Culture in Dortmund: from Gothic architecture to industrial art

“Dortmund gets the triple”, cheered Kay Voges the Artistic Directorof Dortmund Theatre and his team, when it was voted best theatre in the state of North Rhine Westphalia by the Welt am Sonntag newspaper for the third time in a row, in 2018. Voges regularly causes a stir throughout Germany with his productions at the theatre.

The fact is, Dortmund is not only a city of football and beer, it also has a lot to offer culturally – probably more than you think.

Dortmund’s museums: Art, history, football

Entrance to the museum of art and the history of art.
© DORTMUNDtourismus Entrance to the museum of art and the history of art.

In Dortmund there are museums for things that you probably didn’t even know there could be museums for. There is a giraffe museum, a lacquer museum, a magnet museum and several small mining collections. In total there are more than 30 museums in Dortmund! 

And all of the state museums are free!

If you are a lover of modern art of the 20th and 21st centuries, then don’t miss Dortmund’s U Tower. In this iconic building you will find a range of exhibitions and collections such as the centre for media art, Hartware Medienkunstverein (HMKV), and Museum Ostwall with its important collection of contemporary art.

If you like action and technology then you should head to DASA (Deutsche Arbeitsschutzausstellung - the German Occupational Health and Safety Exhibition). Behind the unwieldy name lies an exciting exhibition that on the one hand shows how the world of work has changed over the past centuries, but on the other hand also vividly shows what dangers can lurk in the workplace.

The Museum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte (MKK) (Museum of Art and Cultural History) gives you an insight into the history of Dortmund and Westphalia. Here you will find, among other things, the legendary Dortmund Gold Treasure Hoard.

As a football capital, Dortmund is of course home to the German Football Museum. If you come to Dortmund by train, the DFB-Museum beckons from the other side of the street as you leave the station. Every year tens of thousands of visitors come here to find out more about the history and success of German football.

Of course, football is also the main focus in the Borusseum, but in this case in black and yellow. A visit to this club museum is a must for all BVB fans, but also for fans of other clubs, as it provides exciting insights into the history of Borussia Dortmund and its fan culture.

Can’t make up your mind? Then come to Dortmund at the end of September, when around 50 museums, churches and other institutions will invite you to Dortmund’s Museum Night.

Theatres and stages in Dortmund

The opera building with its spherical architecture.
© David Vu/ DORTMUNDtourismus Theatre / Opera.

You can see award-winning plays at the Schauspiel city theatre. The Opera House is renowned for its modern productions of classic pieces. If you come to Dortmund with the children then check out what is on offer at the Children’s Opera in the Children’s and Youth Theatre. If you are in Dortmund with the kids during the pre-Christmas season, make sure you get tickets for the Schmuddels children’s romp at the Fletch Bizzel Theatre!

You can experience high culture in the Konzerthaus, where the concert hall boasts excellent acoustics. Here, both stars of the classical music scene as well as contemporary acts grace the stage. This concert hall is also home to the Dortmund Philharmonic Orchestra.

For jazz lovers, the Domicil Jazz Club offers top quality acts in a typically welcoming atmosphere. On the other hand, the Musiktheater Piano offers a varied programme of rock and pop, which, though a little off the beaten track, is well worth seeking out. How about an evening of cabaret entertainment over dinner at Cabaret Queue? Or if you fancy some comedy in German, down-to-earth Olpketal Theatre is home to “Günna”, a character created by Dortmund cabaret artist Bruno Knust, who gives his view of politics, football and life in general with plenty of local colour thrown in.

Westfalenhalle, FZW and the Music Hall: Big stages for big stars

Main entrance of the Westfalenhalle in Dortmund.
© Hans Jürgen Landes Main entrance of the Westfalenhalle in Dortmund.

The Westfalenhalle is Dortmund’s cultural flagship. More precisely, it should be known as the Westfalen Halls, as the complex not only consists of the large Hall 1, but also of various adjoining halls. The programme includes a lively mix of concerts, comedy performances, magic shows, galas and trade fairs.

The FZW is slightly smaller. This is for stars perform who don’t yet fill a large hall, but already attract a wide audience. The same applies to the latest venue in Dortmund’s concert scene, the Warsteiner Music Hall.

Industrial culture: Mines, coking plants and blast furnaces

Dortmund used to be a large industrial city. Coal was mined and steel was smelted here. However, the last colliery closed in 1987 and steel production has long since departed from the region – in fact one of Dortmund’s old blast furnaces together with more or less the complete steelworks are now located in China.

The churches of Dortmund: From the Middle Ages to the present day

Aerial photograph of the square "old market" in the sun with chairs of the restaurants outside. In the background you can see the "Reinoldi"-church.
© Hans Jürgen Landes St. Reinoldi Church

As a city in the Ruhr Region, Dortmund is a “salad bowl” of people with all kinds of different religions and beliefs. The skyline of the original medieval core of the city is still dominated by the four large city centre churches – Reinoldikirche, Marienkirche, Petrikirche and Propsteikirche (the only Catholic church right in the city centre). However, high levels of immigration over the last few decades have led to the growing significance of other religions here too. Orthodox Christians from Greece, the former USSR and former Yugoslavian countries brought their religion to the Ruhr Region. Islam mainly came to the city from Turkey and has become an integral part of society here.

The Jewish community is regrettably still relatively small but has been growing steadily again in recent years with people moving here from Russia.

For a wide variety of reasons, people from Asian countries have also been moving to Dortmund over the last few decades. They have brought Buddhism and Hinduism into the Ruhr Region as well.