Herrenhausen Gardens – A sign of hope in times of the pandemic

Herrenhausen Gardens – A sign of hope in times of the pandemic

The Herrenhausen Gardens also had to close their doors during the lockdown in mid-March. However, the gardeners were able to continue to cultivate the plants outdoors and in the greenhouses, while following the appropriate hygiene concepts. During this time, the Georgengarten developed even more into a living room in the countryside. Everywhere couples and families sat together or walked with the required distance through the 50-hectare park, always critically eyed by the numerous police patrolling in vehicles or on horseback. You could really sense the relief of having a place to relax in the outdoors.

As one of the first historic gardens in Europe, guests were welcomed again in the Great Garden and the Berggarten starting on April 23, which was enthusiastically received by the Hanoverians.

Garden Visitors

Already in May, there were more than 50,000 visitors to both gardens in fine weather, which increased to more than 70,000 in July. Compared to July 2019, this was as many as 20 percent more guests. One explanation for this difference is that this year there were no restrictions on opening hours due to the fact that the Craftwork Festival was limited to the Garden Theatre.

Table 1: Comparison of visits from May to August 2019 and 2020  
Source: Herrenhausen Gardens

These figures are remarkable in that in previous years only 25 to 30 percent of guests of the Great Garden came from Hanover in the summer months. Another 25 percent each came from the rest of Lower Saxony and from the other federal states of Germany.  The proportion of guests from abroad was about 20 percent.  These figures are obtained in regular queries at the cash registers in the Great Garden and the Berggarten.

The proportion of guests from the Hanover region has now settled at around 40 percent. About 30 percent of the visitors came from the rest of Lower Saxony. The rest of Germany fell from 25 to 20 percent from May to the beginning of September.

The number of guests from abroad has steadily increased until middle of August. In May/June, there were only one to two percent; their share increased to 7 percent by the end of July. Visitors from half of the top-ten countries in 2019, such as China, the US, Japan, Russia and Ukraine, are still not permitted to enter Germany. The three countries from which most of the visitors originated this summer are the Netherlands, Poland and Denmark. The Netherlands and Poland have always been in the top ten in recent years, but Denmark is represented so strongly for the first time. In August you see the travelling restrictions in several European states with only 5 % of visitors from abroad.

Bus travel tourism is also recovering very slowly. You can finally see buses in the parking lot of the Herrenhausen Gardens after they were completely missing for more than 3 months. This year will certainly be at a lower level. Overall, the Herrenhausen Gardens are very satisfied with the development of visitors, also with the positive feedback regarding the beauty of the Great Garden and Berggarten. Many Hanoverians have also noticed this, as many discover the gardens for the first time or are revisiting again. This is also reflected in the sale of annual tickets, which increased by a solid 10 percent.

Table 2: Origin of Guests Great Garden May – September 2020  
Source: Guest Survey Herrenhausen Gardens

Education and Cultural Events

The Herrenhausen Gardens have also broken new ground with its educational outreach projects: Since mid-July you can download an audio tour in the Great Garden and get to know many new facets of the garden. Also new is the digital treasure hunt based on the «Actionbound app» with three tours about the history of the garden, fashion and water games. Further tours of Niki de Saint Phalle and her grotto and the Berggartenallee will follow in autumn.

Moreover, from September 7 to 11 we have 240 pupils in the gardens, who attend 19 workshops in “Akademie der Spiele”, where they learn many different aspects of life in the Baroque, from history to architecture, dance to fireworks.

And since mid-June, Herrenhausen has become a cultural spot that radiates far beyond the borders of Hanover. At the invitation of the Herrenhausen Gardens, the Lower Saxony Opera presented the opera “Le Vin Herbé” in the Garden Theatre, which was probably the first live opera performance in original orchestration after the lockdown in Germany or perhaps even in Europe.

The premiere on June 19, 2020 was featured in the New York Times. The Small Festival in the Great Garden attracted about 8,000 people in 40 performances to the Garten Theater in July and in August our “Summer Nights in the Garten Theater” had numerous other concerts, poetry slams and movie nights in the oldest Hedge Theatre in the world, often in cooperation with Hanoverian bands and institutions. Altogether, we counted more than 15.000 people in nearly 100 performances.

Singer-Songwriter Concert in Garden Theatre,  August 2020. Foto: André Gleisberg

The Stockhausen Wandelkonzert Sternklang (Walking Concert Star Sound) in the Berggarten on August 29 was a huge success with 500 attendees. They listened to the musicians on five stages and walked around the garden in the evening light to enjoy nature and sound.

Wandelkonzert Sternklang, Berggarten, August 2020. Foto: Ronald Clark

Wandelkonzert Sternklang, stage in front of Berggarten Mausoleum, August 2020. Foto: Ronald Clark


However, it is not just outdoor events where the Herrenhausen Gardens are at the forefront. Starting on June 21, indoor concerts were allowed again in Lower Saxony and on this day, the chamber music community of Hanover played a much-hyped concert in the Orangery. Numerous other performances will take place here in next months. With simple construction site exhausters in the attic, we manage to vacuum off aerosols of our historic hall and make performances safe, approved by the Medical University of Hanover.

Exhauster Hose in the Orangery Attic. Foto: Ronald Clark

Facing the Pandemic

The Herrenhausen Gardens will not be able to reach the usual 600.000 guest in the gardens plus 220,000 guests at events due primarily to the postponement of the fireworks competition. Nonetheless, from the beginning of the pandemic, we have creatively used available opportunities unlike any other institution in Germany to present culture in all its facets, from garden to opera to pop. Plans for an even bigger indoor event location outside the gardens are in progress.

Herrenhausen Gardens
September 7, 2020