Is this Germany’s most surprising city break yet?

Despite its enviable urban nature and grand royal lineage, Hanover might not be the first city to spring to mind when it comes to a weekend escape. But that only makes that sense of discovery all the more satisfying. With just over an hour and a half’s flight separating London and Hannover Airport, Lower Saxony’s capital is something to be savoured – here’s what to do once you’re there

Walk the red thread

Walk the red thread

The ingenious Red Thread is the quickest way to immerse yourself in the city: a 4.2km walking tour painted on the pavement that weaves past 36 of Hanover’s sights. Marvel at the neo-classical Opera House, reflect at the roofless Aegidien Church (bombed during WWII, it’s now a memorial to victims of war) and whizz up the arched lift to the top of the New Town Hall. The half-timbered Old Town charms with its cobbled lanes and historic pubs, while French artist, and honorary Hanover citizen, Niki de Saint Phalle’s curvaceous ‘Nanas’ figures are a flash of colour on the banks of the river Leine.

Feast around town

Feast around town

Stop number 33 on the Red Thread is a worthy introduction to Hanover’s foodie delights: the Market Hall. Inside, it’s a gastronomic world tour through tapas and sushi, kebabs and charcuterie, as well as plenty of German sausages. At the other end of the scale, three restaurants have earned Hanover’s place in the Michelin Guide: Votum and Jante (with two stars) and Handwerk (one star). From vegan burgers and Vietnamese street food in hipster Linden to traditional beer halls and old-school cafés in the city centre, this is somewhere to arrive hungry.

Catch a show

Catch a show

Named a UNESCO City of Music in 2014, Hanover is a culture-lover’s dream. One of Germany’s oldest and famed variety theatres, GOP stages its razzmatazz shows daily, while the city’s beautiful Opera House is home to all manner of classical performance, from ballet to concerts. The gallery scene also punches above its weight with contemporary art at the Sprengel Museum, the light-filled Kestner Gesellschaft gallery housed in a former bathhouse and the Wilhelm Busch Museum’s collection of caricature and cartoon art. For culture of a different (retail) kind: be sure to catch Germany’s oldest flea market, which takes place next to the Leine Palace every Saturday.

Get around green

Go green

As one of Germany’s greenest cities, Hanover is made to be explored by bike – freewheel along the Mittelland Canal to the Park of the Senses and through the huge urban forest of Eilenriede – it’s almost twice the size of New York’s Central Park. There you’ll find Hanover Adventure Zoo, home to rare Rothschild giraffes and Barbary lions, polar bears and penguins in large themed worlds. The other head-turning natural wonder is Maschsee, a huge man-made lake in the middle of the city. Get more watery thrills at the Leinewelle wave on the river Leine where surfers show off their tricks.

Discover the royal connection

Discover the royal connection

Hanover’s curious link with the UK dates back over 300 years to when a quirk of lineage (and desire for a Protestant heir after the death of childless Queen Anne) meant that in 1714, a German duke called Georg Ludwig became King George I of Great Britain. Retrace royal footsteps in his mother Electress Sophia’s astonishing Royal Gardens of Herrenhausen, a Baroque wonder of geometric planting, impressive fountains, grottos and glasshouses that is one of the most important gardens in Europe.

Mark diary dates

Make diary dates

The summer calendar is filled with spectacles, starting with the International Fireworks Competition that lights up the night’s sky above the Royal Gardens of Herrenhausen from May. The Marksmen’s Fair (30 June to 9 July) is a tradition that dates back to the 15th century where thousands of sharp-eyed marksmen parade, shoot targets and raise a few beers. The Maschsee Lake Festival (26 July to 13 August), meanwhile, sees the lake’s shoreline transformed with a happening array of food and drink villages and music stages.

Explore Lower Saxony

Explore Lower Saxony

There’s plenty to discover on Hanover’s doorstep, too. Just south of the city, Marienburg Castle is straight out of a Disney film. Hiking and biking in the low Deister mountain range gives some heart-pumping action, while Steinhuder Meer has lovely lake beaches and easy trails. For more city kicks, follow the Pied Piper to his hometown of Hamelin, see the historic churches of Hildesheim or be transported back in time in Celle, home to Europe’s largest collection of half-timbered houses.

British Airways flies direct from London to Hanover in one hour and 35 minutes. For more information and city break ideas, click here

Red thread (© HMTG | Lars Gerhardts)
Restaurant (Jante © Dieter Sieg)
Opera House (© HMTG | Hans Zaglitsch)
Maschsee Lake (© HMTG | Patrick Graf)
Royal Gardens of Herrenhausen (© HMTG | Lars Gerhardts)
International Fireworks Competition (© HVG Sebastian Gerhard)
Marienburg Castle (© HMTG | Michael Abid)

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