16 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Hanover
Historic Hanover (spelled Hannover in German) is situated on the River Leine and is capital of the Land of Lower Saxony. An important commercial center with a university and academies of music and drama, it's certainly a city worth visiting for those seeking a fun city experience in Germany. It's also an important trade fair and festival center, noted for such events as Oktoberfest Hannover, one of the largest such celebrations in the world, as well as the Hanover Schützenfest, the world's largest traditional "marksmen" fair and so named for its target-shooting competition. Hanover is also an important cultural center and boasts numerous world-class museums, galleries, and theaters.
Its extensive parks and gardens justify Hanover's claim to be "the city in the country," and make it an ideal destination to explore on foot. Strolling along the banks of the Mittelland Canal, the country's most significant man-made waterway, which is connected to the many top tourist attractions in the city's Old Town (Altstadt) and Kröpcke center square areas via numerous footpaths. Learn more about the best places to visit in the city with our list of the top attractions in Hanover.
See also: Where to Stay in Hanover
1. Herrenhausen Gardens
Hanover's magnificent royal gardens, Herrenhausen Gardens (Herrenhäuser Gärten), encompass the Welfengarten and Georgengarten, two beautiful English-style parks, and the Berggarten, a botanic garden featuring orchid, palm, and cactus houses. It's also here you'll find the Grosser Garten (Great Garden), dating from 1666 and the best-preserved example of an Early Baroque garden in Germany with cascades, fountains, an orangery, and a garden theater. At the north end of Herrenhausen stands the Mausoleum built in 1846 for King Ernest Augustus and Queen Friederike, and which contains the tomb of George I of Britain. Also of note is the recently rebuilt Herrenhausen Palace. Once a royal summer home, this impressive mansion now houses Museum Schloss Herrenhausen with its many fascinating displays of original artifacts and documents related to the city's rich Baroque era, along with a book shop and cafe.
A fun thing to do in Hanover at night is to participate in one of Herrenhausen Gardens' 'glowing gardens' events. Held throughout the summer, these fun evening strolls take place against a backdrop of spectacular illuminations that kick off at the famous sundial at sunset. Along the way you'll be accompanied by classic Baroque music, and have the chance to purchase and release your own paper lantern. The garden also serves as the backdrop to an annual firework competition, with entrants from around the world lighting up the evening sky with spectacular performances May through September.
Address: Herrenhäuser Str. 4, 30419 Hannover
2. Marktplatz and the Marktkirche
Hanover's lovely marketplace, Marktplatz, is located in the center of the historic Old Town (Altstadt) and is where you'll find many of the city's most important buildings. One of the most notable of these lovely structures is the 15th-century Late Gothic Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus), home to a number of interesting small shops and galleries, and in front of which is the graceful Neo-Gothic Market Fountain, built in 1881.
The other important tourist attraction here is the brick-built Marktkirche, or Market Church, with its impressive 97-meter-high tower, which stands testament to the city's former importance as a royal city. Dating from the 14th century, notable interior features include a splendid 15th-century bronze font and a wood-carved altar dating from 1480. Leading from the Marktplatz is Kramerstrasse, which still preserves something of the atmosphere of old Hanover with its many handsome half-timbered houses.
Address: Karmarschstrasse 42, 30159 Hannover
3. The New Town Hall
In Hanover's Trammplatz stands the majestic New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus), built between 1901-13 in the style of the Wilhelmine period. Sometimes also referred to as the New City Hall, it's one of Hanover's most interesting structures as it's built entirely on a foundation of 6,026 beech piles and crowned with a domed tower, which stands almost 98 meters high and dominates the city's skyline. From the dome's viewing platform — accessed by a unique elevator, which lifts passengers at an angle — are some of the best views over the city. Also of interest are models of the city that show its growth and development over the centuries, and the Hodler Room has a huge painting called The Oath of Loyalty, dating from 1913. Guided tours are available.
Address: Trammplatz 2, Hannover
4. Hanover Opera House
Along the dignified Georgstrasse is the Neoclassical Hanover Opera House. Built in 1852, this majestic structure is now home to the city's professional opera company, Staatsoper Hannover, and thanks to recent renovations offers a first-rate experience for opera fans during its season, which runs from September to June. Other notable events such as ballet performances are also scheduled throughout the year.
Address: Opernplatz 1, 30159 Hannover
5. Leine Palace
Hanover's Old Town (Altstadt) area is pleasant to explore on foot and is where you'll find the attractive Leine Palace (Leineschloss), the state parliament building. Constructed in the 17th century on the banks of the river after which it's named, this former royal residence of Duke George von Calenberg was later altered in Neoclassical style between 1817 and 1842. Just a five-minute walk away across the river is the New Town Church, or Neustädter Kirche, a 17th-century structure with the tomb of the famous German philosopher GW Leibniz, who was buried here in 1716.
Also in the Old Town, Hanover's finest half-timbered building, the Ballhof, was built between 1649 and 1665 for the then-fashionable games of battledore and shuttlecock, as well as for musical concerts. Now home to the Lower Saxony State Theater, it's still a popular venue for music events including pop, jazz, and opera. For those interested in exploring more of these charming timber-framed houses, the little town of Celle, about 40 kilometers northeast of Hanover on the banks of the River Aller, boasts more than 400 half-timbered homes in its quaint old town and makes for an easy day trip.
Address: Hannah-Arendt-Platz 1, 30159 Hannover
6. Lower Saxony State Museum
The Lower Saxony State Museum (Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum Hannover), located opposite the New Town Hall, houses many important collections of antiquities. The most popular is the State Gallery (Landesgalerie), with its collection of European art from the Middle Ages period right up to the 20th century. In addition to major works by the likes of Rembrandt and Rubens, there's a sizeable collection of German Old Masters and Impressionist works. Also of note are its archaeological and ethnological collections — Germany's oldest, boasting more than 20,000 artifacts — as well as numerous species of fish and reptiles. Also of interest is the Fürstenhaus Herrenhausen-Museum, a fine place from the 1700s with notable collections of period artwork, sculptures, and furniture.
Address: Willy-Brandt-Allee 5, Am Maschpark, D-30169 Hannover
7. The Maschsee
The Maschsee is an impressive artificial lake situated in the very heart of Hanover, which serves as a popular focal point for a variety of activities and leisure pursuits. Completed in 1936, it extends 2.4 kilometers and is up to 530 meters wide in places. It's the city's largest and busiest sports and recreation area, equally popular among boaters — both sailing and powered vessels — as well as swimmers, drawn by the chance to sunbathe on Maschsee Beach. The lake is also circled by many excellent pathways and is the perfect place for a stroll or picnic.
If you are in Hanover during the summer months, be sure to consider visiting the Maschseefes, a huge festival with music and firework displays, which attracts upwards of two million attendees each year. Another fun thing to do is to seek out the many interesting sculptures dotted around the lake, especially at night when they're lit up. On the west side of the lake is the Niedersachsen-Stadion stadium, built in 1954 on mounds of rubble from buildings destroyed in the war. Another pleasant area for a stroll is Herrenhäuser Allee, laid out in 1726 and including many attractive historic buildings.
8. Wilhelm Busch Museum
The Wilhelm Busch Museum (Deutsches Museum für Karikatur und Zeichenkunst Wilhelm Busch) in Hanover covers the life and times of the famous poet and designer after which it's named. Founded in 1937, the museum is housed in the attractive 18th-century Georgenpalais in Herrenhausen Gardens. Along with permanent displays of caricatures and comic art, the museum is home to the world's largest collection of Busch's work. A particular highlight is a unique collection of more than 700 caricatures of Napoleon, as well as examples of satirical art dating back some four centuries. In addition to regular visiting exhibits, the museum hosts educational workshops, music concerts, literary and culinary events, as well as programs geared to children.
Address: Georgengarten, 30167 Hannover
Official Site: www.karikatur-museum.de/en/
9. Hanover Adventure Zoo
Established in 1865 on the edge of Eilenriede park, Hanover Adventure Zoo (Erlebnis-Zoo Hannover) is the fifth oldest zoological park in Germany. It is successfully remodeled along the lines of a theme park, and today an estimated 1.5 million people visit the attraction's 3,400-plus animals each year. Highlights include fun areas such as the seasonal Winter-Zoo with its Christmas themes and activities, as well as the kids' area, Mullewapp, with its popular petting zoo and rides. Other zoo attractions include the fascinating Meyer's Farm, where you can explore authentic, 19th-century Lower Saxony half-timbered structures, and the Disney-like Zambezi River boat ride through the open cages of animals such as rhinos and elephants. Be sure to check the zoo's website for news of special events and scheduled feeding times.
Address: Adenauerallee 3, 30175 Hanover
Official Site: www.zoo-hannover.de/en
10. Eilenriede: Hanover's "Green Lungs"
Located on the east side of Hanover is the beautiful municipal forest of Eilenriede, an area of outstanding natural beauty, which covers some 1,600 acres of land. This huge recreation area — one of the largest inner-city forests in all of Europe — contains numerous footpaths and bridle paths just waiting to be explored, along with playing fields and open spaces for relaxation. Fun things to do here include visiting Hanover Adventure Zoo, hiking and biking its extensive network of trails, enjoying a forest-top trekking experience... or sunbathing. There's also a large playground for the kids, as well as a good cafe with plenty of outdoor seating.
Often referred to as the city's "Grüne Lunge," or "green lung," it's a wonderful place to spend time when visiting Hanover, as is Hermann Löns Park, a beautiful landscaped park with an old windmill. Adjoining it is the Tiergarten, laid out in 1679 as a hunting park, with old trees and an abundance of wildlife, including some 200 red deer, wild horses, and wild pigs.
Address: Niemcy, Hohenzollernstraße 28, 30161 Hannover
11. Hannover Museum of History
A must-visit for those wanting to learn more about this once-royal city, the Hannover Museum of History (Historisches Museum Hannover) can easily be tackled in a visit of two or three hours. Set in one of the city's oldest buildings (complete with fortified tower), the museum provides a fascinating insight into some 900-plus years of local history, from its earliest recorded events in the turn of the 12th century right up to today. Highlights include displays explaining the city's ties to the British Royal Family, as well as exhibits of cultural and religious artifacts. Be sure to check out the four elegant horse-drawn coaches that once belonged to royalty, as well as period outfits and weaponry. (Hot Tip: Plan your visit for a Friday, and you'll be rewarded with free admission.)
Address: Pferdestraße 6, 30159 Hannover
12. Museum August Kestner
The modern-looking concrete and glass Kestner Museum in Hanover is of interest for its rare collection of applied and decorative arts, some of which date back over 6,000 years and were collected by the museum's namesake during his time as an official in Rome during the mid-19th century. Highlights of its impressive collections include art-related antiquities from the Greek, Egyptian, and Roman periods. Established in 1889 and the city's oldest museum, it also holds large collections of local antiquities, coins, and handicrafts, many dating back to medieval times. Other important artworks can be enjoyed at the Kestnergesellschaft, an interesting art gallery noted for its many modern art collections and exhibits.
Address: Trammplatz 3, 30159 Hanover
One of the few war-damaged buildings in Hanover never to have been restored, and one of three important churches located in the city's Old Town, Aegidienkirche was instead left in ruins as a war memorial. Built in 1347, the ruins reveal enough to show it must have been a beautiful structure to look at in its heyday... and in many ways, it still is. Destroyed in an Allied air raid in 1943, along with many other landmarks in the Old Town, it has since been the recipient of notable sculptures, which together with some of the surviving Baroque features, make for a very sobering reminder of the destructive nature of war. A bell from another war-ravished city, Hiroshima, was added in 1985.
Address: 1, Aegidienkirchhof, 30159 Hannover
14. Aviation Museum Hannover-Laatzen
Take an easy 20-minute drive south of Hanover, and you'll find yourself in the town of Laatzen, a popular destination for tourists thanks to its being home to the excellent Aviation Museum Hannover. Here, you'll find an impressive collection of 36 fully-restored aircraft, including rare examples of military aircraft from World Wars I and II (check out the rival British Spitfire and German Messerschmitt 109 machines from the 1940s). These static displays are augmented by realistic models, many hanging from the ceiling as part of interesting dioramas. In addition, there are some 30 or so engines on display, including both jet and piston variants, all of which provide a fascinating insight into the workings of these marvelous machines. The museum also has a rich catalogue of related artifacts including clothing, documents, and vehicles. All displays carry English language information, and English language guided tours are also available.
Address: Ulmer Str. 2, 30880 Laatzen
Official Site: www.luftfahrtmuseum-hannover.de/index.php/en/
15. Sprengel Museum
Home to one of Germany's most important collections of modern art, the architecturally attractive Sprengel Museum is a must-visit for art lovers. Founded in 1979 and containing both private and state-owned collections, the gallery is known for its numerous works by local artist Kurt Schwitters, as well as from other notable artists such as Max Ernst, Picasso, and Paul Klee, among others.
The museum is also home to a collection donated by well-known artist Niki de Saint Phalle, as well as a fascinating large metal sculpture by Alexander Calder. In addition to its regular roster of visiting art exhibits, educational programs and workshops are also offered. An on-site bookshop offers a variety of related publications, including some in English, while those conducting research or wanting to learn more about the artists whose work is featured can visit the museum library. And even if art's not your thing, the museum's bell'ARTE Restaurant is worth a visit for its large riverside terrace.
Address: Kurt-Schwitters-Platz, 30169 Hanover
16. SEA LIFE Hannover
One of the top family attractions in the city, SEA LIFE Hannover is a fun way to spend a few hours with the kids. Covering marine species from as close as the city's own Leine river to faraway tropical destinations such as the Caribbean, the museum offers plenty of opportunities to get close-up views of some of the 3,500 sea creatures that call the attraction home. In its 37 pools and tanks are such fascinating species as Cuban crocodiles, stingrays, octopuses, and sharks, along with a wide array of tropical fish and turtles. Some of the best viewing experiences can be enjoyed while walking the long glass tunnel under the site's largest pool. Feeding sessions can be watched, and educational "ranger talks" in the rain forest section are also worth joining.
Address:Herrenhäuser Str. 4A, 30419 Hannover
Official Site: www.visitsealife.com/en/hanover/
Where to Stay in Hanover for Sightseeing
Hanover's Old Town, where many of its historic buildings are located, is not crowded with hotels, but there is a good selection within a reasonable walking distance, and others are on the city's excellent transit system. The main train station, Hauptbahnhof, is close to the Old Town, as is the park-ringed Maschteich lake, so either is a convenient location. Here are some highly rated hotels in Hanover:
- Luxury Hotels: Mercure Hotel Hannover City has stylishly decorated rooms, some overlooking the park beside new City Hall, within a 10-minute walk of the Hauptbahnhof and Old Town shopping streets. Right next to the train station, on a shopping street, Kastens Hotel Luisenhof has a gym on the top floor. The nearby Grand Hotel Mussmann, also an easy walk from restaurants, the opera house, and the historical museum, includes free breakfast.
- Mid-Range Hotels: Near the new City Hall, State Museum, and Kestner Museum, the top-ranked DORMERO Hotel Hannover has high-tech rooms, free wireless, and a gym. Overlooking the market square in the Old Town, Concorde am Leineschloss Hotel is surprisingly quiet and has a good choice of restaurants close by. In the Old Town with rooms overlooking the beautiful old City Hall, Luhmann's Hotel am Rathaus offers discounted parking nearby.
- Budget Hotels: Next door to the bus station, just a few steps from the train station and close to the top Old Town attractions, Ibis Budget Hannover Hauptbahnhof has basic rooms with free Wi-Fi. In a quiet neighborhood halfway between the Hauptbahnhof and zoo, the family-run Hotel Flora has old-fashioned rooms, some with balconies, and all only a 15-minute walk from the Old Town center. Some distance north of the Old Town but on a direct tram line, Ibis Hannover City has free Wi-Fi and inexpensive on-site parking.
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