Dortmund does not immediately spring to mind as a short break destination. The largest city in the Ruhr industrial area lacks an attractive Altstadt (old town) and has no river passing through it, both major tourist features in many German cities like Frankfurt and Nurnberg.
But when I tell you that Dortmund is now known as the ‘green metropolis’, with almost half its municipal area taken up with woodland and spacious parks, then maybe a few senior travellers with gardening interests might start to take notice.
I certainly thought it was worth further investigation.
Travelling to Dortmund for a short break proved much easier than I’d expected, with both Ryanair and Easyjet having direct flights from the UK, from Stansted and Luton respectively. Return flights can cost as little as £50, depending on the time of year. However I opted to take P&O Ferries across from Hull to Rotterdam, followed by a three hour drive to Dortmund.
It is worth first ascending the Florian Tower near the north entrance to the gardens, as this gives great views over the 170 acres of Westfalenpark, allowing you to plan your visit. The 720 ft high tower has observation decks at 450 ft.
The park is far more organised than Rombergpark with neatly laid out flower beds and raised pools containing a variety of water lilies. It is home to the German National Rosarium with a collection of over 3,000 different types of roses. The dry weather for several weeks before I visited in July 2018, meant they were not at their best, but even so the various rose beds and borders provided an interesting and bright spectacle.
If walking around on a hot sunny day is not for you, then the park has a chairlift and a small train can take you almost two miles around the park. A café/restaurant provides a wide range of drinks, snacks and meals at very reasonable prices.
The garden entrance fee for adults is €3.50 or €5.50 if access to the Florian Tower is included. There is free car parking by the entrance.
Although at 160 acres Rombergpark is a similar size to Westfalenpark, it is very different in style, being more wild with woodland and riverside walks.
It was established in 1822 as an English landscape park, but later developed as an arboretum with over 4,500 different woodland plants. Later additions include four glasshouses, a terrace with palm trees and a garden of medicinal plants.
I found it pleasant enough wandering through some of the more formal parts of the gardens, but to me the special appeal of Rombergpark comes from following the shady trails through the arboretum and along the river banks towards the two lakes.
The small lake had a ‘primeval’ feel to it and proved very attractive to birdlife. Within a few minutes, I saw a European green woodpecker, a great spotted woodpecker, a cormorant and a kingfisher – the first I’d ever seen.
Car parking and garden entrance are both free of charge.
Other Attractions in Dortmund
If you are a football aficionado (not me), then the stadium of Borussia Dortmund (Signal Iduna Park) has three organised visits a day, although English-speaking tours are only at weekends. The stadium is close to Westfalenpark and can be seen clearly from the Florian Tower.
The central part of Dortmund has a few fine buildings including the Altes Stadthaus (the old Civic Hall, a neo-renaissance structure) and the 13th Century St Reinold’s Church with a 340 ft high tower, again visible from the Florian Tower.
Otherwise the main attractions are various museums including a Brewery Museum, the Deutsches Fussball Museum (not exactly surprising that it should be sited in this soccer-mad city) and a series of industrial museums including the Zollern Colliery.
There is plenty of accommodation to the south of the city near the Westfalenpark and Rombergpark. Chain hotels include Hampton by Hilton, Radisson Blu and Accor Mercure.
I chose to stay at the Holiday Inn Express Dortmund which has free parking and is next to an excellent Italian restaurant, Vetro.
POSTED 28th JULY 2018 by STEVE HANSON