Waterways, forests and meadows: Dortmund for nature lovers

Nature? In the Ruhr Region? You bet! People say that Dortmund is a collection of villages with a bit of city in the middle. And where there are villages, there are also fields and forests.

As early as the late 1960s, the City of Dortmund wanted to draw attention to the high proportion of green spaces in this industrial city, which at that time still had a reputation for being dirty. To do this they initiated the “49 percent walk”, as almost half the city was in fact green and not grey. Since then Dortmund has become even greener.

Dortmund is the second greenest city in Germany

People having a barbecue in the Westpark.
© David Vu People having a barbecue in the Westpark.

Apart from the absolute city centre, you will be amazed at how much nature Dortmund has to offer – even where you least expect it. A few trees in a residential area are enough to attract woodpeckers who wake you with their tapping, or owls who screech as you turn in for the night.

Apart from along the border to the neighbouring city of Bochum, the outskirts of the city are surrounded by a belt of fields, paddocks, meadows and forests. In many Dortmund suburbs the sweet smell of “fresh country air” is not unusual, when the farmers are fertilizing their fields.

Deer, herons and bats are all native to Dortmund

When people from Dortmund want to relax, they don’t have to go to the nearby Sauerland. They just hop on their bikes and ride along the long network of cycle paths and walks through the fields in the east of Dortmund, go for a walk in one of the many parks and forests or wander along the Dortmund-Ems Canal or the shores of Lake Hengstey.

The highlights of the countryside around Dortmund are the forests and the secluded Wannebachtal valley in the south of the city. While walking in the forest you can often see deer. Birds of prey circle in the sky while grey herons hunt for their prey on the shores of the many ponds and lakes. If you wait patiently at a stream, and are really lucky, you might even spot a kingfisher.

On summer evenings at dusk, at the edge of the forest, bats flap around above you and snatch away the annoying mosquitoes.

Diverse habitats thanks to industry

Dark side of the coking plant Hansa: the area in which coke was produced.
© Hans Jürgen Landes The "forbidden city" - the coking plant.

The development of old industrial wastelands, as they are gradually reclaimed by nature, is fascinating. It sounds paradoxical, but it is the city’s industrial past that ensures that nature can now have full rein in some places. Here plants settle again, animals like the natterjack toad find a new home and give the areas a very special charm.

Mining is responsible for the fact that entire parts of the Ruhr Region now lie a few metres lower than they did just a few decades ago. The city of Dortmund has gained two lakes because of such mining subsidence, which are now refuges for rare species and are protected as nature reserves.

A city with the countryside on its doorstep

Thanks to Dortmund’s circular footprint, the city centre is never far from the many recreation areas and nature reserves on the outskirts of the city. You can take a tram to many of them, and buses go practically everywhere. Dortmund thus combines metropolitan flair with village structures and closeness to nature.

Did you know?

In fact, the Berlin Morgenpost (DE) newspaper reported results from the analysis of satellite photos which show that the city is around 70 per cent green. In their ranking, the city, with a population of over half a million, took second place after Hamburg. Yes, it’s true: The people of Munich (49.9 % green) may wax lyrical about the beautiful countryside around their city, but the citizens of Dortmund don’t need to leave their city to find green open spaces in which to relax!