In Lower Saxony, Brunswick (also called Braunschweig) is the largest city between Berlin and Hanover. The city was founded by Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony, a member of the Welf dynasty that existed in Brunswick until 1918. During the Middle Ages, the city was a major trading center and was one of only nine remaining members of the Hanseatic League.
Despite extensive bombing during World War II, Brunswick’s monuments such as Henry’s Romanesque Palace and the fascinating Cathedral of St. Blassi have been restored. You can’t visit without paying homage to the proud Lion of Brunswick, cast in 11th century bronze on Burgplatz.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Brunswick:
1. Burg Square
The Prince of Brunswick has been based here since the 9th century, and Castle Square is surrounded by a spectacular ensemble of historic buildings.
You are surrounded by the cathedral, the reconstructed 19th century Dankwarderode Castle, a row of timber-framed houses and a guild hall.
Standing proudly on a triangular pedestal is a replica of the Lion of Brunswick, a symbol of the city, cast in Romanesque style in the 11th century by an unknown artist.
The replica has been here since 1989, while the original is at Burg Dankwarderode to protect it from the elements.
2. Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Anthony Ulrich, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, assembled a stunning collection of Renaissance and Baroque art.
In 1754, 40 years after his death, it became the foundation of the Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, the oldest museum on the European continent.
The gallery is almost a who’s who of Nordic art of the 1500’s and 1600’s, with collections of Albrecht Dürer, Lucas Cranach Sr., Hans Holby Jr. Works by Hans Holbein the Younger, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Rubens and Vermeer.
The printing room is also not to be missed, with tens of thousands of paintings, prints and woodcuts by William Hogarth, Raphael, Rubens, Rembrandt and more.
3. Dankwardrod Castle
The Romanesque palace that greets you at Burgplatz is the seat of the 19th century reimagined 12th century Duke Henry the Lion.
The original building was never actually demolished, but became obsolete as a defensive building as the city grew, and was rebuilt in a Renaissance style in the 17th century.
From 1887, through archaeological investigations, it was restored to its Romanesque origins, with walls torn by semicircular arched windows.
Inside are the medieval collections of the Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, as well as historical accessories such as two fireplaces made of the very rare red limestone Aquäduktenmarmor (aqueduct marble). In the Knappensaal on the first floor, you will come face to face with the original Brunswick lion, which weighs 880 kilograms and measures nearly three meters in length.
4. St. Blassi Cathedral
Henry the Lion ordered the building in 1173. But construction was delayed due to his two exiles from Germany in the 1180s, and Henry and his wife Matilda were both buried here until it was completed.
Their common tomb was carved in the 1230s, and if you look closely at Henry’s portrait, you’ll see a model of the cathedral in his right hand.
The church’s modest Romanesque nave is easily distinguished from the north-south aisles, which date back to the 14th and 15th centuries and feature English vertical-style twisted columns and rib vaults.
In various places in the vault of the nave and apse are frescoes, dating from between 1230 and 1250. In the central apse you can see Christ Pantocto above the 12 apostles.
5. Brunswick Palace
The Duke of Brunswick’s house has survived three turbulent centuries.
The first building burned down in 1830, and its successor lasted only about 100 years.
From the 1960s until 2007, there was practically nothing here, as the palace was badly damaged during the war, although protests by the citizens of Brunswick were also demolished and replaced by a park.
But the grand façade was rebuilt according to a 19th-century neoclassical design.
Behind that facade is the luxurious shopping centre Schloss-Arkaden.
6. Brunswick Palace Museum
Also undergoing a neoclassical façade is the rebuilt first-floor museum in the north wing.
In a series of rooms based on original designs, you will get a good impression of the lifestyle and personality of House of Welf.
The rooms are decorated with authentic artwork and furniture, all backed by additional displays by the Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel and his family.
Take a moment at the dining table in Weißer Saal (Whitehall), equipped with an interactive computer station where you can access an archive of images and historical texts.
The Throne Hall is fitted with damask wallpaper and carpets according to the original design, and its gilded furniture is original since it was removed from the palace in 1935.
7. Brunswick Town Hall
Not far from the Braunschweig Palace in Regierungsviertel is the Town Hall, built in the 1890s in the neo-Gothic style.
This 61-meter-high Flemish clock tower can be seen all over the city, including Burgplatz and Schlossplatz in front of the palace.
The restaurant Ratskeller on the ground floor has been open since the building was completed, and there is a monument to the Sinti people of Brunswick, who were persecuted and murdered in World War II.
From Monday to Friday, from 09:00-15:00, you can enter the tower and climb the 161 steps to the top of the tower for panoramic views of the city.
One of Brunswick’s oldest neighborhoods begins a few streets east of Castle Square.
Magniviertel is a cobblestone street lined with crumbling half-timbered houses.
These are restaurants and independent shops, and the streets lead to Ackerhof Square and the cemetery of St.
Ackerhof 2 is the oldest half-timbered house, not only in Brunswick, but probably all over Germany.
One of the beams is engraved with “Anno d[omi]ni m cccc xxxii” (1432 AD). In summer, the square in front of Mani Chapel is occupied by restaurants and cafés with outdoor seating.
9. St. Magni’s Church
It can be said that Brunswick was born in this church, since its devotion certificate from 1031 records the name of the settlement for the first time.
The church was rebuilt in the mid-13th century, and a Magnusglocke weighing 2 tons is suspended between two octagonal Romanesque towers.
This is the oldest clock in the Brunswick region, cast in 1335. The church was hit by an air raid in 1944, and the nave was rebuilt in a modern style after the war, while the western tower and choir could be restored.
Look out for the 1468 baptistery, the 1730s marble high altar, and the many stately epitaphs and classification stones inside and outside the walls.
10. Happy Ritz House
In Magniviertel, there is a bizarre building designed by American pop artist James Rizzi.
Consisting of nine connected blocks, the building was erected in the early 2000s on a vacant post-war plot on the northeast side of Ackerhof.
You can see where their name “Happy” came from, as the front is plastered with colorful cartoon characters, cheerful faces, and an uplifting recurring pattern of stars and hearts.
The building is an office space and is not open to the public, but you can stop by to take photos and see how the building’s window openings blend into the quirky design of the exterior.
11. Richmond Palace
In 1768, Duke Charles William Ferdinand ordered the construction of a castle for his wife, Princess Augusta, the older sister of King George III of England. Set in English gardens on the banks of the River Oak, the property is named after the princess’ home in Richmond, now part of London.
From the outside, it is a very satisfying sight, with the curved front guard, Corinthian pilasters and gables all topped by balustrades.
The palace is now a private residence, so be sure to ask ahead of time about visiting the State Hall.
Perched on the slope of a hill, the palace offers sweeping views of the picturesque grounds designed by Brown, the foremost British landscape architect of the time.
12. City Museum
The attraction reopened in 2012 after a long renovation, and is known as one of the richest municipal museums in the county.
The setting is an exquisite Neo-Baroque hall on Löwenwall, an oval square with the old moat of Brunswick to the east.
Antiques and Art Deco lovers should set aside hours to visit the Fürstenberg factory’s wide range of silverware, furniture, musical instruments, china, and perhaps best of all, the fine lacquerware at Stobwasser’s workshop.
But there’s more to see, from African ethnography, with more than 86,000 coins and artworks by local 18th-century landscape painter Pascha Johann Friedrich Weitsch and his son Friedrich Georg Weitsch.
13. Old Town Market
Within the Altstadt (Old Town) precinct in Brunswick, the Altstadtmarkt is a square that first appeared at the end of the 12th century.
The historic buildings surrounding the square have been perfectly restored, each with a story to tell.
The Altstadtrathaus in the northwest corner is Germany’s oldest surviving town hall, first mentioned in the 14th century, and its facade is decorated with elaborate High Gothic tracery.
On the south side is the old half-timbered customs building, which is attached to the warehouse where the tailor’s shop in the old town stores goods.
As in the past, there is a daily market in the square with 50 stalls selling fresh produce and two stalls serving freshly cooked bratwurst and kebabs.
14. “Archinoa” Zoo Brunswick
This compact zoo opened in 1964 and has since been redesigned to provide more space for animals.
That could mean there are fewer species here than in major German city zoos, but here they live in near-natural enclosures.
There are 50 different species in total, including cheetahs and cats such as Amur tigers, South American bears, barbarians and golden-headed lion marmosets.
Among the reptiles are five species of tortoises and tortoises, and kids will have fun watching the playful common marmosets and Asian small-clawed otters.
15. Christmas Market
Brunswick has one of the best Christmas markets in Germany, attracting a million visitors every year.
The main attraction is the historic atmosphere of squares such as Burgplatz, where the stalls are framed by the lion, the cathedral, the Dankwarderode castle and various half-timbered houses.
The market dates back to 1505 and runs for a full month starting on November 29th.
Over 150 artisan stalls sell handmade home decorations, wooden toys, jewellery, soft toys and gourmet food from Germany and the Brunswick region.
Sure to warm you up, Feuerzangenbowle is a sweet bread soaked in rum and melted into mulled wine.
To combat this alcohol, you can opt for something sweet like a one-meter-long German sausage, grilled camembert cheese, or a donut-like Schmalzgreben.
Where to Stay: The Best Hotels in Braunschweig, Germany
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