68 Facts about the NRW every expat should know

On August 23, 1946 the province of Westphalia and the northern regions of the Rhine province combined to make Nord-Rhein Westfalen. This year marks the NRW’s 68th birthday. In honor of that birthday – here are 68 NRW facts every local should know.

How the NRW became the NRW

Photo Credit: Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany Windhoek

Photo Credit: Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany Windhoek

  • The Ruhr region, or the “Ruhrgebiet” is the area of cities and towns along the Ruhr river. The Ruhrgebiet includes the cities from Duisburg to Dortmund and Hamm. Before the end of World War II, part of the Ruhrgebiet was in the Rheinland and the rest was in Westfalen.
  • The Ruhrgebiet is the industrial center of Germany. There are many urban industrialized, cities in one area. It’s all about the coal and the steel.
  • After WWII, the Control Commission for Germany – British Element (CCG/BE) redrew state border lines within their occupation area in Germany. Because the Ruhrgebiet was so important to the rebuilding efforts in Germany, they wanted to keep the region confined to one state.
  • That is how the north part of the Rheinland and Westfalen combined to make the NRW in 1946.
  • This combination was known as unofficially called “Operation Marriage” and officially “Regulation No. 46.”
  • In 1947, the free state of Lippe was added to the state.

The flag colors


  • The state’s official colors are a combination of the colors used on the NRW’s previous region flags: The green and white from the Rhein province, the red and white from the Westfalen province.
  • The flag with just the three colors is the civil flag – only meant for use in civilian matters. The state flag includes the coat of arms and is for governmental matters.
  • NRW’s coat of arms also borrows from the previous regions. The green area has a wavy bend sinister (meaning running from top right to bottom right) represents the Rhein River. The red area’s horse represents the Westfalen area. The flower in the central white area is the rose of Lippe, representing Lippe.

The NRW Government

"Der nordrhein-westfälische Landtag nach der Landtagswahl in 2012" by Juebri is licensed under CC BY-S.A. 3.0

“Der nordrhein-westfälische Landtag nach der Landtagswahl in 2012” by Juebri is licensed under CC BY-S.A. 3.0

  • Duesseldorf is the state capital.
  • The current Minister-President, Hannelore Kraft, is from the Social Democrat Party (SPD) and has been in office since 14 July 2010.
  • The current legislature in the NRW has representatives from 5 parties: SPD, CDU, Gruene, FDP, and Piraten.
  • The state is divided into five government districts and 396 municipalities.

The people and families of the NRW

people & families

  • The NRW’s most-popular son, Beethoven, was born in Bonn in the mid-18th century.
  • One of Germany’s most-successful authors, Heinrich Heine was born in Duesseldorf in the late 18th century.
  • More recently, artist Joseph Beuys was born in Krefeld in the early 20th century.
  • Charlemagne, while (possibly) not born in the NRW, was the Father of Europe and made Aachen the seat of his Carolingian and Holy Roman Empire. (Oh, and 2014 marks the 1200th anniversary of his death!)
  • Not only was model Claudia Schiffer born in the NRW, she was discovered in Duesseldorf.
  • The Thyssen family was one of the world’s richest families. They made their money from iron and steel. They came from the Essen area and Muelheim an der Ruhr area and the father figure was known as the “Rockefeller of the Ruhr.”
  • The Krupp family’s history in Essen goes back 400 years. They also made money through steel, armaments, and ammunition. In 1999, their company merged with the Thyssen family company to become ThyssenKrupp.
  • The Albrecht Brothers of Essen took over their mother’s grocery store in the early 20th century. They eventually created a low-cost chain that grew throughout the country. They shortened the shops’ name from Albrecht-Diskont to Aldi. The original store is still in operation on Huestrasse 89 in Essen-Schonnebeck.


 The NRW by the numbers

Nordrhein Westfalen

  • The NRW is Germany’s 4th largest state by area (34,085 km2) and largest state by population (17,837,00).
  • There are 14 Universities in the NRW. Two of them, RWTH Aachen University and the University of Cologne, are part of Germany’s 11 Elite Universities.
  • According to NRW Invest, 16.4% of all German exports are made in the NRW, and 14 of the country’s top companies are based here.

NRW Fussball

NRW Football

  • There are 13 professional football teams, the two most successful B.V.B. Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04.
  • All the teams Borussia Dortmund, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, 1. FC Köln, Borussia Mönchengladbach, FC Schalke 04, MSV Duisburg, VfL Bochum, Arminia Bielefeld, Alemannia Aachen, Fortuna Düsseldorf, Wuppertaler SV, Rot-Weiß Essen and SC Paderborn 07.
  • Germany’s 2014 World Cup Champion Team (!!!) has seven members that play for NRW teams (and just for fun they are):
    • Borussia Dortmund 
      • Erik Durm
      • Kevin Grosskreutz
      • Mats Hummels
      • Roman Weidenfeller
    • Borussia Moenchengladbach
      • Christoph Kramer
    • FC Schalke 04 
      • Benedikt Hoewedes
      • Julian Draxler

Poetry and music


  • The epic poem Das Niebelungenleid, or The Song of the Niebelungs, dates back to the 13th century. The story’s character, Siegfried, is the prince of the NRW town of Xantan.
  • The NRW has an unofficial anthem. It was introduced in 2006 and is called, appropriately, Lied fuer NRW (The Song for the NRW). Here’s the refrain translated:
Here in the Rhine and Ruhr and Westphalia,
to victory and Ems,im Lipperland,
here in the Rhine and Ruhr and Westphalia,
our heart beats, our country lives!

Geography notes

  • Porta Westfalica is a town on the northern border of the NRW. Porta Westfalica translates to “gate to Westfalen” in Latin. The Wesel river that flows at the entrance is the Porta Westfalica Gorge.
  • The Rhein River is Germany’s longest river.
  • The Pader River in Paderborn is the shortest river in Germany.
  • The Balve cave is one of Europe’s biggest prehistoric cave and the Attendorn cave is largest limestone cave outside of the Alps.

Shopping, Food, and Beer

Photo credit: Belle NRW

  • Shopping is a big deal. Duesseldorf’s Koenigsallee (Koe) is known as Germany’s largest upscale shopping street. Essen’s tagline is the shopping center. Centro in Oberhausen is one of Europe’s largest malls.
  • The NRW has 37 Michelin starred restaurants. There are a total of four 2-star restaurants in the NRW: Residence, Essen-Kettwig; La Moissonnier, Koeln; Im Schiffchen, Kaiserswerth; and Gourmetrestaurant Lerbach, Bergisch Gladbach
  • There are more varieties of beer in the NRW than any other state in Germany. It also has more beer production than any other state.
  • Interested in learning more? The NRW Tourism Board is creating an NRW Beer Route, along with the Braurevierband NRW, that will connect major breweries and sites.

The Historical Regions

  • Regions within the NRW overlap between each other and neighboring states throughout history. The can also be narrowed down significantly. However, there are 13 some-what distinct historical regions in the state. Here’s a small tidbit about each one.
  • Bergischesland: Friedrich Engels, co-author of The Communist Manifesto, was born in Barman – now Wuppertal – in 1820.
  • Eifel: The Eifel region is not only in the NRW. It is also part of Rheinland-Pfalz and German-speaking southern Belgium.
  • Aachen: The name Aachen is a derivative of the Latin word for water. Historically it is known for it’s thermal baths.
  • Lower Rhein: People from the Lower Rhein are connected through a common language (Lower Rhenish), Roman Catholicism, and the Rhenish Carnival.
  • Rheinschiene: An area along the Rhein that is currently experiencing economic growth.
  • Cologne/Bonn: Bonn was the capital of West Germany and Cologne holds Germany’s most visited tourist attraction, the Cologne Cathedral.
  • Münsterland: There are over 100 castles in the area all linked together by a bike path known as the 100 Schloesser Route.
  • Minden-Ravensberg: Differs from neighboring areas by its Lutheran religion.
  • Prince-Bishopric Paderborn: This area existed as part of the Holy Roman Empire as a distinct state for over 500 years.
  • Sauerland: The NRWs largest tourist area is in Sauerland. This is due to all the outdoor recreational activities available in the area.
  • Siegerland: The baroque artist Peter Paul Rubens was born in Siegen in the 16th century. Today the city awards painters or graphic designers creating groundbreaking European work with the Rubens Prize. This prize is given out every five years.
  • Tecklenburgerland: Artifacts found in this region date back as early as the Paleolithic Age. It is believed that this area was a hunting ground.
  • Lipperland: In the 12th century the founder was granted this territory by the Holy Roman Emporer. Although the principality ended in 1918, the family still owns the castle in Detmold.

Interesting buildings, design, and architecture

F O Gehry (1)

  • Signal Iduna Park, Borussia Dortmund’s stadium, is the largest football stadium in Germany. During the 2006 World Cup, the stadium hosted 6 games. This included the semi-final game between Germany and Italy in which Germany lost.
  • Colonia Ulpia Traiana was an ancient Roman city with a population of 10,000 people in current-day Xanten. Today the ruins are part of Germany’s largest archaeological open air museum. Buildings on display include an amphitheater, the city wall, and the harbor temple.
  • The famous, award-winning Canadian-American architect Frank O. Gehry designed three NRW buildings; Bad Oeynhausen’s Energie Forum Innovation, Duesseldorf’s Der Neue Zollhof, and Herford’s MARTa.
  • Speaking of Herford, it is the furniture production capital of Germany.
  • The Altenbeken Viaduct is Europe’s longest limestone bridge. It’s also quite old and was inducted by Prussia’s King Frederick William IV in 1853. In 2003 there was a festival celebrating the bridge’s 150th birthday. Since then there’s a celebration every odd year in July.


  • The NRW has six large airports; Dortmund (DTM), Duesseldorf International (DUS), Cologne/Bonn (CGN), Muenster/Osnabruck (FMO), Paderborn/Lippstadt (PAD), and Weeze (NRN). There are many more smaller airports and airfields as well.
  • The total length of the NRW’s road network is 20,000 km.
  • The Schoenes NRW train ticket sold by Deutsche Bahn gives 1-5 people affordable travel prices for local transport, S-, RE-, and RB- trains for one day of travel. (Only 28 EUR for one person, or 41 EUR for 2-5 people as of 2014.)
  • The Wuppertal Schwebebahn is the local transportation system in the city. It is a suspension train with 20 station stops.

Fun facts

  • Germany’s carnival celebrations can be classified under two types. Fasching and the Rhenish Carnival. The Rhenish Carnival is the type celebrated in the NRW, with Cologne and Duesseldorf being two of the three main celebration cities (Mainz in Rheinland-Pfalz is the third.) Cologne’s Carnival is the largest and most known. The party also extends to smaller cities and towns in the NRW.
  • After World War II, West Germany needed a capital. President Adenauer proposed Bonn as the best choice. It was a much smaller and less equipped option, especially compared to Frankfurt and Hamburg. However, Adenauer had different goals. He was from the region and picked Bonn specifically because it was small. His ultimate wish was for Germany to reunite and for Berlin to be reinstated as the capital. He, along with other politicians at the time, felt that choosing a larger city as a capital would give a bad impression. They thought the smaller choice was better aligned with the hope for the future of Germany. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonn#Modern_history
  • The Ruhrgebiet was one of the Cultural Capitals of Europe in 2010, with Essen being that capital.
  • In the mid-1990s an internet joke, turned conspiracy questioned the existence of the NRW city of Bielefeld. Go ahead, google “Bielefeld doesn’t exist.”

Sites and attractions

  • There are currently 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the NRW: Aachen Cathedral (one of the first 12 World Heritage sites in the world, 1 of the first three in Europe, and the first in Germany – inscribed in 1978), Cologne Cathedral (1996), Castles of Augustusburg and Falkenlust (1984), Zeche Zollverein (2001), and the Carolingian Westwork and Civitas Corvey (2014).
  • The Cologne Cathedral is Germany’s most visited attraction in Germany.
  • Germany Top 100 Attractions 2014: Cologne Cathedral (3), the Aachen Cathedral, Teutoburgerwald’s Nature Reserve, and Wuppertal’s Schwebebahn
  • I want to get into more details and interesting points of the NRW’s attractions, but this whole site is dedicated to that very topic, so this is all I’ll say about the rest of it: Visit the homepage and continue visiting as we update more and more places.

(Sources and photo credit after the jump)


Image Credit:
Offset poster for US lecture-series Energy Plan for the Western Man (1974) by Joseph Beuys, organised by Ronald Feldman Gallery, New York
Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York By loungefrog (claudia) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons http://www.aldi-nord.de/aldi_ueber_uns_814.html
“Bayer 04 Leverkusen logo” by de:Datei:Bayer 04 Leverkusen Logo.svg. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Bayer 04 Leverkusen via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bayer_04_Leverkusen_logo.svg#mediaviewer/File:Bayer_04_Leverkusen_logo.svg
“Fc cologne” by 1. FC Köln – http://www.fc-koeln.de. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of 1. FC Köln via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fc_cologne.png#mediaviewer/File:Fc_cologne.png
“Borussia Mönchengladbach logo” by de:Datei:Borussia Moenchengladbach Logo.svg. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Borussia Mönchengladbach via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Borussia_M%C3%B6nchengladbach_logo.svg#mediaviewer/File:Borussia_M%C3%B6nchengladbach_logo.svg
“Borussia Dortmund logo” by This vector image was created with Inkscape by Lispir (Lispir). – Own work azulgrana.futbolowo.pl/. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Borussia_Dortmund_logo.svg#mediaviewer/File:Borussia_Dortmund_logo.svg
“FC Schalke 04 Logo” by Datei:FC Schalke 04 Logo.svg. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of FC Schalke 04 via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:FC_Schalke_04_Logo.svg#mediaviewer/File:FC_Schalke_04_Logo.svg
“Msv duisburg(new)” by The logo may be obtained from MSV Duisburg.. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of MSV Duisburg via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Msv_duisburg(new).svg#mediaviewer/File:Msv_duisburg(new).svg
“VfL Bochum logo” by de:Datei:Logo VfL Bochum.svg. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of VfL Bochum via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:VfL_Bochum_logo.svg#mediaviewer/File:VfL_Bochum_logo.svg
“Logo of Arminia Bielefeld, German football team” by Arminia Bielefeld – from obtained from www.hqfl.dk through User:Johan Elisson. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Arminia Bielefeld via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Logo_of_Arminia_Bielefeld,_German_football_team.png#mediaviewer/File:Logo_of_Arminia_Bielefeld,_German_football_team.png
“Alemannia Aachen” by Alemannia Aachen – http://www.alemannia-aachen.de/. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Alemannia Aachen via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alemannia_Aachen.png#mediaviewer/File:Alemannia_Aachen.png
“Fortuna Düsseldorf” by The logo may be obtained from Fortuna Düsseldorf.. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Fortuna Düsseldorf via Wikipedia -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fortuna_D%C3%BCsseldorf.svg#mediaviewer/File:Fortuna_D%C3%BCsseldorf.svg
“SV Wuppertaler” by Wuppertaler SV Borussia – http://www.wuppertalersv.com/. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Wuppertaler SV Borussia via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:SV_Wuppertaler.png#mediaviewer/File:SV_Wuppertaler.png
“Rwessen” by Rot-Weiss Essen – http://www.rot-weiss-essen.de. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Rot-Weiss Essen via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rwessen.png#mediaviewer/File:Rwessen.png
“Sc paderborn 07” by SC Paderborn 07 – http://www.scpaderborn07.de. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of SC Paderborn 07 via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sc_paderborn_07.png#mediaviewer/File:Sc_paderborn_07.png
Energie-Forum-Innovation in Bad Oeynhausen. Architect: Frank O. Gehry by Grugerio
MARTa in town of Herford, District of Herford, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. 6 Days before the opening. by Wittekind

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One Comment

  1. Heidi Wagoner
    Heidi Wagoner
    August 22, 2014 at 1:52 pm Reply

    Great information. Thanks so much for putting all of this together.

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