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
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
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.
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
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,
Tel: 00 49 (0)511 16849746