The origins of Göttingen lay in a village called Gutingi, first mentioned in a document in 953 AD. Today, Göttingen is famous for its old university (Georgia Augusta, or “Georg-August-Universität“), which was founded in 1734 (first classes in 1737) and became the most visited university of Europe.
The prestigious Max Planck Society was founded in the city in 1948. The Max Planck Institutes for Solar System Research, Dynamics and Self-Organization, for Experimental Medicine, for Biophysical Chemistry, and for History are located in Göttingen. 44 Nobel Prize winners have studied or taught in the city.
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Like other university towns, Göttingen has developed its own quaint traditions. On the day they are awarded their doctorate degrees, students are drawn in handcarts from the Great Hall to the Gänseliesel-Fountain in front of the Old Town Hall. There they have to climb the fountain and kiss the statue of the Gänseliesel (goose girl, map). This practice is actually forbidden, but the law is not enforced. The statue is considered the most kissed girl in the world.
The core zone of Göttingen’s old town is a pedestrian zone. The distances within the old town and to the railway station are short and can usually be covered without difficulty on foot. The Ostviertel (eastern quarter) and the Südstadt (southern quarter), where some hotels are located, are also close enough for a walk.
Altes Rathaus (map) was the town hall until 1978, and it now houses the Tourist Office. The coats of arms of other members of the Hanseatic League are painted on the walls.
The weekly Wochenmarkt (map) is on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings. It’s the best place in town to buy local produce from Göttingen and the surrounding region.
In December there are two Christmas markets, one small one outside the train station and the other sprawling from the Marktplatz area to behind the old town hall and St. John’s Church.