Q) Where can you visit a mini Versailles, be enveloped in curvy, colourful art and round it all off with a romp through the Tropics, the Desert and the Canary Isles?
A) The Herrenhausen Gardens. Yep, that’s ‘gardens’ plural, because visitors can expect to be delighted by not just one but three vast green spaces, each with its own character. And just a hop,skip and a jump outside Hannover city centre.
A little while ago, I wrote and shared my German Bucket list. A selection of things I wanted to do before I leave for pastures anew. The time to leave is almost here, I’m hoping to make an announcement about that soon. But in the meantime, I am delighted to say that I have ticked off ambition number six on the list by making a visit to the beautiful Herrehausen Gardens.
The main attraction of the three gardens has to be the Great Gardens, or the grosse garten. The most formal of the three, it is incredible to think that this baroque beauty started out life as a vegetable garden. From humble beginnings, the garden is now an elegant and distinguished space bursting with formal planting, fountains and statues.
The design of the garden means it is full of Secret Garden-esque corners and surprises. You don’t go far without stumbling upon something beautiful. The biggest surprise for us being the number of palm trees and citrus fruits growing here. Mediterranean vibes in the middle of Germany.
The garden of today has its roots in the vision of Electress Sophia of Hannover who had the original garden enlarged and designed to provide a summer retreat. Modern day visitors can find a curvy and colourful place to retreat in the form of the garden grotto designed by Nikki de Saint Phall. The three room grotto was once a store-room, but has been transformed with mosaic, mirrors and crystals into a beautiful space.
The vibrant, eclectic style of the grotto is at odds with the formality of the garden, but I think Sophie of Hannover and Nikki de Saint Phall might have had a lot in common. Both left Hannover a creative, beautiful legacy that continues to be enjoyed by visitors and locals alike.
If the Great Garden is the elegant Grandmother of the Herrenhausen collection, than the neighbouring Berggarten, or mountain garden, is surely the wilder, younger sister. Set out more in the style of an English parkland, the Berggarten was also developed under the hand of Sophia of Hannover. This garden, however, was not just designed to please the eye but also as a place to experiment with the growth and breeding of tropical plants. Over the years, fountains and palm houses were added, but much of the original garden was lost in the bombing raids of WW2.
The modern-day Berggarten is once again home to an impressive array of plants from all over the globe. Several green houses showcase planting from the tropics, the desert and the Canary Isles.
It is also home to a Mausoleum built for the Royal Family of Hannover. It seems a little somber after the colour and vibrancy of the greenhouses, but it is beautiful in its own imposing way. To my surprise, I did see an elderly German visitor enthusiastically trying to open the doors to the Mausoleum. Needless to say, they are firmly locked. I mean, its a tomb…would you even want to venture in?
The final garden in the trio is the vast Georgian garden. What can I tell you about this? Sadly, not a great deal. We timed out and didn’t make it there to explore. Best laid plans and all that. Research tells me that the designer of this garden, Christian Schaumburg, aimed to create a landscape painting to be walked through, so I’ll certainly be making the effort to get back and explore. However, research also tells me that historically the park was only open to ‘orderly and educated people’ so here’s hoping if I do return, they let me in any way.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like to read City Break in Hannover
berg gardens…comment on Georgian.
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