Essen gets the green light: Gruga Park and Green city award

Every year the Gruga Park in Essen, Germany lights up. Amongst the beautiful fauna, and flora landscape light exhibits shine brightly casting a magical glow on the botanical garden.  I thought I’d share my experiences of the light display. The light displays are a work of art. They are colourful some of them are art pieces other parts of the display are lit up buildings and trees in the park. The display skillfully blends nature with technology and the end product is gorgeous. I really loved the atmosphere given that the park itself is dark. Only the displays are lit up, making the other spectators look like shadows walking around in the near dark.


The display is held usually during Essens’ winter months, and I almost didn’t go because it was really cold. I went on the 19 of February 2016. I’m South African from Cape Town, and minus 7 is cold for me. But, I was so in thrall of the lights that I barely noticed the cold. Plus, I wore a thick jacket, hat, gloves and warm woollen tights with my long-sleeved dress. If you aren’t from a cold climate wear layers and definitely wear a hat. Most of your body heat leaves via your head, so keep it covered. You will be walking around Grug Park is 700,000 square metres big. Although the whole park does not include light displays. My friends and I followed the crowd without a specific map and got to see all the exhibits.

The display runs from 2 February 2018 till 11 March 2018. The lights are switched on at dusk when it gets dark. From Monday to Thursday including Sunday the display can be viewed until 9pm. The display stays on longer for Fridays and Saturdays until 10pm. This display only lasts for 5 weeks. To enter the park you have to purchase a ticket. It’s 5 euros for adults with no student discount, unfortunately. For children aged 6-14, it’s 2 euros and kids younger than 6 who are accompanied by an adult enter free. Do note though it costs 6 euros to enter the park on Saturdays, this is because additional special events take place. Different acts perform making the park even more exciting. This includes a storytelling session, a vertical cloth performance, singing by the Essen Choir, Illuart which plays with luminous balls and even a didgeridoo player. The displays change every year and this year there are scenes from fairy tales which can be viewed at 8 illuminated houses. Essen also happens to be a green city. A place that tree lovers should go see.


In 1986 the last coal refinery of Essen closed down. Essen is part of the Rhur region which has a long history of industrialization specifically of coal production. It started off as a rural region, then a coal producer, a Third Reich weapons producer, and an economically booming city. However, economic development took a dip after the mines started closing down. Essen is remarkable though since it again rebranded itself and is now a green city. How was this giant leap from industrial coal producer to green city taken? Well, I believe a lot of dedicated people worked together to make the city green. Trees are being planted. There are many open green gardens now in the city. Officials are setting an example and using bicycles. A 100km bike lane is being built, to limit pollution from carbon emissions. The route is also being created so that cyclist can avoid congested streets. The Baldeneysee a lake in Essen, is now open to swimmers. It was closed in the 1960’s due to pollution but, the water quality has now improved. The Krupp steel factory now hosts a man-made lake and the Zeche Zollverein a former coal mine is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Zeche Zollverein houses a museum but, also is hosts an ice rink during winter, music events and other fun events.

In 2017 Essen was awarded the Green Capital award from the European Commission. The award is presented to cities in Europe which have made changes to combat pollution. Cities which are overcoming environmental challenges have to apply to the European Commission for the award. Clearly, Essen has taken greening seriously. The city needed a new positive identity and did so through greening. This is a great module for other cities. And those interested in environmental politics can definitely use Essen as a module on how cities can transform.


Gruga Park at:

Virchowstrasse 167a 45147 Essen tel: +49 201 888 3106 e-mail:

Essen’s Tourism Office at :

Tourist Information Office
Im Handelshof
Am Hauptbahnhof 2
D- 45127 Essen

Telephone: +49 201 19433 or +49 201 88 72333
Fax: +49 201 8872044

Opening times:
Monday to Friday: 9 am – 5 pm
Saturday: 10 am – 1 pm

Essen is worth exploring and I will be featuring more posts on Essen. Happy travelling and I hope you enjoyed reading my post. Please provide me with any feedback you may have. I’m still new at this and appreciate your comments.