A Hannover City Break
I decided on a brief Hannover City Break in the state capital of Lower Saxony, Germany as I have “done” Cologne and Dusseldorf and despite me truly loving those tremendous German cities I felt the need to see somewhere different on my route from London to Berlin. I also wanted to understand the best places to see and things to do in Hannover.
Reading the reviews some said it was boring, uninteresting with one even saying it was the dullest city in Germany – well with that kind of feedback I thought it was right up my street and perhaps it was time to set the record straight! It was most definitely time for a Hannover City Break.
As I was Interrailing I drew into the wonderfully ornate Hannover Hauptbahnhof railway station which was built in 1876 and is perfectly located in the heart of town.
The station opens out onto a huge plaza complete with the Ernst August Galerie shopping arcade. From here you can conveniently take buses or taxis to your chosen accommodation or places of interest.
Arriving in the evening my first impression concerned me given the large police car presence as well as the number of alcohol-fuelled guys and homeless individuals loitering around.
Perhaps not the welcome I was expecting but having also loitered around a few railway stations in my time I turned a blind eye and made a hasty dash for my diggs.
Just 100 yards across the plaza was my hotel for the night – the pretty little 78-room Central Hotel Kaiserhof. I was checked in by a charming and friendly lady with no delay – there was no need for a passport or a credit card guarantee. Just my address, a signature, and I was allocated a spacious double room (204) on the second floor with views across the plaza. At least I could keep an eye on those shady characters from a position of safety.
Arriving later than expected meant that I could not discover the city by night aside from a couple of beers served by the lovely Angela at the hotel’s charming little boutique bar. Angela spoke very little English but enough for me to recognize a glint in her eye as she clearly loved to try out her pigeon English. She told me that Hannover was very quiet at this time of year but in the summer months the city comes alive. That suited me, especially tonight, after a long day travelling on the first day of my Interrail adventure.
The hotel was spotlessly clean, provided excellent WIFI, and was superbly located for access to all the key locations in Hannover. They even surprised me with a complimentary mini-bar with water, juice, and beer. Their showpiece is the superb Café terrace where businessmen and women, as well as tourists, come throughout the day to sip coffee, talk business, or like me, just people watch. The longer I stayed at this hotel the more I loved its character and ambiance.
Having had a wonderful night’s sleep on a very comfortable bed I was as they say “up and at em” and keen to get to work and discover the things to do in Hannover. I set my alarm for 7 am and as I drew the curtains I was greeted by a beautiful sunrise and thankfully no more shady characters. There was just that calm rattle of trams and buzz of people heading to work.
Today was going to be a good day!
The History of Hannover
Now it would appear that I am not alone in knowing very little of this city which I understood and later discovered offers a mix of fabulous shopping on wide open pedestrian streets, fine architecture, a trendy vibe and a history dating back to the 11th century. That does not sound boring, dull or uninteresting to me!
Back in 1636 Hannover was established as the seat of the Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg, later known as Kingdom of Hannover. In the middle of the 19th century the city was incorporated into Prussia before nearly 90% of the city was sadly destroyed during World War 2.
Things to Do in Hannover via the Red Thread
A great way to get a feel for the city is by following the 4,200 metre red line that takes visitors around Hannover to see its architectural, historical, and various other entertaining sights.
Make sure you pick up the accompanying brochure from the local tourist information centre or download the app.
As you can see by the photo I started following the thread but as is my way I decided to vere off and never picked it up again – I just don’t like being told what to do sometimes – I will never make a tour guide!
First stop was to wander along the main pedestrianised zone where numerous well known large retail shops are located making a Hannover city break a great place for a spot of retail therapy. This central area is known as the Kropcke and is the meeting place for young and old. The name of Kropcke was derived from the first café to open back in the 19th century when it was bought by Wilhelm Kröpcke. After that, the name stuck.
At its very heart, there is a small clock which bizarrely when I viewed it was wrapped in what appeared to be a hundred black bin liners while under it was a man enjoying a local beer at 7am. Again I am not going to criticize – I have been there – not there… but there!
I loved the wide-open pedestrian feel and relaxed atmosphere around this area. The place was buzzing!
Hannover Opera House
A moment’s walk from the Kropcke clock leads you to the beautiful neo-classical Opera house which was built by Georg Friedrich Laves in 1852 and seats 1,202 people. One of the most celebrated buildings in Hannover, the venue hosts numerous world class opera and ballet performances throughout the year.
That said I was also interested in the little tuk tuk showcasing the Shakespeare Pub – oh for another night in happening Hannover.
The Ruins of Aegidienkirche
This church was built in the 14th century but in 1943 it was sadly destroyed during the second World War and has now become a memorial to the victims of those tragic dark days.
Not one for ruins I was pretty amazed at the remains of this stunning building and when standing in the somewhat eerie centre you can but imagine the horrors from the middle of the last century.
The New Town Hall
From research, I knew that the city’s most iconic sight was the Town Hall however I learned a lesson when asking the lovely receptionist at my hotel for directions as there are indeed two town halls – a new one and an old one! The New Town Hall is the one that receives the headlines and offers the opportunity for some lovely photos across the Maschsee lake.
However as is so often the case (Red Square in Moscow if I recall) there was a heap of scaffolding up on one side meaning that iconic shot was not for me on this occasion.
It was built at the beginning of the 20th century and finished in 1913 and provides visitors with wonderful gardens, a spectacular interior, and those stunning views of Hannover, Maschsee, and the surrounding area.
The Museum August Kestner
Alongside the New Town Hall is the Kestner Museum which houses a collection of Egyptian artifacts as well as exhibits from classical antiquity and the history of design.
I spent an eternity taking this photo as Bob the Builder was having the longest cigarette in history. Not sure it was even worth it – the photo, not the cigarette, although I did not ask him!
The Anzeiger Hochhaus at Steintor was probably my favourite building in Hannover. A high rise structure built in 1927 in an expressionist style with a frame construction made of clinker and with a copper dome.
I thought the photo of it with the ugly modern day yellow abomination in the foreground just made the Anzeiger Hochhaus look even better than it already was! It reminds me of a Cluedo piece and not a very good one at that.
Hannover Old Town
At the heart of Hannover’s very small old town, you can witness colourful half-timbered houses mixed with red brick buildings.
Here you do not seem to be able to walk more than 20 paces without stumbling upon a coffee or antique shop often decorated with ivy and set along cobbled streets.
Whilst tiny this area is well worth a visit on any Hannover city break.
VW TV Tower
By now I was understanding that there are just so many things to do in Hannover. The Fernsehturm Volkswagen Tower or VW Tower as it is better known was built in 1958 by the former German Federal Post Office and stands at 141 metres in height.
Germany has a history of building these types of towers and I am a big fan especially as like here they so often showcase the new versus the old.
The Parks & Green Spaces Of Hannover
Hannover has clearly focused on ensuring both its residents and tourists like me have access to plenty of fresh clean air with numerous parks, green spaces as well as art. The Eilenriede is Europes largest municipal forest of 640 hectares lying within the heart of Hannover. If you are lucky you may even spot deer, foxes and bats.
The eco friendly focus continues with over 500kms of bike lanes where you can take a bike or hire one of the electric scooters that are scattered across the city. If I had had the time I would have definitely hopped on board a scooter as I love whizzing around a city as I did in Vienna back in 2018.
The Maschsee behind the New Town Hall is a pretty lake. During the summer months the lake turns into the venue of Maschseefest – the festival that attracts around 2 million visitors each year all coming for a wide variety of music, culture and food.
Herrenhausen Gardens are worth a visit as they are considered to be some of the finest baroque style gardens in Europe.
Is Hannover Worth Visiting?
100% YES. I am so pleased I visited Hannover as it truly has much to enjoy from the stunning architecture to the history and art as well as the great shopping, antiques, coffee shops and green spaces. Whilst I did not get the chance to really indulge I hear the food is pretty special too!
Whilst they do need to address the issue of litter in some areas and ensure the city is welcoming both day and night, I feel that the future could be bright for Hannover – this charming shabby chic German city.
Pre-Bookable Hannover Excursions
For further information on a Hannover City break or just to discover the things to do in Hannover then visit the Hannover Tourist Office or contact your local travel agent or tour operator.