Of the eleven independent towns in the Ruhr Metropolis (Metropole) or Ruhr Region (Ruhrgebiet) as it is still known, the two largest are Dortmund with some 580,000 inhabitants and Essen with 575,000. Duisburg (490,000) and Bochum (375,000) are the next most populous urban areas, followed by Gelsenkirchen (258,000), Oberhausen (213,000), Hagen (189,000), Hamm (182,000), Mülheim an der Ruhr (168,000), Herne (164,000), Recklinghausen (119,000) and Bottrop (116,000). All figures are approximate at time of writing.
The list of towns and communities within the four counties of Ennepe-Ruhr, Recklinghausen, Unna and Wesel goes on and on. The statistics reveal what a vast and diverse area has been packed into one as yet artificial metropolis. Many projects have been instigated together, the investment and presentation of The European Cultural Capital of Ruhr.2010 being the climax to date.
The Ruhr region has a total population of over five million. Some ten percent are foreigners or are of foreign descent, coming from almost two hundred countries. One large group come from Turkey, many others from EU countries such as Greece, Portugal, Poland, Italy and countries of the former Yugoslavia such as Croatia and Serbia.
Many young foreigners come to study at one of the three major universities in Bochum, Dortmund and Duisburg-Essen.
Three rivers flow through the Ruhr Metropolis. They are the river Emscher, the river Lippe and the infamous river Ruhr, after which the region was named. The commercial freshwater harbour in Dusburg is the largest of its kind within Europe.