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With 355,100 inhabitants (December 31, 2019), Wuppertal is the largest city and the industrial, economic, educational and cultural center of the Bergisches Land in western Germany. The “big city in the country” is located south of the Ruhr area in the Düsseldorf administrative region and, as the seventeenth largest city in Germany, is one of the regional centers of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The city is part of the metropolitan regions of Rhine-Ruhr and Rhineland, the Rhineland Regional Association and the Bergisches Städtedreieck.

The first documented mentions of settlements come from the middle of the 11th century. For many centuries, today's urban area was divided by different domains. Until the 19th century, the region developed into a center of early German and European industrialization and contributed significantly to the rise of the Ruhr area; Above all, the textile industry brought wealth and growth to the region. The city was founded on August 1, 1929 as an independent city under the name Barmen-Elberfeld through the merger of the independent cities of Elberfeld (major city since around 1883) and Barmen (major city since around 1884) and the cities of Ronsdorf, Cronenberg and Vohwinkel and in 1930 renamed to Wuppertal after a public survey; this naming expressed the geographical location of the cities of Barmen and Elberfeld in the valley of the Wupper.

During National Socialism, the city was an important center of both the NSDAP and the resistance, both of the trade unions and political opposition and of the churches, which was not least expressed in the Barmer Declaration. The importance of the city decreased due to extensive destruction in World War II.

The topography is shaped by the valley of the Wupper, which winds around 20 km through the urban area and whose steep slopes are often wooded. City districts located on the northern and southern plateaus merge into the meadows and forests of the Bergisches Land and make Wuppertal, together with extensive green and forest areas such as the Barmer Wald, Scharpenacken or Staatsforst Burgholz, Germany's greenest city in a ranking from 2013. As the “cradle of industrialization in Germany”, the city is also rich in large villa districts and residential buildings from the Wilhelminian era: around 4500 monuments are located in the city area.

In addition to the suspension railway, which has existed since 1901, the university town is known for the internationally renowned dance theater Pina Bausch and the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment, Energy, the Zoological Garden, the Historical City Hall, the Wuppertal Symphony Orchestra, the Von der Heydt Museum for Fine Arts, the historical center with the Engels house, the sculpture park Waldfrieden, extensive parks and forests with Germany's largest arboretum and the largest variety of denominations in Germany. Well-known sports clubs are the former first division soccer and UEFA Cup participant Wuppertaler SV and the Bundesliga handball club Bergischer HC, as well as Bundesliga clubs in other sports with numerous national and international titles. In addition, numerous personalities are connected to the city through birth or work, such as Pina Bausch, Friedrich Bayer, Gerhard Domagk, Friedrich Engels, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Else Lasker-Schüler, Johannes Rau and Hans Wolfgang Singer.