Q) Where can you visit a formal garden created by and for royalty , be enveloped in curvy, colourful art and round it all off with a romp through the Tropics and the Canary Isles?
A) The Herrenhausen Gardens. That’s ‘gardens’ plural, because visitors can expect to be delighted by not just one but three beautiful gardens and a former royal residence. All just a hop, skip and a jump- or a tram ride- outside Hannover city centre.
A little while ago, I wrote and shared my German Bucket list. A selection of places and things I wanted to do before I left Germany. I am delighted to say that I have ticked off ambition number six by making a visit to the beautiful Herrenhausen Gardens.
The Grosser Garten or ‘Great Gardens’
The jewel in the crown 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 small pleasure garden mainly used for growing fruit. From humble beginnings, the garden is now a vast and elegant space bursting with formal planting, fountains and statues.
The design of the garden means it is full of Secret Garden-esque corners and beautiful surprises. The biggest of which being number of palm trees and citrus fruits growing here. Mediterranean vibes in the middle of Germany.
The garden of today grew from the hands and vision of an exceptional woman; Electress Sophia of Hannover. Starting in 1680, she drew on influences from her childhood gardens in Holland, her travels through Italy and a visit to Versailles to create a garden that had both form and function. In Sophie’s days, Herrenhausen was home to the Royal Summer residence- now a congress centre- a place built to entertain and impress.
Modern day visitors can also find female creative influence in the curvy and colourful place 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.
Worlds apart from the formality of the Great Garden but just as fascinating, is the Berggarten. This garden too was created under the watchful eye of Electress Sophie, but started out life with a practical use; this site was a Mulberry tree plantation and for many years was used to feed silkworms for the royal silk factory in Hamelin.
Sophia of Hannover did not just have an eye for beauty, she also had a curious mind and developed the garden with glass houses and experimental planting as a place to grow and breed tropical plants.
Across the centuries the garden continued to thrive with the addition of a 30m palm house that housed palms, coffee and sugar cane plants. Sadly the palm house, and much of the original garden, was destroyed in WW2.
The modern-day garden is once again home to an impressive array of plants from all over the globe, including 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 low key after the colour and vibrancy of the greenhouses, but it is beautiful in a sombre way. To my surprise, I did watch an elderly German 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?
Unlike the previous two gardens which require you to buy a ticket for entry, the Georgengarten is free to enter. It was laid out as a public park and has remained so ever since. It’s a popular place for Hanoverians and visitors alike to relax and wander.
The Georgengarten– or Georgian Garden, named after named after George IV of Hannover and England- was designed to be a landscape painting you could walk through. Pathways were laid, trees planted and water features designed to create theatre and sweeping views.
Just to add a little something extra, in the mid-1700s a lime tree alley was laid out to connect the Royal residence with the city of Hannover. The park may no longer be needed to connect Royalty to the city, but it’s a beautiful green connection to the city and it’s history.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like to read 6 Things You Shouldn’t Miss in Hannover, Germany