One of the main attractions in Hanover is the Herrenhäuser Gardens. This sight in Hannover consists of the Great Garden, the Berggarten, the Georgengarten, the Welfengarten and the associated building complexes.
A stroll through the Great Garden takes visitors to one of the most important baroque gardens in Europe. I really enjoyed our tour of the Herrenhausen Gardens, which showed us Hanover from its “green side”.
Historical view of the Herrenhausen Gardens
It was in 1638 that Duke Georg von Calenberg had a kitchen garden with a few buildings laid out in the small village of Höringehusen. These formed the basis for the Herrenhausen Gardens.
In 1665, George’s son Johann Friedrich came to power. First he renamed the village Herrenhausen and had a palace built. The gardens belonging to it, which were initially quite small, were designed by a gardener as a pleasure garden.
Little by little, the garden design changed. The area increased and when Duke Ernst August reigned, he needed a representative garden. His wife Sophie von der Pfalz took over the redesign of the Great Garden and had a garden built in the style of a Dutch Baroque complex. Around 1676 the Great Cascade and the Grotto were built, and in 1707/07 a Page’s House and a Temple.
The Great Fountain, now a technical monument, took a little longer to build. It was not until 1720 that it reached a height of 35 metres and was the highest fountain at a European court at that time.
After the transformation of the garden was completed, it had an area of 50 ha. This roughly corresponded to the size of the old town of Hannover, where about 10,000 people lived at that time.
Surprisingly, the garden was later “forgotten”. The reigning rulers no longer lived in Hannover and so no one took care of the garden. It was not until 1936 that the city bought the garden and began to redesign it. Eight special gardens and a maze were created.
The massive destruction in Hannover caused by the Second World War could also be seen in the Herrenhäuser Gardens. Fortunately, the Grotto and the Great Cascade were not destroyed. It took until 1966 for the grounds to be approximately restored.
Walk through the Great Garden
When you enter the garden, it’s almost like a little holiday. Walking along the paths here is a break from city life, a time of relaxation in nature. We were in Hannover at the end of April and even at this time of year seasonal plants were in bloom in the flowerbeds. This gave us an idea of the splendour of the flowers that will be there in summer.
Some of the places that impressed me in the Herrenhausen Gardens are briefly presented here.
The grotto survived the Second World War unscathed. Today it houses one of the last works by the artist Niki de Saint Phalle, who also designed the Nanas in Hannover.
Since 2003, glass and mirror mosaics and some sculptures have been on display in the grotto, which consists of three small rooms. Two other rooms lead off from a central room. These rooms have different names: “Night and Cosmos” and “Light and Day”, which can also be seen in the design of the rooms.
In the middle of the Great Garden is a garden theatre, or more precisely a rear theatre. The stage is about 62 x 58 metres, tapers towards the back and rises slightly. To the right and left of the stage are small hedges that are integrated into the plays as a backdrop and also serve as changing facilities for the actors.
In addition, there are pyramid-like cut trees and gilded lead figures on the stage.
The auditorium is designed like an amphitheatre and furnished with garden chairs. More gilded figures stand on the boundary wall.
About the golden figures
In 1690, Elector Ernst August had 27 gilded figures placed in the garden theatre. These were to form the festive setting for the theatre and dance performances, balls and masquerades that took place there.
The figures were cast from lead and refined with gold plating. Although this method of production was cheaper at the time, it was unfortunately less durable. There are only a few lead figures still in existence today and the 17 that have survived in the Herrenhausen Gardens are unique when viewed as a unit.
In addition to the original preserved figures, there are also gilded bronze copies of figures that have been too badly damaged. As a layman, however, I did not notice the difference.
Famous ancient models are depicted, such as dancing and music-making nature spirits from the entourage of Dionysus.
The Great Fountain in the Herrenhausen Gardens
The fountain forms the centre of the garden. It is one of the main attractions of the garden.
At first glance, it looks as if you are standing in front of a normal fountain. But it is so much more, because the pump mechanism for the fountain dates back to the year 1700. The basic idea for the pumps was developed by Leibnitz at the time, but he never lived to see its completion and further development.
In the beginning, there were still problems with the technology and the water supply for the fountain. But in 1720, the water jet shot 36 metres into the air. However, people were not satisfied with this result and continued to tinker with the technology. In 1856, the fountain was about 56 metres high and today it reaches 72 metres when there is no wind.
Besides the Great Fountain, I was also impressed by the Bell Fountain. This forms the centre of the area called the Great Parterre. The “bell” around the fountain is formed by 164 jets of water.
During the summer season, the fountains in the Great Garden bubble from Monday to Friday from 10 am to 12 pm and from 3 pm to 5 pm. On Saturday, Sunday and public holidays they can be seen from 10 am to 12 pm and from 2 pm to 5 pm.
View into the special gardens
After the restoration of the Great Garden in 1936/37, eight special gardens were laid out, located to the south of the swan ponds. Each garden is surrounded by a hedge and accessed via a central path. Each garden is designed differently and dedicated to a specific theme:
- Low German Rose Garden
- Lawn garden
- Island Garden
- Renaissance Garden
- Baroque garden
- Rococo garden
- Low German Flower Garden
- Spring water garden
You can take a break here on small benches before continuing your walk past beautifully landscaped garden areas or going to the Herrenhäuser Gardens Museum.
Herrenhäuser Gardens Museum
The entrance and exit area to the garden complex is located in the castle. This is also the entrance area for the museum. Since 2013, visitors have been able to visit a museum on the history of the Herrenhausen Gardens and Hannover in the reconstructed palace complex.
I found the history of the Guelphs and other important personalities of the era, such as Leibnitz, particularly interesting. In another area, exhibits from the princely chamber of art and curiosities are on display. I always find it fascinating when objects that are considered “normal” today were considered miracles in other times. I often wonder how innovations of our time will be viewed 100 years from now.
In a special exhibition we were able to gain interesting insights into the development of the castle and the gardens.
After the museum visit, we went to the Berggarten. This is opposite the Great Garden on the other side of Herrenhäuser Straße.
The Berggarten is one of the oldest botanical gardens in Germany and grew out of the actual kitchen garden that Duke Johann Friedrich had laid out for growing vegetables. Electress Sophie had exotic plants planted there and a greenhouse built. When the kitchen garden in Linden became responsible for supplying the court from 1750, the botanical garden was created in the Berggarten.
Today you can discover a wide variety of plants from all over the world in show houses and beautifully designed theme gardens. A rainforest house was built in the Berggarten for Expo 2000. This later proved to be uneconomical and was closed in 2006. Today the building is used by an aquarium.
Herrenhäuser Str. 4,
Large garden and mountain garden
daily from 9 am
Closing times vary according to season and location.
1 November – 31 March
Thursday-Sunday 11-16 h
1 April – 31 October
daily 11-18 h
April – October
Entrance ticket (Large Garden + Mountain Garden + Herrenhausen Palace Museum): 8,-€
Mountain Gardens: 3,50€
November – March
Entrance ticket (Large Garden + Mountain Garden + Herrenhausen Palace Museum): 6,-€
Great Garden + Mountain Garden: 3,50 € (Mon.-Wen.)
Mountain Garden: 3,50 €
The visit to the Herrenhäuser Gardens was an item on the agenda of a research trip to Hanover.