Celle is a medieval town that lies directly on the Aller River in Lower Saxony and it’s a popular stop on Germany’s Timber-Frame Road. However, aside from medieval timber-frame houses, Celle has plenty of other fun activities to offer travellers.
During our trip, we toured the castle grounds and its breathtaking chapel, sampled a potent liqueur made from a secret family recipe, wandered through a colourful Bauhaus neighbourhood, plus we tasted a local meat dish that is served completely raw!
Sometimes the places you’ve heard little about are the ones that are full of surprises, and that proved to be true once again on our Germany trip.
So without further ado, here are some ideas of things to do in Celle during your visit.
Things to do in Celle
Visit Celle Castle
Our first stop of the day was one of the town’s main attractions, Celle Castle. This is a medieval fortress-turned-castle that sits on an island surrounded by a moat.
Now to share a bit of history, an early version of Celle Castle was built around the year 980 in the form of a fortified tower, however, the current castle was first documented in 1315.
Over the centuries Celle Castle grew, evolved, and was redesigned and redecorated into what we see today, which explains the mix of Renaissance architecture and Baroque-style staterooms.
The castle suffered severe damage and fell into disrepair during the Thirty Years’ War, however, Celle Castle has since been restored to its former glory and today visitors can explore the castle’s history through a range of exhibits, including Renaissance and Baroque furniture, artwork, and other artefacts from its past.
I was really amused by the fact that we got to wear slippers as we visited certain rooms in the castle.
We actually ended up joining a tour for part of the castle visit, because it’s the only way to gain access to certain parts of the building like the chapel, which is stunning.
The castle chapel is pretty special because it’s the only religious building north of the Alps with completely preserved Renaissance interiors.
You can only view it from behind a glass barrier in order to preserve it, but it was a real highlight and worth the visit.
Explore Celle’s Half-Timbered Houses
After visiting the castle, we continued towards the old town which is renowned for its medieval timbered houses.
In fact, Celle has the densest concentration of them! Nowhere else in all of Germany or even Europe, can you find so many timbered buildings so close together without any gaps in between.
Walking through Celle’s old town is essentially like stepping into a fairy tale. The Old Town dates back to the Middle Ages, and visitors can explore the town’s history by walking along its cobblestone streets and admiring the beautiful architecture.
The town’s centre is marked by the 14th-century St. Mary’s Church or Stadtkirche St. Marien, which is an excellent example of North German brick Gothic architecture.
Also, many of these houses have narrow passages that lead to tiny courtyards, which makes it feel like you’re stepping into a secret garden.
You could easily spend a few hours in the old town not only admiring the architecture but also wandering into all sorts of cafes and specialty shops.
Find the Hoppener Haus
If there’s one building you need to visit in Celle’s old town it’s Hoppener Haus. This is the most famous half-timbered house located in the heart of Celle’s Old Town.
The house dates back to 1532 and it has six stories, each one protruding slightly more than the one below. It is decorated with all sorts of mythological figures.
We took a guided walking tour and our guide explained that the houses were built smaller on the ground floor because the smaller dimensions resulted in lower taxes. The houses were then made slightly bigger with each additional level as a funny workaround to the law.
Drink at an old pharmacy
One of the stops we made was at Alter Provisor, which is a former 17th-century pharmacy that has been turned into a gift shop.
The building’s beautiful half-timbered façade and historic charm are still visible today, and stepping inside is like taking a trip back in time.
Alter Provisor is well known for an amber-coloured herbal liqueur that has been made for over a hundred years following a highly secret family recipe.
No one really knows what goes into the drink except for a select group of people, however, the spicy herbal schnapps does taste of ginger, honey, cinnamon and probably has other select herbs.
There’s a small courtyard in the back where you can sit down and enjoy a cocktail, hot chocolate, or hot punch. All with a dash of Alter Provisor!
We got to do a fun little tasting; the drink was sweet, but also fiery. This was a really fun experience in Celle, so if you’re in the area it’s definitely worth trying.
Tour a Bauhaus neighbourhood
The Italian Garden is a bit of a misnomer because this place is less a garden and more a residential neighbourhood.
These Bauhaus-style buildings were designed by architect Otto Haesler and built between 1924 and 1926, and the idea was to provide affordable housing for workers and their families.
Haesler’s designs were innovative for their time and incorporated features that were revolutionary in terms of housing design.
For example, his buildings were designed to maximize natural light and ventilation, with large windows and open floor plans that allowed for a more flexible use of space.
The buildings have a very modern look with bright splashes of red and blue that help highlight their cube-like shape. It’s a really interesting place to visit in Celle to see a different side of the city.
One minute you can be walking down a narrow lane surrounded by timber-frame houses, and just a few streets over, you find yourself in a Bauhaus dream.
If you’re interested in Bauhaus architecture, not too far from there you can also visit the Otto Haesler Museum.
Traditional German lunch at Ratskeller
Then for lunch, we went to Ratskeller. This historic restaurant is located in the Altes Rathaus, or Old Town Hall, in the heart of Celle’s old town.
The building itself dates back to the 13th century and has been used for a variety of purposes over the years including as a wine cellar.
The restaurant is accessed via a staircase that leads down to the basement level, and it’s a cosy dining experience where you can enjoy a range of traditional German dishes.
I ordered the venison stew served with cabbage, a puff pastry, a pear and cranberry sauce.
Meanwhile, Sam ordered the Currywurst, which is more of a fast food dish that consists of a steamed and fried sausage seasoned with curry ketchup and served with a side of fries.
For dessert, we enjoyed a delicious panna cotta served with wild berries. It was a good meal and we also enjoyed the dimly-lit and warm ambience.
Stroll through the Französischer Garten
Celle’s French Garden, locally known as Französischer Garten, is a beautiful park located in the heart of the city. The garden’s history dates back to the 17th century when it was first established as a private garden by Duke Georg Wilhelm.
The French Garden features a meticulously manicured landscape inspired by the classic French style with symmetrical paths.
The fountain is surrounded by benches and shaded by trees, making it a great place to relax and take in the beauty of the garden.
Visit the first 24-hour museum
Another thing to do in Celle is to visit the Kunstmuseum, which is the world’s first 24-hour museum!
The idea is that there is something to see here any time of day. The museum’s exterior appearance changes twice a day when the museum’s doors open and close.
The museum features modern and contemporary art from the Robert Simon Collection by day and night.
Eating Raw Roulade
Of course, we couldn’t leave Celle without trying the local dish. That evening, we ate at Thaers, which is technically a sports bar, but they serve one of the town’s specialties: roulade!
Typically, roulade refers to a slice of meat that is rolled with a filling of herbs, spices, and vegetables and then browned in a pan before being braised or roasted.
The difference is that in Celle, this dish is eaten raw!
They take a super think slice of raw beef, it’s stuffed with raw onions, gherkins and mustard, rolled up, and served as is with just a bit of cracked black pepper on top.
The meat was surprisingly tender and it reminded me of the consistency of smoked salmon. I didn’t think I would like it, but it surprised me so I would recommend trying it!
Stay at Althoff Hotel Fürstenhof Celle
You can visit Celle on a day trip or stay overnight to explore a bit more in-depth. During our visit, we stayed at Althoff Hotel Fürstenhof Celle. This is a luxurious five-star hotel located in the heart of Celle, just a short walk from the historic old town.
The hotel is housed in a beautiful neo-Renaissance building that dates back to the late 19th century and has been lovingly restored to its former glory.
That should give you a few ideas of things to do in Celle in Northern Germany during your visit!
If this seems like your kind of destination, then you might also enjoy visiting Lüneburg for its medieval charm, exploring Germany’s northernmost wine region of Saale-Unstrut, or going on a road trip through the Black Forest.