Hannover was the first city I called home in Germany, and it remains one of my favourite cities in the country. Situated in Northern Germany, about 1.5 hours away from Hamburg by car or high-speed train, Hannover is a small and laid-back city that is often overlooked by travellers. Known as the “City of Gardens” in Germany, Hannover is full of beautiful green spaces – public parks, the grand and breathtaking Herrenhauser Royal Gardens, plenty of wide, tree-lined avenues, the Maschsee Lake, and countless beautiful gardens both public and private.
Although it may not be the most famous German city, Hannover is well worth a visit, and it has its fair share of gems that lie hidden for the curious traveller to find. Here are my Top 3 Hannover Highlights, from my time living there and exploring the city.
1. Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall)
My favourite building in Hannover is the New Town Hall. It was opened in 1913, 12 years after construction began, and it is still used as the main seat of administration . The majority of Hannover was destroyed due to Allied bombing during WWII, including the Hannover New Town Hall which was badly damaged. Today it is fully restored and breathtakingly beautiful, especially when you see it from across the lake in the middle of summer, with a glorious reflection and a frame of willow trees and flowers.
For a few Euro, you can take the lift to the very top of the building. The Neues Rathaus has a pretty strange and whimsical quirk – the lift you take to get to the top of the dome follows a 50m shaft at mostly 17°, which means that after a few seconds the lift starts to go at a crazy angle, instead of straight up. It can be quite alarming, but a fun experience for those not already scared of heights and small spaces! The view from the top is superb, and well worth the slightly strange trip up.
Inside the Neues Rathaus, on the ground floor, are several miniature models of the city (all to the same scale) showing the growth of the city from a small walled city in Medieval times to the devastating destruction, and then extensive rebuilding, during and after to WWII. The interior of the building is quite impressive, with marble staircases, beautiful windows, and large, grand rooms.
2. Herrenhauser Royal Gardens
The Royal Herrenhauser Gardens are a group of 3 beautiful gardens situated in the city – The Grosser Garten (Big Garden), the Georgengarten, and the Berggarten (Mountain Garden). The Grosser Garten is a giant, Baroque Style garden complete with manicured hedges, topiary, fountains, secret gardens, and breathtaking symmetry. Commissioned around 1680 by Electress Sophie as a “pleasure garden”, the Grosser Garten is a delight to explore.
The Georgengarten is laid out in English landscape style, with a wide avenue of trees and large, sprawling lawns. The locals enjoy games of sports and barbecues in the public areas, and in summer you will find the lawns packed with families, lovers, and friends enjoying the sun and open green spaces.
Finally, the Berggarten is a botanical haven for those who love exotic plants and flowers. The crowning jewel of the collection is the orchid house – it boasts a truly astonishing array of orchids that will delight any botany enthusiast. It is possible to see and enjoy all the gardens in one day, provided that you start early and finish off around late afternoon.
3. Maschsee Lake
I have spent my life living near the sea (Cape Town), and moving inland was quite difficult for me. The massive man-made lake in Hannover was a life-saver! The Maschsee is one of the best places to relax in Hannover, no matter the season. Summer is heavenly – you can hire a paddle boat and explore the lake, get some glasses of wine (or a bottle!) and settle down on the wooden jetties, or eat at the lovely restaurant that overlooks the water.
In winter, the lake often freezes over, creating a magical winterland. You can get a mug of gluhwein and warm up as you watch the ducks sliding across the ice, and the sun set over the bleak brown treeline.
There are many more things to discover in Hannover, but these 3 were my absolute favourite places to be during the year we lived there. I would highly recommend The Red Thread for tourists – it’s a walking tour of the city that takes you to all the main sights, with info and history for the curious visitor.
Pop into a Hannover Tourist Information Centre and buy the guidebook – it’s well worth it 🙂
Check out www.visit-hannover.com for more comprehensive information on tours!