Honovere: High river bank
As difficult as it is slowly getting nowadays find a destination never been before in Germany, we managed to grab another great British Airways flight+hotel deal at their website to Hanover, and with it, another tick off the list. Not only just the city itself, but few other places nearby to the south of the city, all of which UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Among them, one I really wanted to visit for a long now, the Fagus Factory in Alfeld, a masterpiece of modernist architecture designed by Walter Gropius.
We knew once again this was going to be a very busy weekend packed with sightseeing as many places as we could, but with a city like Hanover this was easy. There is no need to give the city any longer than a day, and even that is actually too much. This was, unfortunately, one of the most heavily bombed cities during WWII and its destruction lead to the loss of 90% of the historical landmarks. Majority of the buildings you see today are 1950’s, ugly blocks and pastiches, but of course not everything was lost, and heavy efforts were done to salvage as much and recreate a nice old town. Surrounding this old town there are nice grand constructions that to our surprise, were not mentioned anywhere not even in the city’s “red line sightseeing route”.
The “Old Town” (Altstadt) is actually not “old”, but a redeveloped area with some 40 old original houses that were left standing after the war and grouped together here in order to give the city once again an old historical core.
With this facts, if you are in search of great places nearby then you are in the perfect spot. You have 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites at maximum of 1 hour from Hanover’s downtown, but you could possibly only visit them all if you get a rental car or some transportation with you. While you could get to them all by public transport, it is between them where you will loose most of the time making it physically impossible not to even do the half of them in day. Yet knowing how we are, our planification of trips before we even go, and our strong desire on visiting World Heritage Sites, it meant only one thing: we had to manage it all somehow, and so we did.
Visiting Hanover was the easiest of any big city you can imagine. The tourism office have deployed a walking “Red Line Route” marked in the pavement covering 4.2 kilometres along the 36 most important sights, starting at the Tourist Information Office and terminating by the Ernst-August-Square in front of the Central Train Station. No chance for getting lost or unplanned deviations. Simply keep following the line and when off-path, get back on track at the next sight. A good useful guide can be found here about this route.
For more information about Hanover check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Germany’s currency is the Euro. 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 Hannover
- Leibniz University Which main building was the winter palace of the Kings of Hanover. Located by the Georgengarten, to the northwest of the city.
- Royal Gardens of Herrenhausen Farther west from the Leibniz University, are one of the most beautiful baroque gardens in Europe. Very large and composed of many pavilions and gardens. You can get there from the city centre across the park Georgengarten, along its long tree lined avenue.
-Orangerie Built in 1723, used for exhibitions and musical performances.
-The Library Pavillion Just across the road from the Orangerie, although not belonging to the Herrenhausen Gardens itself.
-Conference Centre Housed in the original beautiful small palace at the main entrance to the Herrenhausen.
-The Great Parterre Right after the main entrance, is the highlight in the gardens.
-Grotto Which interior was designed by the French artist Niki de Saint-Phalle.
-Special Gardens After the Great Parterre, there are 8 small gardens, each of which a typical garden from a different era (Baroque, Rococo, German…).
-Nouveau Jardin The next big garden after the special ones, with Europe’s highest garden fountain.
- Central Train Station The current is the 3rd reincarnation, from 1910 in beautiful art-nouveau, although was severely destroyed in the WWII bomb raid in 1943 and re-constructed afterwards. Here you can start making your sightseeing walking tour through the Red Line painted in the floor that goes through the 35 historical buildings of Hanover, that are in the following order:
1-Tourist Information Centre Right next to the Hanover Central Train Station.
2-Gallery Luise Linking the train station with the Opera House, is one of the main shopping centres in the city, with a nice glass gallery.
3-Opera House Built in classical style and completed in 1852, was badly damaged in WWII but rebuilt upon original plans afterwards.
4-Georgstraße (Georgstreet) The main street cutting through this part of the city, full of shops. Very few historical buildings remain from what once was.
5-Georgsplatz (Georgsquare) Continuing the Georgstraße to the south. Recently revamped and refurbished. The North German Landesbank Girozentrale building occupies an entire side of the square.
6-Aegidiengate Just after the Georgsplatz.
7-Aegidienkirche (Aegidienchurch) Built in the 14th century, was damaged beyond repain during the WWII bomb raids, and left ever since in its skeleton as a memorial and reminder of the war.
8-Siebenmännerstein The Spartan stone at one of the corners of the Aegidienchurch is a stone cross representing seven praying men, depicting the saga of “Hanover Spartans remember” that in 1480 in an attack on the Döhrener tower should have been burned along with the tower.
9-Adult Education Center and cube In Theodor-Lessing-Platz, opposite the New Town Hall.
10-Bowman Statue Right at the front of Trammplatz and the new town hall.
11-Trammplatz Beautiful small square with great design of pavement and surrounding by grand buildings.
-New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus) Impressive classical style building with a worldwide unique diagonal-arch elevator goes up the large dome to an observation deck. Tickets for €3, €2 for students.
-Lower Saxon State Museum This is not part of the 36 route, but just behind the New Town Hall, and it is on its own a beautiful piece of architecture.
-Maschpark Right behind the Town Hall, with a nice lake in the middle.
12-Museum August Kestner By the side of the New Town Hall.
13-Laveshaus Former apartment house of the architect Georg Ludwig Friedrich Laves. Built in 1855, almost across the road from the August Kestner Museum.
14-Wangenheimpalais The next building after the house of Laves. It was from 1863 to 1913 the Town Hall and the seat of the municipality of Hanover. Nowadays the seat of the Lower Saxon Ministry of Economic Affairs.
15-Waterloo Platz This park and square is surrounded by ministries, administration and public buildings, some of which of nice design, specially the National Archives.
-Waterloo Column The centerpiece of the park, a war memorial for the last battle of the War of the Sixth Coalition.
-Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence Was a scientific, theological and philosophical debate conducted in an exchange of letters between the German thinker Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and Samuel Clarke, an English supporter of Isaac Newton during the years 1715 and 1716. Those can be viewed in the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Library, south of the Waterloo Platz, and are on the UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.
16-Leine River Heading back as you came along the Lavesalle, you will come to the bridge over the small Leine River.
17-Lower Saxon State Parliament Or Leineschloss, located at the southern corner of the “old town” just across the Leine River. It is the former residence of the Hanoverian kings.
18-Castle Bridge Is the nicest bridge across the Leine and right towards the Parliament.
19-Begine Tower Just few meters ahead from the Castle Bridge, first mentioned in 1357 making it the oldest construction still standing in the city without having changed not needing rebuild after the WWII. It is by one of the corners of the Historic Museum.
20-Historic Museum Attached to the Begine Tower at one of the corners, has a great collection about the history of the city.
21-Nanas Scattered around the city, those are giant sculptures created by Niki de Saint-Phalle. The most famous is by the bank of the river Leine, almost across from the Historic Museum.
22-Johann Duve Statue Standing in a fountain basin on a round column with reliefs of scenes from Duve’s works of mercy. Near the Nanas on the Leine Riverside.
23-Gehry Tower By the Goethe Bridge, just a little bit farther ahead from the Nanas. Designed by the famed architect, it has become a landmark, as every of his works.
24-Am Marstall One of the main streets leading into the historic city center from the Leone River promenade.
25-Burgstraße Turning right from Am Marstal into this street you will find at numbet 12 the oldest citizen house in the city.
26-Kreuzkirche Originally erected in 1284, most of what you see now dates from 1333 making one of the most important reference of cult in Hanover.
27-Ballhof One of the oldest squares and most picturesque surrounding by wooden timber buildings.
28-Leibnizhaus By Holzmarkt Square. Following the Burgstraße, and literally behind the Historic Museum. This beautiful house was originally built in 1499 in Renaissance style for philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. The current is a true replica of the original that was destroyed in WWII.
29-Timbered Houses Scattered along the few streets around.
30-Marktkirche The Market Church is the oldest of the three parish churches in the Old Town of Hanover. Its tower at 97 meter high is one of the landmarks.
31-Old Town Hall Opposite the Market Church, a beautiful Hanseatic style building.
32-Markhalle Large covered market hall, unfortunately not as beautiful as the original building was before the war, but without doubt the best place to have food at any time with the hundreds of food stalls! Don’t look elsewhere in the city on where to eat.
33-Kamarschtrasse The main pedestrian and shopping street in Hanover, linking the Old Town towards Kröpcke Square and in turn, the train station.
34-Kröpcke Square Having almost completed the circle, on your way back towards the train station you will cross this nice square, shopping paradise.
35-Ernst-August Statue Depicting him on a horse. Right at the front of the train station, it is the end (well, and beginning of the circle red line tour).
- Outside of the city While there are many places you can visit nor far from Hanover, the following are perfectly manageable if you have your own transport to get there and between them. For further information check the separate guides for some of those.
-Marienburg Castle Just 20km south of Hanover, it is considered one of the most important neo-Gothic buildings in Germany, built in the 19th century. Open daily from 10.00AM to 18.00PM, 7 Euros for a guided tour. Although there is no need to get inside if you are planning to visit more sites. From the outside you can get great views. (Separate travel guide here).
-St Mary’s Cathedral and St Michael’s Church at Hildesheim Almost next door to the Marienburg at 16km to the east. Included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list; the ancient Benedictine Abbey church of St Michael is one of the key monuments of medieval art in Germany, built between 1010 and 1022 by Bernward, Bishop of Hildesheim. St Mary’s Cathedral, in the other hand, although rebuilt after the fire of 1046 it still retains its original crypt. (Separate travel guide here).
-Fagus Factory In the little village of Alfeld, 30km south of Hildesheim. Designed by Walter Gropius at the beginning of 20th century, it is one of the most important examples of early modernist architecture applied to a factory in the world, hence its importance and inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. For the first time, a complete facade is conceived in glass in a building with the corners left without any support, yielding an unprecedented sense of openness and continuity between inside and out. (Separate travel guide here).
-Carolingian Westwork and Civitas Corvey of Höxter 45km southwest from Alfeld, 87km south of Hanover. The Westwork is the only standing structure that dates back to the Carolingian era, erected between 822 and 885AD, and it is largely preserved. The Imperial Abbey complex are archaeological remains only partially excavated. Both are included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. (Separate travel guide here).
-Mines of Rammelsberg, Historic Town of Goslar and Upper Harz Water Management System That’s the name under the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing for these places. 92km south from Hanover, or 100km east from Hoxter if you are doing this route in the same day. Developed over a period of some 800 years to assist in the process of extracting ore for the production of non-ferrous metals, its construction was first undertaken in the Middle Ages by Cistercian monks, and it was then developed on a vast scale from the end of the 16th century until the 19th century. It is made up of an extremely complex but perfectly coherent system of artificial ponds, small channels, tunnels and underground drains. It enabled the development of water power for use in mining and metallurgical processes. (Separate travel guide here).
Hanover Airport is one of the largest in Germany, and the city itself lies in one of the biggest transport nodes in the country where many railway and motorway routes meet. Coming from/to the airport is extremely easy by taking the commuter railway (S-Bahn) that runs twice hourly for 3 Euros per ticket. The trip to the central train station (Hauptbahnhof) takes just 17 minutes. We found a great deal with British Airways from London at the perfect times in both the outbound and inbound flights.
Coming by train from elsewhere in Germany is straightforward as the city is a major transport centre, also serving international routes with frequent trains to the Netherlands, Switzerland, France, and Austria.
Within the city there is a great coverage of public transportation made up of buses, trams, metro and commuter trains. All of them are using the same ticketing system, and wherever you buy your ticket you can use it on any of the transports available. Just bear in mind the entire city lies in Zone 1, while if you need to get to/from the airport, that is Zones 1 and 2. A single ticket costs 2.50 Euros for 1 Zone, or 3.20 for 2 Zones, therefore it might be cost-saving to get a day ticket for 4.90 or 6.20 Euros depending if 1 or 2 Zones. Once you validate your ticket you can interchange onto different transports with the same ticket as it is valid for up to 90 minutes after validation.
Being one of the largest cities in Germany and due to its importance with regards to industry and economy, it is heavily visited by people on business. This is a good side since the city boasts many hotels from every kind and every chain. However it is necessary to say here that the city is not an importance tourism pole, and getting a good deal was actually difficult. As usual, a good point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engines such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
Since we knew we were going to be on a much wider tour through other places south of the city and we rented a car, we did not have any preference in where to get a hotel, hence we chose to stay near the airport where a great deal popped! We stayed at the back then ACHAT Premium Airport, nowadays Dormero Langenhagen Airport. It was simple yet nice, with friendly staff and all we needed for just 2 nights, a good and comfortable rest. Bear in mind when searching for hotels in Hanover that majority of them do not include breakfast in their “basic”rate, but for a hefty higher fare you can have it. Indefinitely we decided to have it by ourselves, something easy considering the many nice bakeries everywhere and even inside the supermarkets. Just across the road from the hotel there is a shopping centre with a large supermarket and great bakery within!