North Rhine-Westphalia

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North Rhine-Westphalia
Nordrhein-Westfalen (German)
Noordryn-Westfaulen (Low German)
North Rhine-Westphalia
Coordinates: 51°28′N7°33′E / 51.467°N 7.550°E / 51.467; 7.550
CountryFlag of Germany.svg  Germany
Founded 23 August 1946
Capital Düsseldorf
Largest city Cologne
  Body Landtag of North Rhine-Westphalia
   Minister-President Hendrik Wüst (CDU)
  Governing parties CDU / Greens
   Bundesrat votes 6 (of 69)
   Bundestag seats 155 (of 736)
  Total34,084.13 km2 (13,159.96 sq mi)
 (2023-06-30) [1]
  Density530/km2 (1,400/sq mi)
Time zone UTC+1 (CET)
  Summer (DST) UTC+2 (CEST)
ISO 3166 code DE-NW
GRP (nominal) 793 billion (2022) [2] · 1st
$836 billion in PPP
GRP per capita€43,910 (2022) · 7th
HDI (2018)0.944 [3]
very high · 7th of 16

North Rhine-Westphalia or North-Rhine/Westphalia (German : Nordrhein-Westfalen, pronounced [ˌnɔʁtʁaɪnvɛstˈfaːlən] ; Limburgish : Noordrien-Wesfale [ˈnoːʀtʀiːnwæsˈfaːlə] ;[ citation needed ][ tone? ] Low German : Noordryn-Westfaulen or Noordrhien-Westfalen[ citation needed ]), commonly shortened to NRW (German: [ɛnʔɛʁˈveː] ), is a state (Land) in Western Germany. With more than 18 million inhabitants, it is the most populous state in Germany. Apart from the city-states, it is also the most densely populated state in Germany. Covering an area of 34,084 square kilometres (13,160 sq mi), it is the fourth-largest German state by size.


North Rhine-Westphalia features 30 of the 81 German municipalities with over 100,000 inhabitants, including Cologne (over 1 million), the state capital Düsseldorf, Dortmund and Essen (all about 550,000 inhabitants) and other cities predominantly located in the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan area, the largest urban area in Germany and the fourth-largest on the European continent. The location of the Rhine-Ruhr at the heart of the European Blue Banana makes it well connected to other major European cities and metropolitan areas like the Randstad, the Flemish Diamond and the Frankfurt Rhine-Main Region.

North Rhine-Westphalia was established in 1946 after World War II from the Prussian provinces of Westphalia and the northern part of Rhine Province (North Rhine), and the Free State of Lippe by the British military administration in Allied-occupied Germany and became a state of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949. The city of Bonn served as the federal capital until the reunification of Germany in 1990 and as the seat of government until 1999.

Culturally, North Rhine-Westphalia is not a uniform area; there are significant differences, especially in traditional customs, between the Rhineland region on the one hand and the regions of Westphalia and Lippe on the other. As of 2023, its economy is the largest among German states by GDP but is below the national average in GDP per capita.



The state of North Rhine-Westphalia was established by the British military administration's "Operation Marriage" on 23 August 1946 by merging the province of Westphalia and the northern parts of the Rhine Province, both being political divisions of the former state of Prussia within the German Reich. [4] [5] On 21 January 1947, the former state of Lippe was merged with North Rhine-Westphalia. [4] The constitution of North Rhine-Westphalia was then ratified through a referendum.


The first written account of the area was by its conqueror, Julius Caesar, the territories west of the Rhine were occupied by the Eburones and east of the Rhine he reported the Ubii (across from Cologne) and the Sugambri to their north. The Ubii and some other Germanic tribes such as the Cugerni were later settled on the west side of the Rhine in the Roman province of Germania Inferior. Julius Caesar conquered the tribes on the left bank, and Augustus established numerous fortified posts on the Rhine, but the Romans never succeeded in gaining a firm footing on the right bank, where the Sugambri neighboured several other tribes including the Tencteri and Usipetes. North of the Sigambri and the Rhine region were the Bructeri.

As the power of the Roman empire declined, many of these tribes came to be seen collectively as Ripuarian Franks and they pushed forward along both banks of the Rhine, and by the end of the fifth century had conquered all the lands that had formerly been under Roman influence. By the eighth century, the Frankish dominion was firmly established in western Germany and northern Gaul, but at the same time, to the north, Westphalia was being taken over by Saxons pushing south.

The Merovingian and Carolingian Franks eventually built an empire which controlled first their Ripuarian kin, and then the Saxons. On the division of the Carolingian Empire at the Treaty of Verdun, the part of the province to the east of the river fell to East Francia, while that to the west remained with the kingdom of Lotharingia. [6]

By the time of Otto I (d. 973), both banks of the Rhine had become part of the Holy Roman Empire, and the Rhenish territory was divided between the duchies of Upper Lorraine on the Moselle and Lower Lorraine on the Meuse. The Ottonian dynasty had both Saxon and Frankish ancestry.

Map of the Lower Rhenish-Westphalian Circle in 1799 by John Cary 1801 Cary Map of Westphalia, Germany - Geographicus - Westphalia-cary-1799.jpg
Map of the Lower Rhenish–Westphalian Circle in 1799 by John Cary

As the central power of the Holy Roman Emperor weakened, the Rhineland split into numerous small, independent, separate vicissitudes and special chronicles. The old Lotharingian divisions became obsolete, although the name survives for example in Lorraine in France, and throughout the Middle Ages and even into modern times, the nobility of these areas often sought to preserve the idea of a preeminent duke within Lotharingia, something claimed by the Dukes of Limburg, and the Dukes of Brabant. Such struggles as the War of the Limburg Succession therefore continued to create military and political links between what is now Rhineland-Westphalia and neighbouring Belgium and the Netherlands.

In spite of its dismembered condition and the sufferings it underwent at the hands of its French neighbours in various periods of warfare, the Rhenish territory prospered greatly and stood in the foremost rank of German culture and progress. Aachen was the place of coronation of the German emperors, and the ecclesiastical principalities of the Rhine bulked largely in German history. [6]

Prussia first set foot on the Rhine in 1609 by the occupation of the Duchy of Cleves and about a century later Upper Guelders and Moers also became Prussian. At the peace of Basel in 1795, the whole of the left bank of the Rhine was resigned to France, and in 1806, the Rhenish princes all joined the Confederation of the Rhine.

After the Congress of Vienna, Prussia was awarded the entire Rhineland, which included the Grand Duchy of Berg, the ecclesiastic electorates of Trier and Cologne, the free cities of Aachen and Cologne, and nearly a hundred small lordships and abbeys. The Prussian Rhine province was formed in 1822 and Prussia had the tact to leave the lower Rhenish districts in undisturbed possession of the liberal institutions to which they had become accustomed under the republican rule of the French. [6] In 1920, the districts of Eupen and Malmedy were transferred to Belgium (see German-speaking Community of Belgium).


Around AD 1, numerous incursions occurred through Westphalia and perhaps even some permanent Roman or Romanized settlements. The Battle of Teutoburg Forest took place near Osnabrück and some of the Germanic tribes who fought at this battle came from the area of Westphalia. Charlemagne is thought to have spent considerable time in Paderborn and nearby parts. His Saxon Wars also partly took place in what is thought of as Westphalia today. Popular legends link his adversary Widukind to places near Detmold, Bielefeld, Lemgo, Osnabrück, and other places in Westphalia. Widukind was buried in Enger, which is also a subject of a legend.

Along with Eastphalia and Engern, Westphalia (Westfalahi) was originally a district of the Duchy of Saxony. In 1180, Westphalia was elevated to the rank of a duchy by Emperor Barbarossa. The Duchy of Westphalia comprised only a small area south of the Lippe River.

Ratification of the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 in Munster by Gerard Terborch Westfaelischer Friede in Muenster (Gerard Terborch 1648).jpg
Ratification of the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 in Münster by Gerard Terborch

Parts of Westphalia came under Brandenburg-Prussian control during the 17th and 18th centuries, but most of it remained divided duchies and other feudal areas of power. The Peace of Westphalia of 1648, signed in Münster and Osnabrück, ended the Thirty Years' War. The concept of nation-state sovereignty resulting from the treaty became known as "Westphalian sovereignty".

As a result of the Protestant Reformation, there is no dominant religion in Westphalia. Catholicism and Lutheranism are on relatively equal footing. Lutheranism is strong in the eastern and northern parts with numerous free churches. Münster and especially Paderborn are thought of as Catholic. Osnabrück is divided almost equally between Catholicism and Protestantism.

After the defeat of the Prussian Army at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt, the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807 made the Westphalian territories part of the Kingdom of Westphalia from 1807 to 1813. It was founded by Napoleon and was a French vassal state. This state only shared the name with the historical region; it contained only a relatively small part of Westphalia, consisting instead mostly of Hessian and Eastphalian regions.

After the Congress of Vienna, the Kingdom of Prussia received a large amount of territory in the Westphalian region and created the province of Westphalia in 1815. The northernmost portions of the former kingdom, including the town of Osnabrück, had become part of the states of Hanover and Oldenburg.

Flags and coat of arms

The flag of North Rhine-Westphalia is green-white-red with the combined coats of arms of the Rhineland (white line before green background, symbolizing the river Rhine), Westfalen (the white horse) and Lippe (the red rose). After the establishment of North Rhine-Westphalia in 1946, the tricolor was first introduced in 1948, but was not formally adopted until 1953. [7] The plain variant of the tricolor is considered the civil flag and state ensign, while government authorities use the state flag (Landesdienstflagge) which is defaced with the state's coat of arms. [7] The state ensign can easily be mistaken for a distressed flag of Hungary, as well as the former national flag of Iran (1964–1980). The same flag was used by the Rhenish Republic (1923–1924) as a symbol of independence and freedom.

According to legend, the horse in the Westphalian coat of arms is the horse that the Saxon leader Widukind rode after his baptism. Other theories attribute the horse to Henry the Lion. Some connect it with the Germanic rulers Hengist and Horsa.[ citation needed ]


Geographic map of North Rhine-Westphalia North Rhine-Westphalia Topography 08.png
Geographic map of North Rhine-Westphalia

North Rhine-Westphalia encompasses the plains of the Lower Rhine region and parts of the Central Uplands ( die Mittelgebirge ) up to the gorge of Porta Westfalica. The state covers an area of 34,083 km2 (13,160 sq mi) and shares borders with Belgium (Wallonia) in the southwest and the Netherlands (Limburg, Gelderland and Overijssel) in the west and northwest. It has borders with the German states of Lower Saxony to the north and northeast, Rhineland-Palatinate to the south and Hesse to the southeast.

Approximately half of the state is located in the relative low-lying terrain of the Westphalian Lowland and the Rhineland, both extending broadly into the North German Plain. A few isolated hill ranges are located within these lowlands, among them the Hohe Mark, the Beckum Hills, the Baumberge and the Stemmer Berge.
The terrain rises towards the south and in the east of the state into parts of Germany's Central Uplands. These hill ranges are the Weser Uplands – including the Egge Hills, the Wiehen Hills, the Wesergebirge and the Teutoburg Forest in the east, the Sauerland, the Bergisches Land, the Siegerland and the Siebengebirge in the south, as well as the left-Rhenish Eifel in the southwest of the state. The Rothaargebirge in the border region with Hesse rises to height of about 800 m above sea level. The highest of these mountains are the Langenberg, at 843.2 m above sea level, the Kahler Asten (840.7 m) and the Clemensberg (839.2 m).

The planimetrically determined centre of North Rhine-Westphalia is located in the south of Dortmund-Aplerbeck in the Aplerbecker Mark (51° 28' N, 7° 33' Ö). Its westernmost point is situated near Selfkant close to the Dutch border, the easternmost near Höxter on the Weser. The southernmost point lies near Hellenthal in the Eifel region. The northernmost point is the NRW-Nordpunkt near Rahden in the northeast of the state. The Nordpunkt has located the only 100  km to the south of the North Sea coast. The deepest natural dip is arranged in the district Zyfflich in the city of Kranenburg with 9.2 m above sea level in the northwest of the state. Though, the deepest point overground results from mining. The open-pit Hambach reaches at Niederzier a deep of 293 m below sea level. At the same time, this is the deepest human-made dip in Germany.

The most important rivers flowing at least partially through North Rhine-Westphalia include: the Rhine, the Ruhr, the Ems, the Lippe, and the Weser. The Rhine is by far the most important river in North Rhine-Westphalia: it enters the state as Middle Rhine near Bad Honnef, where still being part of the Mittelrhein wine region. It changes into the Lower Rhine near Bad Godesberg and leaves North Rhine-Westphalia near Emmerich at a width of 730 metres. Almost immediately after entering the Netherlands, the Rhine splits into many branches.

The Pader, which flows entirely within the city of Paderborn, is considered Germany's shortest river.

For many, North Rhine-Westphalia is synonymous with industrial areas and urban agglomerations. However, the largest part of the state is used for agriculture (almost 52%) and forests (25%). [8]


The state consists of five government regions (Regierungsbezirke), divided into 31 districts ( Kreise ) and 23 urban districts (kreisfreie Städte). In total, North Rhine-Westphalia has 396 municipalities (1997), including the urban districts, which are municipalities by themselves. The government regions have an assembly elected by the districts and municipalities, while the Landschaftsverband has a directly elected assembly.

The five government regions of North Rhine-Westphalia each belong to one of the two Landschaftsverbände :

Landschaftsverband Rhineland Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe North rhine w Landschaftsverbande.svg
The regional authorities Rhineland (green) and
Westphalia-Lippe (red)
Government districts
historical regions Government districts
historical regions
Regierungsbezirk Dusseldorf RB Dusseldorf.svg
Regierungsbezirk Düsseldorf
Regierungsbezirk Arnsberg NRW rbarnsberg grey.png
Regierungsbezirk Arnsberg
Regierungsbezirk Koln NRW rbkoeln grey.png
Regierungsbezirk Köln
Regierungsbezirk Detmold RB Detmold.svg
Regierungsbezirk Detmold
Regierungsbezirk Munster NRW rbmuenster grey.png
Regierungsbezirk Münster
Rural Districts (Kreise)Urban Districts (Kreisfreie Städte) NRW districts.png
  1. DEU Staedteregion Aachen COA.svg Aachen Städteregion
  2. Wappen Kreis Borken.svg Borken
  3. Kreis Coesfeld coa.svg Coesfeld
  4. DEU Kreis Duren COA.svg Düren
  5. Wappen des Ennepe-Ruhr-Kreises.svg Ennepe-Ruhr-Kreis
  6. Wappen rheinerftkreis.svg Rhein-Erft-Kreis
  7. Wappen Kreis Euskirchen.svg Euskirchen
  8. Kreiswappen des Kreises Gutersloh.svg Gütersloh
  9. DEU Kreis Heinsberg COA.svg Heinsberg
  10. Kreiswappen des Kreises Herford.svg Herford
  11. Kreiswappen Hochsauerlandkreis.svg Hochsauerlandkreis
  12. Kreiswappen des Kreises Hoxter.svg Höxter
  13. Kreiswappen des Kreises Kleve.svg Kleve
  14. Kreiswappen des Kreises Lippe.svg Lippe
  15. Kreiswappen des Markischen Kreises.svg Märkischer Kreis
  16. DEU Kreis Mettmann COA.svg Mettmann
  17. Kreiswappen des Kreises Minden-Lubbecke.svg Minden-Lübbecke
  18. Kreiswappen des Rhein-Kreises Neuss.svg Rhein-Kreis Neuss
  19. DEU Oberbergischer Kreis COA.svg Oberbergischer Kreis
  20. Wappen des Kreises Olpe.svg Olpe
  21. Kreiswappen des Kreises Paderborn.svg Paderborn
  22. Kreis Recklinghausen Wappen.svg Recklinghausen
  23. DEU Rheinisch-Bergischer Kreis COA.svg Rheinisch-Bergischer Kreis
  24. DEU Rhein-Sieg-Kreis HS COA.svg Rhein-Sieg-Kreis
  25. Coats of arms from the Kreis Siegen-Wittgenstein.svg Siegen-Wittgenstein
  26. DE Kreis Soest COA.svg Soest
  27. DEU Kreis Steinfurt COA.svg Steinfurt
  28. Wappen Kreis Unna.svg Unna
  29. DEU Kreis Viersen COA.svg Viersen
  30. Wappen des Kreises Warendorf.svg Warendorf
  31. Kreiswappen des Kreises Wesel.svg Wesel
  1. Stadtwappen der kreisfreien Stadt Aachen.svg  Aachen
  2. DEU Bielefeld COA.svg Bielefeld
  3. Stadtwappen der kreisfreien Stadt Bochum.svg  Bochum
  4. Wappen-stadt-bonn.svg  Bonn
  5. DEU Bottrop COA.svg Bottrop
  6. Coat of arms of Dortmund.svg  Dortmund
  7. Stadtwappen der Stadt Duisburg.svg  Duisburg
  8. Wappen der Landeshauptstadt Duesseldorf.svg  Düsseldorf
  9. DEU Essen COA.svg  Essen
  10. DEU Gelsenkirchen COA.svg Gelsenkirchen
  11. Stadtwappen der kreisfreien Stadt Hagen.png Hagen
  12. DEU Hamm COA.svg Hamm
  13. Herne Coat of Arms.svg Herne
  14. Wappen Koeln.svg  Cologne / Köln
  15. DEU Krefeld COA.svg Krefeld
  16. DEU Leverkusen COA.svg Leverkusen
  17. DEU Moenchengladbach COA.svg  Mönchengladbach
  18. DEU Muelheim an der Ruhr COA.svg Mülheim
  19. Wappen Munster Westfalen.svg  Münster
  20. DEU Oberhausen COA.svg Oberhausen
  21. DEU Remscheid COA.svg Remscheid
  22. Solingen wappen.svg Solingen
  23. DEU Wuppertal COA.svg  Wuppertal


The state's area covers a maximum distance of 291 km from north to south, and 266 km from east to west. The total length of the state's borders is 1,645 km. The following countries and states have a border with North Rhine-Westphalia: [9]


Cologne Stadtbild Koln (50MP).jpg
Dusseldorf Dusseldorf-Altstadt.png

North Rhine-Westphalia has a population of approximately 18.1 million inhabitants (more than the entire former East Germany, and slightly more than the Netherlands) and is centred around the polycentric Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region, which includes the industrial Ruhr region with the largest city of Dortmund and the Rhenish cities of Bonn, Cologne and Düsseldorf. 30 of the 80 largest cities in Germany are located within North Rhine-Westphalia. The state's capital is Düsseldorf; the state's largest city is Cologne. In 2022, there were 164,496 births and 234,176 deaths.

Significant foreign resident populations [10]
NationalityPopulation (31 December 2022)
Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey 487,145
Flag of Syria.svg  Syria 271,275
Flag of Ukraine.svg  Ukraine 243,150
Flag of Poland.svg  Poland 221,530
Flag of Romania.svg  Romania 164,480
Flag of Italy.svg  Italy 143,165
Flag of Greece.svg  Greece 102,425
Flag of Bulgaria.svg  Bulgaria 97,615
Flag of Iraq.svg  Iraq 94,385
Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands 70,315
Flag of Serbia.svg  Serbia 68,590
Flag of Kosovo.svg  Kosovo 65,580
Flag of the Taliban.svg  Afghanistan 62,375
Flag of Croatia.svg  Croatia 58,635
Flag of Spain.svg  Spain 56,180
Flag of Russia.svg  Russia 52,735
Flag of Morocco.svg  Morocco 47,695
Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina.svg  Bosnia and Herzegovina 45,305

The following table shows the ten largest cities of North Rhine-Westphalia:

Pos.NamePop. 2020Area (km2)Pop. per km2Map
1 Cologne 1,083,498405.152,668 North Rhine-Westphalia location map 02.svg
2 Düsseldorf 620,523217.012,839
3 Dortmund 587,696280.372,090
4 Essen 582,415210.382,774
5 Duisburg 495,885232.812,140
6 Bochum 364,454145.432,509
7 Wuppertal 355,004168.372,100
8 Bielefeld 333,509257.831,285
9 Bonn 330,579141.222,307
10 Münster 316,403302.911,034

Historical population

The following table shows the population of the state since 1930. The values until 1960 are the average of the yearly population, from 1965 the population at year end is used.

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
1930 11,407,000    
1940 12,059,000+0.56%
1950 12,926,000+0.70%
1955 14,442,000+2.24%
1960 15,694,000+1.68%
1965 16,619,450+1.15%
1970 17,033,651+0.49%
1975 17,129,200+0.11%
YearPop.±% p.a.
1980 17,057,488−0.08%
1985 16,674,001−0.45%
1990 17,349,651+0.80%
1995 17,893,045+0.62%
2000 18,009,865+0.13%
2005 18,058,105+0.05%
2010 17,845,154−0.24%
2015 17,865,516+0.02%
YearPop.±% p.a.
2017 17,912,134+0.13%
2018 17,932,651+0.11%
2019 17,947,221+0.08%
2020 17,925,570−0.12%
2021 17,924,591−0.01%
2022 18,139,116+1.20%
Source: [11]

Vital statistics

Source: Statistische Ämter des Bundes Und der Länder [12]


Religion in North Rhine-Westphalia, 2020 [13]
Other or none
Roman Catholicism
EKD Protestantism

As of 2020, 36.3% of the population of the state adhered to the Roman Catholic Church, 23.0% to the Protestant Church in Germany, and 40.7% of the population is irreligious or adheres to other denominations or religions. North Rhine-Westphalia ranks first in population among German states for both Roman Catholics and Protestants. [13]

In 2016, the interior ministry of North Rhine-Westphalia reported that the number of mosques with a Salafist influence had risen from 3 to 9, which indicated both an actual increase and improved reporting. [14] According to German authorities, Salafism is incompatible with the principles codified in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany, in particular: democracy, the rule of law, and political order based on human rights. [15]


Landtag in Dusseldorf Duesseldorf 1932Kopie.jpg
Landtag in Düsseldorf

The politics of North Rhine-Westphalia takes place within a framework of a federal parliamentary representative democratic republic. The two main parties are, as on the federal level, the centre-right Christian Democratic Union and the centre-left Social Democratic Party. From 1966 to 2005, North Rhine-Westphalia was continuously governed by the Social Democrats or SPD-led governments.

The state's legislative body is the Landtag ("state diet"). [16] It may pass laws within the competency of the state, e.g. cultural matters, the education system, matters of internal security, i.e. the police, building supervision, health supervision and the media; as opposed to matters that are reserved to Federal law. [16]

North Rhine-Westphalia uses the same electoral system as the Federal level in Germany: " Personalized proportional representation ". Every five years the citizens of North Rhine-Westphalia vote in a general election to elect at least 181 members of the Landtag. Only parties who win at least 5% of the votes cast may be represented in parliament. [16]

The Landtag, the parliamentary parties and groups consisting of at least 7 members of parliament have the right to table legal proposals to the Landtag for deliberation. [16] The law that is passed by the Landtag is delivered to the Minister-President, who, together with the ministers involved, is required to sign it and announce it in the Law and Ordinance Gazette. [16]

List of ministers-president

These are the ministers-president of North Rhine-Westphalia:

Ministers-president of North Rhine-Westphalia
No.NameImageBorn-DiedParty affiliationStart of TenureEnd of Tenure
1 Rudolf Amelunxen Rudolf Amelunxen - Ausschnitt aus Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F001946-0009, Berlin, Bundesversammlung wahlt Bundesprasident.jpg 1888–1969 Centre Party 19461947
2 Karl Arnold KAS-Arnold, Karl-Bild-6024-1.jpg 1901–1958CDU19471956
3 Fritz Steinhoff Bundesarchiv Fritz Steinhoff.jpg 1897–1969SPD19561958
4 Franz Meyers Franz Meyers ex Ludwig Erhard 1965 FdG 1.jpg 1908–2002CDU19581966
5 Heinz Kühn Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F023752-0007 Heinz Kuhn cropped.jpg 1912–1992SPD19661978
6 Johannes Rau Johannes rau 2004-05-16 berlin-RZ.jpg 1931–2006SPD19781998
7 Wolfgang Clement Wolfgang Clement.jpg 1940–2020SPD19982002
8 Peer Steinbrück Next Peer Steinbruck (SPD).jpg *1947SPD20022005
9 Jürgen Rüttgers Juergen Ruettgers.jpg *1951CDU20052010
10 Hannelore Kraft Hannelorekraft.jpg *1961SPD20102017
11 Armin Laschet Grundsteinlegung MiQua-7004 (cropped).jpg *1961CDU20172021
12 Hendrik Wüst 2019-10-10 Hendrik Wust by OlafKosinsky MG 1329.jpg *1975CDU2021Current

For the current state government, see Wüst cabinet.


Architecture and building monuments

Historic monuments

Modern architecture

World Heritage Sites

The state has Aachen Cathedral, the Cologne Cathedral, the Zeche Zollverein in Essen, the Augustusburg Palace in Brühl and the Imperial Abbey of Corvey in Höxter which are all World Heritage Sites. [17]


Food native to North Rhine-Westphalia
Pumpernickel bread one of the most famous German breads. It is made from a dark rye, and has a unique and subtly sweet flavor. It has been baked for centuries and has acquired its popular name from the war era, when bread was being rationed. It means flatulence and bad spirits. [18] [19]



North Rhine-Westphalia hosts film festivals in Cologne, Bonn, Dortmund, Duisburg, Münster, Oberhausen and Lünen. [17]

Other large festivals include Rhenish carnivals, Ruhrtriennale.

Every year Gamescom is hosted in Cologne. It is the largest video game convention in Europe.



ThyssenKrupp headquarters in Essen Thyssen-Krupp-Quartier-Teilansicht-Essen-2013.jpg
ThyssenKrupp headquarters in Essen

North Rhine-Westphalia has always been Germany's powerhouse with the largest economy among the German states by GDP figures. [20]

In the 1950s and 1960s, Westphalia was known as Land von Kohle und Stahl (Land of Coal and Steel). In the post-World War II recovery, the Ruhr was one of the most important industrial regions in Europe, and contributed to the German Wirtschaftswunder. As of the late 1960s, repeated crises led to contractions of these industrial branches. On the other hand, producing sectors, particularly in mechanical engineering and metal and iron working industry, experienced substantial growth. Despite this structural change and an economic growth which was under national average, the 2018 GDP of 705 billion euro (1/4 of the total German GDP) made NRW the economically strongest state of Germany by GRP figures, as well as one of the most important economical areas in the world. [21] Of Germany's top 100 corporations, 37 are based in North Rhine-Westphalia. On a per capita base, however, North Rhine-Westphalia remains one of the weaker among the Western German states. [22]

North Rhine-Westphalia attracts companies from both Germany and abroad. In 2009, the state had the most foreign direct investments (FDI) anywhere in Germany. [23] Around 13,100 foreign companies from the most important investment countries control their German or European operations from bases in North Rhine-Westphalia.[ citation needed ]

There have been many changes in the state's economy in recent times. Among the many changes in the economy, employment in the creative industries is up while the mining sector is employing fewer people. [17] Industrial heritage sites are now workplaces for designers, artists and the advertising industry. [17] [24] The Ruhr region has – since the 1960s – undergone a significant structural change away from coal mining and steel industry. Many rural parts of Eastern Westphalia, Bergisches Land and the Lower Rhine ground their economy on "Hidden Champions" in various sectors.

As of June 2014, the unemployment rate is 8.2%, second highest among all western German states. [25] In October 2018 the unemployment rate stood at 6.4% and was higher than the national average. [26]

Year [27] 2000200120022003200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018
Unemployment rate in %


With its central location in the most important European economic area, high population density, strong urbanization and numerous business locations, North Rhine-Westphalia has one of the densest transport networks in the world.

Regional rail network

Transportsystem Rhein-Ruhr in 2014 VRR Linien-Netz 2014.jpg
Transportsystem Rhein-Ruhr in 2014
Stadtbahn in Dortmund Einfahrt Stadtbahn U46 in U-Bahnhof Saarlandstrasse.JPG
Stadtbahn in Dortmund

The regional rail network is organised around the main in towns in Rhein-Ruhr: Bonn, Cologne, Wuppertal, Düsseldorf, Essen and Dortmund. Some public transport companies in this region are run under the umbrella of the Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Ruhr, which provides a uniform ticket system valid for the entire area. The Ruhr region is well-integrated into the national rail system, the Deutsche Bahn , for both passenger and goods services, each city in the region has at least one or more train stations. The bigger central stations have hourly direct connections to the bigger European cities as Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Vienna or Zürich.

The Rhein-Ruhr area also contains some of the longest tram system in the world, with tram and Stadtbahn services from Witten to Krefeld in the VRR zone and Cologne to Bad Honnef and Siegburg via Bonn within the VRS zone. Besides the local public transportation there is an interconnected commuter rail network, with the Rhine-Ruhr S-Bahn network serving the Ruhr area as well as Düsseldorf and the S-Bahn Köln serving the area around Cologne.

As of 2012, the VRR network alone consists of 978 lines, [28] of which there are:

In 2022 the VRS and AVV area [30] contains


Autobahn A40 in Essen A40-Ruhrschnellweg-Huttrop.jpg
Autobahn A40 in Essen

North Rhine-Westphalia has the densest network of Autobahns in Germany and similar Schnellstraßen (expressways). The Autobahn network is built in a grid network, with five east–west (A2, A4, A40, A42, A44) and eight north–south (A1, A3, A43, A45, A52, A57, A59, A61) routes. The A1, A2, A3, A4 and A61 are mostly used by through traffic, while the other autobahns have a more regional function.

Both the A44 and the A52 have several missing links, in various stages of planning. Some missing sections are currently in construction or planned to be constructed in the near future.

Additional expressways serve as bypasses and local routes, especially around Dortmund and Bochum. Due to the density of the autobahns and expressways, Bundesstraßen are less important for intercity traffic. The first Autobahns in the Region opened during the mid-1930s. Due to the density of the network, and the number of alternative routes, traffic volumes are generally lower than other major metropolitan areas in Europe. Traffic congestion is an everyday occurrence, but far less so than in the Randstad in the Netherlands, another polycentric urban area. Most important Autobahns have six lanes.


The region benefits from the presence of several airport infrastructure. The main airport is Düsseldorf Airport, world class, which hosts 24.5 million passengers per year and offers flights to many destinations. Düsseldorf is the third largest airport in Germany after Frankfurt and Munich; [31] It is a hub for Eurowings and a focus city for several more airlines. The airport has three passenger terminals and two runways and can handle wide-body aircraft up to the Airbus A380. [32]

The second airport is the international airport of Germany's fourth-largest city Cologne, and also serves Bonn, former capital of West Germany. With around 12.4 million passengers passing through it in 2017, it is the seventh-largest passenger airport in Germany and the third-largest in terms of cargo operations. By traffic units, which combines cargo and passengers, the airport is in fifth position in Germany. [33] As of March 2015, Cologne Bonn Airport had services to 115 passenger destinations in 35 countries. [34] It is named after Konrad Adenauer, a Cologne native and the first post-war Chancellor of West Germany.

Third airport in the region, Dortmund Airport is a minor international airport located 10 km (6.2 mi) east of Dortmund. It serves the eastern Rhine-Ruhr area, the largest urban agglomeration in Germany, and is mainly used for low-cost and leisure charter flights. In 2019 the airport served 2,719,563 passengers.

Then the airport of Münsterland Münster Osnabrück Airport, hosting nearly 986,260 passengers per year and Airport Weeze with 693,404 passengers.


The Rhine flows through North Rhine-Westphalia. Its banks are usually heavily populated and industrialized, in particular the agglomerations Cologne, Düsseldorf and Ruhr area. Here the Rhine flows through the largest conurbation in Germany, the Rhine-Ruhr region. Duisburg Inner Harbour (Duisport) and Dortmund Port are large industrial inland ports and serve as hubs along the Rhine and the German inland water transport system. The country is crossed by many canals like Rhine–Herne Canal (RHK), der Wesel-Datteln-Kanal (WDK), der Datteln-Hamm-Kanal (DHK) and Dortmund-Ems-Kanal (DEK) an important role for inland navigation.


RWTH Aachen RWTH Aachen Hauptgebaude.jpg
RWTH Aachen

RWTH Aachen is one of Germany's leading universities of technology and was chosen by DFG as one of the German Universities of Excellence in 2007, 2012 and again in 2019. North Rhine-Westphalia is home to 14 universities and over 50 partly postgraduate colleges, with a total of over 742,000 students. [35] Largest and oldest university is the University of Cologne (Universität zu Köln), founded in 1388 AD, since 2012 also one of Germany's eleven Universities of Excellence. University of Duisburg-Essen (Universität Duisburg-Essen), is also well known and is one of the largest universities in Germany.



Signal Iduna Park, the stadium of Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund, is the largest stadium in Germany. Signal iduna park stadium dortmund 4.jpg
Signal Iduna Park, the stadium of Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund, is the largest stadium in Germany.

NRW is home to several football clubs of the Bundesliga including Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund, Borussia Mönchengladbach, 1. FC Köln and VfL Bochum and the 2. Bundesliga including Fortuna Düsseldorf, FC Schalke 04 and SC Paderborn 07 and the 3. Bundesliga including Arminia Bielefeld, MSV Duisburg, Rot-Weiß Essen, Preußen Münster, Rot-Weiß Oberhausen, FC Viktoria Köln and SC Verl. Since the formal establishment of the German Bundesliga in 1963, Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Mönchengladbach have been the most successful teams in the state, with both winning 5 titles. FC Köln won 2 titles, including the first in 1963. Before the league's establishment, North Rhine-Westfalian teams competed for the title of Deutscher Fußballmeister (German Football Champion). Here, FC Schalke 04 brought home 7 titles, while Dortmund and Köln won an additional 3 and 1 title(s), respectively. Fortuna Düsseldorf and Rot-Weiß Essen have each been German Champion once. North Rhine-Westphalia has been a very successful footballing state having a combined total of 25 championships, fewer only than Bavaria.


The state is also home to several professional basketball teams that currently either compete in the Basketball Bundesliga or ProA or have competed there in the past. These teams include Telekom Baskets Bonn, Bayer Giants Leverkusen, Paderborn Baskets, Uni Baskets Münster, VfL SparkassenStars Bochum, Phoenix Hagen and Alemannia Aachen.

Ice hockey

North Rhine-Westphalia is home to current and former DEL teams Düsseldorfer EG, Kölner Haie, Krefeld Pinguine, and Iserlohn Roosters.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region</span> Urban area in Germany

The Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region is the largest metropolitan region in Germany, with over ten million inhabitants. A polycentric conurbation with several major urban concentrations, the region covers an area of 7,110 square kilometres (2,750 sq mi), entirely within the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region spreads from the Ruhr area (Dortmund-Bochum-Essen-Duisburg) in the north to the urban areas of the cities of Mönchengladbach, Düsseldorf, Wuppertal, Leverkusen, Cologne, and Bonn in the south. The location of the Rhine-Ruhr at the heart of the European Blue Banana makes it well connected to other major European cities and metropolitan areas such as the Randstad, the Flemish Diamond and the Frankfurt Rhine Main Region.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lippstadt</span> Town in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Lippstadt is a town in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is the largest town within the district of Soest. Lippstadt is situated about 60 kilometres east of Dortmund, 40 kilometres south of Bielefeld and 30 kilometres west of Paderborn.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Monheim am Rhein</span> Town in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

Monheim am Rhein is a town on the right (eastern) bank of the river Rhine in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Monheim belongs to the district of Mettmann – with the southern suburbs of Düsseldorf to the north, and the Bergisches Land to the south. It consists of the city districts Baumberg and Monheim.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Ruhr</span> Transit district in the Rhein-Ruhr area, Germany

The Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Ruhr, abbreviated VRR, is a public transport association (Verkehrsverbund) in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It covers most of the Ruhr area, as well as neighbouring parts of the Lower Rhine region, including Düsseldorf and thus large parts of the Rhine-Ruhr conurbation. It was founded on 1 January 1980, and is Europe’s largest body of such kind, covering an area of some 5,000 km2 (1,900 sq mi) with more than 7.8 million inhabitants, spanning as far as Dorsten in the north, Dortmund in the east, Langenfeld in the south, and Mönchengladbach and the Dutch border in the west.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rhine-Ruhr S-Bahn</span> German railway network covering the Rhine-Ruhr region

The Rhine-Ruhr S-Bahn is a polycentric and electrically driven S-bahn network covering the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Region in the German federated state of North Rhine-Westphalia. This includes most of the Ruhr, the Berg cities of Wuppertal and Solingen and parts of the Rhineland. The easternmost city within the S-Bahn Rhine-Ruhr network is Unna, the westernmost city served is Mönchengladbach.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof</span> Main railway station of Düsseldorf

Düsseldorf Hauptbahnhof is the main railway station of Düsseldorf, the state capital of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.

Duisburg Hauptbahnhof is a railway station in the city of Duisburg in western Germany. It is situated at the meeting point of many important national and international railway lines in the Northwestern Ruhr valley.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Köln-Mülheim station</span>

Köln-Mülheim is a railway station situated at Mülheim, Cologne in western Germany. It is served by several regional trains, the S6 and S11 lines of the Rhine-Ruhr S-Bahn and the 13 and 18 lines of Cologne Stadtbahn.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rhein-Express</span>

The Rhein-Express is a Regional-Express service, which generally follows the Rhine river. It runs daily every hour from 5 am to 9 pm from Wesel via Oberhausen, Duisburg, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Bonn, Remagen and Andernach to Koblenz, in the German states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate. It is the fourth-most used regional express line in the VRR network with approximately 48,000 passengers a day.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">NRW-Express</span> Regional-Express service in North Rhine-Westphalia

The NRW-Express is a Regional-Express rail service in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), running from Aachen via Cologne, Düsseldorf, Duisburg, Essen, Bochum and Dortmund to Hamm as line RE 1. The line is part of the Rhine-Ruhr Express (RRX) network and is operated by National Express.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rhein-Erft-Express</span>

The Rhein-Erft-Express is a Regional-Express service in the German states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate. It is numbered as line RE 8 and connects the cities of Mönchengladbach, Cologne, Bonn and Koblenz with each other and their surroundings, running hourly. It is complemented by a Regionalbahn stopping service, the Rhein-Erft-Bahn, running also between Mönchengladbach Hauptbahnhof and Koblenz Hauptbahnhof. On weekends it stops at some additional stations between Cologne Hbf and Koblenz Hbf. It is operated by DB Regio with Alstom Coradia Continental EMUs.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rhein-Weser-Express</span> Passenger train

The Rhein-Weser-Express is a Regional-Express service route in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, connecting some of the most important cities in Westphalia with the Ruhr. Cologne, Neuss, Düsseldorf and Duisburg lie on the Rhine while Minden lies on the Weser.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rhein-Hellweg-Express</span> Regional-Express service in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

The Rhein-Hellweg-Express is a Regional-Express service in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), running from Kassel via Dortmund, Bochum, Essen, Duisburg and Düsseldorf Airport to Düsseldorf Hbf. It is named after the Rhine and the Westphalian Hellweg. The line is part of the Rhine-Ruhr Express (RRX) network and is operated by National Express.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rhein-Emscher-Express</span> Regional-Express service in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

The Rhein-Emscher-Express is a Regional-Express service in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), running from Düsseldorf via Duisburg, Gelsenkirchen and Dortmund to Hamm. It connects with the rest of the regional rail network of NRW in Düsseldorf, Duisburg, Oberhausen, Wanne-Eickel, Dortmund and Hamm. In addition, it connects in Düsseldorf, Duisburg, Oberhausen, Dortmund and Hamm with long-distance services.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sauerland-Express</span>

The Sauerland-Express is a Regional-Express service in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, running from Hagen to Warburg (Westf). A few services run to or from Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe. It is managed by the Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Ruhr, the Verkehrsgemeinschaft Ruhr-Lippe, the Nahverkehrsverbund Paderborn-Höxter and the Nordhessischer Verkehrsverbund. It is operated by DB Regio NRW with electric multiple units of classes 612 and 644.

The Hellweg net consists of the four Regionalbahn lines in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia: RB 50, RB 59, RB 69 and RB 89. It has a length of about 370 km. The RB 50 is referred to as Der Lüner, the RB 59 as Die Hellweg-Bahn and the RB 69 and RB 89 together as Die Ems-Börde-Bahn. On 14 December 2008 operations were taken over by eurobahn. Previously these four Regionalbahn services were operated by DB Regio NRW.

The Emscher-Niederrhein-Bahn (RB 35) is a Regionalbahn service in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. It runs hourly between Gelsenkirchen and Duisburg with Mönchengladbach. Its name refers to the Emscher river and the Lower Rhine.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wupper-Lippe-Express</span>

The Wupper-Lippe-Express is an hourly Regional-Express service in German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which forms part of the Rhine-Ruhr S-Bahn. It connects Wesel with Wuppertal Hauptbahnhof via Oberhausen and Essen.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rhein-Ruhr-Express</span> Public transit system in North Rhine-Westphalia

The Rhein-Ruhr-Express (RRX) is a currently under construction regional rail system in the German Rhine-Ruhr area connecting the Ruhr Valley and the central Rhineland. The main goal is to provide a fast connection on its most important section from Dortmund via the Ruhr Valley to Cologne every quarter of an hour. Like the previous Regional-Express-lines the new ones will continue onward from the central section to other cities and states. As part of the project new Siemens Desiro HC trains, that already increased punctuality because of the higher capacity and acceleration, were bought and the region's infrastructure is being upgraded and expanded. Operation on the first line started in December of 2018, while four out of seven planned lines operate now in 2023. The construction is planned to be finished by 2030 and the project is expected to replace 24,000 drives per day when finished.


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