Winsen has a population of around 12,900 and lies on the southern edge of the Lüneburg Heath, close to the huge military training area of Bergen-Hohne. It is about 15 kilometres northwest of the county town of Celle. Within the borough of Winsen are the villages of Bannetze, Meißendorf, Stedden, Südwinsen, Thören, Walle and Wolthausen.
Winsen's church is dedicated to John the Baptist which is a clue to when it was founded. All other villages with churches named after John the Baptist appeared around AD 800.
Today Winsen is a popular local recreation and holiday sport and is an official climatic health spa (Luftkurort).
The nearest railway station is Celle on the Hamburg to Hanover railway where there are hourly Intercity (IC) trains to both cities as well as ICE trains during the rush hour. Celle is also the terminus of routes S 6 and S 7 of the Hanover S-Bahn.
Winsen is at the crossroads of the north-south L298 state road from Bergen to Ovelgönne, and the east-west L180 from Celle to Bannetze.
- From Celle. Take the L180 to Winsen (Aller).
- From Hanover on the A7. Exit at Junction 52, "Mellendorf", and head for Celle. After 7 km, turn L just after Allerhop onto the L298 to Winsen (Aller).
- From Hamburg/Bremen on the A7. Exit at Junction 53, "Schwarmstedt", and head for Celle on the B214. At Ovelgönne, turn L onto the L298 to Winsen (Aller).
Winsen has a compact town centre just north of the River Aller which is easy to get around on foot. Most of the sights and places to eat in the town itself are walkable from the centre.
- Church of St. John the Baptist, probably built in the 9th century, but since extended.
- Junker Gate (Junkerntor), one of the oldest buildings in Winsen. It used to be the entrance to the manor house (Rittergut). The gate appears on Winsen’s coat of arms.
- Prince’s Stones (Prinzensteine), by the track between Winsen and Oldau recall a decisive battle on 28 May 1388 during the Lüneburg War of Succession. According to legend two princes wounded each other mortally at this spot before they realised they were brothers.
- Town hall (Rathaus) built on the site of the original district office that had to be demolished. The present building is a baroque affair dating to the 18th century.
- Old Post Mill (Bockwindmühle Winsen (Aller)), Am Mühlenberg (off the L180, Celler Str., to Celle), ☎ . 17 May-27 Sep: Su 2.30-5.30pm. Built in 1732 and worked until 1929. Guided tours may be pre-booked.
- Winsen Farm Museum (Museumshof Winsen) (From Xrds in C of Winsen, head N to Bergen/Soltau, turn R into Kanonenstr., then 6th L into Brauckmanns Kerkstieg. Museum is on the R after a few m). Easter Su to end Oct: W and Sa 3-6pm, Su and PH 11am-6pm. From 1 Jun-31 Aug also open F 3-6 pm. A great little open-air museum which gives a flavour of life on a Lower Saxon farm in past centuries. Not very expensive and they have a guide sheet in English. The adjacent café (see below) in an old farmhouse is great and the cakes are good enough to rival those at the much more famous Ole Müllern Schün in Müden.
As a small country town, Winsen has all the basics, but for serious shopping you need to go to Celle, or even Hanover.
- Eiscafe dal Cin, Poststrasse 1 (on Winsen's main north-south road), ☎ . Mo-Sa 9.30am-10pm, Su 10.30am-10pm. Great ice-creams and in summer you can sit outside and watch the storks nesting opposite.
- Weincafé im Kalandhof, Brauckmanns Kerkstieg (By the Winsen Farm Museum in Winsen), ☎ . , (outside opening hrs)W-F 2.30-9pm, Sa Su 12-9pm (except Nov-Easter only open Sa 12-9pm and Su 12-6pm). The wine café by the Winsen Farm Museum whose cakes rival those at Müden. Great to sit outside in the summer and enjoy a German torte!
- Zur Heideschenke, Harburger Straße 2, 29308 Winsen OT Wolthausen (From crossroads in centre of Winsen, take rd to Celle. After 2½ km turn L to Wolthausen. After 2 km, turn R in Wolthausen onto B3. Heideschenke on R just before bridge.), ☎ . M-Th from 4pm, F-Su from 11am (hot food service starts 1 hr after opening). Pricey and the menu is limited, but outstandingly good (try the hare) and the manager speaks English. For those special occasions. Mid-high prices.
- Herrenhaus Gut Sunder (Sunder Manor House), Sunder 1, Meißendorf (From crossroads in centre of Winsen, head N along Poststr. After 250m turn L into Meißendorfer Str. In centre of Meißendorf, turn L onto Bruchstr. and follow signs to Gut Sunder.), ☎ . Tu-Su and PH 13-18 hrs. Quiet little café in the old manor house. Relax outside on a lazy summer's day under the shade of the trees and enjoy a tea or coffee and delicious cakes such as the local Buchweizentorte, whilst watching your kids frolic in the children's play park. Find out about the variety of nature walks in the area from the local NABU information centre. Not far from the Hüttensee lake where there is a popular circular walk around this bird and wildlife haven. Coffee and cake about €4-5.
- MeRo Restaurant Cafe Bar, Poststr. 27 (on the main N-S road), ☎ .
- Landhotel Jann Hinsch Hof, Bannetzer Straße 26, ☎ . 4 star, timber-framed courtyard hotel with 29 rooms, wellness suite, massage and cosmetic room, 50 seater restaurant and lounges. Facilities for horses. Double rooms: €98-140.
- Hotel zur Post, Poststraße 19 (N of main crossroads.), ☎ . Medium-priced hotel in the centre of Winsen with a restaurant, pub, bowling alley and dance school. Single room: €40; double: €70; breakfast: €7.
- Campingpark Südheide, Im Stillen Winkel 20, ☎ , fax: +49 5143 6661805, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A family run camping site along the river Aller, suitable also as a base for canoeing trips, riding (horses rental at the site) and cycling. Under €20 for a campervan (including 2 persons, electricity).
The nearest Internet café is Karacho in Celle at Burger Landstraße 6.
- Meißendorf Lakes and Bannetze Moor, a nature reserve and bird sanctuary centred on lakes that used to be a huge network of ponds built to farm fish. Circular walk round the main lake. A bird hide has good views of the cormorant colony and countless water fowl and birds of prey. A short walk away in the woods is Gut Sunder a former manor house; now a café (see above) and wildlife information centre.
- German Oil Museum (Deutsches Erdölmuseum), Schwarzer Weg 7-9, Wietze (10 mins drive from Winsen on the B214). Open Tu-Su and PH. Mar-May 10am-5pm, Jun-Aug 10am-6pm, Sep-Nov 10am-5pm. Tel: +49 (5146) 92341. . More interesting than it sounds, the German Oil Museum describes how local farmers scooped oil from tar pits and sold it for lubrication and medicinal purposes. Later over 2,000 wells were bored in the area and it became a major industry. €5 (Family tickets €9, concessions €2.50, under 6 go free).