Dortmund, Germany – Geography and Demographics


With a population of approx. 590,000, Dortmund is the eighth largest city in Germany, and is about the same as Stuttgart, Düsseldorf and Essen. The more than 1100 years old city is considered the “heart of Westphalia”.

Dortmund is an important traffic junction on the north-eastern edge of the Ruhr area which borders the Sauerland area in the south-east as well as the Münsterland area in the north. Geographically, Dortmund has the following coordinates: 51° 30′ 58″ north latitude and 7° 28′ 05″ east longitude.

Dortmund lays between 50 and 254 meters above sea level. South of the city border, the river “Lenne” flows into the river “Ruhr”, which in turn flows into the “Rhine” river about 70 km west. The old Hanseatic city is connected to the North Sea via the Dortmund-Ems Canal, the end point of which is the more than 100-year-old Dortmund harbor.


Dortmund’s population grew rapidly in the time of the 19th century industrialization when coal mining and steel processing in the city began. 1904 marks the year when Dortmund saw a population of more than 100,000 for the first time in its history.

Traditional economic sectors – changes and prospects 

Within the framework of industrialization, Dortmund quickly developed into a center of heavy industry (coal and steel in particular). Some of the important Dortmund companies included Hoesch, the Dortmunder Union, Phoenix AG für Bergbau und Hüttenbetrieb and the Dortmunder Zechen, which were merged under the Ruhrkohle AG in 1969. In the middle of the 20th century there were still more than 15 coal mines in Dortmund that were still active. The last mine however, ceased operations in 1987. 

These former industrial sites now offer new development potential for the city: 

The former site of the Dortmunder Union in the west of the city center is already largely populated with newly established businesses and trade structures: it is conveniently located on the railway line through the Emscher Valley, on the northern city motorway, the feeder road to the A 45, A 40 and A 2 motorways, and near the Dortmund-Ems Canal.

Following its dismantling, demolition and redesign as the Phoenix Lake project, the former Phoenix East steelworks in the southeast of Dortmund Hörde has become a bustling address for residential and business purposes with a high recreational value.

Within the Phoenix Lake Project, the Phoenix-West location is already playing a central role in the competition for further company settlements in the field of microsystems technology. Dortmund is now regarded as the largest German center for microsystems technology and is home to 26 companies employing 1700 people. This relatively young sector has already made huge impacts, and will continue to grow well into the future. 

Even after the shutdown of the blast furnaces, the sintering plant and the hot strip rolling mill, production continues at the Westfalenhütte site in the north-east of Dortmund. Here there is a rolling mill with sheet metal processing and coating that employs roughly 1000 employees. There is also a center for the surface finishing of flat steel on site. The entire site is approximately 15 square kilometers and offers enormous possibilities for urban development. Several logistics companies have already established themselves on the site.

Between 1960 and 1994, the number of industrial workers fell from 127,000 to 37,000. New jobs were created mainly in information processing, banking and insurance sectors. A trend-setting signal was the establishment of the University of Dortmund in 1968. The campus is home to the Technology Center, which blazed a trail for today’s industry. The Technology Center was one of the first in Germany to be opened (1984) within close proximity to the university. Since 1988, more than 225 companies with over 8500 employees have settled in the adjacent technology park.

 – Tobit Robbenmenke 15.10.2019

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