Wuppertal: The city in the valley

Thrown together by town planners and local politicians, Wuppertal is a large city composed of several small towns along the Wupper valley.

City profile

Wuppertal is often called “the San Francisco of Germany”, and not because it has a famous prison or a big red bridge. No, this city shares another characteristic with SF: steep hills lined by pretty houses and lots of steps.

Looking down from one of these parks along the 15km of valley occupied by the city, Wuppertal makes a very industrial impression. One of the city’s oldest companies, once a small carpet manufacturer in the industrial Barmen district, is now an international distributor of household goods and cosmetics: Vorwerk. Further important trade sectors in Wuppertal are mechanical engineering and, surprisingly perhaps, publishing. No description of Wuppertal could possibly be considered complete without reference to the city’s greatest feat of metalwork: the Schwebebahn, or ‘hovering railway’.

Overview of the universities

Wuppertal has not been a university city for long, and so the main University – known as the Bergische Universität Wuppertal – is the only notable educational institution in the city.

Bergische Universität Wuppertal
A wide range of subjects is available for study, though, with sociology and psychology being particular strong-points.

The aesthetic of the University, however, is certainly no strong-point. The buildings were erected primarily during the seventies, and it shows: their dark concrete and monumental size, when viewed whilst approaching the campus from the valley floor, can appear quite forbidding. Inside, however, a modern, bright University awaits those who make the steep climb, with a recently refurbished student bar and terrace offering superb views of the Wupper valley.


Did you know?

Wuppertal is the stairway to heaven! Well, not quite: but if the city’s 469 registered stairways, totalling over 12,000 steps, were placed in a line, you could probably climb half the way there. One of the most famous flights of stairs in the city is the Tippen-Tappen-Tönchen, an onomatopoeic name recalling the noise the hordes of industrial workers used to make climbing it everyday when returning to the Ölberg, one of Germany’s largest purpose-built workers’ housing projects in the nineteenth century.

Things to check out

Indeed, in the next valley South at Cronenburg, one of the water mills that drove early industrialisation has been in preserved in full working order.

Just a short walk around Wuppertal is enough to see some of the fine architecture on which a substantial chunk of the industrialists’ money was spent. Take a look at the: Von-der-Heydt Museum.

Wuppertal is also very well known for its zoo, with over 5000 different species. Set in a charming, wooded landscape, it would be easy to forget when wondering amongst the big cats and monkeys that you were in urban North Western Germany.

Useful links

Cheap accommodation you can find at wuppertal.studenten-wohnung.de.

The city’s homepage gives plenty of information about the city and its surrounding.