The city of Hannover, Germany is known for its subtlety. When I first googled “What to see in Hannover”, there wasn’t a lot listed. I am glad I went with my gut and decided to visit the beautiful Lower Saxony Capital because we had a great time discovering some of the hidden things to do in Hannover, tucked away in this once royal city. Surprisingly there were so many things to do in Hannover with kids, that we have already made plans to return in the summer.
Things to do in Hannover, Germany
City Tour Bus
The first thing we did after checking-in to the hotel and having a bit to each, was catch the City Tour Bus. On Saturday, the only remaining time slot we had available was 2:30 pm which left us plenty of time to eat and catch the Carnival Parade before meeting the bus at the Tourism Office.
On a side note, I’m not much for crowds but this “little” celebration was the perfect amount of parade amazement and manageable crowd size. Just a personal preference.
City Tours, similar to the popular Hop On Hop Off bus in city capitals, allowed us to store the stroller on the main deck and sit at the top with our headphones. FYI don’t sit too close to the stairs, as this is where the speakers are located. Since it was in German, we used our provided headphones to catch the historical tide-bites in English.
Between the Bachelorette Party in front of us, Pre-Game party behind us and kids being kids with us, we did manage to learn a few things during our 2 hour bus ride. For starters, the computer and gramophone were invented in Hannover. Who knew?! Also, the ring road around the city was established post-WW2 to avoid traffic in the centre of the city. City Planners from around the world have visited to the see the city rebuild after near total destruction during the war. The city itself is also extremely bike friendly, as there is relatively no incline on all routes.
The bus’s first stop is at the Herrenhäuser Gärten. If we had taken the first bus of the day, we definitely would have gotten out here to explore.
We kept going towards the Neu Rathaus, which is another stop on the bus route. I could have easily confused this with a local castle. We came back around afterwards and tried to take a handful of pictures from the inside but there were several wedding parties attempting to do the same thing, in between the workers and tourists, so we quickly left.
There is a limited scheduled to the City Tour but everything is so easily accessible by transit so I wasn’t bothered. We did the tour, found our points of interest, then took local transit back around to what we wanted to explore more.
Our tour finished a little earlier than expected, probably due to light traffic and no one was getting on/off. We had plenty of daylight left to explore the city centre before making our way back to the hotel for bedtime.
Ruins of Aegidien Church, destroyed in the war. It was destroyed in a 1943 air raid and left standing afterwards as a war memorial.
The next morning, the kids woke up insanely early and we checked out of the hotel. Since not much was open, we took a little walk in the woods before heading to Sealife at 10 am. Even though they hadn’t opened yet, the line was still significantly long.
There are two lines, if you have never been to a Sealife before; one for online tickets, and one for purchase at the door. There is a slight discount for purchasing online with a specific date and time, up to 30%.
There was a surprise Amazon Rainforest in the centre of Sealife. I noticed on the map that there was a tower to climb and a few sets of stairs but since I don’t read German, and decided to figure out when we got there, I didn’t think too much of it. When we got there, the kids just ran around looking for the turtles, chameleons and other amazonian animals. It actually reminded me of our time at Tropical Islands a few weeks ago.
The whole thing took about 1.5 hours, but these guys are a little faster than I like, as usual. It wasn’t super busy since we arrived before opening, and the line outside was fairly long when we were leaving. As usual, there was a gift shop and small cafeteria on the way out. I managed to convince the kids to walk right past it all and head back to the entrance to grab the stroller and our jackets.
Sealife is stroller friendly and handi-friendly but I don’t suggest it if you don’t have to. The aisles aren’t the widest so there is very little room for walkers to pass a stroller if you are slower than they are. Considering how much time the child will actually spend in the stroller, with all that there is to see and do, I would suggest leaving the stroller in the car or in the lobby entrance with your jackets.
Across the street from Sealife is the Herrenhauser Garten, one of the most important baroque gardens in Europe. During the summer, the magnificent Great Fountain is a definite must see at a staggering 82 m high (the largest of its type in Europe).
We spent a good 2 hours walking around the Great Garden, exploring the smaller gardens within it. Thought it was unfortunate that the fountains were not operational at the time (only in the summer), we were able to see the details behind the fountain and explore the whole area without worrying about the crowds. Now that we have been in the off-season, I plan on coming back to visit the Zoo and the Gardens during on-season to see the flowers in bloom and the fountains at their best.
Once a set of artificial caves, the oldest part of the gardens, it was taken down some 250 years ago. Local artist Niki de Saint Phalle, having already created the famous Nanas in the city centre, was inspired to create yet another major art piece, before her death in 2002.
The 3 rooms are decorated in glass mosaics and meant to represent Human Life. There is a security guard within the Grotto, and strollers are not allowed in the small rooms.
We finished our tour by simply exploring the area. We walked most of the way down the gardens on one side, then came back up the center, making the time to view the sculptures, fountains and gazebos.
On the way home, we stopped by Schloss Marienburg. It was roughly 1 pm and we still had a 3 hour drive ahead of us but I couldn’t leave Hannover without visiting this amazing castle.
We were treated to a private tour of the castle and the crown jewels, check out more of that here. The kids had a great time and they slept the whole way home. Hubby hasn’t stopped walking about the castle and I am still can’t get over how “Fairly Tale” the whole castle looks.
At the end of the day, one night was not long enough. If we could do it again, I would have stayed a second night and visited the Erlebnis Zoo and the Museum of History. The photos that I am seeing online of just the Polar Bear enclosure make we want to go back this weekend. Sadly, they were renovating and making the whole zoo that much better for the animals and guests alike, so that means I just have to go back in the summer. That also means I get to check out the Gardens in full bloom, with working fountains. I’m excited just thinking about. Be sure to check back often to see for updates.
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An excellent resource for planning all of Germany can we found with the Lonely Planet Germany Guide