The Völklingen Ironworks are the world’s only surviving smelting works from the Golden Age of the iron and steel industry in the 19th and 20th century. In 1994 these gigantic ironworks covering an area of 600,000m² became the first industrial monument to be inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list. Today, they are a cultural attraction, themed discovery park and science centre rolled into one.
In 1986, after more than 100 years and millions of tonnes of pig iron, the Völklingen Ironworks in the Saarland was closed, protected by a preservation order and, just eight years later, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. The blasting hall with its colossal machines, the smelting works with its six huge blast furnaces, and the world’s only inclined ore lift are regarded as some of the finest feats of early 20th century engineering, along with the charging platform – standing just under 30 metres in height – where the coke and ore were poured into the blast furnaces.
The latter is now a viewing platform and one of the most impressive points along the extremely well-signposted circular tour, which runs for around six kilometres and allows visitors to explore the ironworks at their own pace.
For some years now, the site has also provided a venue for cultural events ranging from open-air rock concerts and chamber music to exhibitions on the theme of fire, iron and steel, for example at the Ferrodrom, the region’s first science centre. There are also films and talks with first-hand accounts, as well as guided tours with former employees offering an insight into the physical labour required at the blast furnace.
The themed guided tour ‘Need a man? Get a woman!’ demonstrates that industrial work was not just a male preserve. It traces the involvement of women at Völklingen Ironworks and tells the history of the site from a female – and exceptionally fascinating – perspective.
UNESCO World Heritage since 1994
From the selection criteria
The authenticity of its technical facilities makes the ironworks a unique monument of industrial history.
It is the only ironworks built in Western Europe and North America in the 19th and 20th centuries that is still completely preserved.