German travel destinations

The Germany is Wunderbar guide

Germany Holidays: Foodie breaks in Lower Saxony

What’s the best thing about the backwaters of Germany? Easy: they offer all the features of urban hotspots, from innovative museums to fancy cuisine, to which they add charm and natural beauty.

This is particularly evident in Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen), a region full of historical city gems where foodies in particular will be well pleased with what they find. City breaks in Braunschweig, Osnabrück, Celle, Bremerhaven or Oldenburg, to name but a few, provide visitors with special food experiences from hearty local fare to Michelin-starred cuisine.

Since Lower Saxony not only has coastline but also heathland and the mountainous Harz, there’s everything from seafood to moorland sheep and game. One very particular Northern German speciality is a type of cabbage, Grünkohl (curly kale). In Oldenburg, visitors can enrol in Europe’s first ‘Grünkohl academy’ for a cabbage-related degree. Quirky, you think? It gets even better when you take part in a Kohlfahrt, a cabbage walk, a food (and drink) related tradition revolving around long schnapps-assisted walks including a handcart – for the liquid provisions, of course – and a special ball to engage in bosseln, a sort of rustic bowling.

If you’re a bit of a gourmet, head for Celle, Wolfsburg and Osnabrück. The latter is home to one of Germany’s best restaurants, la vie, which has just been awarded its third star in the latest Michelin guide. Chef Thomas Bühner is cooking up a storm here in a listed 18th century merchant’s house in Osnabrück’s old town. He joins Sven Elverfeld in Wolfsburg as the second three-star chef in Northern Germany. Elverfeld’s restaurant Acqua is part of Volkswagen’s sleek Autostadt, a visitor attraction next to the car manufacturer’s factory.

Futuristic architecture, half-timbered houses, first-class cuisine and local specialities

A far cry from futuristic architecture, lovely Celle, just an hour north-west of Wolfsburg, not only features more than 500 half-timbered houses but is a real foodie treasure. Restaurants such as the one Michelin-starred Endtenfang in the Fürstenhof hotel or the Restaurant Allerkrug cover the high-end culinary experience. Then there are local specialities such as Rohe Roulade, roast beef filled with an onion and bacon mixture, served with gherkins and dark rye bread, and visitors can go on a culinary guided tour, including stops to try ‘Herzog Georg Wilhelm’, a liqueur made of sallow thorn, and to sample German cake and sweets.

Bremerhaven, one of Europe’s biggest seaports, is a prime destination to experience Lower Saxony’s maritime food heritage. Its former fishing harbour, Schaufenster Fischereihafen, is now a buzzing centre for all things food and sea, including restaurants, cafés, a museum ship and an aquarium. Typical Northern German food specialities such as Labskaus (a meat dish!) are served on restaurant ship Seute Deern in the harbour of the German Maritime Museum. One of the city’s major attractions, the Deutsches Auswandererhaus, telling the story of millions of emigrants embarking for the New World, features a restaurant in the style of the large emigrant steamers.

A quirky reminder of such transatlantic passages is the quayside Treffpunkt Kaiserhafen, known as the ‘last pub before New York’. The interior is a wild mixture of figureheads, old rudders and other maritime memorabilia. Originally a canteen for harbour workers, it now caters for deckhands and company bosses alike. The menu features 60 (!) dishes, and its highlight is a triple-fish platter. It might be more than your stomach can take.

Even more suggestions here.

Getting There: International airports are at Bremen, Hamburg, Hanover and Paderborn. International rail connections are via Cologne from Brussels (Thalys), which connects with the Eurostar from London. See our Travel page for airlines, rail and tour operators.

Staying There: our recommended hotels are here for Niedersachsen, here for Bremen, and here for Hamburg.

Looking for more? See other destinations in Northern Germany

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