The most populous of the German states has long been considered Germany’s blue-collar workplace or rather, as the “land of coal and steel”. The traditional heavy industry in the state, particularly in the densely populated Ruhr area, has suffered through many crises and has forced this part of Germany to undergo a fundamental structural change, which has in some places not yet been completed, resulting in comparatively high unemployment rates in some cities.
In terms of travel ideas, the cities of the Ruhr area like Bochum, Dortmund or Essen make a fascinating stop for travelers looking to discover a country and its people. But North Rhine-Westphalia has a lot more to offer - among others, there are wide open spaces, the beautiful Rhine area and several hill ranges with no shortage of natural beauty.
Formerly a part of the Holy Roman Empire, the area left of the Rhine became French in 1795. Later, Prussia received most of what is today the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, which was formed by the British administration after World War II. The state however consists of culturally different regions which needed considerable time to form a common identity. The state shares a border with the neighboring countries of Belgium and the Netherlands.
It is expected that North Rhine-Westphalias population will decrease in the future. Today, only a quarter of the total population lives in a family setting, almost 40% of households consist of only one person. More than 22% of the inhabitants have an immigrant family background, about 11% have a nationality other than German.