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Industrial tourism: mixing the new and the old

Industrial tourism is a passion and is a great success with all audiences. This movement, which builds dreams from a diverted environment or linked to the world of work, is astonishing. Here's a better understanding of this trend.

Tourisme industriel

What is Industrial Tourism?

Industrial tourism offers the opportunity to discover forgotten sites and to restore them to their former glory. In reality, there are 2 categories of industrial tourism: the discovery of places of production (active or not), and the diversion of old sites to host cultural or leisure activities. 

Industrial sites rehabilitated into tourist sites

In Roubaix, La Piscine museum has been installed in an art deco building which formerly housed a swimming pool. The result of this eclectic architecture surprises and strikes at first glance.

Industrial Tourism
La Piscine

The rehabilitation of abandoned sites as tourist places is particularly interesting for destinations with an industrial history that has strongly influenced the culture and landscape of the region. 

In this way, France and Belgium are joining forces to promote the terrils as a tourist destination. Visitors enjoy incredible landscapes and discover a place where nature has returned in force since the miners abandoned the sites. There are many sporting activities to be enjoyed and the remains of the mines can be discovered, as well as the living conditions of the workers at the time. A real journey!

Industrial Sites
Romain Delcroix (Instagram: roro1689)

Industrial Tourism sites to visit

Even if the words “tourism” and “industrial” do not seem to agree, the public has for some time had a strong appetite for this new form of tourism. Is it because industry is scarce in our country? Every year, about 20 million visitors visit French industrial sites to learn about the country’s economy. 

Although all sectors are concerned by industrial tourism, the public is particularly interested in agri-food and handicrafts. Visiting a chocolate factory, a brewery or discovering the craft of perfume or pottery production are now a recurring holiday activity.

Creating an Industrial Tourism offer

The tourism sector is currently refocusing on proximity offers, industrial tourism is definitely a way to offer oneself an “elsewhere” close to home.

Therefore, many factories, plants and companies open their doors to professionals, students and tourists to discover their activity. Generally, visits are made at specific times and on certain days of the week. In the heart of Brussels for example, the Planète Chocolat chocolate factory organizes a visit every Saturday and Sunday. During these visits, the public is given demonstrations of chocolate making, which is one of the many Belgian specialities, and can also enjoy a tasting. The advantage of the tastings? Visitors who have the opportunity to taste your products will be more inclined to become customers and if possible to buy your products regularly. 

Some production spaces are transformed into cultural places because of their history. The Oskar Schindler factory has thus become one of the most popular museums in Krakow. This former factory, well known for its history under the Nazi regime, notably thanks to the film Schindler’s List, has been transformed into a museum dedicated to the history of Cracow under the German occupation. 

Closer to us, the Brasserie Dubuisson, the second oldest brewery in Belgium and creator of the famous Bush beers or Trolls cuvée, has designed an interactive museum dedicated to beer. This visit combined with the discovery of the factory, the shop and an excellent meal in the tasting area offers a full and rewarding day out.

The most photogenic industrial tourism concepts

Tropical Island

Tropical Island is a giant water park located south of Berlin, Germany. The park was built in a former airship hangar. Open since 2004, the park houses wave pools, water slides, rainforest, beach and other attractions.

Tropical Islands

Maison folie in Wazemmes

Maison folie in Wazemmes is a former spinning mill transformed into a cultural space by the Dutch architect Lars Spuybroek. Today, the house offers shows, concerts, exhibitions and artistic workshops. 

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Maison folie in Wazemmes CAEU Nord

The Zollverein Swimming Pool

The Zollverein Swimming Pool is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is located in the middle of a former coal factory. It was created by welding together two containers where coal used to be turned into coke. It is probably the most original bathing place in Germany and is very popular in summer.

Tourisme industriel
© Jochen Tack / Zollverein Foundation

La Felicita

La Felicita is the new Parisian restaurant of the Big Mamma chain, and the largest Italian restaurant in the world. It partly occupies a former hall of the Austerlitz train station in the 13th arrondissement. The restaurant has been inspired by the former function of the place for its decoration: train tracks and customised carriages blend with street art and a natural atmosphere. La Felicita is a great success!

Molinard Perfumery

The house Molinard is one of the oldest perfumeries in the world.  One of their former factories, located in Grasse, the French capital of perfume, can be visited free of charge. The site also houses a bottle museum and visitors can learn how to create their own perfume. 

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Maison Molinard

The cultural centre CaixaForum

The Caixaforum is a former textile factory that was transformed into a cultural centre in 2002. This modernist building houses art exhibitions and exhibits works by Rodin, Picasso, Renoir etc. It is appreciated by visitors not only for its expositions but also for its architecture.

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Barcelona Bus Turistic

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