I always love taking a walk through Hannover’s Altstadt (Old Town), so many beautiful buildings and details. I love all the small independent shops, bars, bistros, coffee houses, art shops, high-end stores and curious little one-off shops.
Every time we visit my hometown we make a point of going down there, and every time I discover something I hadn’t seen before.
Hannover was first mentioned in documents in 1100 and in 1241 became chartered. It joined the Hanseatic League in 1386. During these years the old town was a place where the poorest of the poor lived and the timbered buildings, now so revered, were of no interest to anybody, least of all the people who lived in and around them. The rich and well-off never ventured into the old town, as it was perceived to be full of crime and undesirable people.
Hannover has had a chequered history. From 1495 it belonged to the Calenberg-Celle line of the house of Welf, whose seat it was from 1636. In 1714 George Louis of that house became King George I of Great Britain (see my previous posts on the royal connection here and here). From 1815 to 1866 the city was capital of the Kingdom of Hannover, but in 1866 it was annexed by Prussia; it later became the capital of Hannover province and, in 1946, of Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen).
During World War II nearly all of the old town was destroyed, and in total three fifths of Hannover was destroyed, and only a few timber buildings dotted around Hannover survived. During the rebuilding of Hannover these buildings were moved into what is now the old town to give it back its medieval look and feel.
During December the old town around the Marktkirche is host to the annual Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) and the smell of gluehwein (mulled wine) envelopes the area all around.
I love the Altstadt and yes, Hannover, like most cities these days, can look a little grey and overly modern, but if you go around some of the old districts like Linden, the Altstadt or Herrenhausen you will find a wealth of history that is worth exploring further.
A lot of people in Germany believe that Hannover has no place on a tourist’s must-see list, but I disagree. If you believe that this city is dull and modern, you haven’t looked properly and missed its historic buildings, the royal connections that are everywhere, the museums that showcase some great modern art, the parks that are everywhere and the great restaurants, bistros, coffee and cocoa houses, the independent quirky shops and its flea market (the oldest in Germany).
I know I am biased, but if you are travelling into the area you must put Hannover on your sightseeing list!