Celle is a town in Lower Saxony, Germany, within the region known as the Lüneburg Heath. It is a favourite tourist destination, not least because of its rows of attractive, timber-framed houses and imposing ducal palace.
Celle is an easy half-hour from Hanover. Trains run about every thirty minutes. The Deutsche Bahn station is about a fifteen-minute walk or five-minute taxi west of the Altstadt.
During trade shows at the Hannover Messe fairgrounds, DeutscheBahn will add trains with stops in Celle on the Hannover - Hamburg line.
Celle's historic Altstadt is easy walking. When you get tired, take a cheap and frequent bus.
Celle is not crammed full of one-of-a-kind sites. Rather, its well-preserved old centre, full of cobbled streets and half-timbered buildings, has some of the charm of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, without the cheesy tourist shops.
Celle is a real, working, modern German town, that just happens to be chock-a-block full of old charm; preserved, but not moth-balled.
Having noted that, there are a few thing to check out.
- Celle Palace. The ducal palace, Schloss Celle, whose foundations date to the 13th century, is the oldest building in the town. What started as a castle for the dukes of Lüneburg, fortified with moats and ramparts, was gradually expanded and modified into a mixture of Baroque and Renaissance architecture. From 1772 it was home to the British-born, Danish queen, Caroline Matilda, the daughter of Frederick, Prince of Wales, who had been banished to Celle as a result of her affair with Johann Friedrich Struensee of Copenhagen. She only lived at the Celle court until 1775 when she died at 23 of scarlet fever. In the 19th century the castle was occasionally used by the Hanoverian royal household as a summer residence. Guided tours visit the Renaissance chapel, Baroque theatre, ducal chambers and palace kitchen. Open Tu-Su 10am-4.30pm.
- Altstadt. The old medieval town centre has a large pedestrian-only zone that wends through a wonderful tapestry of timber-framed houses and shops. Stop for dinner, drink a beer, buy a watch; mostly just stroll.
- Celle Hasenjagd. Once you've marvelled at the town's old castle being converted to a tranquil palace and noted how well the Germans mix old and new, stop outside the railway station and gaze at the marshalling yard. Here, in 1945, allied bomber struck the station as a target of opportunity. Among the trains waiting in the yard was one filled with concentration camp workers. Many prisoners were killed in the raid. Many more took the opportunity to flee for their lives. Over the next several days, the SS guards and local townspeople scoured the town and neighboring woods, hunting down the escapees. Many of the "rabbit hunters", were tried and convicted for this war crime. Several were hanged.
- Café Kiess, Großer Plan 16/17 (in Celle's old town), ☎ +49 5141 2086167. M-Sa 9AM-6PM, Su 2PM-6PM. Celle's oldest café and one of the best. Cosy atmosphere inside, or relax outside in sunny weather watching the world go around on the town square. Good for breakfast, albeit menu a little limited.
- Café Schümli, Zöllnerstrasse 14 (in Celle's pedestrian precinct), ☎ +49 5141 85006, . M-Sa 9AM-6PM; Su 1.30PM-6PM. Good range of breakfasts and cakes, reasonable prices, not as cosy as some, but a safe bet.
- Historischer Ratskeller Celle, Markt 14 (in Celle's market square), ☎ +49 5141 29099, . The Ratskeller under the town hall (Rathaus) serves good food in North German style: traditional, filling and in an historic location. Especially good during asparagus time (Spargelzeit): choose the asparagus.
- La Buca, Fritzenwiese 39 (by the footbridge over the river(pfenning brucke)), ☎ +49 (0)5141 6022, . M-Su noon-11PM. Good Italian restaurant.
- Palio Taverna & Trattoria (in the Hotel Fürstenhof), Hannoversche Straße 55/56 (Opposite the Congreß-Union), ☎ 0049 (0)51 41 / 20 10, . Good Italian restaurant in the Hotel Fürstenhof with a relaxing Mediterranean atmosphere, good German and Italian food. Mid-high prices.
- Hotel Weinstube Schifferkrug, Speicherstraße 9 (Halfway between the train station and the Schloss), ☎ (0 51 41) 37 47 76, . Family run, older but immaculate, staying at the Schifferkrug is like staying with your aunt - assuming your Aunt can really cook and speaks basic English. Small groups or large families should ask about their holiday apartment.
- Hotel Schnarr, Fuhrberger Landstrasse 17 (Not for walkers. 10 minutes by taxi or bus to trains or altstadt.), ☎ +49 05141 43123, . Herr Schnarr is friendly clean, moderately priced and offers a good selection of quiet rooms. Only the location is less than ideal for those without a car.