime production. Furthermore, complex issues can be discussed, such as essential energy supply, and sustainability concerns in the context of ongoing climate change. 


Denkmalpfad Zollverein contributes to — and supports — industrial tourism at the site and in the Ruhr region. Its tours and activities attract local, national, and international visitors. Minimal interventions are needed to improve information, to secure the path through the monument site, and to provide accessibility for all, including people with disabilities. Special offers are provided, such as tours for hobby photographers, children and families, and e-mobility bus tours. Furthermore, young visitors are addressed through more interactive formats, such as an architectural rally or a workshop about the structural change of the region.

Communities Engagement

Locals and former Zollverein workers are approached to become tour guides for Denkmalpfad Zollverein. Visitors have the opportunity to discuss their own interests with their guides, or to interact with the place through one of the specific activities, for example the GPS discovery tours.

Sustainable Development & Climate Change

Environmental damage is one aspect discussed in relation to the Ruhr region’s structural change. In 2017 Essen won the European Green Capital award, which has created a further framework for education on environmental issues and sustainability.
The new Denkmalpfad at the coking plant includes one of twelve cubes that present information about the harmful environmental impacts of the former coke production. It further explains the environmental protection measures implemented historically and today. The information includes aspects of civil protest against the coking plant due to its predicted and realised pollution effects.