Many consider Hanover to be the most underrated city in Germany. The city is the largest in the Lower Saxony state and offers tourists a glimpse into Northern German life. A lot of the architecture is a mix between British and German medieval culture which make it unique. The city is also situated along the River Liene. Because of its location, the city has been an important commercial center for Northern Germany and is a great place for music and art lovers.
The best time to visit Hanover is during the famous Oktoberfest. While many travelers believe Oktoberfest is held in Munich, it’s actually Hanover that welcomes locals and visitors by the hundreds every year in the fall. If you aren’t interested in experiencing Oktoberfest (or the crowds), the best weather in Hanover is from March until June. While it’s not high season, there is nothing quite like Christmastime in Germany. Hanover has one of the best Christmas markets in the country.
For international travelers, the best way to get to Hanover is to fly into Berlin. From there you can take a fast hour and 40 minute train ride into the center of Hanover. Another option is to fly into Munich and take the quick hour flight or 4 hour train journey. Whatever way you choose to get to Hanover there are lots of options making it an easy destination to add to your Germany trip.
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1. Take a Self-Guided Tour
One of the best free things to do during your visit to Hanover is to create a self-guided tour. Do a little research ahead of time and create a map of the city for yourself to follow. One of the best self-guided tours is actually put together for you by the city itself. There is a 4,200-meter red line painted around the city that takes you to 36 popular tourist spots. All you have to do is follow the red line. If you are interested in learning more about some of the spots you’ll see on your walk, feel free to purchase the Red Thread book at the tourist office.
GPSMYCITY also has a great list of different self-guided tours for you to take advantage of. You can choose to build your own from a list of popular attractions that they help you put together interactively. There are also pre-built options on the website as well. Some of these include a nightlife tour, a tour of cultural sights and more. Many of the walks will only take 1-3 hours so feel free to mix and match.
The best part about a self-guided tour is that you can make it as long or as short as you want it to be. You can also choose different themes and build the tour from there. A popular walking tour includes all of the different cultural places in Hanover. Stop at places like the Hanover History Museum, the Opera House and the Neues Theatre for a real sense of what culture is like in Hanover.
2. Visit the New Town Hall
While the building might look incredibly old, it was only built in 1913. The ‘new’ Town Hall was commissioned by the mayor at the time Heinrich Tramm. He boasted that the construction of the building was all paid in cash. At the time the cost of construction was 10 million Mark and took 12 years to build. It was built in a way to make it look like it would have if it were built back centuries ago when Hanover was a kingdom.
The New Town Hall is home to the city Mayor and CEO who acts as the head of municipal legislation. Typically, important political meetings are held in this building. There are also receptions held for official guests of the city. The best part of the New Town Hall is that it is always open to visitors.
One of the most popular things to see when roaming around the New Town Hall are the four scale models of the city. The models represent four distinct periods of time for the city of Hanover. The first is how the city looked during the Middle Ages. The next two are how Hanover looked before and after World War II. The last scale model is how the city looks currently. As you wander around be sure to stop at Hodler Hall to view an incredible mural commissioned by Ferdinand Hodler.
3. Stroll Through the Old Town
If you are looking to see what a typical medieval German town would look like, be sure to add the Hanover Old Town to your list. Lined up on either side of the street are colourful timber buildings. Some of the buildings even date back as far as the mid-1500s!
Locals consider this the ‘new’ Old Town due to the destruction of the original Old Town in the bombings of World War II. In fact, before the war, the Old Town was very much considered a place where the poor lived. It was rife with crime, and so, many people had a tendency to stay away from the area. After World War II as Hanover started to rebuild itself, the 40 remaining timber buildings were moved. This was done in an effort to create a concentrated area for the buildings which is now called the Old Town.
Take some time in this area to enjoy the cobbled streets. There are lots of wonderful cafes and restaurants to sit and enjoy here as well. Don’t forget your camera, there are Instagram-worthy shots around every corner here.
4. Window Shop at the Flohmarkt
When the weather is nice, you will be able to walk through the Flohmarkt (also known as the Flea Market). The market is open only on Saturdays and is located in the Old Town. Like many flea markets, you will find vendors selling all sorts of items but mostly antiques. The market is free to wander around and if you are willing to spend a little bit of money, the items are pretty reasonably priced.
5. Stop at Kropcke
The main city square in Hanover is called Kropcke. The place is a hub of activity anytime of day and is centered around Cafe Kropcke, a cute cafe. Kropcke has been welcoming locals and tourists alike since the late 1800s. In fact, both the cafe and the square got its name from one of the original owners, Wilhelm Kropcke. While you won’t be able to dine at cafe Kropcke for free, the area is a great place for people watching. Many locals use the clock as a meeting point or visit the cafe for a nice meal.
6. Admire the churches of Hanover
Dotted around the city of Hanover are many beautiful churches. There are 7 distinct churches that tourists like to visit when wandering around the city Lutherkirche, Christuskirche, Basilika St. Clemens, Neustädter Kirche, Kreuzkirche, Marktkirche, and Aegidienkirche. Make sure to look at the information on each one to narrow down your list before you go.
The Lutherkirche church is a Lutheran church in Hanover that was built in the late 1800s. In World War II the church was hit by a bomb and sat empty and ruined for 3 years before reconstruction work began on the building.
Basilika St. Clemens is the main Roman Catholic church in Hanover. The construction started on the building in 1712 and was completed 6 years later. Basilika St. Clemens was also ruined by bombs in World War II. Reconstruction of the building was complete again 12 years after the war. In 1998, Pope John Paul II visited the area and made the church a Minor Basilica.
Marktkirche is the main Lutheran church in Germany and one of the most impressive. It’s name translates to “the church of the marketplace.” The church was built in the 14th century and is considered to be a great example of North German brick gothic style. Like many other churches in the area, it was also bombed in the war and rebuilt later.
Aegidienkirche is one of the most interesting churches to visit in Hanover. It was one of three churches in the Old Town in Hanover. Aegidienkirche was also destroyed in World War II but unlike many of the other churches in the city, this one wasn’t rebuilt. Instead, the church was left in ruins as a sort of war memorial.
7. Discover the Neighborhoods of Hanover
There are several different neighborhoods to explore in Hanover and walking around them will give you a great glimpse into what life is like in Hanover. While the Old Town is definitely the most popular neighborhood for tourists to explore, Linden, Nordstadt, and Oststadt are also cool places to walk around.
Linden has slowly begun the process of gentrification making it an interesting place to explore. Old factories are starting to be turned into restaurants, bars and venues. In this neighborhood you will also find the highest point in the city, Lindener Hill. In the summer months you can enjoy outdoor concerts and beer gardens in Lindener Hill. The area is also very multicultural so if you are looking for an ethnic restaurant, you are bound to find what you’re looking for here.
Over the years, Nordstadt has become a student center because the neighborhood surrounds the university. While it was once considered a working class area, it’s the main spot now for festivals, events and the Herrenhausen Garden. Take the opportunity to walk around the Leibniz University and admire the castle-like buildings.
Lastly, Oststadt is the best place to visit if you are looking to get a taste of the nightlife. This area has some of the best bars and restaurants in Hanover. The neighborhood is also home to some of Hanover’s richest and most famous residents. The art deco buildings in Oststadt are something you will definitely want to photograph.
8. Enter Hanovers’ Museums for Free
Ever Friday from 2 until 5pm the museums in Hanover are free. Being able to enter some of the best museums in the country for free is definitely something you will want to take advantage of. The museums that offer free entrance on Fridays include Sprengel Museum, August Kestner Museum, Kestnergesellschaft, Kunstverein Hannover, Museum of History, Hannover State Museum, Herrenhausen Palace Museum and many others.
While it would be impossible to visit all of these museums in one afternoon, research the different museums to plan your trip ahead of time. Sprengel Museum focuses on German expressionism and French modern art. You will also find works by Picasso, Nolde and Klee here. If you are traveling with kids then the Hannover State Museum is a great one to add to the list. The space contains departments dedicated to prehistory, natural history and ethnology. History buffs will prefer the August Kestner Museum. Many of the collections focus on ancient civilizations and the museum has an enormous library.
9. Enjoy Nature at the Maschsee
The beautiful Masch lake is located quite close to the center of Hanover. Believe it or not this lake is actually man made. The area spans over 78 hectares and has been created over centuries. The lake was originally created to help control the flow of the water levels in the city after the snow melted. Today it’s one of the city’s favorite places to spend an afternoon.
If you find yourself in Hanover on a nice day, carve out some time to enjoy nature at the Maschee. There is a 6km walk around the lake that is great for rollerblading, walking, biking or running. You don’t need to worry about bringing your own food as there are a number of restaurants and bars dotted around the lake.
Whether you plan on spending as little money as possible during your trip to Hanover or are simply looking to save some money, there are lots of things to keep you busy. You can enjoy everything from nature to art to architecture for free in Hanover. Make sure to set aside some time and a little bit of money to enjoy dishes local to the region. Some dishes you must try include Sauerkraut, pomme fritte and bratwurst. Whatever your reason for venturing to Hanover you are sure to have a great time!