Göttingen: great minds, scholars and the Goose Girl.

You don't have to hold a doctorate to visit Göttingen, but it could come in handy in a city that seems to pulsate with a thirst for knowledge, and that is dominated by students and academic life more than anywhere else in Germany. A total of 44 Nobel laureates are associated with Göttingen. Some were born in the town, others came here to study, teach or carry out research.

The university, with its neo-classical main building in the city centre, dominates the townscape and is a source of local pride. It was founded in 1737 by Elector Georg II of Hannover, perhaps better known as King George II of Great Britain. Throughout the city there are memorial plaques in white marble that commemorate more than 300 of Göttingen's celebrated scholars – a journey through Europe's intellectual history. The old quarter, surrounded by medieval ramparts, contains a number of historical buildings. It also features the city's emblem in the form of the Goose Girl, an art nouveau figure located in front of the Old Town Hall. This lowly girl herding her geese is the darling of the doctoral students. By tradition, they have to kiss the statue on the cheek when they receive their degree, making her the most-kissed girl in the world – or at least in Göttingen.

Besides a rich intellectual life, Göttingen also offers culture of the highest degree. Favourites on the cultural calendar include the International Händel Festival in early summer and the Dance & Culture Festival in the autumn. Then there's the brand-new Clavier Salon, where acclaimed young international musicians appear in solo and chamber concerts. Since 1978, Göttingen Jazz Festival has been taking place in the first weekend of November, and 2006 saw the city celebrate its first Indoor Old Town Festival. And local bands give it their all nearly every night at Nörgelbuff – Göttingen's most popular live music venue. In the autumn, the focus shifts to literature. Since 1992, the ten-day Göttingen Literature Festival has been held every autumn at the Old Town Hall and the German Theatre. Göttingen also hosts other literary events throughout the year, featuring not only writers but also artists from related spheres. You'll soon discover that there's always something going on in Göttingen. Those looking for something a bit quieter, however, can visit the ethnological collection or any of the city's other major museums. Wherever your visit takes you, one thing's for certain: Göttingen is the place to be, with or without a PhD.

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