The Lüneburg Heath near Wilsede
The Lüneburg Heath is an extensive region of heath and farmland in the state of Lower Saxony which has become a popular holiday and excursion destination. It lies roughly between the cities of Hanover, Hamburg and Wolfsburg. Historically it was where Montgomery received the German surrender at the end of the Second World War.
The area has very rural feel to it. Dense pine forests alternate with green meadows and cultivated fields with purple heath. Its leafy villages are clustered around ancient Lower Saxon farmhouses - typical of North Germany - with their vast thatched roofs sweeping down over red brick and timber-framed walls.
The area has lots of attractions suitable for families such as the Heide Park near Soltau, the Walsrode Bird Park, the Serengeti Park and 3 wildlife parks. More recently a big indoor ski slope has been opened, the SnowDome near Bispingen, as well as the Schumacher go-kart hall.
For those interested in exploring the culture and history there is also a wealth of museums - covering every field from agriculture to science, from war to local history.
Lying on the great North German Plain, the region is relatively flat and there are excellent cycling routes over a network of cycle paths.
The region has three major nature parks:
- The Elbe Heights-Wendland Nature Park (Naturpark Elbhöhen-Wendland) to the east along the River Elbe
- The Lüneburg Heath Nature Park (Naturpark Lüneburger Heide) in the centre
- The South Heath Nature Park (Naturpark Südheide) in the south
The Heath is a magnet for day-trippers and holidaymakers from the three major cities near the Heath: Hanover, Hamburg and Bremen. There are no cities (defined in Germany as Großstädte i.e. places with a population over 100,000). The only sizeable towns are Celle and Lüneburg with populations of around 70,000.
Three motorways (Autobahnen) run across the Lüneburg Heath, the A 7, A 27 and A 250, as well as various federal roads, including the B 3, B 71 and B 440.
The Lüneburg Heath is also served by the following railway lines:
- Bergen-Belsen Memorial (Gedenkstätte Bergen-Belsen), Anne-Frank-Platz, 29303 Lohheide (By car (recommended): Signed from motorways in all directions. Site is ca. 40 km from Mellendorf exit on A7 and 25 km from Soltau Süd exit), ☎ +49 (0)5051 4759200, . en: Apr-Sep, daily, 10am - 6pm; Oct-Mar, 10am - 5pm. Closed 1 Jan, 24-26 and 31 Dec. Memorial site to victims of the POW and concentration camp freed by British forces in 1945. Marked graves and monuments are reminders of the suffering. Large visitor centre with comprehensive exhibition chronicles the history of the camp, which began as a POW camp. 70,000 people are buried here, including Anne Frank who wrote a poignant diary of her life during the Nazi era. Admission free.
- Celle Castle (Schloss Celle), Schlossplatz 1, Celle (Park free at the Schützenplatz off Hafenstrasse and head for the town centre, crossing the River Aller. Turn R into Mühlenstrasse; the castle is on your left.), ☎ +49 (0)5141 7700, . Tu-Su 10am-4.30pm. Celle's ducal palace, a former fortified castle, is one of the most impressive sights in the lovely town of Celle in the south of the Lüneburg Heath. Once the residence of the mighty dukes of Lüneburg and summer residence of the kings of Hanover, it is the oldest building in the town. There are guided tours to take in the unique Renaissance chapel, ducal state chambers, Baroque theatre and full palace kitchen.
Walled village street in Wilsede at the heart of the Lüneburg Heath
Animal World at the Serengeti Park
A toucan, the emblem of the Walsrode Bird Park
- Explore the Heath. There are plenty of easy walking trails in the area with good car parking facilities. A good starting points for walks are the car parks at Overhaverbeek and Niederhaverbeek northwest of Bispingen. From there you can walk or catch a horse and coach ride to the Heath's highest hill, the Wilseder Berg - all 169 metres of it! From here there is a great panorama of the surrounding area and, on clear days, you can see as far as Hamburg. Beware, it is often teeming with tourists on summer weekends! But there are many other quieter walks all over the area. Good for cyclists too.
- Heide Park, Heidenhof, 29614 Soltau (By car: exit the A7 at Soltau-Ost and follow the signs. By rail: catch the train to Wolterdingen / Soltau and walk: it's only 2 km! Or take the train to Soltau from Hamburg, Hanover or Bremen, then catch the bus to the Park from Wolterdingen and Soltau railway stations. About 25 min from Bergen or Bad Fallingbostel up the B3 and A7 respectively), ☎ +49 (0)1805 / 919101, . mid Mar-Oct 9am-6pm (Jul-Aug open to 8pm). The Heide Park is the biggest amusement park in North Germany. Expensive, but a great day out for families. Adults: €37 or €33.30 (online), 4-11 yrs: €30 or €27 (online); under 4s go free.
- Serengeti Park, Am Safaripark 1, 29693 Hodenhagen (Take junction 49, Westenholz, from the A7 motorway between Hanover and Hamburg. Follow the signs. The park is about 15 km south of Bad Fallingbostel down the A7, 3 min from the motorway exit.), ☎ +49 (0)5164 / 97 99 0, . 2 Apr-30 Oct 2011, 10am-6pm. The largest safari park in Europe, the Serengeti is a top attraction for visitors to the area. It features 4 zones: Animal World, an open zoo which can be toured by car or bus; Water World, with a mix of water rides and lakes of waterfowl; Monkey World, with safari tours through the terrain, and Leisure World, a fairground. Expensive, but a great day out for families. Adults €25; 3-12 yrs €20; concessions available.
- Walsrode World Bird Park (Weltvogelpark Walsrode), Am Vogelpark 29664, Walsrode (Take the Walsrode West exit from the A27 motorway or the Bad Fallingbostel exit from the A7, and just follow the signs. About 10 min from the centre of Bad Fallingbostel.), ☎ +49 (0) 5161 6044-0, . 18 Mar-1 Nov 2011, 9am-7pm. The world's largest bird park and one of the top ten zoos in the world for numbers of species, this park is a must for families in the area and not as expensive as some of the area's other major attractions. Adults €16, 4-17 yrs €11. Concessions.
- Hankensbüttel Otter Centre (Otter-Zentrum Hankensbüttel), Sudendorfallee 1 (North of Gifhorn on the B 244 federal road, about 1 hr by car from Hanover or Brunswick. Approach from the N or S on the B 4 and follow the signposts), . Open: 1 Feb - last Sun in Mar, 9.30am - 5pm, last Sun in Mar - last Sun in Oct, 9.30am - 6pm, last Sun in Oct - 30 Nov, 9.30am - 5pm. A great place to relax and enjoy wildlife. As well as otters, there are polecats, minks, otter hounds, badgers and much more besides. Very educational and child-friendly with a good self-service restaurant on site. A great day out. Adults €8.50, children 4-17yrs €5, family tickets and student etc. reductions available. (52° 43´55´´,10° 37´12´´)
- Hotel Landhaus Eickhof, Niederhaverbeck, on the Heath itself. Old farmhouse 100 yards from the main car park at Niederhaverbeck, tucked away in the woods. Does a good hearty farmer's breakfast which you can work off by walking to the Wilseder Berg! www.landhaus-eickhof.de.
Being a largely rural area, the Heath is relatively safe provided normal sensible precautions are taken. Bicycle theft can be a problem in some areas.