On the banks of the Leine River can be found the Lower Saxony capital of Hannover, far removed today from its industrialised past, offering visitors a glut of great city attractions.
Post-World War Two planning was the driving force behind the city’s contemporary regeneration, with this period heralding the introduction of numerous preserved parks, public gardens and woods, earning it the moniker of the “garden city”. But there’s far more to Hannover than green spaces, including plenty of cultural landmarks to enjoy. We’ve picked out 10 of the best things to see and do across the city.
Admire a civic architectural jewel
If you’re going to the trouble of knocking down your old town hall and building a new one, you may as well make it worthwhile. Resembling a palace more than a civic building, Hannover’s New Town Hall has been a resplendent beacon on the city landscape for over a century, with its soaring dome and revivalist architecture drawing admirers from far and wide. Regular public tours allow visitors to explore the building’s interior, including the breath-taking Hodler Hall featuring a huge mural by the Swiss Symbolist Ferdinand Hodler. For views across the city, an elevator carries you to an observation platform almost 100 metres above street level.
Trammplatz 2 / Mon-Sun 10am-6pm
Take a stroll around historic gardens
Fronted by a palace and dotted with sculptures, fountains, a box-hedge maze, an orangery and dainty broderies, the historic Herrenhäuser Gardens is the ultimate ‘escape from the city’ attraction. A haven of bucolic tranquillity, the 50-hectare garden’s flagship feature is the Great Garden, boasting an eye-catching Baroque French style dating back to the 17th century. There’s also an orangery that serves as a fine backdrop to the frequent plays and classical concerts that take place here.
Herrenhäuser Str. 4 / Mon-Sun 9am-8pm
Explore the Old Town
Colourful half-timbered houses mixed with red brick buildings and a web of narrow alleys characterise Hannover’s medieval Old Town. Home to some of the city’s most famous landmarks, including the New Town Hall, the Market Church, and the Leineschloss palace which now houses Hannover’s Parliament, the district is also dotted with picture-postcard nooks and crannies and hidden corners that you’ll invariably stumble along while enjoying a leisurely amble. There are also plenty of quaint pubs and cafes to stop at for refreshments and some gentle people-watching along the way.
Visit a fascinating museum
Spanning art, archaeology, natural history and ethnology, the Lower Saxony State Museum is one of Hannover’s cultural jewels. Situated directly opposite the New City Hall, the museum comprises the remarkable State Gallery (Landesgalerie), featuring paintings and sculptures from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, while the natural history department boasts notable exhibits including a life-sized model of a dinosaur, and a vivarium with more than 2,000 native and exotic fish, amphibians and reptiles. There are also geological exhibits that shine a light on the ancient history of Lower Saxony’s regions.
Willy-Brandt-Allee 5 / Tues-Sun 10am-6pm Closed Mon
Housed in a building on Maschsee artificial lake, Sprengel Museum is one of Hannover’s most important cultural venues. With its focus on German Expressionism and French Modernism, the museum’s collection includes works by prestigious figures from art history including Max Beckmann, Alexander Calder, Max Ernst, Fernand Léger, and Pablo Picasso, among others, as well as more recent names such as Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke. Other contemporary museum highlights include over 400 works by pivotal 20th-century artist Niki de Saint Phalle.
Kurt-Schwitters-Platz 1 / Tues 10am-8pm Weds-Sun 10am-6pm Closed Mon
Check out a collection of aircrafts from yesteryear
Germany’s aviation heritage may have be tainted by 20th-century events, but it nonetheless continues to hold a deep fascination for many. The Luftfahrtmuseum Hanover-Laatzen preserves for historical record the legacy of the many aircraft that have served in combat down the years. Among the notable models on display are the Messerschmitt, the MiG, the Focke Wulf and the Starfighter, together serving to tell the story of German aviation from its beginnings to the present day.
Ulmer Str. 2 / Thurs-Sun 10am-5pm Closed Mon-Weds
Discover one of Europe’s largest urban forests
Spread over some 640 acres, making it twice the size of New York’s Central Park, it’s little surprise to discover that Eilenriede is one of Europe’s largest urban city forests. Positioned in the eastern reaches of the city, close to the centre, the forest is home to a vast network of pathways, lawns, children’s playgrounds and enticing inns, and attracts huge numbers of visitors throughout the year, including ramblers, joggers and bikers. It is also a great destination for wildlife spotting, with deer, foxes, hares, martens and bats all residing here.
Hohenzollernstraße 28 / Open all hours
Look around a 19-century castle
The castles of Germany are renowned across the world for their enchanting fairytale-like appearance. Located a 30-minute drive south of Hannover is one such citadel, Marienburg Castle, a gothic revivalist fortress that dates back to the mid 19th-century when it was built by King George V as a gift to his wife, Queen Marie. Today the castle, including both its exterior and lavish interior, remain almost entirely preserved, and can be visited all year round on either guided or self-guided tours. The ascent to the 40-metre-high castle tower is a particular highlight, and in summer the romantic inner courtyard, lined with roses and geraniums, transforms into the perfect backdrop for open-air events.
Marienberg 1 / Tues-Sun 10am-6pm Closed Mon
Hang out at a vibrant lakeside attraction
Spanning a body of water more than 100 times the size of a football pitch, the Maschee artificial lake is one of Hannover’s most popular summer hang-out spots. Situated close to the city centre, it draws water sports lovers in their droves as well as walkers, joggers and cyclists. Other attractions include a truly unique rollerblading beer garden that can be found near the lake’s beach, plus several cafes and restaurants. Each year, the lake also plays host to numerous fun-packed events including a dragon boat race and the Maschseefest festival.
Delve into Hannover’s culinary heritage
Hannover has a thriving food scene, much of which revolves around traditional German delicacies, and you can discover it for yourself by joining a culinary walking tour of the city. Over three hours, you and your small group will be accompanied by an expert guide as you stroll through the city streets, stopping to take in some of its most important landmarks and places of interest including the State Opera, the New Town Hall, and the market hall. Along the way, you’ll also stop off at several local bars, cafes and pubs to try tasters of five different food items. Throughout the tour, your guide will offer commentary on the city and its culinary heritage.
Catch a thrilling soccer match
It’s a bit of a cliché, but football is akin to a religion in Germany, and in Hannover the team that receives the most divine worship of all are Hannover 96. Named after the year the club was founded in the 19th century, Hannover 96 play their games at Heinz von Heiden-Arena, which is located in the city’s northern suburbs, and draws frenzied crowds to each fixture. For visitors, it represents the chance to experience a unique sporting occasion, with a number of day tickets kept back for general sale. Just pick up a souvenir scarf and mouth the chants with enthusiasm and you’ll be considered a local in no time.
Heinz von Heiden-Arena, Robert-Enke-Straße 3
Immerse yourself in exotic marine life
If you’re visiting Hannover and are hit by one of its not-entirely infrequent rainy days, then a popular indoor attraction is SEA LIFE. Here, some 40 underwater exhibits showcase some of the world’s most exotic marine life, serving up an immersive experience for all. Find yourself face to face with sharks, stingrays, and seahorses, marvel at Amazon creatures such as piranhas, poison dart frogs, and crocodiles, and discover the sea life that can be found in the Leine River that flows through Hanover. Skip-the-line tickets let you avoid the queues and delve street into the action.
Herrenhäuser Str. 4a / Mon-Fri 10am-5pm Sat-Sun 10am-6pm