State of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

North Rhine-Westphalia is the most populous and densely populated German state. It touches two large areas of landscape: the North German lowlands and the low mountain range threshold. North Rhine-Westphalia is an important industrial state with a rapidly expanding service sector. The economic center is the Rhine-Ruhr conurbation with the Ruhr area, the Rhine axis and the Rhenish lignite area. Düsseldorf is the state capital, Cologne the largest city in the state.

North Rhine-Westphalia, or NRW for short , is the most populous federal state in Germany (Fig. 1). Almost 18 million people live in an area of ​​34080 km². The state capital Düsseldorf is on the right bank of the Rhine. The state in northwest Germany borders Belgium and the Netherlands in the west, Lower Saxony in the north and northeast, Hesse in the east and Rhineland-Palatinate in the south.

As a federal state, North Rhine-Westphalia was formed on August 23, 1946 by the British military government from the Prussian province of Westphalia and the northern part of the Prussian Rhine province. On January 21, 1947, the state of Lippe-Detmold was incorporated.

Natural space

According to localbusinessexplorer, NRW has a share in two landscape areas: the North German lowlands and the low mountain range threshold.

The lowland, which was shaped during the Ice Age, extends far south into the low mountain range in the Lower Rhine and Westphalian Bays. The Lower Rhine Bay, in which gravel terraces and moraine deposits alternate, extends into the Cologne-Bonn area. The Westphalian Bay with the Münsterland is a geological basin from the Cretaceous period. Egge and Teutoburg Forest limit it to the east and northeast.

The low mountain range in North Rhine-Westphalia forms part of the Rhenish Slate Mountains: Eifel and Hohes Venn are on the left bank of the Rhine, Sauerland, Bergisches Land, Rothaargebirge, Siegerland, Siebengebirge and part of the Westerwald on the right bank of the Rhine. In the northeast, North Rhine-Westphalia has a share in the Weser Uplands and the Wiehen Mountains.

About a quarter of the country’s area is covered by forest.

The river basin of the Rhine drains most of North Rhine- Westphalia. The river section from Bonn is also known as the Lower Rhine. River dikes protect the flat land from flooding.

The climate is subject to Atlantic influences. Average temperatures in the lowlands are usually above freezing in winter and between 16ºC and 17ºC in summer. Temperatures are lower in the low mountain ranges. There is also higher rainfall. In the mountainous regions with high levels of precipitation, such as Bergisches Land and Sauerland, many rivers are dammed to regulate the water balance and to supply drinking water to large urban areas.


Rhinelander and Westphalia make up the largest part of the population. At the turn of the century, many settlers came from the East, Silesians, East Prussia and Poland. Because of the large number of jobs available, they mainly settled in the Ruhr area. After 1945 many refugees and displaced persons came.

Of the large states, NRW is the most densely populated German state. However, the population distribution is very different. The highest population density is found in the Rhine-Ruhr conurbation with the Ruhr area, the Rhine axis and the Rhenish lignite area. Sparsely populated areas are Eifel, Münsterland, East Westphalia and Sauerland. Almost 50% of all residents live in the state’s 24 major cities.

46% of the population belong to the Catholic Church, 31% to the Protestant regional churches. The 19 Jewish communities have around 21,900 members. NRW has numerous universities, including eight universities, a technical university (in Aachen) and the renowned Folkwang University for Drama and Directing in Essen.

Cologne, the secret metropolis

Not the state capital Düsseldorf is the largest city in North Rhine-Westphalia, but the cathedral metropolis Cologne. After the temporary incorporation of the Wesseling refinery site, the population rose to over the million mark. Today Cologne has just over 1 million residents. The city lies on both sides of the Rhine in the Cologne Bay.

The Gothic cathedral is a landmark that is visible from afarin appearance. Construction began in 1248, but was not finally completed until 1880. Cologne shows a multitude of traces from Roman times, including parts of the city wall, streets and water pipes. Among the numerous new buildings, the Kölnarena, which opened in 1998 and is primarily used for major musical events, and the Wallraf-Richartz Museum are noteworthy.

Cologne is an important industrial and trading center with a stock exchange and trade fairs. It is the seat of the archbishop and the seat of cultural and educational institutions of supraregional importance as well as radio and television companies. Eight Rhine bridges make Cologne a rail and road junction.

Economy and Transport

NRW is a decidedly industrial state with a rapidly growing service sector. The spatial focus is on the Rhine-Ruhr economic area.

A significant iron and steel industry developed in the Ruhr area due to hard coal deposits. The energy and chemical industries have also developed strongly in NRW. After an upswing that lasted into the 1960’s, sales crises in the coal industry and several steel crises set in. This decline in traditional economic sectors brought about major structural changes. The central economic importance was transferred to the Rhineland. This is where the former capital of the Federal Republic of Germany, Bonn, and the two large international exhibition centers Cologne and Düsseldorf are located.

Other industrial areas are the Aachen area, the Lower Rhine area, the Münsterland textile district, East Westphalia-Lippe, the Siegerland and the Bergisches Land.

Its efficient infrastructure made NRW a transport hub for international trade in Europe.

The mining focuses primarily on the rich coal and lignite deposits. The extraction volumes of hard coal in the mining areas of the Ruhr area, Aachen and Ibbenbüren have fallen sharply. In contrast, there is the production from the large-scale opencast mines in the Rhenish lignite mining arearelatively constant. This area covers the part of the Lower Rhine Bay between Neuss, Ville and Eschweiler. With 2500 km², the area is the largest contiguous brown coal deposit in Europe. There are large open-cast mines near Grevenbroich, Jülich and Eschweiler. The lignite is mainly used to generate electricity and to refine it into solid fuels and filter coke. With five large power plants, the Rhenish lignite district is one of the most important power generation centers in Europe.

Rock salt and potash are extracted from the Lower Rhine as well as pebbles in the Sauerland as further mineral resources.

Brine and sulfur springs, iron acid and other mineral springs created numerous spa centers. Tourism is concentrated there and in the mountainous parts of the country . Sauerland and Bergisches Land, Teutoburg Forest and Eifel are above all centers of local recreation. Hochsauerland and Rothaargebirge offer good winter sports opportunities.

About 45% of the total area is used for agriculture. In the fertile loess areas on the edge of the low mountain range and in the Lipper Land, agriculture dominates. Rye, wheat and sugar beet are grown. Potatoes and fodder plants thrive on the sandy and clay soils of the lowlands and vegetables and fruit on the edge of the foothills. Permanent grassland is in the foreground in the High Fens, the Bergisches Land, the Sauerland and the communities on the Lower Rhine. NRW has an important livestock industry with large numbers of pigs, cattle, horses and poultry.

NRW has one of the densest railway and motorway networks in all of Europe. In addition to the Rhine, important waterways are the Rhine-Herne Canal, the Dortmund-Ems Canal, the Wesel-Datteln and Datteln-Hamm Canal and the Mittelland Canal. The port of Duisburg is the largest inland port in Europe. International airports have Düsseldorf and Cologne-Bonn.

State of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany