Germany, Hanover: Why Prince Harry should move here

In 1837 the fifth son of King George III was dispatched to Hanover to make a new life for himself. Ernst August did remarkably well. His name now graces a shopping mall, a beer hall and a square. Locals at the train station meet "under the tail", by which they mean at the rear of Ernst August's grand equestrian statue.

The rebel in Prince Harry might appreciate the fact that his ancestor is now acknowledged mainly by people loitering under his horse's backside . Usefully for visitors, the horse and its rider stare down the street that leads to the city centre. And while Hanover is unlikely to be anyone's first port of call in Germany, for repeat visitors it offers an enjoyable slice of contemporary German life and a quirky history interwoven with that of British royalty.

Harry would like it. If he wants to make his own money, Hanover has opportunity. This northern city is a hub of German commerce and transport, and holds one of the world's largest annual trade fairs. It has good eco-credentials, including Europe's largest urban forest, and is notable for its classical architecture.

More to the point for visitors, Hanover doesn't take itself too seriously. Its pedestrianised downtown has streams of shoppers and cafe-hoppers; across the railway tracks in Oststadt artists, hippies and immigrants mingle. Hanover has flea markets and jazz festivals, open-air concerts, Christmas markets and Germany's second-largest Oktoberfest. The bar scene is lively should Harry want a beer or schnapps – or in local style, both simultaneously.

Admittedly Ernst August wasn't hanging out in bars. He was so conservative he tried to prevent the building of the opera house. Nor did he surrender his royal title. Indeed, he acquired a new one, becoming King of Hanover when Salic law barred Queen Victoria from inheriting. Thus ended the personal union of Britain and Hanover which began in 1714 when Georg Ludwig was plucked from obscurity to become George I.

You can untangle the family tree that gave the British royal family their solidly German heritage in the museum at Schloss Herrenhausen, a short tram ride from the city centre. If Harry misses palatial surrounds, this is where he could go on weekends: Herrenhausen is Hanover's scaled-down answer to Versailles.

If you want just one good reason to visit Hanover, then the palace gardens are among the most extensive formal baroque gardens anywhere. You can get lost (or have a dangerous liaison) in labyrinths of yew hedges, and enjoy splashing, music-playing fountains. Stone nymphs cavort at every corner, and mosaics and mirrored tiles glitter in a grotto.

Harry wouldn't get homesick in Hanover. At its edges, Herrenhausen's formality dissolves into a fine English landscape garden. Thanks to its British links, rugby union is popular here. Hanover's train station is modelled on Derby's, and Hanover's incredible town hall looks like a Victorian-era London museum. There's even a red carpet of sorts. A painted line called the Red Thread meanders around 36 tourist highlights, from a bombed-out memorial church to the town palace (now state government) and the Sculpture Mile with its colourful, curvaceous artworks. This city likes its arts. Another good reason to visit is Sprengel Museum, a world-class collection of figurative, abstract and conceptual art by the likes of Klee and Picasso.

In short, Hanover is small enough to be beyond the limelight, big enough to offer all the urban niceties at which continental Europe excels. Ernst August, who also married a foreign divorcee, was happy here. Harry could be, too. If his ancestral blood is anything to go by he could, like various Georges, have affairs, gamble, eat too much, go mad and give his name to a great architectural style. Fun, Hanover style.



Brian Johnston travelled as a guest of the German National Tourist Office and Hanover Tourismus.



Emirates flies from Sydney and Melbourne to Hamburg, a 90-minute train ride from Hanover. Phone 1300 303 777, see


Grand Hotel Mussmann opposite Hanover's train station has unusually large rooms for its central location. From $256 a night. See