The Christmas markets of Düsseldorf and Cologne are flattened by Dutch people. If you want something else, travel a little further to Hannover. A city with many faces, because besides that Christmas shopping and mulled wine you can also go to the fun Linden district, admire modern art in a large museum or amaze you about the lost glory of a huge residential and shopping centre.
The centre of Hanover is dedicated to the Christmas market these weeks. Just like any other German city actually, because no matter how hard we try to do it here, Germans can just do this better. Not for nothing do there are annual bus loads of Dutch people crossing the border for a Glühwein on the Weihnachtsmarkt.
Where you hear a lot of Dutch in Cologne and Düsseldorf, you are still really between the Germans in Hannover. It’s not less crowded. On a weekend visit to the Christmas market, timing is very important. If you go too soon, it’s not really fun. If you’re late, it’s shuffling and lining up at the bar.
Bubbling in a spruce forest
Around two o’clock in the afternoon, the atmosphere in the Wunschbrunnenwald – a small forest of spruce is excellent in the middle of the city. The smell of the needles immediately brings you into the Christmas mood and otherwise the hot wine you can get at the bars will. The forest, which could be better called the Glüh forest or a drink forest, is a popular place among the Hannovenaren.
In addition to the usual sausage stalls and Christmas decorations, the city also has a medieval Christmas market, where you can throw axes, drink pirate blood and listen to troubadours. Would you rather have a Scandinavian touch? This can be done again at the Finnish Christmas market, where Glögg and Flammlachs (smoked salmon) are sold. You will find this one at Ballhofplatz, surrounded by beautiful half-timbered houses and where you can also warm up inside at the cosy Teestübchen.
There is of course more to do in Hanover than wandering about Christmas markets. Art lovers should not miss the Sprengel Museum, located on the great Lake Maschmeer. The museum has one of the largest collections of modern art in Germany and 8000 square meters to exhibit those works.
Refreshingly accessible is the permanent exhibition Elementarteile, which opened this year in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Sprengel Museum. In each room, a different core part of art is highlighted, such as color, shape, material and emotion.
Matching works of art can be seen with each theme. From Picasso to Otto Dix and from Kandinksy to Niki de Saint Phalle. Of those last artist is also the ‘Skull (meditation room)’, a room with a gigantic skull, colorfully crafted with mosaic
Hannover has a good public transport network: the Stadtbahn, a combination of tram and metro. This allows you to travel quickly and easily to the linden district, which has suffered considerably less from the bombing of World War II and where there is still an authentic atmosphere.
Streetart and chocolate cake
Get off at Lindener Marktplatz, a square with some nice shops and original boutiques. From there you walk to Limmerstrasse, where the three towers of the power plant are clearly visible. The symbol of the district, affectionately called the ‘three warm brothers’ by the resident.
In and around limmerstrasse there are a number of nice cafés and dining areas. Popular for breakfast or a piece of cake is Corner, where Hannovenaren swear by the chocolate cake. If you love streetart, you can walk to Kulturzentrum Faust. Here all the walls are cheerfully painted and can be had a beer at Biergarten Gretchen in summer.
Also in Linden, along the Ihme River, the most wanstaltige building in Hanover can be found. Ihme-Zentrum, which is as ugly as fascinating. In order to relieve the inner city, plans were made in the 1960s for a large living, work and shopping centre. It was supposed to be a city in a city.
In 1974, Ihme-Zentrum was opened – with 60,000 m² of space for the shop area only – but a year later the Stadtbahn opened, which provided fast transport to the city centre. And people would rather shop there. After a few years, the first stores closed their doors, in the late 1990s, 50 percent of the retail premises were empty and now the commercial part of the giant structure has been completely stripped.
Looking inside at concrete colossus
Since then, several investors have made plans, but so far nothing has been carried out, except for demolition work. There are no shops, but lived still lives there. It’s a bizarre sight, but for anyone with even a little interest in architecture – and specifically brutalism – this is a must-see.
From across the river you can take a good look at the concrete colossus, but it becomes especially special as soon as you walk over the bridge and nose around inside. Since July, Ihme-Zentrum has been in the hands of another investor. Perhaps something really happens this time, so if you want to see the modern ruin with their own eyes, you almost now go to Hanover.
Christmas in half-timbered town of Celle
For even more Glühwein and Christmas atmosphere, head to the town of Celle, which is 40 kilometres from Hannover and where you will be by train from Hannover Bahnhof in half an hour. The Christmas market itself is not surprising, but the décor of the half-timbered houses is like stepping into a fairy tale.
In Celle, almost five hundred of these centuries-old houses can be found, characterized by the wooden beams in the façade. In addition, there is the retoeven lock, where you can see one of the oldest Baroque theatres in Europe. There are also a few of the first bauhaus-style houses in this town, designed by architect Otto Haesler.