Völklingen Ironworks, Völklingen, Germany
Pipes, metal tracks, huge silos and mashings of metal are all around. It feels like I’m lost in an industrial jungle.
The light breaks through in places but, otherwise, the sun is eclipsed by the constructions in every direction. It looks haphazard but everything is there for a reason.
It’s a patchwork of metal in which the visitors seem so insignificant in size.
This is the Völklingen Ironworks – an enormous testament to German industry and the growth of a new age of productivity and expansion across Europe.
The ironworks first started operation in 1883 and it was a critical part of the industrial landscape in Germany during the 20th century. At its peak, more than 17,000 people worked here.
You can only imagine the noise that must have boomed from every direction, the heat as the machines were all in operation, and the crowds as thousands of people moved around the complex.
At first, the site was used to make steel for things like railways tracks. This was the period in history of great growth, though – the industrial age – and it wasn’t long before steel girders for building construction were being produced here.
The by-products of making iron, like fertiliser and tar, also became important for the economic success of the company.
During war times, the steel made here was used for weapons and for helmets. And in the years after conflict, a need for metal to rebuild was crucial.
The Völklingen Ironworks finally closed in 1986 it was protected as a national monument. In 1994 it was the first industrial site in any country to be listed as a World Heritage Site.
A lot of work has gone into making it a safe place to visit but still maintaining as much original authenticity as possible.
The original industrial feel of the ironworks has been well preserved and it’s not hard to imagine how the site would have felt when it was at the height of its operation.
The metal maze seems intimidating at first, but everything has its place and is connected to each other in a logical way.
Visiting Völklingen Ironworks
The Völklingen Ironworks site is large with a series of different sections to explore. From the sintering shed, through the burden shed and up to the coking plant, there are more than 6 kilometres of pathways that you can follow.
From my experience, I would say it probably takes at least two hours to walk through properly.
One of the things I like best about the site and its paths is the opportunity to take detours and discover different parts of the various sections.
Although some areas are off limits for safety reasons, there’s a large degree of flexibility in where you can explore independently. Climbing up to the top platform and looking out across the site is a must.
The huge complex also hosts constantly changing art and history exhibitions in a few of its sections. Some of the exhibitions are included in the general admission, while larger special events are held in the enormous Blower Shed for an additional charge.
If you’re going to visit, have a look at what will be on display so you can plan your time accordingly.
You can see it on Google Maps here.
November - March: 1000 - 1800
March - November: 1000 - 1900