Hanover, or Hannover in German, is surrounded by a number of historic cities including Braunschweig, Celle, Göttingen, Goslar, Hamelin, Hildesheim, Lüneburg, and Wolfenbüttel. They all offer a variety of attractions, including medieval old towns, museums, and art galleries.
The region has a strong British connection with six crowned kings and queens all coming from its Royal family. King George I was the first in 1714 and the line continued until 1901 when Queen Victoria died. Of course that’s not the only reason to visit but traces of this history remain in the many castles and country houses peppered throughout the area.
Hanover is the capital of Lower Saxony, Germany, located on the Leine River. It was founded in the 10th century by the Saxons and, in the 12th century, it became a member of the Hanseatic League, a powerful trading alliance of northern European cities. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Hanover from 1814 to 1866 until it was annexed by Prussia and became part of the German Empire.
The city was badly damaged in WW2 but the historic centre has been rebuilt. Fortunately, the Neues Rathaus, the city hall was largely spared. Opened in 1913, it’s a splendid example of Renaissance Revival architecture. Journey to the top, using the unique arched lift, and get glorious views over the city.
On the outskirts are the Herrenhausen Gardens dating from the 17th century. The Great Garden is one of the most distinguished Baroque gardens of Europe and is surrounded by the Berggarten, the Georgengarten and the Welfengarten. The alfresco Garden Theatre is lined by 18 statues, modelled on works from antiquity, and painted in shimmering gold.
In nearby Laatzen, the Aviation Museum is a permanent exhibition housing 38 airplanes, 800 aircraft models, and more than 30 engines. It was founded in 1987 by a group of aviation enthusiasts and includes aircraft from the early days of aviation to the present day. Highlights include a replica of the Wright Brothers’ Flyer, the first successful powered aircraft, a Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter plane, and a MiG-21 jet.
50km north of Hanover, Hamelin is known for its association with the Pied Piper, the folk tale about a piper who lured away the town’s children. It’s located on the Weser River and was the capital of the Principality of Calenberg from 1636 to 1705, when it became part of the Kingdom of Hanover.
The quaint historical centre has many references to the famous piper, The Pied Piper House, was built in the 1600s, and features a mural depicting the piper’s procession. There’s also a modern sculpture with piper and the children just outside the train station. Finally, the Museum Hameln places the legend in its medieval context.
90 km east of Hanover, in Wolfsburg, the Autostadt is a visitor attraction adjacent to the Volkswagen factory. It started as a car delivery centre but it’s now become much more with a variety of car-related exhibitions. Covering more than 28 hectares, there are pavilions dedicated to each Volkswagen brand and various exhibitions focusing on sustainability and other themes
You can still collect your brand new Volkswagen here from the Autostadt Delivery Towers. The futuristic 48m structures resemble two cylindrical glass silos, and are illuminated at night by LED lights, continuously changing colour. Stacked inside are 400 new Volkswagen cars and a sophisticated system of lifts delivers them to customers.
Perhaps the most interesting is the ZeitHaus, a museum that showcases the history of the automobile, from the early 1900s to the present day from its early days to the present. It’s a marvellous collection of cars through the ages and, as well as Volkswagens, has classics from brands like Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Mercedes-Benz.
Marienburg Castle is around 30km south of Hannover and looks older than it is. It was built in the Gothic Revival style between 1858 and 1867 as a birthday present by King George V of Hanover for his wife. The complex of buildings includes a keep, a chapel, a library and ballroom, and is surrounded by a moat and a park. Of particular interest are the kitchens, complete with 19th century pots and pans.
80km south east of Hanover, Wolfenbüttel is famous as the home of Jägermeister herbal liqueur. More interesting is the historical centre, largely undamaged by the wars waged through its long history. Its narrow streets, half-timbered houses, and quaint shops lead to Wolfenbüttel Castle, a Renaissance palace that was the residence of the Dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg. Today it houses a museum, showcasing a variety of art, furniture, and other artefacts.
In 1572 Duke Henry Julius founded a court library in Wolfenbüttel. He contributed many treasures from his own collection, including medieval manuscripts taken from former monasteries after he abolished Catholicism. Now it houses over a million books and, as the Herzog August Bibliothek, it’s one of the oldest and most important libraries in Germany. The Duke also commissioned the Marienkirche in 1608, for the city centre, the world’s first major Protestant church.
Nearby Celle is situated on the banks of the River Aller. It’s famous for its beautiful castle, the Schloss Celle, which was built in the Renaissance style in the 13th century and served as the residence of the Dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg. The castle now houses the Residenzmuseum, which displays a variety of art and furniture from the ducal period.
Celle has a rich history and a well-preserved Altstadt, or Old Town, with over 500 half-timbered houses, many of which date back to the 16th century. It’s also home to the Bomann Museum, which showcases the town’s history and cultural heritage. The museum has a variety of exhibits, including an extensive collection of paintings by the local artist Otto Modersohn.
INFO: Visit Hannover has information about the city.
The HannoverCard includes free public transport and discounts on tourist attractions.
9+2 Historic Cities has information about all the surrounding cities including Braunschweig, Celle, Göttingen, Goslar, Hamelin, Hildesheim, Lüneburg and Wolfenbüttel.
GO: British Airways flies direct to Hanover from London Heathrow,
STAY: The Maritim Airport Hotel Hannover is right next to the terminal and makes a comfortable base.
Hotel Ritz Carlton Wolfsburg is in the Autostadt.
EAT: Broyhan Haus has good food in Hanover.
Restaurant Zum Glück is right on the square in Wolfenbüttel.
Thaer’s Wirtshaus in Celle serves typical Saxon fare.