Sustainable travel

A walking tour of Hannover, one of Germany’s greenest cities

For an eco-conscious city break, compact, outdoorsy Hannover is a pedestrian’s dream, writes Jennifer Curcio

Friday 27 August 2021 14:23
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<p>Dinghies are easy to hire for sailing on the Maschsee, Hannover</p>

Dinghies are easy to hire for sailing on the Maschsee, Hannover

Strolling through the Hannover suburb of List, the high-pitched call of a common buzzard overhead reminds you that you are in a city spilling over with nature. From Art Nouveau building facades wound with wisteria to pretty parks and a rambling municipal forest, this German metropolis feels green and full of growth. More compact and better set up for walkers than sprawling Berlin, this is a modern green metropolis that’s easy to tour on foot.

Take the Red Thread, a city walking route that tempts you off on a self-guided adventure around the city. A trail physically painted in red on to the ground, the Thread takes you on an energising 2½-mile loop, starting opposite the main train station and strolling by 36 of Hannover’s main sights, all clearly numbered. Pick up a €3 (£2.55) mini guidebook from the Tourist Information Centre to get the story behind the stops.

You could stroll into the charming old town, with its half-timbered houses and cobbled streets, or down to the roofless remains of the Aegidien Church – heavily bombarded in the Second World War but now swathed in green plant life, a sobering memorial reclaimed by nature.

Half-timbered houses in Hannover’s old city

Next, you might make your way to the Neues Rathaus (or New Town Hall) to admire its architectural flourishes. Just behind it is the idyllic Maschpark, where the locals go to recharge, perching by its pond with a good book. All this without setting foot near a motorised form of transport.

Hannover is one of Germany’s greenest cities. Like Berlin, it’s had a designated Green Zone in its centre since 2008, allowing only low-emission vehicles into the city’s protected core. In 2018, it was awarded Most Sustainable City by the German Sustainability Award Foundation and the authorities want to make it climate-neutral by 2035. Meanwhile, its municipal transport company is working on switching its entire bus network to electric vehicles within the next two years.

The Aegidien Church, heavily bombarded in the Second World War, is now swathed in green plant life, a sobering memorial reclaimed by nature

But two wheels are better than four and you should certainly consider renting a bike in Germany’s second most cycle-friendly city. Being mostly flat, with clear cycle paths alongside its roads, this is a destination that lends itself to freewheeling, admiring the architecture and the buzz of local life while whizzing by at pace.

You could even pedal as far as the Eilenriede forest – Europe’s largest urban forest, which gets top marks on the green front with its FSC seal for sustainable forestry. Both bikes and “pedelecs” (pedestrian e-bikes) can be rented by Hannover’s main train station. E-scooters are just as fun and can be rented all over town.

Hannover’s Eilenriede is the largest urban forest in Europe

Whether cycling or walking, there are a handful of distinctive neighbourhoods to weave your way around. The district of Linden is particularly vibrant and alternative, with a mix of vintage clothing stores, quirky shops and cafes offering a breadth of multicultural cuisine. There’s a Berlin-like trendiness to this quarter, where treasure-troves of secondhand buys help you skip the fast fashion and find a pre-loved treasure.

From spring to autumn, this city’s waterways become a hub for outdoorsy, eco-friendly pursuits. You can hire canoes or stand-up paddle boards, or even take city tours while afloat along the urban river and canals. Not only do these options help you avoid taking motorised forms of transport but they’ll tune you into Hannover’s peaceful side.

On a sunny day, when the light catches the water, this area truly has a magical holiday feel about it

Blessed with multiple parks, green spaces, a riverside, a lake and a forest, you’re never far from a potential picnic spot or somewhere to take a breather from sightseeing. But most magical might be the Maschsee, the city’s manmade urban lake. One side is trimmed by a tree-lined promenade, on the other there’s a path filled with lush vegetation. Here you can take in the scenery from row boats, pedal boats or even sailing boats, all easily hired.

If a slow cruise is more your style, then a tour on its solar-powered catamaran is a must. On a sunny day, when the light catches the water, this area truly has a magical holiday feel about it. You might just forget that you’re in the heart of a big city.

It’s not an uncommon feeling here. No matter where you are in Hannover, there is always a reminder – a spectacular bird, a tumble of climbing plants or a canopy of trees – that you are in a truly green city, one that’s not only bettered by nature but is respectfully coexisting with it, too.

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