It’s a travel attitude. Curiosity drives travellers to explore this often overlooked mega metropolitan region of ten million people. The constantly transforming Ruhr Area, artsy Düsseldorf and eclectic Cologne make the perfect urban trio for your next adventure!
Take a look at a map and you’ll see the urban heart of North Rhine-Westphalia spread out in the shape of a banana. That’s how this extraordinary project, which gives voice to the creatives and makers of this vibrant conurbation, got its name.
But what exactly is urbanana?
Whether you come as a tourist or to stay – or come as a tourist and end up staying – the individual and diverse identity of urbanana will inspire you. Let us introduce you to three locals and visitors from urbanana, who are here to tell their story. Who could explain it better than them?
Want to know more about urbanana? Check us out here:
Stefan Huber (36)
Social worker and backliner living in Essen
“Living in the Salzburger Land region, I was simply a tradesman. After coming here, I quickly realised that I wanted to do something else. I became a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. These days I work with people in all kinds of different social projects. And the Ruhr Area has become my home.” Stefan exchanged the mountains for slag heaps and his sledge for a bike.
It’s this melting pot of creativity and wide spectrum of leisure activities that make Stefan so enthusiastic about urbanana. “I live in Essen, which is pretty much at the heart of the Ruhr Area. Going from here in any direction, you sometimes don’t even realise you’re passing through city limits. I travel a lot for my two hobbies: I’ve been the guitarist of many different bands over the past few years. I also play ice hockey and travel around for matches. Everything is very close in urbanana. Despite living in an urban jungle with more than a million people, you’re never really very far from nature. And there’s the incredible industrial culture, of course. This ongoing transformation still fascinates me.”
After arriving in urbanana, Stefan began working as a backline engineer at concerts and festivals. “It’s exciting, because it takes me to places all over Europe. But very often I’m actually able to return home for the night to sleep. I love it that I never have to go far.-There is so much going on in urbanana and I’m at the centre of it all.”
Baldeep Grewal (26)
International student from Punjab, India, spent one semester at the Heinrich-Heine University in Düsseldorf
Baldeep (who prefers to use a gender-neutral pronoun) seized the opportunity presented by their university in Mumbai to come to Düsseldorf as an international student. And although it wasn’t all glitz and glamour, the authenticity of the place touched them deeply. Baldeep decided to stay.
“The nearby library offered so many great books to read. I’d sit in the cafés for hours, just soaking up the creative atmosphere.” Baldeep loved walking around the city too and came to appreciate the freedom the region offers. “The quality of life in urbanana is very high. Like being able to take a late run at 1 am (which I could never do in Mumbai) and seeing the campus and city so quiet yet also safe at night.”
There was so much to explore within the city. Like the time Baldeep visited Japan Day in Düsseldorf. “Just when I thought I had Düsseldorf figured out, I was overwhelmed by the energy of this festival. I didn’t even know about this facet of the city. Seeing all these people putting so much effort into their costumes — so authentic, so into the details. The creative vibe was wonderful.”
Baldeep made use of the extensive train network and visited other nearby cities in the urban jungle of urbanana too. “Probably the nicest day I had was when I visited the Gasometer in Oberhausen. I remember climbing up to the rooftop and having this great view over Oberhausen and the surrounding cities. That was probably when I knew I was going to stay.”
Veronika Borisenok (24)
Tourist from Moscow, visited urbanana twice in 2019
Veronika, known as Nika by her friends, had a two-day layover in urbanana en route to her honeymoon in Spain. It left such a lasting impression that the professional photographer from Moscow came back just a couple of weeks later.
“Whenever I travel, I like to find interesting, unique and authentic places. Even if the place is famous, like Cologne Cathedral, I try to photograph it in an unusual way. But this city is so much more; its streets, its cool bars and cafés and the people who live here. Cologne has stolen my heart.”
The short stopover became one of the most inspiring trips in Nika’s life. “I believe that I fell in love with urbanana not just because of its beauty and architecture, but because I felt as part of a community and I could speak to anyone. It fascinated me that there were so many activities that people had organised themselves. I travel a lot and I’ve never felt like I wanted to stay anywhere for a very long time, but the experience I had in urbanana made me think that this is the way I want to live.”
Even though the cities in urbanana are so well-connected, she finds them all unique in their own way. In Düsseldorf, Nika liked the cool buildings at the Media Harbour and the way modern architecture connects with older styles. “Things look so balanced there.” And there are so many spots in urbanana that she still wants to explore. “I love Wim Wenders’ movies. I’ve seen the documentary film, Pina, so now I want to visit Wuppertal and ride its famous suspension railway.