The population of Göttingen in 2004 was 129,446, of which around 30,000 are students. It is best known for being the home of the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, as well as the site where the prestigious Max Planck Society (a German organization for scientific research) was founded in 1948. The Max Planck Institutes for Dynamics and Self-Organization, for Experimental Medicine, for Biophysical Chemistry, and for History are all located in Göttingen. 44 Nobel Prize winners have studied or taught in the city, and these and other notable former Göttingen residents are commemorated by white plaques on many buildings throughout the town. Its nickname is therefore the Stadt der Wissenschaft (City of Science), with a pun: while "Die Stadt der Wissenschaft" means 'the city of science', Die Stadt, die Wissen schafft (identical pronunciation apart from der ~ die) means 'the city that creates knowledge'. Today, Göttingen is a charming university town, off the radar screen for most English-speaking tourists, but well worth a visit.
Göttingen lies in the very center of Germany and is easily accessible from most parts of the country. It has no airport, but can be easily reached by train or car from larger cities that do. Göttingen's Hauptbahnhof is a stop on the ICE (Inter City Express) train line between Hamburg and Munich and also on one ICE line between Berlin and the South of Germany. Göttingen is approximately half an hour south of Hanover, two hours south of Hamburg, two hours west of Berlin, four hours north of Munich, and two hours north of Frankfurt. Göttingen was also served by Locomore. Locomore tickets were not valid on DB and vice versa. Locomore filed for bankruptcy and ended all services in May 2017. The company hopes to be able to restart services by finding new investors.
Göttingen has an extensive bus network which criss-crosses the city center and extends out to the surrounding. Information about the city bus network is available from the Goettingen Verkehrsbetriebe (under Fahrplanauskunft, click "Netzplan" for a map and "Einzelfahrpläne" for schedules).
A single ride within Göttingen costs (Einzelfahrschein): €2, children 6–14 years (Kinder): €1, a day ticket (Tageskarte) costs: €5, a day ticket for five persons (Kleingruppenkarte): €9,40. For multiple trips, save money by asking for the €7 "Viererkarte" (four tickets at once) or for the €13 "Achterkarte" (eight tickets).
There is a nice self-guided City Walk on the city's tourism website, which takes you by all the main sites. Highlights include:
- Altes Rathaus (old town hall), Marktplatz. Built 1369-1444, the Altes Rathaus was the town hall until 1978, and it now houses the Tourist Office. The coats of arms of other members of the Hanseatic League are painted on the walls.
- Gänseliesel (goose girl), Marktplatz. This fountain outside the Altes Rathaus is Göttingen's most famous figure. She is known as the "most kissed girl in the world" since every local student who receives a Ph.D. gives her a kiss (after being dressed up with a silly graduation hat and wheeled to the statue in a handcart).
- 1 Albanifriedhof (just outside the city wall to the southeast). One of the city's cemeteries, famous for Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss's grave.
- 2 Stadtfriedhof. Historic cemetery with graves of important scholars, no less than eight Nobel Prize winners: Max Born, Otto Hahn, Max von Laue, Walther Nernst, Max Planck, Otto Wallach, Adolf Windaus and Richard Zsigmondy.
- Churches. Four of Göttingen's churches can be seen from the metal "Vier Kirchenblick" (four churches view) in front of the Altes Rathaus (James's, John's, Alban's, and Michael's). Mary's is also worth a peek inside.
- Jacobikirche (St. James's Church), Jacobikirchhof and Weender Straße. Built 1361-1461, St. James' has the most interesting interior of Göttingen's churches, with fascinating original paintwork (not unlike that of a barbershop) and modern stained-glass windows. The Ott organ is also impressive. It is sometimes possible to climb the tower, although the last set of stairs to the view may be blocked off - ask before paying a euro.
- Johanniskirche (St. John's Church), Johanniskirchhof. Originally built around 1200, St. John's is the oldest of Göttingen's churches, although it was mostly rebuilt in the 14th century (the north-side doorway dates from 1245). The interior is plain, although one of the two towers can sometimes be climbed.
- Albanikirche (St. Alban's Church), Albanikirchhof. Built 1423-1467, St. Alban's stands on the site of an earlier mission chapel. Hans von Geismar painted the altarpiece in 1499, and he added himself to the scene of Mary's death as the 13th apostle.
- St. Michael Kirche (St. Michael's Church), Kurze Straße. Built 1787-1789, St. Michael's was Göttingen's first Catholic church after the Reformation.
- Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas's Church), Nikolaistraße. An English Catholic mass is held here every second Friday at 7PM. The area around the church is also used for flea markets on weekend mornings in the summer.
- Marienkirche (St. Mary's Church), Neustadt and Groner-Tor-Straße. The church bell tower used to be the gate into the neighboring city Neustadt (new city), which Göttingen bought in 1319. St. Mary's is probably older than that; it was formerly the church of the Teutonic Knights. The altar triptych was carved by Bertold Kastrop in 1524.
- Georg-August University. The university is actually spread out in many sections around the city, though you see a couple of its buildings (the Auditorium and Aula) on the self-guided tour. Former staff and students include Gauss, Riemann, Dirac, Bismarck, Oppenheimer, Born, Hilbert, Teller, and Weyl.
- Botanical Gardens, access behind the Auditorium at Weender Straße and Nikolausberger Weg. These gardens, established in 1736, are well worth a visit for plant-lovers. The former city wall around the Altstadt (old city) is also a circular green area, popular with joggers. Gauss's grave is on the southwest side.
- Synagogue Memorial, Obere-Masch-Straße and Untere-Masch-Straße. This memorial, designed by Corrado Cagli in 1973, stands on the site of a synagogue that was destroyed in 1938. The names of Göttingen's Jewish residents who were murdered during the "dark time" are listed below an abstraction of the Star of David.
- Half-timbered houses. Since Göttingen was not bombed during WWII, it still has many original buildings. Particularly impressive are the 1549 Schrödersches House (Weender Str. 62), the 1497 house at Paulinerstr. 6, the 15th century Junkernschänke (corner of Jüdenstr. and Barfüßerstr.), the 1536 house on Barfüßerstr. (between Jüdenstr. and Weender Str.), and the 16th century house at Groner-Tor-Str. 28, which was only recently revealed beneath a thick layer of plaster. (Half-timbering was regarded as unfashionable from the Baroque era into the 20th century, and many beautiful old buildings have only recently been discovered.)
- Check the city calendar for local events, or pick up a schedule in the Tourist Office in the old town hall. The symphony orchestra is impressive for such a small town.
- One of Göttingen's public swimming pools, Badeparadies Eiswiese, is a roughly 20-minute walk south of the city (or a ten minute bus ride on line 4 or 14). But if you enjoy the water, they offer a plethora of swimming pools (indoor, outdoor, large, small, hot, cold), saunas, jacuzzis, and solaria.
- The Göttingen forest (follow Herzberger Landstr. east) is full of pleasant hiking trails, as well as the Bismarck Tower, which you can climb for a gorgeous view in the summer (though you may need to ask directions, since the tower is hard to find).
- Cinemaxx. A cinema on the back side of the train station. They show contemporary movies mainly in German (no subtitles). €7-10.
- Weender Str. is the main pedestrian shopping street, cutting north-south through the middle of the old town. But most shops in this area are shopping chains; you will find more interesting, small and independent shops in the backstreets, like Rote Straße, Theaterstraße, Barfüßerstraße, Lange Geismarstraße, Johannisstraße.
- The weekly Wochenmarkt is on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings; look for signs into the square from Kurze Str. or Lange-Geismar-Str. It's the best place in town to buy local produce from Göttingen and the surrounding region. (Perhaps this should say "the second-best place", as there is a health food store within the old town walls, and a second outlet just a few blocks to the east, that sells organically grown produce - and a lot of what you find there is grown by the people who run the store, and may have been picked that same morning. Boyer's Health Food Store (Bioladen) is on Burg Straße, between Friedrich Straße and Theater Straße.)
- In December there are two Christmas markets, one small one outside the train station and the other sprawling from the Marktplatz area to behind the old town hall and St. John's Church. You can buy a variety of traditional German gifts, mulled wine (Glühwein), and German foods.
- Da Claudio Eiscafe, Ice-cream, Lange-Geismar-Str. 39 and Goethe Allee 25, 49-(0)551-5177452. Delicious Italian gelato.
- Döner. Ask anyone in Göttingen and they will recommend their personal favourite of the many Döner kebab shops in the city. Perfect after meeting the Gänseliesel and visiting the Johannis church is the City Döner (Johannisstr. 1), which is an insider among students, and Euphrat (Düstere Str.), which has the cheapest Döner in town (€1.50).
- Maharadscha, Gartenstr. 25, 49-(0)551-4886125. Good Indian dishes.
- 1 Nudelhaus, Rote Str. 13, ☎ . Although the sign might lead you to think it is Asian, the noodle dishes here are more Italian-inspired; head past the spaghetti straight to the house-made wide noodles in fresh, inventive vegetarian, meat- and fish-based sauces. The Biergarten is wonderful in the summer.
- Restaurante Fellini, Groner-Tor-Str. 28, 49-(0)551-4995936. Italian food.
- Trattoria Salvatore, Theaterplatz,10 37073 Göttingen. Delicious pizza and wine. Prices are slightly higher, but the quality of food is worth it. The chef is Italian and he really knows his job!
- 2 Gaudi, Rote Straße 16 (Börner-Viertel), ☎ .
- 3 Gauss, Obere Karspüle 22 (entrance Theaterstraße), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 4 Cafe Botanik, Untere Karspüle 1, ☎ . This Persian cafe has huge bowls of spiced tea and delicious yogurt dips. The breakfasts are traditional German, not Persian.
- 5 Cron & Lanz, Weender Str. 25, ☎ . The place for delicious Kaffee & Kuchen (coffee & cake) and people-watching from window tables on the second floor. Finest cafe in town, but the service is very reserved, which is considered fine in Germany, and can thus feel a bit unfriendly.
- 6 P-Cafe, Nikolaikirchhof 11, ☎ . At St Nikolai churchyard, nice little cafe-bar, wonderful place outside in summer. Good breakfast, delicious baguettes.
- 1 Irish Pub, Mühlenstraße 4, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Mühlenstr. 4. Probably the best place in town for live music. It's also the only pub in Göttingen to serve Strongbow.
- 2 Trou, Burgstraße 20, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want a more German experience, check out this atmospheric student pub, located in an underground cavern which was once a kind of student jail.
- Gartenlaube, Markt 7, 49-(0)551-47373. The best place in town to sit with a beer and people-watch in the summer.
- Alpenmax, Weender Landstr. 3-7, 49-(0)551 - 3706130. A twisted German schlager/apres ski theme club famed for the €0.99 night on Wednesdays.
- T-Keller, Bürgerstraße (it is up the street, coming from the new city hall on the street Bürgerstraße). A nice leftist bar with cheap beer and free table soccer and billiard.
- 1 Jugendherberge, Habichtsweg 2, 37075 Göttingen, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. On Habichtsweg, a twenty minute walk from the centre of the city, is somewhat austere and suffers from enforcing a midnight curfew; it is, however, the only place you'll find in town where you can get a bed for the night for about €24. Take bus 80 from train station.
- Hotel Berliner Hof. On Weender Landstr., opposite the Shell petrol station, might be a more realistic option, with rooms starting at €30. It is particularly well-located for those who are in Göttingen to spend time at the University.
- 2 Hotel Stadt Hannover, Goethe-Allee 21, 37073 Göttingen (near train station), ☎ .
- 3 Novostar Hotel Göttingen, Kasseler Landstr. 25d, 37081 Göttingen, ☎ .
- 4 Best Western Hotel Am Papenberg, Hermann-Rein-Straße 2, 37075 Göttingen, ☎ . Near the faculties for phsyics, chemistry, medicine and geology ("Nord-Campus") and the Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine.
As mentioned above, Göttingen's location at the cross of two ICE train lines makes it easy to reach most other major German cities. There are also a number of smaller towns that are worth a visit, which could be seen on a day trip from Göttingen. For the local trains that go to these towns, you can buy cheap group train tickets that can be used for up to 5 people: the €29 (single: €21) Niedersachsen-Ticket is good for all-day travel within Lower Saxony on any day of the week, and the €40 Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket is good for all-day travel anywhere in Germany on a weekend day. You can reach any of these places on local trains in under 2 hours:
- Bad Gandersheim
- Goslar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with 1000-year-old silver mines and a palace.
- Hamelin (Hameln) of pied piper fame has weekly reenactments of the tale on summer Sundays.
- Hann. Münden is a small and charming town.
- Eisenach is home to the historical Wartburg Castle.
- Osterode am Harz is a good starting point for hikes in the Harz mountains.