By Marina Aagaard, MFT. Photo: Marina Aagaard and Henrik Elstrup
Bremen? Town Hall and Roland Statue. UNESCO World Heritage Site. Yes. But much more than that. Fitness and wellness. Music and art. Architecture of all ages and state-of-the-art technology. The past meets the future in the present.
Bremen? Beautiful old buildings, but also Airbus (with the Columbus Space module), Universum and the world’s most productive Mercedes factory .
Experiences for the whole family. It is possible to see quite a lot on an extended weekend stay, but if you want to see all the sights, you have to stay for a week … at least.
A green and blue city
Bremen, founded in the 8th century, around 782. A 1200-year-old northern Germany state, a trade city and capital of Bremen “Landes Freie Hansestadt”.
A city with many green sites and parks, over half of the city is green.
The city lies on the Weser River in close connection with its “little sister” Bremerhaven and is an important cultural and economic center in northern Germany.
The old town city center is fairly small and easy to get around in, but Bremen is a major city, a university city, with more than 550,000 inhabitants in Bremen itself, and about 2.7 million in the Metropol region of Bremen-Oldenborg.
You get around with regional trains, trams and buses – it’s very easy, especially if you have an Erlebnis card, so you can jump on and off.
Off course you can also rent a car – or get around by taxi.
Bremen city is a ‘long’ city, which extends over 32 kilometers from one end to the other. The town is located around the Weser River, which is full of motorboats and sailing ships.
Bremerhaven, 53 km north of the Weser River mouth, boasts Europe’s fourth largest container port and the largest port for car import and export.
Weserpromenade Schlachte . From the city center you can go to the 2 kilometer long river promenade, where you can go hiking, running or cycling. It is a popular place for eating out with many restaurants and coffee shops, bars, hotel ships and harbour tour boats … and free wifi.
In the middle of the city there are also beautiful green areas around the old fortifications. The city wall unfortunately is gone: Torn down a few hundred years ago because it was too high?
Luckily, instead you can see the more than 100 year old windmill in the Wallanlagen Park, Mühle am Wall. The mill is open to visitors and has a popular restaurant .
On the lawn outside the mill there is a bright red-white flowerbed. Around it locals and tourists sit, lie, walk or pose for selfies with the idyllic motif.
Here seen at a distance at twilight.
Bremen Top 10 Attractions
The city’s big – and free – attraction – is a mere 110 meter long, narrow passage from the marketplace to the river. A fairytale world of brick art, art, restaurants, workshops and specialty stores.
The narrow street was bought and developed in the 1920s by Bremens inventor of decaffeinated coffee, decaf, in Germany called Kaffee Hag, the coffee grower Ludwig Roselius (1874-1943), together with the architects Bernhard Hötger, Eduard Scotland and Alfred Runge.
During the daytime you can hear carillons play every hour: Between two rooftops you can see the 30 Meissen porcelain bells. There is also a tower with a twist with 10 carved wooden panels with trans-Atlantic voyages.
In the Böttcherstrasse you find a back entrance of a Radisson Blu hotel. A guided tour allows you to enter: The guide unlocks a door that leads to a magnificent spiral staircase in concrete and glass. It leads to the Himmelssaal in the building Haus Atlantis:
A unique art deco hall from around 1930 with a vaulted ceiling with blue and white glass bricks. An unusual sight. Looking closer at the glass; most bricks have cracks due to heat and explosions, but are fortunately still in place.
The Himmelssaal miraculously survived World War II; over 100 bombardments hit Bremen and destroyed more than 60 % of the city. Like in many other German cities, one is reminded of the extensive destruction of war: The city have only few original old buildings, most are ‘copies’ from the post-war era.
If you go round the corner, past Weser and return to the central marketplace, you reach the Schnoor district. Bremen’s oldest quarter, Schnoor Viertel, a maze of narrow cobbled alleys with tiny, colorful houses from the 15th and 16th century and shops, workshops, coffee shops and the Historical Museum.
4. The cathedral
In the market square you find the cathedral, Bremer Dom, St. Petri Dom zu Bremen . An over 1200 years old protestant Lutheran church in early Gothic style from the first half of the 13th century. Not as richly decorated as catholic churches, but with imposing vaults and atmosphere.
Earlier, the two towers were of different height and appearance, which one can look at a frieze inside the church. This asymmetry was ‘corrected’ and now the towers are uniform in height and shape. During daytime, 11-17, it is possible to get up in the tower and get a beautiful view over the city.
5. Town Hall and Roland
UNESCO World Heritage Site. A magnificent and richly ornamented building, “one of Germany’s magnificent townhouses” and worth a visit: One can guided a tour of the beautiful halls. The building was built between 1405 and 1410 – later, in the 17th century, a Renaissance facade was added to it.
Roman (left in photo). Bremen city’s symbol of trade and freedom since 1404; Germany’s largest Roland statue. Also on UNESCO World Heritage liste.
Other beautiful buildings – rebuilt versions of the original ones, which were destroyed during World War II – are Schütting (left on photo), a former merchants hall, now Chamber of Commerce. Originally built in 1537-38.
Under the town hall you find the town hall cellar, Ratskeller. A 600 year old restaurant with 650 German wines. From a wine cellar with the world’s largest collection of German wines , more than 1100 wines of different vintage, and Germany’s oldest wine shop.
Here you can buy both older wines – from 1727 the oldest drinkable wine, a Rüdesheimer Apostle wine – and younger wines after taste and size of wallet.
If you want to go into the wine cellar, you must book a guided tour, so you can get past the gate and journey into this special underground world.
7. The Town musicians
A bronze sculpture created in 1951 by Gerhard Marck.
Oddly enough the foursome never get to Bremen.
8. Universum Bremen
An interactive science museum with over 300 exhibitions where you can try scientific phenomena within the three main themes Technology, Human, Nature. In addition, there is an annual special exhibition, currently about Inclusion, and a garden with several activities, among other things a watch tower with natural science experience along the stairs.
When you enter, at first it may seem, that the museum is mostly for school children learning about science; Large posters with easy-to-read text and simple tests; this is not so …
It quickly appears, that visitors are of all ages – and there are at least as many adults (including yours truly) and elderly as children; everyone puts their heart and soul into the interactive challenges and have fits of laughing.
There are obvious selfie-opportunities for young and old photo enthusiasts:
“thick or thin” mirror, heat radiation screen or slow-motion video recordings.
You can see and try a lot in 3 hours, but if you want it all (and maybe have lunch) you should devote 5-8 hours; opening hours are 10-18 at weekends.
A fabulous place for groups, families and couples alike.
You are picked up by a large black factory tour bus in Bremen city center. From there you drive for 20 minutes to the huge production plant founded in 1938.
You arrive at an Arrival Center where you see an introductory movie and get headphones for the guided tour. Then you drive to one of the production halls, where the guide takes you on tour and tells about the assembly process.
The guide explains with great enthusiasm, insight and detail about both work conditions, production methods and the cars, which he spontaneously comment on as they pass by.
A great experience for all car enthusiasts.
It is not allowed to take photographs in the assembly halls. Only in the customer and arrival center, where you can see this overview of the area.
Fitness and Wellness
If you want spa experiences, too, it is possible in the Dorint Park Hotel Bremen and the aforementioned Oase im Weserpark, which is full of diverse fitness and wellness activities.
Art and culture
In addition to all the permanent attractions, there are a lot of festivals, concerts and special events in Bremen: Flowers, wines, music, theatre, circus, boats, cars, markets, Christmas market and much more.
For art lovers Kunsthalle Bremen features paintings and sculptures dating back to the 14th century until today.
Before planning your Bremen trip, it is advisable to take a look at the Event calendar, so you don’t miss out on the special events – many of those are free .
A bonus experience for architecture-, port- and food-enthusiasts: Bremen’s former port areas are being transformed into modern residential areas; minimalistic, elegant apartment complexes. Although the area is still ‘under construction’, there are already exciting bars, cafes and restaurants and specialty stores.
If you are going by car (or by bike), it is easy to go for a trip around the area, maybe all the way out to the small pier, where there is a little lighthouse and a fine view of the harbor area.
On my own initiative, but tour arranged and sponsored by Bremen Tourism.
You can explore Bremen on your own with a city map optionally supplemented by an audio guide (English or German) that is rented at the tourist office. Alternatively, you can book a real living city guide.
In addition, you can buy a Bremen ErlebnisCARD, which gives access to the train/bus/tram and discounts on admission to museums, exhibitions, cafes a.o.