Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

North Rhine-Westphalia
Art, Archaeology & History Sites & Museums

There are said to be over 14,000 kilometres of cycle paths in North Rhineland-Westphalia. The region is also known for its spectacular hiking trails. And for a more leisurely experience, over 1,500 kilometres of rivers – some of which serve cruise boats. These routes take in many interesting and important historical sites, from Roman ruins and medieval castles, to industrial monuments and museums. One of the five UNESCO listed heritage sites in this state is the imposing Cologne Cathedral, which is Germany’s most visited attraction. North Rhine-Westphalia is the birthplace to some of Germany’s most influential artists, including the composer Beethoven, the poet Heine an the artist Beuys. 

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Archaeology & History Sites in North Rhine-Westphalia

Bielefeld Farmhouse Museum

The Farmhouse Museum at Bielefeld, North Rhine-Westphalia, was established in 1915. The main building originally erected here, the Meier zu Ummeln, burned down in 1995 although was later replaced by another, the 16th century Möllering farm. As well as these historic domestic residences, the museum contains other structures, like a bakery, apiary, and post windmill, together helping to give visitors an impression of rural life in western Germany during the 19th century.

Anholt Moated Castle

The moated castle set within a Baroque English style park is one of the most beautiful castles of its kind in Münsterland. Although the earliest recorded mention dates back to the 12th century, it was around 1700 that the fortified castle was turned into a lavish stately residence for Prince Nikolaus of Salm-Salm. Today the castle houses a substantial art collection of some 700 masterpieces, including paintings by such artists as Rembrandt, Jan Brueghel the Elder and Holbein. Part of the castle is a four star hotel.

LVR-Archaeological Park Xanten

The archaeological park on the edge of the medieval town of Xanten was built on the ruins of the Roman settlement Colonia Ulpia Traiana, on the banks of the Lower Rhine. Founded in 70 AD, the Roman town was the second most important commercial post in Germania Inferior, after Cologne. In 275 AD it was completely destroyed by Germanic tribes, and rebuilt as Tricensimae. That too was destroyed by local tribes. A number of features have been reconstructed in the park, including an amphitheatre, bath house and defensive wall.

Cologne - Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium

Colonia was always an important town for the Romans; the capital of the province of Germania Inferior and later the capital of Germania Secunda. The regional headquarters of the military in the region was based here. There are a number of features to see in the city, including sections of the wall and towers. The Roman museum, exhibitions are currently in a temporary location, was built on the foundations of a townhouse and displays its mosaic floor of Dionysius.

Museums & Art Galleries in North Rhine-Westphalia

Detmold Open-Air Museum

The open-air museum at Detmold opened in the early 1970s and covers an area of 90 hectares. Over 100 historic buildings and other structures such as windmills can be explored, from thatched cottages and farmhouses, to schools and shops. Around 500 years of architectural history is complemented with historic vehicles – including hay carts, fire engines, and sleighs, various species of livestock, and over 300,000 historic artefacts on display throughout the site.  Numerous events and hands-on activities keep visitors of all ages entertained.

Oerlinghausen Archaeological Open-Air Museum

Visitors to the Oerlinghausen Archaeological Open-Air Museum can explore reconstructed structures from six periods of the region’s history, from a Stone Age summer camp of reindeer hunters to an early medieval farm complex. Experimental gardens, some including livestock, show the changing relationship humans have had with the land. The museum was opened in 1936 following the excavation of an Iron Age camp. An active programme of events is available from April through to the end of October.

Lindlar Open-Air Museum

At the Lindlar Open-Air Museum visitors can learn more about vernacular architecture in the Rhineland. Thirty buildings are spread over 30 hectares, as if they represented separate villages. These include domestic residences, stables, an inn, a bakery, and a chapel, as well as an old railway. Also, various endangered livestock breeds from the region live in the museum grounds. From March through to Advent the museum has a busy programme of activities for the whole family.

Hagen Open-Air Museum

In an idyllic rural setting covering around 40 hectares, the Hagen Open-Air Museum has assembled a range of historic buildings from the from Westphalia and Lippe area of western Germany.  Many of these buildings are traditional workshops with staff who demonstrate traditional skills, among them metal work, ropemaking, brewing, tanning, printing, and milling. In all these displays show some 200 years of craft and technology history.

Kommern Open-Air Museum

The Kommern Open-Air Museum in Mechernich, North Rhine-Westphalia, helps visitors to immerse themselves in the sensory experiences of traditional rural life in the Rhineland. The museum opened in 1969 and since then has expanded in size and scope. Among Germany’s largest open-air museums, it stretches across 95 hectares and contains over 60 historic structures in its collection. As with many of its counterparts, the grounds are also home to a range of livestock.

Kolumba Museum, Cologne

Kolumba Museum is one of the oldest museums in Cologne, a collection of religious art from Late Antiquity to the 21st century. Highlights of this collection, including a Romanesque style crucifix and a 4th century glass cage cup, are on permanent display. As spectacular as the collection is, the museum itself is worth a visit. The celebrated Swiss architect Peter Zumthor has designed a strikingly simple building around the ruins of an ornate Gothic church that was severely damaged during the second World War.

Römisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne

The Romano-Germanic Museum in Cologne is one of Germany’s most important Roman museums. During construction builders came across the remains of a Roman town house. During rescue efforts, the spectacular Dionysus mosaic floor could not be lifted so it was decided a museum would be built around the mosaic. Besides extensive exhibits of art, culture and everyday life in Roman and early medieval Cologne, the museum has largest and finest collections of Roman glass artefacts in the World. Although the museum is currently being renovated, exhibits are on display in a temporary venue (see the website for details).