The Royal Heritage Route

Marienburg Castle

Marienburg Castle Pattensen-Schulenberg.

The 300th anniversary of the accession of Georg Ludwig of Hanover, Germany to the British throne as King George I is the perfect occasion for groups to discover the cultural connections between the two countries, and to visit Germany to explore the magnificent castles and towns where the royal families ruled, lived and socialised.

The Hanoverian accession to the throne of Great Britain and Ireland is being celebrated throughout 2014 with special events in London, including an exhibition at Buckingham Palace, and in castles and museums in the state of Lower Saxony, Germany. To help groups experience the celebrations in Germany, the Royal Heritage Route has been developed as a way to explore the region taking in the sumptuous royal palaces, castles and gardens at the same time. On the following pages you will find an overview of what’s taking place and why. Plus we include a fascinating ‘Who’s Who‘ introducing the Hanoverian Dynasty – George I George II, George III, George IV and William IV and their families, – with some quirky anecdotes bringing these historic monarchs to life, which is based on extensive research by Mark Goodwin, Managing Director of specialist tour operator Golden Compass.

 

HANOVER AND THE LOWER SAXONY STATE EXHIBITION 2014

The historic city of Hanover, where George I was born in 1660, is leading the celebrations and at the Royal Gardens of Herrenhausen, groups will discover one of Europe’s most beautiful baroque gardens. These are a good starting point for the Royal Heritage Route since King George I’s mother, Sophia, loved the gardens, which surrounded the summer home of first the Guelph and then the Hanover family, famously saying, ‘The garden is my life’. She supervised their design, which was inspired by the gardens of the Sun King, Louis XIV, with magnificent fountains and baroque ornamentation in the Great Garden, and many special areas including the English styled garden, the Georgengarten, and the Berggarten – with its displays of stunning orchids and tropical plants. During the summer of 2014 numerous artistic, cultural, theatrical and other events will take place within the gardens, where you can still easily imagine George I strolling around the paths.

As part of the 300th anniversary Herrenhausen Palace, which was destroyed in 1943, has been recreated and it now includes the Palace Museum. During 2014 the museum will be one of five venues – four in Hanover and one in the nearby town of Celle, taking part in a major historical-cultural state-wide exhibition organised by Lower Saxony entitled, ‘The Hanoverians on Britain’s Throne, 1714-1837’. The exhibitions in each venue take place from 17th May to 5th October, and each will showcase different details and elements of the Hanoverian-British union.

Spectacular works of art have been brought together for the exhibition at the Palace Museum, which focuses on the extravagant culture at the court in the early 18th century. The exhibition also explores the power politics of George I’s father – the Elector Ernst August – and tales of his marriage to Sophia of the Palatinate. Additionally, it will look at the early history of George I and reveal the secrets of his marriage to Sophie von der Pfalz.

Another part of the exhibition will trace the life of Count Johann Ludwig von Wallmoden-Gimborn who was the illegitimate son of George II. The Count was raised in England but moved to Hanover, where he established a collection of art and paintings. Many treasures from his original collection have been brought back together for the first time since 1818.

The main venue for the state exhibition, however, is the magnificent Lower Saxony State Museum in the centre of Hanover. Here the exhibition follows the life stories of the five monarchs within a cultural and historical context. Significant events such as the Seven Year’s War and the French Revolution, and influential personalities including Jonathan Swift and George Handel will be included. The intensive exchange of culture that took place between London and Hanover in many different areas from politics to music will be covered, such as the burgeoning splendour of the court in London, the founding of the University of Gottingen and the influence of English fashion in Hanover.

Paintings, medals, furniture, documents and letters, borrowed from 19 international museums, will be on display and these will help to build up a picture of life in Georgian times. Amongst these are the State Crown – made for George I, an oil painting of Queen Charlotte from the collection of Queen Elizabeth II and a valuable silver service, from the Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor, which is returning to Hanover for the first time in over a hundred years.

Another aspect of life in Georgian times is explored at the third exhibition venue – The Historical Museum of Hanover. The centrepiece of the display here will be a magnificent State Coach in the exhibit, ‘A Coach and two Kingdoms: Hanover and Great Britain 1814-1837’. King George IV used the imposing carriage, originally built in 1782, for the opening of Parliament in London, during a visit to Hanover in 1821.

The exhibition will reflect on the role of the Kingdom of Hanover, established in 1812, against the background of British world power and will cover political debate about the constitution and land reforms. Exhibits also are planned to reveal how the architecture of Hanover changed in the early 19th century to match its new status as a royal seat.

Elsewhere in Hanover, the Wilhelm Busch German Museum for Caricature and Drawing, will host an exhibition entitled ‘The House of Hanover at the Time of the Personal Union as reflected in British Caricature’. At the exhibition groups will learn how cynical caricaturists of the era satirized prominent figures and goings-on in British politics and society. The royals are ­­­depicted with all their human weaknesses, moreover the caricatures relate salacious British celebrity gossip, poke fun at political decisions and development and leave no scandal or intrigue untouched! These caricatures are important as they reached a wide public when they were first drawn and so had a role in shaping political opinion. The museum is housed in the Wallmoden Palace, the former home of the Count of Wallmoden.

 

CELLE

The picturesque town of Celle, with its many half-timbered buildings, is about an hour’s drive north of Hanover, and it has an important place on the Royal Heritage Route.

The history of Celle, and its connections with the Hanoverian royal family is put in context at the Residenzmuseum in Celle Castle, in the exhibition, ‘Ready for the Island The House of Brunswick-Lüneburg on the Path to London’. This is the fifth venue participating in the Lower Saxony State Exhibition 2014 programme, and the exhibition traces the family’s rise to political power, through marriage and the creation of strongholds within Germany. The display presents a fascinating trip through time in a beautiful baroque castle with amazing architecture including ornate stucco ceilings by Italian masters, a Renaissance chapel and a tiny court theatre.

Whilst in Celle groups might also like to visit the local church, St Mary’s, where two royal women, who were banished to Celle for pursuing the course of love, are buried. Sophie Dorothea von Brunswick and Celle, the wife of George I, was exiled – first to Lauenau Castle and then to Ahlden Castle – after her love affair with the Count of Königsmarck was discovered. In all Sophie lived at Ahlden Castle for 32 years, and was permanently separated from her children. Her great-granddaughter – Caroline Mathilde of Hanover, who was Queen of Denmark and Norway for six years – is buried next to her. She was exiled to Celle following a love affair with the court physician. Groups visiting Celle as part of the Royal Heritage Route can discover more about these intriguing love stories.

 

OSNABRÜCK  

Aside from the Lower Saxony State Exhibition there are many more castles and palaces with connections to the Hanoverian and British royal families to explore. Around an hour and half driving time to the west of Hanover is Iburg Castle near Osnabrück, where George I and his sister, Sophie Charlotte, who became the Queen of Prussia, spent a lot of their childhood. At the castle there’s much for groups to see including the Benedictine Abbey founded in the 11th century, and the richly furnished Knights Hall, which dates from the 17th century.

 

BRUNSWICK

An hour away to the east of Hanover is Brunswick. This was one of the most important German medieval cities and in the 12th century was the home of the Guelph Duke, Henry the Lion, hence its popular name as the Lion City. Just outside the city and overlooking the Oker River lies Richmond Palace. This was built by Princess Augusta of Great Britain, who had married the Duke of Brunswick in 1764, because she did not like the family palace in the centre of the city. The building blends south German and French architectural styles with an English landscape garden created by ‘Capability’ Brown.

In Brunswick city centre, groups can also visit the Palace Museum, which is on the site of the original Royal Palace, which was built between 1833 and 1841, but damaged during the Second World War and subsequently demolished. Rebuilt in 2004 the façade uses elements preserved fr­­­­­­om the earlier building, but behind this there is a modern shopping mall as well as the museum. The 15 museum galleries reveal the grandeur of the former palace and are displayed with original furniture from the 19th century.

Although much of Brunswick was destroyed in the 1940s, there are several buildings surviving from earlier times, which convey the charm of the town when the Hanoverians were in residence. The two Courtyard HousesVon Veltheimsches Haus and the Huneborstelsches Haus – were former courtiers’ houses.

 

THE WESER REGION

The fairy-tale like Marienburg Castle is about half an hour south of Hanover in Pattensen. Built in a gothic revival style with many battlements, towers and turrets, the castle is now a museum with magnificent rooms and an impressive library. Here groups can trace the life of Georg V, King of Hanover – who built the castle for his wife Queen Marie – and many examples of furniture, paintings and rarities of art history from the historic collection of the Royal House of Hanover are on display. In 2014, the Hanoverian crown, sceptre and bridal crown will be exhibited for the first time since the end of the Kingdom of Hanover in 1866 at the special exhibition ‘The Path to the Crown’. The stunning gardens around the castle can also be visited.

From Marienburg Castle, groups can go on to visit six more magnificent castles in the beautiful Weser region of Lower Saxony, all with royal connections and tales of courtly splendour. Fürstenberg Castle, Hämelschenburg Castle, Pyrmont Castle, Corvey Castle, Bückeburg Castle, Bevern Castle are architectural gems of the Weser Renaissance and neo-Gothic period and have important porcelain collections, works of art and lovely parks for groups to enjoy.

 

FURTHER AFIELD 

Elizabeth Gate

Heidelberg/Neckar: West side of the castle, illuminated Elizabeth Gate.

In other parts of Germany the royal story continues. In Heidelberg, in the south west state of Baden-Württemberg, Heidelberg Palace was the first German home of Elizabeth Stuart – grandmother of George I. The ruins of this most romantic of German castles attracts many groups and amongst the highlights of a visit are the castle courtyard and the English Garden, which is soon to be restored. The impressive arch, the so called Elizabeth Gate, in the garden is said to have been built quietly and secretly overnight on the orders of her husband, the Elector Frederick V, as a surprise birthday present for her. Three times a year in June, July and September, illuminations bathe the castle in a magical red light. The spectacular evenings finish with a firework display – which were first staged in 1613 by Friedrich as a welcome to his bride, Elizabeth Stuart.

Meanwhile in Bavaria in Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the connections between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert can be explored. The highlight is Rosenau Palace, the summer seat of the Dukes of Coburg and where Prince Albert was born. As well as the impressive marble hall, the main rooms at the palace feature brightly coloured wall paintings in the neo-Gothic style and the original black-stained, polished Viennese Biedermeier furniture. Surrounding the palace is a delightful garden in a romantic English landscape style. When Queen Victoria visited the palace for the first time in 1845 she wrote in her diary, “If I were not who I am, my real home would be here”. She returned to visit several more times – even after Albert’s death.

Of the once numerous park buildings, the neo-Gothic farm building, a grotto with a waterfall and a tournament column have been preserved. The neoclassical tea house is today used as the park restaurant, and the orangery houses a museum of modern glass. The viewing terrace is particularly attractive with its flower parterre, fountain and balustrade.

To find out more about the Royal Heritage Route visit www.germany.travel/royalheritage or www.goldencompasstours.co.uk

Nine cities in Niedersachsen

A trip to Hannover and its surrounding eight historic cities means that groups can pick and choose an itinerary ranging from UNESCO World Heritage Sites to the Brothers Grimm and the Pied Piper. Abbe Bates reveals more.

The nine cities of Niedersachsen or Lower Saxony are a selection of heritage areas in northern Germany that have joined together to market themselves as a collective tourism destination. Together, they present an impressive group offer, with each city providing special packages and tours. On the following pages, you will find an overview of each city and the major highlights, as well as information on partner attraction, Autostadt, the innovative theme park centered around the main Volkswagen car factory in Wolfsburg.

The region is easily accessible via air from the UK, with Hannover Airport right at the centre of Lower Saxony. The airport has good connections to major traffic routes once you arrive and also offers guided tours. Connections via rail are also convenient, with Hannover one of the most important railway hubs in Germany; each city also has comprehensive information available on coach parking.

 

BRAUNSCHWEIG – THE LION’S CITY

Braunschweig, also known as Brunswick, is the largest city between Hannover and Berlin. One of its main draws is its history as an important trading centre during the Middle Ages. This began during the time of Guelph duke Henry the Lion in the 12th century and continued under the rule of his son Otto IV. A close association with the Guelphs or Royal House of Hanover, the European dynasty from which Queen Victoria was descended, is why the destination is known as the Lion’s City today.

You will find the Lion Statue on Burgplatz, the historic castle square. It was erected in 1166 by Henry the Lion as the emblem of the city. Around the square are a number of key heritage attractions including St Blasii Cathedral and Dankwarderode Castle – both built by Henry the Lion. The former is where he is buried.

On the Schlossplatz or Palace Square is the recently rebuilt Residential Palace, which documents Braunschweig’s role as one of the main residences of the Guelphs. Badly damaged in World War Two, it was demolished in 1960 and rebuilt in 2007 using many of the original parts of the historic 19th century Guelph Palace.

In all, more than 30 medieval sights can be discovered in Braunschweig and a number of tours help you to do this.

TOURS Groups can take a guided Old Bower tour, which describes the history of these medieval stone structures, built between the 12th and 14th centuries, and used for storage and living. Re-enacted scenes and music are used to tell the story of the 150 that existed in the city during the Middle Ages, eight of which still remain. An audio-visual tour of the city is also available. Machines can be hired at the tourist information centre on the Burgplatz. The package Getting to Know Braunschweig combines an historical guided tour with a guided museum tour, a welcome drink and one or two nights accommodation in the city.

 

CELLE – EUROPE’S LARGEST COLLECTION OF HALF-TIMBERED BUILDINGS

Soaking up the historic architecture of Celle.

The city of Celle is known as the gateway to Lüneburg Heath nature reserve, and a major claim to fame is its collection of over 450 restored timber-framed buildings, dating mainly from between the 16th and 18th centuries. The largest ensemble on a single site in Europe, they form the heart of the city in the Old Town. Look out in particular for the Hoppener Haus, probably the most impressive of these buildings.

As well as the Old Town Hall, the brick-built 19th century New Town Hall is worth a look as it is one of the largest structures of its kind in Germany.

Celle is also a former Ducal seat, and one of its other great highlights is the Ducal Palace, once the residence of the Duchy of Lüneburg. It is the oldest building in the city, with foundations dating from the 13th century, and on a guided tour, you can explore the Renaissance chapel and Germany’s oldest theatre still in use.

TOURS As well as tours of the Ducal Palace, groups are offered guided city tours and a Helpers and Healers, Misjudged and Burned tour, which takes visitors by foot on a witches trail to discover the superstitions of the 16th century. A day trip itinerary is also available, Celle in One Day, which includes a guided tour of Celle and the Ducal Palace with lunch.

 

GOSLAR – AN INDUSTRIAL LEGACY

The medieval town of Goslar can be found at the foot of the Nord Harz Mountains. Its historic centre or Altstadt, characterised by numerous towers and churches, was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992 along with the Rammelsberg Ore Mine. The 1,000-year-old mine is now a museum and guided tours can be taken underground.

The historic Old Town is where you will find the Kaiserpfalz, the city’s imperial palace. Built in the 11th century during the reign of Heinrich III, it was the meeting place of imperial and royal councils for more that 200 years. The St Ulrich Chapel here houses a gold capsule containing the heart of Heinrich III, who died in 1056. Look out too for ‘Up into the Air’, the viewing experience from the 60-metre tower of the 12th century Market Church.

TOURS As well as visiting the ore mine, groups can also discover the 500-year-old Miners’ Residential District in Goslar, exploring the interior of a former miner’s house on a tour, whilst medieval daily life for women is revealed on a tour looking at The Role of Women in the Middle Ages, where your group will learn about the lives of women from midwives to whores. Traces of Jews in Goslar, meanwhile, is a chance to learn about the history of the Jewish community in Goslar, visiting the 400-year-old Jewish Cemetery with its many well-preserved tombstones. A half-day programme looking at beer brewing in Goslar and visiting the ancestral home of the famous Siemens family with its brewery is also available.

 

GÖTTINGEN – ON THE TRAIL OF BROTHERS GRIMM

The traditional university city of Göttingen was first mentioned in documents in 953 and flourished as a member of the Hanseatic League – the commercial federation of merchant guilds and their market towns – in the 14th and 15th centuries. Its emblem is the Gänseliesel statue, which stands on the market fountain in front of the Altes Rathuas (Old Town Hall). The statue of a girl herding her geese is known as ‘the most kissed girl in the world’ as new doctoral graduates have created a custom of kissing her bronze cheek on passing their exams.

2013 is the 200th anniversary year of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales and a programme of celebratory events will be held throughout the year. The city has strong connections with the duo, Jacob and Wilhelm, who worked at the university as librarians and professors during the 19th century. The Georg-August-University was founded in the 1730s and is a world-renowned centre of science. More than 40 Nobel Prize winners are associated with it and its impressive buildings can be toured. The Brothers Grimm went on not only to develop their collection of famous fairy tales, but to create the German dictionary. The stations of work and life of the duo – such as Goetheallee, the street where they lived and worked, and St Paul’s Church where there is an original edition of the Grimm’s German dictionary – are the focus of a walking tour, On the Trail of the Brothers Grimm.
TOURS As well as ‘On the Trail of the Brothers Grimm’, groups can also take advantage of guided costumed tours on request. A Brothers Grimm and Wilhelm Busch Tour is also available as a day trip, which as well as exploring the traces left in the city by the Brothers Grimm, also travels to nearby Ebergötzen to see the old mill where Wilhelm Busch, the famous 19th century German caricaturist, lived in his youth.

 

HAMELN AND THE LEGEND OF THE PIED PIPER

Hameln, or Hamelin as it is known in English, is well known in England due to its associations with the Pied Piper folk story. It straddles the River Weser, and the Old Town is described as a treasure of the Weser Renaissance style of architecture, with its sandstone buildings dating from the 16th to 18th century featuring scrolls, pyramids, obelisks, globes, wooden friezes, masks and protruding bay windows (Utluchten).

An example of this type of architecture is the Rattenfängerhaus or Pied Piper’s House, which dates from 1602/3 and bears an inscription about the procession of children from the town in 1284, when 130 youngsters were reported to have inexplicably disappeared. The Pied Piper legend was then born, a rat catcher who is said to have led the children away with the sound of his pipe out of revenge for non-payment.

On arrival in Hameln, groups interested in the legend can book a Pied Piper Greeting lastings 10 minutes, where the costumed character greets you with music and poetry. You can then go on to enjoy an hour-long guided tour with the Pied Piper. A visit to the Museum Hameln also teaches visitors about the Pied Piper story in its mechanical theatre.

TOURS As well as tours on the subject of the Pied Piper, groups can take advantage of a tour of the city at night and boat trips on the River Weser. A package called Pied Piper meets Münchhausen includes two nights accommodation, two evening meals, a welcome by the Pied Piper, a guided tour of the town, a boat trip, admission to the Münchhausen Museum in Bodenwerder, which tells the story of the 18th century nobleman Baron Münchhausen, and a toboggan ride.

 

HANNOVER – THE STATE CAPITAL AND ROYAL SEAT

The beautiful Royal Gardens of Herrenhausen and the Herrenhausen Palace in Hannover.
© HMTG/Jörg Wohlt

Hannover is the capital city of Niedersachsen and has a huge range of attractions for groups to explore and an eclectic history. The jewel in its crown is the Royal Gardens of Herrenhausen created by Sophia, Princess Palatine of the Rhine, who was Electress of Hanover from 1692 to 1714. The Great Garden, designed in the French style, is one of the best-preserved Baroque gardens in Europe whilst there is also a landscaped English Georgengarten and a botanical Berggarten.

The gardens surround the former seat of the Royal House of Hanover, the Herrenhausen Palace, which has been undergoing painstaking restoration and re-opens in March. It will now be used as a conference centre and museum, with exhibitions on the Guelph family and Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, the German mathematician and philosopher who died in Hannover in the early 18th century.

For 123 years, the Electorate of Hanover and the Kingdom of Great Britain were linked by a single monarch. The Lower Saxony State Exhibition in 2014 will celebrate the 300th anniversary of this union with ‘Hanover’s Rulers on the British Throne: 1714-1837′. From 17th May until 5th October 2014, five exhibitions will showcase the story that began in October 1714, when the Elector of Hanover ascended to the throne in London as King George I, thereby becoming ruler over two empires; he was succeeded by four further kings from the house of Hanover. The site of the exhibitions will be the Herrenhausen Palace, the Lower Saxony State Museum, the Historisches Museum, the Wilhelm Busch – Deutsches Museum für Karikatur und Zeichenkunst in Hannover and the Residenzmuseum at Celle Castle. A complementary programme of events will also bring to life the period when the Royals came from Hanover.

Moving further on in history, the New Town Hall is a good example of the opulent architecture popular in Hannover during the Wilhelminian era at the beginning of the 20th century, when the last German emperor was on the throne. Groups are able to tour one of the ornate chambers and ride in the curved lift to the top of the 97-metre high dome.

Hannover’s Adventure Zoo, meanwhile, is one of the most impressive in Germany. Split into seven themed worlds, a highlight is the Indian Jungle Palace, home to one of the largest herds of elephants in Europe. Groups of 15 or more are offered a special price on day tickets and a package including tours of both the zoo and the Royal Gardens is available.

Picturesque scenery is another of Hannover’s main draws for visitors. The man-made Lake Maschsee sits within view of the New Town Hall in the city centre and passenger boat trips for groups allow time to relax and enjoy coffee and cake as you make a pleasant round trip.

TOURS Hannover – the Grand Tour with your coach, Hannover – A Walkabout and Garden Wonder & Flower Power, which includes a visit to the new Herrenhausen Palace Museum, are all tour options.

 

HILDESHEIM – RELIGIOUS SPLENDOUR

Hildesheim is another of the nine cities famous for its UNESCO World Heritage. Both St Mary’s Cathedral and St Michael’s Church are designated World Heritage Sites and have been since 1985.

St Mary’s Cathedral is an outstanding example of Romanesque architecture and one of the oldest cathedrals in Germany, dating from the 9th century. Its bronze castings from the Middle Ages are an artistic highlight and a 1,000-year-old rosebush can be found in the apse. The cathedral is closed for renovation until August 2014 but it is still possible to view the rosebush and the bronze castings and exhibits from the treasury at St Michael’s Church and the Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum.

St Michael’s Church is another beautiful early Romanesque church, dating from the 11th century. One of its main showpieces is the 13th century painted wooden ceiling, depicting the lineage of Christ. It is the oldest example of this type of artwork still in existence north of the Alps. Along with the cathedral, the church stands as a testament to the creative powers of Bishop Bernward, who oversaw the building of each and after whom the important Bernwardian Period of art history is named.

Important Egyptian artefacts are the highlight of the Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum, with one of the largest collections of Egyptian antiquities in Europe.

TOURS Themed tours such as the Footsteps of Bishop Bernward can be enjoyed by groups – there are 17 to choose from in all – whilst historical costumed guided tours are an additional option. Packages include Cultural Experiences in Hildesheim with two nights accommodation, a welcome drink, a guided Getting to Know Hildesheim tour and admission to the Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum all part of the deal.

 

LÜNEBURG – THE HANSEATIC CITY OF SALT

Lüneburg’s history goes back over 1,050 years and its most precious commodity was once salt. The northern German red brick architecture and gabled houses are a reminder of the heady days in the Middle Ages when the city was at the height of its wealth trading on what was known as ‘white gold’ and its importance in the Hanseatic League. Lüneburg is still a hive of urban life, and has the highest density of bars and restaurants in Europe outside Madrid.

The German Salt Museum features exhibitions set in the former salt works of the city, which remained in operation for over 1,000 years. The museum describes the importance of salt to Lüneburg and worldwide.

You can also take a stroll through the Old Town, where the consequences of salt working can be seen. The sunken streets and crooked buildings from the 16th and 17th centuries are a stark reminder of the subsidence the trade caused.

The former port, which was once a key part of the salt industry, is now the backdrop for the picturesque canal district of Wasserviertel, where you can still see the wooden, copper-plated Old Crane on the River Ilmenau. You can view it as part of a city tour.

TOURS A Day Worth Its Salt is ideal for groups wanting to delve further into Lüneburg’s salt mining heritage. Your group will learn all about the trade and its importance to the city as well as how salt was first found
in Lüneburg. The package includes a city tour, lunch, entry to the German Salt Museum and the option to spend two hours in the thermal salt baths, SaLü.

 

WOLFENBÜTTEL – CITY OF THE GUELPHS AND HOME OF JÄGERMEISTER

For more than three centuries between 1432 and 1752, Wolfenbüttel was the main residence of the Guelph Dukes of Braunschweig and Lüneburg and a centre for fine arts and intellectuals. Today, traces of artists, writers and composers can be seen around the city, particularly at the Herzog August Library, once Europe’s largest. It features the Gospel Book of Henry the Lion, worth nearly £13 million, and the house of the writer Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, the Lessinghaus.

The Church of St Mary pays tribute to the 16th century composer Michael Praetorius, meanwhile, with an exhibition devoted to him. There is a vault for the Guelph dukes here and the composer’s grave can also be found at the site.
The Residenzschloss, the former residence of the Guelph dukes in the city, can be found within the city’s Old Town, which includes over 600 timber-framed buildings. The late Baroque state apartments of the palace characterise what court life was like under Guelph rule.

© WMTS/König

In recent times, Wolfenbüttel has become known for producing the alcoholic drink, Jägermeister, now found in 80 countries. The company Mast-Jägermeister AG originated as the firm W. Mast, which was founded in 1878 and produced vinegar. Production of Jägermeister was taken up in 1935 and today it is the biggest herbal liqueur in the world. The original headquarters of the brand and a gift shop can be found in the middle of the Old Town, and the modern headquarters and distillery are on the outskirts of the city. Groups can book a package consisting of a guided tour of the distillery, lunch, a guided city tour, a visit to the gift shop and a taste of the product itself.

TOURS As well as the Wolfenbüttel and Jägermeister day trip package described above, you can also choose themed tours of Wolfenbüttel including topics such as Lessing, the Guelph dukes and the women of Wolfenbüttel. A three-day programme can also be arranged that includes two nights accommodation, a Jägermeister welcome drink, entry to the museum at the Residenzschloss and the Herzog August Library, a guided city tour and two evening meals.

 

AUTOSTADT IN WOLFSBURG

© Martin Kirchner

In Wolfsburg near Braunschweig, you will find the impressive Autostadt theme park. ‘People, cars and what moves them’ is the attraction’s motto, and the site is devoted to all types of human mobility. Set around the region’s Volkswagen factory, it features eight different pavilions dedicated to brands in the group such as Audi, Seat, Porsche and Lambourghini. Attractions such as the Zeithaus automobile museum follow the engineering feats of different car manufacturers through the ages and the GroupWorld area includes a ‘LEVEL GREEN’ multimedia exhibition based on the concept of sustainability. Two 48-metre CarTowers made of glass, where 800 new cars produced on site are stored and which visitors can ride up, add to the aura of the site. You can even test your driving skills on the All-Terrain Tracks. A number of packages are offered to groups including one-day summer and winter arrangements, which include admission and a 60-minute Maritime Panorama Tour on board the FGS Havelland. The winter package also includes a visit to the traditional winter market and the Ice Revue whilst the summer package includes a viewing of the summer show at the park.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

the _9 wonderful cities in Niedersachsen
Hannover Marketing & Tourismus GmbH, Vahrenwalder Str. 7,
D-30165 Hannover

Tel: 00 49 (0)511 16849746

Email: 9cities@hannover-tourismus.de

Web: www.9cities.de

 

Düsseldorf: the art city

The Rhine Embankment Promenade
© Düsseldorf Marketing & Tourismus GmbH

In the third of our new series ‘On the European City Trail’, Abbe Bates visits the Rhineland city of Düsseldorf to reveal a destination home to an electic artistic, musical, fashion and media elite.

Amongst the major German cities, the role and character of Düsseldorf sets it apart as one of the more creative, even oddball, places. Lying on the Rhine, in the west of Germany, it has carved out a reputation for having a thriving artistic community, centred around the Kunstakademie. It saw the birth of electronica music thanks to the influential Kraftwerk, the band that still calls Düsseldorf home. Its Opera House is the base for the largest ballet ensemble in the country and its current director is notorious for pushing the boundaries in the genre. It is the fashion capital of Germany, with many high profile designers based here, has an enviable avant-garde media scene, and over 100 museums and art galleries, many centred around the Arts Axis, not to mention a reputation as a ‘garden city’.

With a history stretching back over 800 years, which includes a spell being governed by Napoleon, Düsseldorf also houses an historic Altstadt (Old Town) and has grown from a small fishing village into a bustling metropolis with a multicultural population of nearly 600,000 people. As the capital of the North Rhine-Westphalia region, it has much to attract visiting groups.

As Düsseldorf is compact – it is known as the city of small distances – guided tours are a great way to explore the varied streetscapes. You can read more about the different types and themes below in The düsseldorf guides.

It is often useful to arrange for your group to have Düsseldorf WelcomeCards, which offer unlimited use of the efficient network of trams and buses within the city and also free or discounted admission to museums and other attractions and leisure facilities.The cards can be bought in bulk for groups, with a 10% reduction for 100.

 

ARTS AXIS AND RIVERSIDE

Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk.

Düsseldorf is well known as the city of art in Germany. Its world famous academy of art – the Kunstakademie – is where internationally renowned artists such as Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter and Jörg Immendorff studied and taught, and where the founding members of the electronica band Kraftwerk met. For more on the band, see the panel on page 64.

A good place to start a tour then is at the Museum Kunstpalast, at the top of the city’s Arts Axis, which reaches from the Ehrenhof complex in the north to the Ständehaus in the south, and links nearly all the city’s large cultural institutions. The museum re-opened in May 2011 after a two-year renovation project, which saw a better displaying of the varied collections, one of the few in the Rhineland to house important paintings, sculpture, graphic works, crafts and new media all under one roof. Visiting groups are able to view some 450 selected artworks from the Middle Ages to the present day including the famous ‘Creamcheese’ installation, which recreates the interior of Düsseldorf’s former Cream Cheese club using 1967 artworks by Gerhard Richter, Heinz Mack, Ferdinand Kriwet and Günther Uecker. For more on the Cream Cheese club see the panel on page 64. Tours are available that highlight particular artwork along with ‘have a go’ workshops. Within the Kunstpalast complex, you will also find the Hentrich Glass Museum, with the world’s most important collection of medieval glass.

The Ehrenhof complex, built in 1926 to create a new home for the city’s burgeoning exhibition fair culture, is also home to the domed Tonhalle Düsseldorf, which was Germany’s first planetarium and is now the city’s concert hall, and the NRW-Forum Kultur und Wirtschaft, which presents exhibitions on the subjects of media, photography, architecture, fashion and design.

Making your way further south from the Ehrenhof complex down Oederallee and onto Grabbeplatz you will come to the K20 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen. This gallery presents an enviable collection of 20th century art and was recently renovated to include a new extension. Groups can book tours of the permanent collection or current special exhibitions.

Close by, the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf offers changing exhibitions of cutting edge modern and contemporary art, and its concrete-block construction at the end of the 1960s is an ex­am­ple of the type of architecture that arose from the frugality of the immediate post-war years in Germany. It was extensively renovated at the beginning of this century but still retains its original cubist exterior and over its nearly 50-year history it has been responsible for introducing a num­ber of in­ter­na­tion­al artists into the Eu­ro­pean art mar­ket.

If you continue south through Hunsrückenstrasse, onto Kasernenstrasse, you eventually come to Ständehausstrasse and the K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, the sister gallery to K20, which celebrates 21st century art, and is set in the city’s former parliament building.

As well as the Tonhalle, Düsseldorf has many other celebrated theatre and music venues including the Kom(m)ödchen, Germany’s first political cabaret, and the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, both close to the K20. More than 300 performances a year take place at the Opera House, which dates from the 19th century. It was extensively rebuilt after war damage in the 1950s and the interior is a lovely example of architecture and design from this era. The 1342-performance space is also home to the Ballet am Rhein, the largest ballet ensemble in Germany, which has been under the progressive charge of Martin Schläpfer since 2009, as well as two orchestras – the Düsseldorf Symphonic and the Duisburg Philharmonic. An extra-special option for groups is to arrange a tour of the Opera House’s costume department with a historian, who will take you through the backstage areas where some 50,000 costumes are stored!

The Rhine is a major feature of the city, running for 40 kilometres through its centre. As part of a stroll around the Arts Axis, take a walk down the Rhine Embankment Promenade, which is a great place to enjoy a drink or bite to eat, as well as being the base for river trips along the Rhine. It begins at Burgplatz, the centrepiece of which is a Cartwheeler Fountain, the cartwheel being the symbol of the city, and where it is said to have originated in the 13th century – there is even an annual cartwheeling competition in July (see panel on page 66)! The promenade is also home to several museums including the SchifffahrtMuseum im Schlossturm – the city’s maritime museum, set in the last remaining tower of Düsseldorf’s former castle, which was destroyed by fire in 1872.

Below the promenade is the KIT – Kunst im Tunnel, which sits nestled between two road traffic tunnels. Since it opened in 2007, this space has developed into a hub for contemporary art. The entrance is a glass pavilion on the promenade facing out towards the Rhine. It houses the KIT Bar, a terrace and a cafe, through which the 888 square-metre submarine-shaped exhibition space can be accessed. Each year, four to six temporary exhibitions take place and the programme focuses on contemporary art, and the fields of sculpture, painting, photography, video and installation art.

Just behind the Rhine Embankment Promenade is the Stadtmuseum, or City Museum, which is vast, and takes at least two days to explore to get the fullest experience. It is the oldest museum in Düsseldorf, founded in 1873, and is set over three floors; its permanent collection documents the development of Düsseldorf and the surrounding area from its early history to the present day.

Further outside the main city centre, if you talk a walk from the top of the Rhine Embankment Promenade and on up the river, you will come to one of many picturesque green spaces that give Düsseldorf a reputation as a garden city, the Nordpark. This is home to delightful Japanese Gardens, reflecting the influence of this culture in the city, which grew during the years after the Second World War, when an influx of Japanese came to the city to work in the steel industry. Further out still in this direction is the Kaiserswerth area, the oldest part of Düsseldorf, dating from the 12th century, which houses the ruins of Emperor Barbarossa’s imperial fortress.

 

OLD TOWN

The city’s Old Town or Altstadt has its origins in the 13th century, when the first brick buildings emerged in the city, although much of it now dates from the 17th century; as with many of Germany’s cities, parts of it have been largely reconstructed following bomb damage during the Second World War. It covers a square kilometre and houses 260 restaurants, inns and pubs, home to the region’s famous dark Alt beer, which has earned it the nickname ‘the longest bar in the world’.

St Lambertus Church with its twisted spire.

Hunsrückenstrasse is one of the main streets within the Old Town. At the northern end of this street is the 17th century St Andreas Church, one of a number of ancient churches that your group will find within the narrow streets, and amongst the Rhineland’s most beautiful baroque examples.

Walking past St Andreas Church and turning left onto Mühlenstrasse leads you to Liefergasse, at the end of which is another of the city’s religious architectural highlights, St Lambertus Church. This 14th century Gothic structure, set on the site of a former 12th century Romanesque church, has a distinctive twisted spire that easily identifies it.

Walking round the corner onto Burgplatz, you will find an interesting bronze sculpture by Bert Gerresheim, depicting the history of Düsseldorf and the date of 1288, when it was granted town status by Count Adolf von Berg.

Elector Jan-Wellem-Denkmal

The statue of Elector Jan-Wellem-Denkmal in the Altstadt.

Moving south again eventually brings you to Bolkerstrasse. It is worth a stop at the Heinrich Heine Birth Place here, the former home of one of Germany’s most important poets. At the western end of Bolkerstrasse is the Marktplatz, where you will find the Rathaus or Town Hall, which actually consists of three buildings, the ‘old town hall’, the ‘Wilhelminischer Bau’ (from the period of Emperor Wilhelm II) and the ‘Grupello house’. At the centre of the square is a statue of Elector Jan-Wellem-Denkmal – who ruled the Rhineland during the 17th and 18th centuries – on horseback. The monument is considered one of the most important Baroque equestrian statues north of the Alps and its sculptor lived at the Grupello house, named in his honour.

Not far from Marktplatz on Schulstrasse is the Maxhaus, a former Franciscan monastery that is now a restaurant; look out too for a more modern building, the Mannesmann Tower on the outskirts of the Old Town on Mannesmannufer, now home to Vodafone, but one of the city’s first skyscrapers, built by renowned German architect Paul Schneider Esleben (father of Florian Schneider, one of the founders of the band Kraftwerk) in the 1950s and now a protected monument.

 

MEDIA HARBOUR 

Dancing Houses

Frank O. Gehry’s Dancing Houses.

The area to the south of the Rhine Embankment Promenade and Düsseldorf’s Old Town has now become known as the Media Harbour and the city’s avant-garde mile. This former industrial harbour area has been transformed into a hub for Düsseldorf’s TV, film and radio industry in recent years. Signifying the area’s renaissance are the three Dancing Houses constructed in 1999 and designed by architect Frank O. Gehry who was responsible for the Guggenheim in Barcelona. These each reflect a different image – one of fish scales, one of an ocean liner and one of brick, and their uneven textures and lines give the impression that they are ‘dancing’.

The Rhine Tower.
© Düsseldorf Marketing & Tourismus GmbH

A great way to view not only the sights of the Media Harbour, including the Roggendorf Haus office building with its amazing ‘flossis’ (bright plastic figures that climb the outside), is to take a trip up the Rhine Tower, Düsseldorf’s most iconic landmark. The 240.5-metre high television tower also acts as a decimal clock of the world, and groups entering the building will see an electronic display explaining how this works. One of the most visited towers in Germany, it stands on more than 250 pillars over water in the former harbour. At its top is a revolving restaurant – the Top 180 – where groups can have a peaceful set menu meal. A viewing floor just below the restaurant allows panoramic views over the whole city. Highlights include the former 1930s police headquarters on Mühlenstrasse, now home to the Düsseldorf Memorial, which remembers local victims of the Nazi regime (currently closed for renovation), and the new parliament building, the Landtag, inaugurated in 1988.

Groups thinking of visiting Düsseldorf have a number of different accommodation options open to them. Those to consider include the four-star Hilton Düsseldorf hotel on Georg-Glock-Strasse with 375 rooms, and for something slightly different, DJH Hostels’ Youth Hostel Düsseldorf on Düsseldorferstrasse with 96 rooms.

 

HOW TO GET THERE 

The coach journey to Düsseldorf from the UK is fairly good taking around seven hours (from London to Düsseldorf Old Town it is 377 miles) using the short Channel Tunnel crossing or alternatively via the Harwich to the Hook of Holland ferry crossing, which takes slightly longer at around ten hours altogether. Düsseldorf is also well connected to the rest of Germany via the local autobahn network.

Düsseldorf is easily reached by rail too; perhaps the best route to take is via Eurostar from London St Pancras International or Ebbsfleet International in Kent to Brussels-Midi in Belgium and then onwards via Deutsche Bahn’s high speed ICE trains straight through to Cologne, with a short connecting train ride to Düsseldorf. This takes around four and a half hours at present but travelling time should be reduced by around an hour once planned direct ICE services from London St Pancras to Cologne begin. These were due to begin in 2013, but have now been postponed to 2015. Deutsche Bahn has an active groups department, with discounts starting at six or more people.

It is only a 10-minute drive from Düsseldorf International Airport to the city centre. Several airlines operate direct flights to the city from the UK including Lufthansa (from London Heathrow, Manchester and Newcastle) and easyJet (from London Gatwick).

 

THE DÜSSELDORF GUIDES

Tour guide Caroline West.

Caroline West and Joop Eskes were the very capable guides who took the author on her tour of Düsseldorf. Düsseldorf Marketing & Tourismus can arrange walking tours of the city for your group with a range of freelance guides.

Caroline in particular offers ‘We Love Music’ tours that come with a musical performance, first developed to coincide with the Eurovision Song Contest, which took place at the city’s ESPRIT arena in 2011, as well as ‘Arts in Düsseldorf’ itineraries.

Tour guide Joss Eskes.

Joop can offer tours on subjects such as architecture, history and breweries as well as tours designed specifically for less able bodied groups.

Another tour to look out for is ‘A City Changes its Face’, which focuses on the ongoing construction of the Werhahn Undergournd line and the redevelopment of the northern end of the Königsallee shopping area.

Open-top bus tours 

Hop-on, hop-off open top bus tours are a staple of any city offering and Düsseldorf is no exception. The HopOn HopOff CityTour lasts around 90 minutes and takes you around the whole city centre, before going right through the Old Town. It allows you to get on or off at any stop to explore areas in more detail, and you can learn further information enroute with a live tour guide commentary or through earphones. Reductions on prices are available for groups of 10 or more people. Bike and segway tours are also available, as are coach tours that include a visit up the Rhine Tower.

Airport tours 

Guided tour at Düsseldorf International Airport.
© Andreas Wiese

Tours of airports are popular in Germany and Düsseldorf International offers a chance to experience the apron – where the planes are parked – on guided tours. Lasting about two hours, there is the possibility to book an exclusive bus, just for your group. As well as the tour, the price includes free entrance to the observation deck and free use of the SkyTrain, which connects the Düsseldorf Flughafen airport railway station with the terminal. Web: www.dus-int.de/dus/besucherservice

 

Coach Parking Facilities 

For those travelling by coach, 17 free coach parking places are available near Fritz-Roeber-Strasse (north of the Old Town, parallel to the Oberkassel Bridge).

A number of charged for parking spaces are available on the Haroldstrasse (under the Rheinknie Bridge) for groups visiting the North Rhine-Westphalian Parliament (Landtag) and on the Tonhallenufer where there are 80 parking spaces near the concert hall.

Along with help in planning and booking itineraries, when special major events take place in Düsseldorf, the Düsseldorf tourist board offers a free coach parking reservation service.

 

THE AVANT-GARDE MUSIC SCENE 

Düsseldorf has an impressive avant-garde music scene. The most well-known artists to emerge from this are Kraftwerk, the influential electronic music band. The group was formed in 1970 by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider and pioneered the revolutionary electronica sound, which relies heavily on computer generated speech. One of the favoured haunts of these and other creatives including perfomance artist Joseph Beuys was the Cream Cheese disco – Germany’s first – inspired by the character created by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. It is now a jewellery shop on Neubrückstrasse, but as a disco is mooted to be the first place to use strobe lighting in Western Europe, and it is certainly worth looking up; there are several Cream Cheese Revival Parties held each year, where the experience is recreated at various venues.

The stone club

The Stone Club on Ratingerstrasse.

The Stone club on Ratingerstrasse, just around the corner in the Old Town, is also worth looking out for and is still an influential music venue in the city. It is cited as the birthplace of punk in Germany, where the band Die Toten Hosen first began, who have since gone on to become one of the most popular punk bands in Germany. You can learn more about the scene on a ‘We Love Music’ tour (see The Düsseldorf Guides above).

 

FESTIVAL CITY 

Over 10 days in July each year, the ‘biggest fun fair on the Rhine’ – Kirmes – visits Düsseldorf and sets up on vast grounds spanning 165,000 square metres on the western bank of the Rhine. It houses an eclectic and impressive range of fairground rides, both nostalgic and modern, as well as traditional bars – some of which revolve (!) – and restaurants. This year the fair will take place between 13th and 22nd July and marks the 111th time it has visited the Rhine meadows in Oberkassel. The fair is accessed from the main city centre by a short ride on the Rhine Ferry.

Kirmes

Kirmes.

Summer is also the time of the ancient Cartwheeling Tournament,which takes place in June next year, whilst November marks the beginning of the popular carnival season in Düsseldorf on 11th of the month. This runs until the 20th February and is marked by an opening celebration called Hoppeditz’ Erwachen (or Hoppenditz awakes) in front of the Rathaus. Another highlight on the events calendar is, of course, the Düsseldorf Christmas Market, which takes place throughout the city centre and Old Town and runs from 22nd November to 23rd December this year.

 

FASHION 

As the location for one of the biggest fashion fairs in the world – the CPD – twice a year, it’s no surprise that Düsseldorf is a centre for shopping.

The Kö-Galerie.
© Düsseldorf Marketing & Tourismus GmbH

Königsallee – referred to as Kö by locals – is the most famous of the city’s shopping streets and is Germany’s equivalent of 5th Avenue in New York, with a wide range of exclusive shops and luxury malls including the Kö-Galerie along its one-kilometre stretch.

You will find high street bargains on Schadowstrasse, which features the Schadow Arkaden with 70 shops, cafes and restaurants, and Friedrichstrasse is home to the Düsseldorf Arcaden, with 120 shops on three floors. The Old Town, meanwhile, is home to cool boutique-style shops whilst the Carlstadt area to its south is a haven for antiques and art lovers.

 

Our thanks to nalogo! tourism & leisure for arranging Abbe Bates’ visit to Düsseldorf, in conjunction with Düsseldorf Marketing & Tourismus, Deutsche Bahn and the Hilton Düsseldorf.

 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

Contact Düsseldorf Marketing & Tourismus GmbH, Postfach 10 21 63, D-40012 Düsseldorf

Telephone 00 49 (0) 211 17 202 854  Fax 00 49 (0) 211 17 202 3222

Email welcome@duesseldorf-tourismus.de  Web www.visitduesseldorf.de

 

Group Travel Organiser is interested in hearing about other towns and cities that have something to offer visitors to explore so please get in touch.