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Lars Lagaisse

Lars is the co-founder of Kaart Blanche and a freelance editor for So Soir Magazine.

Belgian influencer and journalist Lars Lagaisse in Essen

Quite honestly, I had never even heard of the city of Essen before, never mind thinking about a visit to it. The city in the Ruhr area left me rather surprised.

Just like some other German cities, Essen has lost its actual historical city centre to bombing in World War II. It was, after all, an important industrial city at the time. After the war, Essen rapidly grew to become an indispensable industrial metropolis. While it can be hard to find any charming historical buildings there, Essen’s special feature is its link to the industrial revolution: you will be able to find a certain beauty in machines, endless pipes and tubes.

Trendy iPhones in the Red Dot Design Museum

One great example for this is the old coal mine and the industrial complex Zeche Zollverein, now a centre for museums, festivals, and sporting activities in the north of Essen. The Red Dot Design museum, located there as well, is certainly worth a visit. It exhibits about 2000 utensils of unusual design by designers and manufacturers from 45 countries. This collection covers anything from household appliances and vehicles to electronics and furniture. I particularly love that the museum shows what is trending today rather than a century ago, as many others do.

You will be able to admire some classics of design in a beautiful setting as well, however. For example, any imaginable Apple device can be found in a veritable miniature Apple museum. I discovered the very first iPhone that I had never seen myself here. Belgian design is represented as well with the Spacewalkers designer lamps that resemble cute creatures right out of a spacecraft now exploring their new territory. I particularly loved the “smart package label” on a milk bottle that alerts when the milk expires. As the letters M and K of “milk” fade with the approaching expiration date, only “ill” is left behind. It’s that just ingenious?

Lose yourself on the playground of Duisburg-Nord

When visiting Essen, always take the time for a trip to Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, an extraordinary urban park less than half an hour from Essen in Duisburg, that other important industrial city of the Ruhr area. Once an old, abandoned coal and steel factory, it has been transformed into a sort of urban playground that lets you spend hours walking and discovering new spots that serve as perfect photo backdrops. There is also a nice playground for children, while daredevils will find a climbing wall and diving centre.

The highlight of our visit to Duisburg-Nord, however, was the 70-m-high platform of blast furnace 5, which affords a breath-taking view of Duisburg and the west of the Ruhr area. It may not be ideal if, like me, you suffer from a fear of heights, in which case it may actually give you a cramp in your hand from holding on to the banister.

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Pictures by Lars Lagaisse

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