Timber-framed houses in Celle

Celle is an historic town in the Lüneburg Heath in Lower Saxony.


With its rows of timber-framed houses, its imposing ducal palace and historic old town, it is easy to see why Celle is such a popular tourist destination for German and foreign visitors alike. Located in the German state of Lower Saxony on the banks of the River Aller and on the southern fringes of the Lüneburg Heath, it also makes a great base for an excursions into the Heath, as well as the nearby cities of Hanover and Brunswick. The mystical and legendary Harz Mountains are also within striking distance, about 1½ hours drive to the south. Steeped in history, Celle was the official residence of the dukes of Saxe-Wittenberg and, later, of Brunswick-Lüneburg, from 1378 to 1705. Its castle was then converted into a magnificent Schloss that became the summer residence of the prince-electors and kings of Hanover, ancestors to the British royal house of Windsor. It also has a 300 year long association with the military; its barracks housing, at various times, Prussian infantry, Wehrmacht smokescreen troops and British Army units. Having survived the Second World War virtually unscathed, Celle still has that whiff of aristocratic charm about it, whether you're strolling through the French Gardens, sitting in the grounds of the palace, boating on the river or exploring its maze of timber-framed shops. In short Celle is a must for anyone touring Northern Germany!


Celle is at least a thousand years old, the first written record referring to it as Kiellu ("fishing bay") in 993. The town received much sought-after rights to mint its own coins in the 11th century and, by the end of the 13th century, Celle had become a ducal seat. In fact it was Duke Otto II the Strict who decided that the old fortified residence in Altencelle was no longer suitable and built a new settlement next to the site of the present castle. Celle's importance grew, being granted town rights by Otto in 1301, the same year that work on the town church (Stadtkirche) began.

In 1378 Celle changed hands becoming the residence of the dukes of Saxe-Wittenberg. They were ousted in 1433 by the princes of Lüneburg, one of the branches of the Dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg and ancestors of the British royal family. In 1452 Duke Frederick the Pious founded a Franciscan abbey here and, 12 years later, the town boomed thanks to its monopoly on the shipping of grain. The Reformation came to Celle in 1524, championed by Duke Ernest the Confessor, whose portrait still graces one of the best-known timber-framed buildings in the old town, the Hoppener Haus.

The rule of Duke George William in the second half of the 17th century saw a cultural renaissance as the castle was turned into a Schloss or palace, ornate gardens took the place of fortifications and the baroque theatre was created. When the last Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg died in 1705, Celle passed to the prince-electors of Hanover. Although no longer a ducal residence, the town grew in stature as an administrative and judicial centre for the region. When George, Elector of Hanover, ascended to the British throne as George I, Celle became a possession of the British Hanoverian line.

Celle market place around 1845

Celle has a long association with the military. In 1842 the Cambridge Dragoons Barracks was built for the regiment named after Prince Adolphus, the Duke of Cambridge. This later became Goodwood Barracks after the Second World World and from 1976 to 1996 was the HQ of Germany's Panzerbrigade 33. In 1989 it was renamed again to Cambridge-Dragoner-Kaserne known locally as CD Kaserne and is now an event centre run by the town. It is also the temporary home to the Schloss Theatre during the renovation work 2010-2012. In 1872 another barracks was built for the 77th Prussian Infantry Regiment, that became known in 1938 as the Heidekaserne ("Heath Barracks"). After the War the barracks, the longest brick built residence in northern Germany was used by the British Army until 1993. Today it has been restored and houses the new Town Hall offices. A third barracks on the northern outskirts of the town was built for German Smokescreen troops in 1936, formerly known as Sekt Kaserne. Since 1945 the camp has been occupied by British Forces in Germany and was renamed Trenchard Barracks but often retains the German name 'Hohe Wende' referring to the road running along the northern perimeter where carriages would have to turn in the days before mechanisation. This was vacated by the last British Troops in Celle in July 2012. There is a small air base at Wietzenbruch, a suburb on the south western corner of Celle which is a wing of the German Army's aviation training school. This base played an important role in the Berlin Airlift operation delivering coal to west Berlin. In the 1920s a silk mill was built that later became part of the German war machine, producing parachute silk for Wehrmacht paratroopers.

Portrait of Ernest the Confessor on the Hoppener Haus

In 1929 the original Karstadt department store in the town centre was opened, its façade being identical with that of the one on Berlin's Hermannplatz. The store was pulled down in the 1960s and replaced by a modern building, which was meant to resemble Celle's timber framed houses.

During Kristallnacht, the coordinated attack on Jews in Nazi Germany on 9/10 November 1938, the synagogue in Celle escaped total destruction because it was next to a leather factory and parts of the historic old town. In addition the raiders had no ladders so the damage was limited to about 2 metres from the floor. On 8 April 1945 Celle suffered its only major bombing raid during World War 2, much of the industrial estates and railway goods yard being destroyed. A train carrying about 4,000 slave workers and civilian prisoners to Belsen Concentration Camp was hit, causing hundreds of casualties, but some of the prisoners escaped into nearby woods. SS guards and Celle townsfolk took part in the infamous 'Celle hare hunt' (Celler Hasenjagd), killing several hundred POWs over the next four days. The exact number of victims has not been determined. Several people were later tried and convicted of war crimes. Celle surrendered without resistance to advancing British troops from 15 (Scottish) Division on 12 April 1945.

Today, Celle is a modern, self-governing town and capital of Celle county. It lies 35 km north-east of Hanover, the capital of Lower Saxony, to which has direct road and rail links. On 1 January 1973, Celle ceased to be an independent town (Kreisfreie Stadt) and became the largest borough in the new county (Kreis) of Celle. It lost the parishes of Ummern, Pollhöfen and Hahnenhorn and gained Hahnenhorn, Helmerkamp, Hohne (a village east of Celle, not to be confused with the Army base), Pollhöfen, Spechtshorn and Ummern).

On 25 July 1978 there was a hoax bombing of the prison, which was blamed on the Red Army Faction, but later admitted to have been carried out by the Lower Saxony Intelligence Service. It later became known as the "Celle Hole".

Get in

Celle's oldest house, built in 1526

By plane

By train

Celle Bahnhof runs a variety of localised trains and is also a stop for the ICE trains running on the Hamburg to Hanover route. Trains to Hanover and Hamburg stop hourly at the station as do individual ICE trains during busy periods. Metronom trains link Celle to Uelzen, Hannover and Göttingen as part of the regional transport network. Celle is also the terminus for routes S6 and S7 of the Hanover S-Bahn network. Links to the east and west are not part of the structured bahnhof system so Hanover is the better option for travelling more extensively around the area.

The Deutsche Bahn railway station (Bahnhofsplatz 6, tel. 0049 5141 42020, ) is approximately a fifteen minute walk or a five minute taxi ride west of the Celle Altstadt. During trade shows (Messe) in Hanover Deutsche Bahn will add extra trains on the Hamburg to Hannover route which is very convenient for customers utilising this facility.

The local network is extensive and located predominantly to the south-east of Celle and within a 25 kilometre radius there are the following train stations: Ehlershausen - Otze - Escheds - Grossurgwedel - Burgdorf - Mellendorf - Bennemuhlen - Isernhagen - Bissendorf - Dollbergen

By car

Celle is 28 kilometres from the nearest autobahn but is located on the main B3 route which runs from north to south. Access from Hanover centre (nearest City) would be via the A37 which connects to the B3 in an north-easterly direction and the journey is 42 kilometres and will take approximately 35 minutes.

Driving from Bremen (westerly direction) will be on the autobahn A27 which connects to the A7 to the south-east of Walsrode. The A7 runs south for a further 14 kilometres and the junction for the Celle route is Buchholz. The B214 from Buchholz to Celle centre is a direct route with a distance of 28 kilometres and an average driving time of 30 minutes.

Travelling from the north (Hamburg) is also via the route A7 and the junction to the south-east of Soltau leads directly onto the B3. The B3 route to Celle centre is a 42 kilometre (43 minute) journey through very pleasant undulating countryside passing through Bergen town centre.

By bus

Get around

Celle is situated on the B3 and the town centre is capped North and South by small industrial shopping areas which cater for the larger furniture stores, garden centres and car dealers galore. These small areas based around Harburger Heerstrasse in the North and Braunschweiger Heerstrasse in the South are easy to find by car however they are close enough to be a reasonably cheap taxi fare.

Celle's historic Altstadt is easy walking. When you get tired, take a cheap and frequent bus. Time tables can be found at

The town centre is pedestrian friendly with many of the streets car free.


Celle Palace

Celle survived the Second World War largely unscathed with the result that its Altstadt, with around 450 half-timbered houses dating from the 16th to 18th centuries, is largely complete and creates a unique historical and cultural ambience. To the south and west it is flanked by two parks. Important attractions are Celle Palace (built in 1292) and the town's ancient church (Stadtkirche). The palace houses the oldest working Baroque theatre in Germany (built ca. 1675) and it has its own theatre company. The Old Town Hall has a typical gabled roof in the "Weser Renaissance" style and in its basement is the Ratskeller, one of the oldest pubs in Lower Saxony, built in 1378.

As might be expected of a town with a population of over 70,000, Celle has a comprehensive range of shops from department stores like Kaufhof to small specialist shops as well as a wide range of restaurants, cafes and bars catering for most tastes.


Places of Worship



The Caroline Matilda Memorial in the French Garden






Shopping in Celle




Mid Range





There is a good range of Hotels in Celle, many catering for the overflow from the trade fairs (Messe) that are regularly held in Hannover, about 40 minutes drive away. At these times bookings may be affected.

Bed and Breakfast




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