The population of Göttingen in 2017 was about 134,000, of which over 31,000 are students at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen.
Göttingen, the southernmost major city in Lower Saxony, is known worldwide, especially for its old, traditional Georg-August University. The Georgia Augusta is the largest and - opened in 1737 - also the oldest still existing university in Lower Saxony. In addition to the University, several Max Planck Institutes and other important scientific institutions are also based in Göttingen.
The prestigious Max Planck Society (a German organization for scientific research) was founded in the city in 1948. The Max Planck Institutes for Solar System Research, Dynamics and Self-Organization, for Experimental Medicine, for Biophysical Chemistry, and for History are 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'.
A good fifth of Göttingen's inhabitants are students at the university or one of the universities, which is reflected, among other things, in the high number of cyclists and a distinct, colourful pub and club scene. However, the cultural offerings are also shaped by science, from numerous specialist lectures by the various faculties, lecture series also for laymen, to an independent student theatre stage. Those who want to experience science and student life as a traveller live, have various opportunities to do so almost every day.
Over the centuries, the science location has had a positive effect on the settlement of supplying and supporting industry and trade. The positive reciprocal influence between scientific findings and practical knowledge and skills promoted in particular the field of metrology, which is represented today by Measurement Valley, an association of local companies and universities. Companies such as Sartorius and Mahr, both globally operating companies in the field of measurement technology, have their headquarters in Goettingen. Other economic focal points include the optical industry, aluminium processing, freight forwarding and automotive suppliers.
Today, Göttingen is a charming university town, off the radar screen for most English-speaking tourists, but well worth a visit.
The settlement "Gutingi" was first mentioned in a document of Kaiser Otto I in 953. The history of the place can be traced back even further by means of archaeological settlement finds dating back to the 7th century. The first settlement area of Gutingis was in the area of today's Albani church, the origins of which date back to the 11th century. Another historically significant site from the early days of Göttingen was the Palatinate of Grona, an imperial palace of Heinrich II (973 - 1024) on the western steep slope of the Leine Valley, from which the village of Grone, now a district of Göttingen, emerged.
From the 13th century onwards, the town fortifications were built around today's old town, the course of which can be easily discovered on a walk along the still almost complete town wall. A small remnant of the town wall and a tower of the town fortification are also still preserved in the Turmstraße. The first enclosed town centre included the market, the churches of St. Johannis, St. Jacobi and St. Nicolai and the town hall at the market. Two monasteries were built in the following period: a Franciscan monastery on today's Wilhelmsplatz (the adjacent Barfüßer-Strasse was named after the Franciscans who where called Barfüßer, barefoots), and a Dominican monastery, of which the Paulinerkirche (today part of the Lower Saxony State and University Library in Göttingen) is still preserved.
Göttingen was for many centuries (with only a short interruption) the property of various lines of the House of Guelph, most recently the Kingdom of Hanover. The founding of the University of Georgia Augusta by the Guelph King George II also took place during this period. August, who was King of England in personal union. The self-confident bourgeoisie, as well as the professors, were not always friendly towards the Welf/ Guelph House, so a protest by 7 Göttingen professors (the Göttingen Seven) against a reactionary constitution caused a stir. In 1866 Göttingen became Prussian and adopted a cult of Bismarck, which stood out even for its time - Bismarck Tower, Bismarck Stone, Bismarck House on the Wall (and for a time the student dormitory of the later chancellor).
In the second half of the 19th century, Göttingen grew beyond the now non-functional rampart. The University expanded to the north, residential areas were created to the east and south, and only to the west did the railway line and the lowlands of the river Leine stop the development. Unusual for cities in the west-wind zone, the upmarket residential areas were built in the main wind direction in the east of the city up the Hainberg, a clear indication that there was not much industry and smoking chimneys at that time.
During the First World War, the people of Göttingen did not evade the enthusiasm for war that was widespread in Germany. The effects of the war and the upheavals afterwards on the city were slight. The university developed into a leading centre of the natural sciences worldwide. This development came to an abrupt end in 1933, when the National Socialists (also elected by a majority in Göttingen) removed Jewish professors and students from the University; many went into exile. Burning of books in 1933, anti-Jewish progromatic acts on 10.11.1938 (among other things the synagogue burnt down), the assimilation of the student body were black moments in the city's history.
The direct consequences of the war remained relatively minor; air raids mainly hit the railway tracks in the west of the city and individual buildings in the urban area. The old town got off relatively lightly. A total of 120 people died as a result of hostilities in the urban area. In April 1945 American troops liberated the city without a fight.
After 1945 Göttingen became part of the British occupation zone and found itself on the outskirts of the border. While to the south the border with the American occupation zone quickly lost its importance, parts of Göttingen's hinterland in the Eastern Eichsfeld fell into the Soviet occupation zone behind the Iron Curtain. In the 1950s, Göttingen's population grew rapidly, the housing shortage was less pressing in the city, which had hardly been destroyed, than elsewhere; the proximity to the border transit camp Friedland also played its part. The economy benefited from the happy mixture of zonal border development and the good infrastructure connections provided by the north-south motorway (A 7) and railway line, which was upgraded to a fast track in the early 1980s. Commercial enterprises settled mainly in the then still independent communities around Göttingen, especially in Grone in the west and Weende in the north.
In the 1960s, the city area grew through numerous incorporations. In the old town, historical buildings such as the university riding stable, but also numerous residential buildings fell victim to a large-scale redevelopment of the area. It was not until the 1980s that a change in thinking took place and old buildings were more carefully renovated or, where necessary gutted, objects such as the Lokhalle, which had been empty for many years, were refurbished and revitalised as an event centre. The fall of the Wall in 1989 put an end to Göttingen's peripheral location, and the city became a major centre with a reputation that extends far into Thuringia. Large-scale retail trade on the outskirts of the city developed especially at the motorway exit and the Kasseler Landstraße. In the city centre, exploding shop rents led to the displacement of many established retailers by chain stores and, on balance, to an impoverishment of diversity in the main shopping streets.
Political-historical events in the post-war years were the Göttingen Declaration, in which 18 nuclear and atomic researchers protested in 1957 against the nuclear armament of the Bundeswehr, the student unrest in 1968 (which was also directed against the destruction of old buildings in the city in favour of a redesign of the cityscape), and violent protests by the autonomous antifa and the black bloc, which flared up again and again, calling for so-called shattered demonstrations until the 1990s and in some cases resulted in the barricading of the entire city centre.
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.
Hannover Airport (IATA Code: HAJ) is the nearest international airport: 70 - 90 minutes by train (change in Hannover necessary), 140 km by road.
To the international hub Frankfurt am Main Airport (IATA Code: FRA): Direct connection with the ICE in 2 hours (rarely) or 2:30 hours (change in Frankfurt Hbf), 240 km by road.
1 Göttingen's Bahnhof. 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 is also served by Flixtrain. Flixtrain tickets are not valid on DB and vice versa.
For travellers who enjoy looking at the landscape through a train window, there are many beautiful regional routes that lead to Göttingen now and then:
In regional traffic, the metronome offers the most important connection from the north of Uelzen (2.5 h) coming via Hannover, Alfeld, Kreiensen and Northeim. The section of the Hannöversche Südbahn between Elze and Alfeld (Leine) with the Seven Mountains to the east of the line is particularly attractive for travellers, as is the journey through the Leine valley, where you can see the Leine river flowing alongside the railway line, in part meandering originally. Via Kreiensen you can also reach Göttingen from the Harz Mountains, Seesen and the historic town Goslar.
If you come by train from the west from Paderborn, you should especially enjoy the journey from Ottbergen to Göttingen: After leaving the Weser Valley (near Bodenfelde), the railway line crosses the somewhat remote muggy valley to Adelebsen on the southern edge of the Solling and then continues via Lenglern towards the Leine Valley - a worthwhile trip through small villages and beautiful countryside. However, this is not a route for those in a hurry, but a really leisurely ride because of the many unguarded level crossings.
The core zone of Göttingen's old town is a pedestrian zone. The distances within the old town and to the railway station are short and can usually be covered without difficulty on foot. The Ostviertel (eastern quarter) and the Südstadt (southern quarter), where some hotels are located, are also close enough for a walk. Distances beyond these can be easily covered in Göttingen by bus, and there are numerous taxi stands around the city centre.
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): €2,40, children 6–14 years (Kinder): €1,20, a day ticket (Tageskarte) costs: €5,80, a day ticket for five persons (Kleingruppenkarte): €11,10. For multiple trips, save money by asking for the €8,70 "Viererkarte" (four tickets at once) or for the €15,80 (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:
- 1 Altes Rathaus (old townhall). 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.
- 2 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).
- 3 Albanifriedhof (just outside the city wall to the southeast). One of the city's cemeteries, famous for Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss's grave.
- 4 Stadtfriedhof. Historic cemetery with graves of important scholars, including eight Nobel Prize winners: Max Born, Otto Hahn, Max von Laue, Walther Nernst, Max Planck, Otto Wallach, Adolf Windaus and Richard Zsigmondy.
- 5 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.
- 6 Georg-August University. The Georgia Augusta is the largest and - opened in 1737 - also the oldest still existing university in Lower Saxony. Besides the University, several Max Planck Institutes and other important scientific institutions are also located in Göttingen. Due to the large number of Nobel Prize winners who studied, taught or did research in Göttingen, the city also gives itself the nickname of the city that creates knowledge. A good fifth of Göttingen's inhabitants are students at the university or one of the universities, which is reflected, among other things, in the high number of cyclists and a distinct, colourful pub and club scene. However, the cultural offerings are also shaped by science, from numerous specialist lectures by the various faculties, lecture series also for laymen, to an independent student theatre stage. Those who want to experience science and student life as a traveller live, have various opportunities to do so almost every day. 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.
- 7 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 have been 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 been discovered.)
Four of Göttingen's churches can be seen from the metal 8 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.
- 9 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.
- 10 Johanniskirche (St. John's Church). Johanniskirchhof. Built around 1200, St. John's is the oldest of Göttingen's churches. 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.
- 11 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.
- 12 St. Michael Kirche (St. Michael's Church). Kurze Straße. Built 1787-1789, St. Michael's was Göttingen's first Catholic church after the Reformation.
- 13 Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas's Church). Nikolaistraße. An English Catholic mass is held here every second Friday at 19:00. The area around the church is also used for flea markets on weekend mornings in the summer.
- 14 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.
- 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.
- 1 Göttinger Stadtwald (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.
Several theatres are located in the town. Most plays are in German but on special occasions English performances takes place as well.
- 2 Deutsches Theater (German Theatre). Best known theatre in the city. Events take place at almost every day. The building is worth-seeing and close to the former fortifications which surround the city.
- 3 Junges Theater (Young Theatre). Aiming at a younger audience
- 4 Theater im OP (ThOP) (Theatre in the Operating Theatre). Run by university students. Plays are performed in the former operating theatre. A single performance is usually played every evening for about two weeks. The ThOP regularly features English plays produced by the English Drama Workshop.
- Weender Straße 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, Lange-Geismar-Str. 39 and Goethe Allee 25, ☏ . 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, ☏ . 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, ☏ . 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 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.
- 4 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, and can thus feel a bit unfriendly.
- 5 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, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Mühlenstr. 4. Probably the best place in town for live music. It's also the only pub in Göttingen to serve Strongbow.
- 2 [formerly dead link] Trou, Burgstraße 20, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. If you want a more German experience, check out this atmospheric student pub in a cavern that was once a kind of student jail.
- Gartenlaube, Markt 7, ☏ . The best place in town to sit with a beer and people-watch in the summer.
- Alpenmax, Weender Landstr. 3-7, ☏ . A twisted German schlager/apres ski theme club famed for the €0.99 night on Wednesdays.
- T-Keller, Bürgerstraße (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, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A 20-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 (near train station), ☏ .
- 3 Novostar Hotel Göttingen, Kasseler Landstr. 25d, 37081, ☏ .
- 4 Best Western Hotel Am Papenberg, Hermann-Rein-Straße 2, 37075, ☏ . 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.