What to do in and around Göttingen, Germany?
May 10, 2015 11:54 AM   Subscribe

A friend and I are headed to Göttingen, Germany, for part of the Handel Festival. We'll have some time to kill during the days (May 21-24) before the evening concerts. Can you recommend some daytime activities in Göttingen or within a short radius by train? We'd especially like to find a good place to go hiking and watch birds, but other suggestions are welcome.

It seems like there's not much to do in Göttingen (Lonely Planet calls the town "short on sights"). We can take the train to other places in the region but we'll generally want to be back in time for the evening concerts of the Handel Festival.

Neither of us speaks German with any proficiency. We like classical music and art as well as outdoor recreation. I like boating and would enjoy renting a canoe or kayak to explore a lake or river. My friend is of retirement age and has somewhat more limited mobility than I; she's fine with city walking but maybe not a rugged hike up a mountain.

I'd love to find a large park with a variety of trails where my friend, an avid birder, could take a leisurely walk and look for birds while I split off for a longer or steeper hike.

We are open to other suggestions of fun ways for a couple of tourists to spend time in the region!
posted by Orinda to Travel & Transportation around Göttingen, Germany (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Nearby Kassel (one hour away by train) is the childhood home of the brothers Grimm; there's a museum there. If you can find info about it, there's also some kind of fairy-tale tour you can take in the region. Looks a bit cheesy but could be fun.
posted by tracicle at 12:31 PM on May 10, 2015

I've heard good things about the Driburg Spa, which is about two hours away by public transportation.
posted by neushoorn at 12:42 PM on May 10, 2015

Best answer: Hey, that's where I live. I've been here for a year and a half, don't speak any German particularly (because I work a million hours a week instead) and it's fine. It's an international University city, lots of people come here without German, you'll have no problems. Traveling in the area without German is also pretty easy assuming the trains don't go on strike again (which is a problem in any language).

It's not a super exciting city for sure, the University is the main focus rather than tourism. There are lots of places to walk in the forest around the edges of the city though, walking is one of my main pastimes here. A common trip is the walk up to the Burg Plesse. The footpaths are all signposted and you can get on to them from the Uni North Campus (among other places I assume). I can't remember how I did it, maybe from Otto Hahn Strasse? Or you can go out the east of the city, starting from Calsowstrasse for example. That's the area I generally go walking in and it's lovely. Lastly, the Kiesse is popular, that's a big lake on the edge of town. At some times of year you can hire boats there but I have no idea when. Also, there are bits of city wall all around the central city which are now parkland, lots of botanic gardens, and bits of green space dotted all around. I find it pretty easy to find a nice shorter walk in the city. There is a good local bus system too apparently, which would help you get to these places, but I don't use it (I have a bike) so can't really help there.

Kassel has a couple of decent parks, Karlsaue with the Orangerie and Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe which is apparently amazing when the water features are let go.

Apparently the place to go for hiking and outdoors fun is the Hartz Mountains. I haven't been because it was too annoying to get there by train for a day trip, but I didn't look all that hard.

Frankfurt is only two hours away by fast train. Hannover is 40-60 minutes depending on which IC train you take.

The weather was absolutely stunning today. It's a friendly, laid back city and very nice place to hang out on days like this. The bars and cafes in town are starting to put seats outside and there are at least three places to sit and get ice cream. So there are definite charms to this place, just not a lot of excitement and stuff aimed at tourists.
posted by shelleycat at 12:59 PM on May 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My best friend from high school has lived there for 25 years and I have visited him about 10 times during that period. I would disagree with TripAdvisor and say there is plenty to do in Goettingen, particularly in your interest area of hiking, walking, birding. If you walk due east uphill from the Unversity/downtown about 1 mile you will come to the Stadtwald Forest which is essentially the easten border of Goettingen. It has miles of hiking and running trails. Be careful you can get lost in there. It is convenient and exactly what you are looking for. Also the botanical garden is quite nice. There are walking paths everywhere east of campus. Downtown has excellent people watching. I love Goettingen especially in summer.
posted by Xurando at 1:44 PM on May 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


It has an excellent castle (Wartburg - where Luther translated the bible), as well as Bach and Wagner museums.

For train travel the weekend days, look into the weekend ticket. Not as good value as it used to be, but still not bad.
posted by kjs4 at 8:12 PM on May 10, 2015

Also, there's a steam train in the Harz upto the brocken. You could hike, and your companion could catch the train.
posted by kjs4 at 8:13 PM on May 10, 2015

I lived there in 2005-6, and definitely lots to walk around and see, as per shelleycat. I would recommend climbing the tower of St.-Johannis-Kirche. It cost a euro when I was there, and it's a cool view of the attic of the church, as well as the center of the city.
posted by Maxwell's demon at 10:13 PM on May 10, 2015

Best answer: Listen to Göttingen on Barbarastraße.
posted by rom1 at 3:50 AM on May 11, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions! As it turned out, I underestimated how much energy the excitement of the festival would take out of us; even when we weren't at an event, we often wanted to have a late breakfast, do something easy around town, and then take some time for a rest before the evening concerts. We enjoyed the botanical gardens and the Stadtwald; the hike up to the Bismarckturm would have been difficult for my friend, but I made it up there a couple of times. My friend visited the St.-Johannis-Kirche (although she did not climb the tower). We also enjoyed just hanging around the old city, window shopping and eating leisurely meals at Bullerjahn on the town square or at the cafe next to the Deutsches Theater. We didn't attempt any day trips out of town although the trips suggested here all sounded good to me.
posted by Orinda at 2:23 PM on May 24, 2015

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