Considering a trip to Celle and want to know all the best things to do in Celle? We have you covered! Below, you will find our guide to all the best attractions in Celle to plan your ultimate trip.
This quaint town in northern Germany is over a thousand years old and you can tell! Its beautiful Old Town, amazing castle (both of which survived World War II) and its picturesque location by the Aller River makes it a popular tourist destination that we weren’t going to miss on our journey through northern Germany.
I was initially drawn in by the Old Town of Celle as it’s the place to be for half-timbered buildings. Many were built in the 16th – 19th centuries and over 450 still exist today. They’re gorgeous. Add in the palace that dates back to 1292 and there is a lot to soak in and enjoy here.
I’m a huge fan of picturesque Old Towns – they are my favourite things to explore – and Celle is one of the best. It’s just so picture perfect that it’s a real treat to explore.
While I wouldn’t say Celle is chock-a-block with attractions, it’s a great place to spend a day or two and we loved doing my favourite thing when travelling – sitting back and soaking in the Old Town atmosphere.
Below, you will find our full Celle travel guide with everything you need to know about the best places to visit in Celle as well as the best places to stay for your ultimate vacation in Celle. There is also a handy map of all the things to do Celle offers.
You’ll find a full itinerary for a Celle day trip as well as what works if you are travelling with kids.
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An Introduction To Celle
Located in the state of Lower Saxony in Northern Germany, Celle is near Hanover to the northeast and is not far from Hamburg either. It has a population of around 70,000 and is known for its picturesque Medieval Old Town. It is next to the Aller River.
The first documented mention of Celle was in 993 although this was at the present day location of Altencelle which is about four kilometres southeast of where Celle Old Town lies today. By the end of the 13th century, Celle was a ducal seat. The town itself was moved in 1292 when Duke Otto II decided to build a new settlement where Celle is today next to the current castle.
In 1301, Celle was granted town rights and it became increasingly important. In 1378, Celle became the residence of the dukes of Saxe-Wittenberg before the princes of Lüneburg moved in 1433.
Things kept improving for Celle when the town had a grain shipping monopoly in 1464.
The Protestant Reformation arrived in Celle in 1524. From 1664, there was a cultural renaissance in Celle – in big part thanks to the French wife of Duke George William who brought Italian architects and other influences with her. During this time, the castle was turned into a palace, the ornate French gardens were constructed and the Baroque theatre – it’s the oldest theatre still in use in Germany.
In 1705, the last Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg died and Celle became under the control of the prince-electors of Hanover. While it lost the importance of being a residence town, it gained it back by being an administrative and judicial centre of the area. It is still a centre of these areas today.
Celle has been home to the military in more modern times when in 1842, the Cambridge Dragoons Barracks were built. It’s had many names over the years , but since 1996, it has been an events centre.
Another barracks was built between 1869-1872. It was home to the British after World War II until 1993. A third barracks were built in 1936 that also passed to the British which were stationed there until 2012.
Celle was an important military garrison in World War II, but it only suffered one major bombing raid which took place on 9 April 1945. While the town mostly survived, unfortunately a train of prisoners heading to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was hit and many died both from the bombing and the resulting “hunt” to find the escaped prisoners. Some of the perpetrators of this hunt were later convicted of this war crime.
Celle surrendered without a fight to Allied troops on 12 April 1945 which helped the Old Town and the castle escape any damage during the War. All up, only 2.2% of Celle was destroyed.
After the war, Celle requested to become the location of the new parliament along with Bonn and Frankfurt, but missed out to Bonn.
Today, Celle is a self-governing town. Tourism is an important industry as well as some light industries such as metal, wood, plastic processing and electronics. There are also many public servants thanks to the administrative and judicial services that still call Celle home.
Top 10 Things To Do In Celle Germany
Here are the best Celle attractions. Read through and select the ones that fit your interests and timeframe. If you only have one day to visit Celle tourist attractions, find our one day Celle places to visit itinerary below.
Note that I sort these things to do in Celle based on geographical location starting with the central Celle Castle, the Old Town and then listing the closest Celle Germany things to do while working our way further away. The order isn’t based on what I think are the most important attractions.
Schloss Celle (Celle Castle)
The number one tourist attraction in Celle has to be Schloss Castle. Even in a country full of castles, this one stands out and is definitely worth your time.
Originally built around 980, it was expanded by Otto II in 1292. While it started off simple, over time it became a magnificent home to the Dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg with residence status. It only lost this status in 1705. Improvements and changes kept being made after this time, however.
The building both outside and inside is a mix of Baroque, Gothic and Renaissance design – on a tour you can see these different eras playing out.
Today, you can visit the ResidenzMuseum. Here, you’ll find former state apartments as well as many exhibits on clothing, weaponry and other items from the past. There are some English explanations. It’s all faily simple.
It’s much better to do a guided tour in German – this is the only way to see other sections of the palace like the amazing chapel, the 19th century kitchen and the Palace Theatre which is the oldest Baroque theatre still in use in Europe. Even if you don’t speak German, it is worth doing one of these tours to see more of the stunning palace. We were glad we did.
You can also pay extra to arrange your own private tour in English. Email ahead of time to arrange this from their site.
The chapel, in particular, is worth the tour. The grounds are also beautiful.
Altstadt (Old Town)
Celle’s Old Town is just beautiful and you’d be crazy to come to Celle without a wander through its pretty streets. With over 400 half-timbered houses, you won’t know where to look first.
There are also plenty of shops, restaurants, bars and more. In fact, just about everything left in this list of things to do in Celle is in the Old Town and the Celle Castle is right next door. So if you are a day tripper, you can easily park your car and then explore everything by foot.
Go for a walk, take it all in, stop for a drink or a meal and really soak in this stunning Old Town. I loved every moment.
Opposite Celle Castle in the Old Town, Bomann-Museum should be your next stop.
This museum traces the history of the people in the region of Lower Saxony from Bronze Age archaeological finds to today. There’s a great range of exhibits including a re-created 19th century farmhouse to help you understand rural life at the time, information on the life of the 19th century bourgeoise, a great textile collection and exhibits of foreign migration to this area.
Unfortunately, there are no English signs, although it is still interesting even without this.
You can buy a combination ticket for this and the castle
Kunstmuseum Celle (Celle Art Museum)
Next door to the Bomann-Museum is Celle’s innovative Art Museum.
Advertised as the world’s first 24 hour art museum, the inside is only open during the day. However, every evening, all night long on the hour, the foyer changes colours for several minutes. It looks cooler than it sounds thanks to the building’s unique exterior.
Inside, you can find the collection of Robert Simon. Highlights include the light room by Otto Piene. There are also works by Klaus Geldmacher, Francesco Mariotti, Vollrad Kutscher and Brigitte Kowanz.
It’s a great collection and a definite must stop in Celle for art lovers.
Stadtkirche Sankt Marien (St Marien Town Church)
A minute’s walk away is your next Celle attraction, Stadtkirche Sankt Marien or St Marien Town Church.
This 700 year old Protestant-Lutheran town church doesn’t just have a pretty exterior and an even prettier interior but also has great views if you can walk the 235 steps up to the top of the church steeple. At 52 metres high, you have great views over the Old Town. It was very much worth it!
More annoying was that when we got back to our accommodation, I realised we were charged double what their website said so it seems there’s an English speaking tourist tax so be weary.
Daily at 4:45pm as well as 9:45am on weekends, the city trumpeter climbs the stairs to the white tower you can see pictured below the steeple for a trumpet chorale in each of the four directions.
The interior is home to art from the late Renaissance to the Baroque period as well as Gothic pillars and a great pulpit. It’s well worth your time stopping by.
Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall)
A moment’s walk from the church will find you in Celle’s central Marktplatz and beautiful Old Town Hall.
When Otto II built Celle in 1292, he probably also built this town hall on the main Marktplatz (Market Square). It was first mentioned in documents in 1378 before being expanded in 1380.
It was further expanded in the 14th and 16th centuries with rich decorations added. In 1785, some was rebuilt after a fire in the classical style. In 1938, it was extended again and the interior design that you can see today is typical of that period.
In 2008-2009, the facade was renovated based on paintings from HJ Süersen in 1697.
It’s a beautiful building so make sure you walk past and take some time to admire it while exploring the Old Town.
The perfect way to end your tour of Celle is with a drink of Alter Provisor, the local spirit.
An amber herbal liquor, it’s based on a recipe by the pharmacist, Otto Kaiser, who ran a pharmacy here in the early 20th century. It started being produced in bigger quantities in 1910 when Carl Greve took over the pharmacy.
In 1980, Josh Greve gave it the name Alter Provisor. Provisor was a name given to a pharmacist or a manager in a pharmacy.
For something that is 50% alcohol, it tastes surprisingly good. Maybe because it’s also 10% sugar! It can be drunk straight or used in cocktails or punch. It’s recommended to help with colds or bloating.
You can buy it at a shop by the same name in Celle which is super cute.
Synagoge Celle (Celle Synagogue)
On the edge of the Old Town is Celle’s synagogue. Dating back to 1740, it’s the oldest in Northern Germany.
This half timbered building was partially destroyed during Kristallnacht in 1938. It would have been totally destroyed had they not been worried about also burning down the surrounding houses.
After the War, the building was given back to the Jewish community along with some of their other previous buildings. It became somewhere Jewish people waited before they emigrated elsewhere like Israel and the US.
A new Jewish congregation formed in 1997 and started holding services here again.
Next door at Im Kreise 23 has been converted into a museum that you can visit. It has exhibits on topics related to Jewish history and Jewish life in Celle.
Französischer Garten (French Garden)
Directly to the south of the castle and Old Town, the French Garden is the perfect place to head for some beautiful downtime on your Celle tour.
Originally built at the end of the 17th century by French gardeners, it was designed to be a Baroque court and pleasure garden. In the middle of the 19th century, it was changed to its present form which more closely resembles an English garden rather than French.
You can find a beautiful walkway lined by lime trees, colourful flowerbeds, lawns and a fountain.
Autostadt (Car City)
If you are looking for day trips from Celle, consider Autostadt.
As a long time MASSIVE fan of Volkswagen beetles (I still miss mine!), I have wanted to visit Autostadt since I first heard of it. Located in Wolfsburg, just over an hour away, it is a VW car factory – but it’s also so much more than this.
It celebrates the history of Volkswagen but it also has a ton of activities and it definitely has the coolest way to store cars ever in the car towers.
I’ll start with the car towers pictured above as it’s why I first heard of Autostadt. There are two of these 60 metre high, round glass towers where VW cars are kept in between being manufactured and before they are shipped to their new owners. There’s a big tunnel that connects the towers to the factory.
Inside the towers are lifts moving at a crazy 2 metres per second that park the cars and remove them again from one of the 400 spots in each tower. It only takes a minute and 44 seconds to park a car on the top floor!
If you want to check this out, you can. there is an elevator for visitors in one of the towers as well as an observation deck 48 metres up for views of the towers and over Wolfsburg.
While this was my highlight, my kids would disagree as they loved the MobiVersum activities in Groupforum and the massive playground with some crazy slides including an 18.5 metre high one 😮
There is also the ZeitHaus car museum where you can see and learn more about Volkswagen’s past, car manufacturing and technology with more than 100 cars, information and more as well as contemporary art. Not all cars are VW as it details car history in general and displays cars that illustrate developments towards today’s cars. It basically walks you through from the beginning of cars until today.
There are also many car pavilions with information about many Volkswagen operated brands.
There is actually more here than everything described. It’s quite a place. There are also multiple eating options to help you stay longer. There are guided tours, driving experiences and more. You can find full information on their site here.
It’s worth stopping if you love cars, have kids or just find anything I have said interesting 🙂
What To Do In Celle In One Day
Only have one day in Celle? What a shame! But it’s ok, and actually Celle works quite well on a day trip. You can do basically everything in town as long as you don’t linger.
With one day, I recommend you:
- Head straight to Celle Castle and do a tour
- Walk over to the Old Town starting at Bowmann-Museum
- Consider the Kunstmuseum (Art Museum) depending on how much time you have
- Stroll around the Old Town taking it all in, ensuring you walk past the Rathaus and go inside the Town Church. Walk up the steeple if you have the energy (not open Sundays and Mondays)
- Consider visiting the Synagoge Celle
- Take it easy in the French Garden (perhaps after a drink of Alter Provisor!). You deserve it!
Celle Attractions Map
Best Place To Stay In Celle
When it comes to where to stay in Celle, there is a decent range of hotels and other accommodation options. You won’t have any problem finding somewhere to stay.
Below, I’ve listed a couple of different places to consider depending on what type of accommodation you are looking for.
This 4-star hotel is located just to the northwest of the Old Town but is only a 9 minute walk to Marktplatz.
It has a range of two-person rooms including a suite option. All rooms have a minibar, flat-screen TV, air conditioning and desk area. Upsizing to a suite gives you a stylish, bigger room with a sitting room and a Nespresso machine.
This hotel has some great facilities including a spa area with pool, Finnish sauna and heated loungers. Perfect for relaxing after a day exploring Celle. There is also a cosy restaurant with great food, a bar and free parking. Breakfast is generally included with your stay.
If you want great rooms and facilities a short walk from the Old Town, this should be your pick.
VALUE – Hotel Borchers Review
Just a minute’s walk from the Old Town Hall, it’s hard to beat the location of this hotel in the Old Town – and also how long it’s been serving travellers! A hotel since 1572 and recently renovated, you get the best of both worlds here – new and old.
All rooms are doubles with private bathrooms, cable TV and somewhere to sit. They can have views of the hotel’s terrace or the surrounding half-timbered buildings.
While there aren’t a ton of facilities on-site, guests can use the Fürstenhof Celle’s wellness area which is just a 10-minute walk away for free. Facilities here include an indoor pool, a sauna and a fitness centre. There are also paid massage and beauty treatments.
On-site, there is a nice terrace area and paid parking.
How To Get To Celle
We travelled here in a hire car which was super easy.
There are regular trains and buses here. The main train station is just over a kilometre from the edge of the Old Town with trains from many places, particularly Hanover. You can find timetables and all your options here.
Once in Celle, we found it easy to explore on foot. Everything is a short walk except Autostadt.
Celle With Kids
We travelled to Celle with our three kids aged 6, 10 and 12 and found Celle to be an easy going destination that works well with kids.
They loved the castle, running round the French Garden and exploring the Old Town. The farmhouse in Bomann-Museum was a hit with them too and helped capture their imagination.
They absolutely loved Autostadt. It’s definitely a must visit for families.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to visiting Celle.
We really loved exploring and hanging out in the town. It’s just so beautiful and fun to explore, and I hope you love it too!
Looking for something else fun to do nearby? Read our review of the German Tank Museum here. You can also read more guides to visiting Northern Germany here. Or read this guide to nearby Hameln here, Lübeck here or Bremen here.