At around 640 hectares, Hannover possesses the largest forest in the heart of a city in Europe – even Hyde Park in London and the Bois de Bologne in Paris do not compare. This green lung mostly lies close to the city centre in the eastern part of Hannover. With a convenient web of pathways and hundreds of benches for resting, with lakes, lawns for sunbathing, children's playgrounds and forest inns, the Eilenriede fulfils many needs of citizens seeking recreation.
The forest has been in the possession of the city for over 600 years. During the 19th century, the commercial timberland was transformed into a local recreation area. Hanoverians love and care for their forest, where they are found especially on weekends. A Hanoverian peculiarity is the Eilenriede advisory board. This committee formed in the 1950s, when the construction of the Messeschnellweg highway right through the city forest provoked fierce citizens’ protest.
Despite the presence of ramblers, joggers and bikers, a multitude of forest animals live in the Eilenriede, among them deer, foxes, hares, martens, and bats. In 2004, the new "Eilenriede Forest Station" opened on the enlarged site of the former "Bird Sanctuary Wood", extending the regional provision of extracurricular environmental education institutions in Hannover with a specific profile, focused on the "city forest".
During the EXPO 2000 World Exposition, the Eilenriede was part of the cultural-political project "Balance-Artrail 2000", an interdisciplinary investigation into the quality and quantity of habitats. The name "Eilenriede", by the way, can be traced back to the original name "Ellernried" (= wet alder forest).