Dortmund: Crazy about football and rich in culture

Dortmund is a modern, cultural city. But it hasn’t always been that way. For a long time, it was associated with coal mines and smelting furnaces. You constantly run into football-crazed fans who root for their club, the BVB, with deep-felt pride. Dortmund is also home to Germany’s most frequented shopping street.

by Lisa Tüch

The Dortmund U © Tüch/DAAD
The Dortmund U . © Tüch/DAAD

Facts & Figures

Monthly rent:
309 €
Visit the night-time flea market at the Depot and enjoy some live music!

Welcome to Dortmund

With almost 600,000 inhabitants, Dortmund is the largest city in the Ruhr Region. Although it offers all the benefits of big-city life, it’s not a concrete wasteland. Almost half of the city is covered by parks and greens.

Dortmund was long known for coal mining and steel manufacturing. The mines, furnaces and shaft towers were distinct features of this working-class region. Thanks to coal mining, the whole “Ruhrpott” was the centre of heavy German industry. Meanwhile, Dortmund has reinvented itself as a cultural city. The entire region – home to more than five million people – was named the European Capital of Culture back in 2010.

Berswordt-Halle and the old town hall © Stadt Dortmund, Dortmund-Agentur, GPM Foto
Berswordt-Halle and the old town hall . © Stadt Dortmund, Dortmund-Agentur, GPM Foto

You can experience the transformation of the region at "Extraschicht", the Night of Industrial Culture. Former industrial complexes are used as venues for music, dance and theatre productions. The Dortmund-based Zeche Zollern and the Dortmunder U both participate in the event. The “Zeche” used to be a mining site. Now it’s a museum of industrial culture.

The Dortmunder U – Centre for Art and Creativity – is a famous city landmark near the train station. The “U” hosts regular exhibitions, lectures and concerts. The building had once housed the Union Brewery. The illuminated “U” and the video installation on top of the building highlight its past. At the top of every hour, virtual pigeons appear and sometimes it looks as if the tower were being filled with beer. Dortmund is also known as a beer-brewing city. There used to be many breweries here at one time. Today you can go to the Brauerei Museum and learn how beer is brewed.

Signal Iduna Park © Tüch/DAAD
Signal Iduna Park . © Tüch/DAAD

The inhabitants of Dortmund are big football fans, especially when it comes to their own club – the BVB (Ballspiel-Verein Borussia). Whenever there’s a home game, Dortmund goes into football overdrive. Everyone hangs banners, puts on jerseys and decorates everything in the club colours – black and yellow. The BVB stadium is Germany’s largest football stadium with seating for 80,000 fans. But you can also watch the games at numerous pubs in Dortmund, such as the dockland pub "Subrosa".

Living in Dortmund

After your lectures, you can experience lots of things in Dortmund and recharge your batteries from all that learning. What’s great about Dortmund is that there are so many places to go and so many cultural and recreational possibilities. Lots of students live in residence halls or find affordable rooms in flat shares around the city. The Barop and Eichlinghofen districts are situated near the TU Dortmund. The Kreuz and Klinik districts are also popular residential areas. There are lots of pubs located in the Kreuz district. And the Neue Kolonie West is home to many creative artists who have set up studios there.

Dortmund TV tower © Tüch/DAAD
Dortmund TV tower . © Tüch/DAAD

For the best impression of Dortmund, you ought to go up the “Florian” – the TV tower in the Westfalenpark – and view the city from the 140-metre-high platform. When the weather’s nice, you can go to the Phönixsee (Pheonix Lake) in the Hörde district. The manmade reservoir sits atop a former industrial site. It’s the perfect place to go jogging, inline skating or boating. You should also see the Dortmund harbour where the “event ship” Herr Walter is docked. You can also wind down from a stressful day at university on deckchairs and beanbags on the beach.

My tip

For a wonderful evening, I recommend going out to the night-time flea market at the Depot. From 5 pm until midnight, you can rummage through the treasures while listening to live music.

This is a city where you can shop till you drop. The Westenhellweg in downtown Dortmund is the most-frequented shopping street in all of Germany. You can also go to the "Thiergalerie" – a large mall where you can go shopping or just hang out when the weather’s bad. They also have a BVB fan shop there.

Phoenixsee lake © Tüch/DAAD
Phoenixsee lake . © Tüch/DAAD

 If you’re looking for good music, go to the jazz club "Domicil". The Monday Night Session is especially popular with its jam sessions and cocktail bar. If you’d rather go dancing, you can do it over the rooftops at the "View". The club is located inside the “U” tower and has glass walls all around. The "Nightrooms" and the "Prisma" are two of the largest clubs in Dortmund with various music areas. Hundreds of students take to the dance floors every weekend. On Thursdays, the "Keller" is full of partying students who want to ring in the weekend early. The revelling continues on Friday at Studi Night, where everyone toasts student life with glasses of Retro Pilsner. "Silent Sinners" is another great place to go – especially on Thursdays when students get in for free!

There are many pubs in Dortmund, such as the nostalgic "Kumpel Erich" in the Kreuz district. They serve football and potato salad – reminiscent of the good ol’ coal-mining times. At "Salon Fink" you can partake in a true German tradition on Sunday evenings: watching the latest episode of “Tatort”, a famous German crime series.

Interview with Pierre from France

Pierre Pauma is 22 years old, comes from France and is an Erasmus student majoring in Journalism at the TU Dortmund.

Picture of Pierre from France ©
Pierre from France . ©

What made you decide to study in Germany?

At my university in France, you have to take English as a foreign language. During the 5th and 6th semester, you can’t learn any other foreign language other than English. But since I had already learned German, I wanted to keep up with the language. That’s why I decided to do a year abroad.

What should international students do before travelling abroad?  

They should know the language well, find a flat and make sure they’ve got adequate health insurance.

How did you find your flat?

I sent an application to the Studentenwerk and received a flat in a student hall of residence. But a lot of foreign students get rooms in a German WG (flat share), and that works out well, too.

Event ship
Event ship "Herr Walter" . © Tüch/DAAD

What are you planning to do after your studies?

I’d really like to get my master’s in Dortmund. If that doesn’t work out, I can also imagine getting my master’s in Paris, Strasbourg or Frankfurt/Oder.

What is your favourite place in Dortmund?

I like the "Sissikingkong" – a pub in Dortmund. Otherwise, I like traveling around NRW with my semester ticket (editor’s note: NRW is the abbreviation for the state of North-Rhine Westphalia). But there’s still so much to see. That’s why I’d like to stay longer!

Why is Dortmund a good place to study for international students?

The semester ticket is really cool. You can take the bus or train anywhere in NRW for free. I also like the possibility of taking language courses at any level. And last but not least, Dortmund is great for football fans, because this is the home of the BVB.

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