As last on this hectic busy weekend, and already “more or less” en-route towards Bremen’s Airport, meaning just few hours before our departure flight back to London; we managed to include a short visit to the historic city of Celle. Famous for its hundreds of timber-framed houses beautifully preserved and cared to the tiniest detail, feels more like an open air museum in its entire old town core. In this case as opposed to what happened in Bremen and Lüneburg (cities that we visited before on this trip), thankfully the loss and destruction during the Second World War was minimal at just 10 buildings damaged, therefore what is here today is the same as when built with the majority of the buildings dating to the 16th century. This is one of the main reasons why Celle is included on the timber-framed historic route that crosses Germany from north to south including the best examples of such architecture. No need to mention that Lüneburg, which we visited before coming to Celle, is also a member city of this route.
The good news is that this city is quite small, with a very compact and easy to navigate and see old town core. Therefore, judge and plan your time accordingly. If you are having a spare day as we did for visiting as much as you can, then both Lüneburg and Celle are your best bet and will definitely give you a memorable day.
I cannot imagine, in the other hand, staying much longer here because there is not much more you can do. And even if you are visiting Celle as a day trip from Hanover for example, which is just 30 minutes away by train, the whole day will be still way too much. The options are easy, either if you have a rental car or if you depend on public transport. We did this day tour from Bremen which was our base; but doing the same from Hanover or Hamburg will take you absolutely the same time.
The best way to navigate around the city is by walking in a zigzag system since the streets follow more or less a grid pattern, this way you will not miss any noteworthy building along your way and anyway it does not take too much from one side to the other end of the street. You will not have to walk too much in Celle, but will get overloaded with so many beautiful buildings one after another. The castle in the other hand stands just meters away from the City Hall and Market Square. With its beautiful garden surrounding it at all sides and the water drench in its perimeter, you should complete a loop around and enjoy the views of the castle, the gardens and the many nice trees and vegetation.
Even though that we went during high season, the city was completely empty! We assumed this was because it was the city’s festivities in Luneburg, which in turn was thriving. Probably the entire city of Celle moved there to spend the day. Not that this impacted us in any negative way, but was the opposite! It was great to enjoy the city for ourselves and have almost no one in the pictures.
For more information about Celle check the Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Germany’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Celle
- Alstadt Is the name in German for the Old Town. It is without doubt the reason why tourists come here. With over 400 perfectly preserved historic timber-framed houses most of which dating from the 16th century, it is one of the best examples of its kind.
-Hoppener Haus One of the most known houses with one of the nicest and most elaborate facade. Dating from 1532
-Oldest House Dating from 1526, you will spot it for its dark green color, that among the neighboring red one is quite visible.
-Saint Ludwig Church Is the main Catholic church in the city, built in 1881.
-Saint Mary’s Church Gothic in origin, the current rebuilt was done in 1698 in baroque style. Among its treasures is a 400 years old altar, the organs and the ceiling. Its white tower, from where the town trumpeter blows a fanfare twice a day can be climbed (be aware only on foot) but offers the best views of the entire city and castle.
-Synagogue Built in 1740 was miraculously saved from the Nazi destruction because its location among the very narrow streets and the wooden timber-framed housed nearby would have been collaterally destroyed.
- Schloss Celle The present castle was built in 1530 and was one of the residences of the Dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg. A fortification in its places was first mentioned in 980, but expanded and transformed over time. The design follows the Wesser Renaissance style combined with Venetian and baroque. Some of the rooms and the gardens can be visited as part of the museum.
-Castle Theater Is the oldest baroque theater in Europe. Founded in 1674.
-Castle Gardens Created and expanded after 1826 when the former embankments were levelled. The castle is in the centerpiece.
As I already mentioned for this section in the Lüneburg’s travel guide, the transportation in Celle is pretty much the same. The nearest airports to the city are Hanover at just few kilometers to the north serving a wide network of international destinations including some transcontinental, and both Bremen and Hamburg, also with many international destinations including many by low cost carriers with many flights across Europe at really competitive prices. To get from any of those airports to the city there are plenty of buses from the airport or via the city’s bus terminal, or by train. All airports are connected to the national rail and Celle lies on the line from Hamburg to Hanover hence stopping at the airport station of both cities.
Within the city and due to the small size of its historic city center there is no need to take any public transportation. Furthermore, most of the historic area is pedestrianized. However, should you be needing to move farther from the city center the only public transport available are buses.
Being an important tourist destination in northern Germany the amount of hotels is actually quite good compared to other cities of the same size elsewhere. In any case, I cannot give any further recommendations in here since I was not staying overnight in the city, but instead in Bremen from where we came on a day tour. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
The hotel we stayed was the Courtyard by Marriott, in Theodor Heuss Allee number 2. Next to the main train station and meters away from the Burgerpark. Not more than 15 minutes walking to the old town, could not be at any better location. Also with direct tram line to the airport round the corner, you cannot ask for any better and easier convenience. It was very comfortable, with large rooms in great shape and friendly and helpful staff. We selected the option to have breakfast included which was also really nice and great choice and variety of food. Definitely comes highly recommended.
Should you wish to take a look at Bremen’s travel guide, check here for more information.