Lacking the charm of neighboring Hansa cities, Hanover has never scored high on the list of most favorite destinations in Germany. Most people assume that this place is solely an industrial center with nothing else to see. Yet hidden beneath the “industrialized” façade is a city full of history and cultural heritage which are only visible to those with patience and a keen eye.
Rebuilt after the Second World War, Hanover’s first appearance hardly can’t knock visitors off the feet. It is a mere reconstruction of a former commercial center, with only a handful of old houses left in place. The rest is a monotonous concrete jungle. But in centuries past, the city on the eastern bank of River Leine held a key position on the northwest trading route, connecting the Hanseatic League’s cities like Hamburg and Bremen with those in North German Plain and Rhineland Palatinate. It also played an important role in overland traffic skirting the Harz between the Low Countries and Saxony. By the 16th century, the city of Hanover had already become so prosperous. It was a kingdom unto itself, ruled by the monarchs of Hanover.
The Downturn of Hanover
Ironically, Hanover’s strategic location also brought destruction to the city. When WWII broke out, the city was heavily bombed because it’s an important railroad and road junction, as well as a major production center in Northern Germany. More than 88 bombing raids were carried out, killing 6000 people and leaving 90% of the city center in ruins.
Many of Hanover’s architectural and cultural gems suffered the same fate. They were only rebuilt decades later, including the Altstadt (Old Town), the New City Hall, as well as the Herrenhausen Gardens. Only the Aegidienkirche (Church of Aegidius) was never repaired. Just like the A-Dome in Hiroshima, this ruin was kept as a war memorial.
The Old Town
Despite being recently restored, the Old Town of Hanover does emit a nostalgic feeling. The area appears as though it has been there for centuries, with a market square dominated by a Gothic church, narrow cobblestone lanes, red-brick buildings, and a row of half-timbered houses. Some original elements such as roof tiles, bricks, or wooden frames are re-used. It’s visible in many of these buildings, including the facade of the Old City Hall or the bell tower of the Marktkirche.
The New City Hall
Resembling a magnificent palace, the New City Hall at the southern edge of the inner city is probably Hanover’s most remarkable architecture. The construction began in 1901. But it took about 12 years and 10 million Marks (more than 5.1 million Euros) to complete this grandiose project. During WWII, the eclectic style building was severely damaged. Fortunately, it was restored just one year after the war had come to an end. Since then, the New City Hall has been used as the residence for the mayor, as well as the seat of the municipal administration.
Outside the city center, the Herrenhausen Gardens are the ideal destinations for whoever wants to have access to nature. They are the heritage of the Kings of Hanover and consist of four different gardens: the Great Garden, the Berggarten, the Georgegarten, and the Welfengarten. Their history span over centuries and today they remain a popular recreational area for Hanoverians.
The Great Garden
Among the four gardens in Herrenhausen, the Great Garden seems to be the most fascinating. This garden, as its name implied, is grand, both in scale and style. It follows the Baroque style of Versailles, with 50 hectares of lawns, walkways, fountains, and statues arranged in strict geometrical patterns. The garden also contains a maze, a palace as well as an outdoor theatre. And on several summer weekends, the Great Garden is transformed into a venue for magical firework shows.
Tips for visiting Hanover
- Visitors can travel 98 meters to the top of the City Hall via a curved lift. There are four observation platforms where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the Altstadt and the beautiful Masch Lake.
- The gardens are reachable by Tram 4 and 5, departing from Hanover Steintor.
- While the Georgegarten and the Welfengarten is a public area and freely accessible, visitors have to pay admission ticket for the Great Garden and the George Garden. Please note that they only open until 18:00.
- An extra ticket is required for the firework shows. The garden will also light up after the shows for one more hour.
- Hanover is an ideal base to explore Marienburg Castle. It’s the token of true love, which dwells between King George V, the Last King of Hanover and Queen Marie of Saxe-Altenburg.