When making plans to visit Germany, a number of cities immediately come to mind – Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, for example. Bremen is not always a name on people’s lists, but it is a sad omission in many respects, as it is an attractive city with a great deal to offer by way of culture and history. It is to be found in the north of the country, about an hour’s train journey to the west from Hamburg.
It shares with Berlin and Hamburg the status of being both city and state at one and the same time, though with Bremen, one should include also the neighbouring fishing port of Bremerhaven. It is the smallest of the German states, the city population is just over half-a-million, and its reputation for being independently minded ensures that it does not go unnoticed alongside the country’s larger states such as Bavaria or Nordrhein-Westfalen.
Although it is not one of the better known airports in the country, Bremen Airport is well equipped and conveniently positioned close to the city. As might be expected it is well connected to the major international hubs of Frankfurt and Munich. There are also flights from cities in neighbouring countries, such as London, Zurich, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and Copenhagen, and there is also a regular service to the southern German city of Stuttgart.
International passengers may, though, choose to arrive at Frankfurt, and use the excellent German railway service to make the journey to Bremen. The train journey between Frankfurt and Bremen takes approximately four to five hours.
The range of hotel rooms in the city is extensive, and offers possibilities which will match every pocketbook. The traveller is advised though to book early, in order to avoid disappointment. The city’s online website (available in a whole range of languages, including, of course, English and German) can be of considerable assistance in this respect. If you enter http://www.bremen-tourismus.de/btz/bremen.cfm, and select the British Union Jack flag to obtain the English language version, you will find the hotel reservation facility immediately available for you to make your booking.
As might be anticipated, like all German cities Bremen has an excellent public transport service. Tourists can obtain free of charge the Bremen ErlebnisCard directly online from the Bremen tourist website address given above, at the airport, or from the tourist information office at the main railway station (Hauptbahnhof) or in the main tourist information office in the city at Obernstrasse/Liebfrauenkirchhof. A visit to the tourist office is in any case recommended, as the multilingual staff can recommend places to visit, discounts available and can also provide any maps which may be useful for your stay.
There is a wide range of restaurants available in a variety of different locations, so should you wish to try the traditional German cuisine in the Ratskeller in the Old Town (Altstadt), any one of a number of different types of international cuisine (Mexican or Italian for example) out on the Schlachte Embankment (where in summer you may have the choice of enjoying your meal outside in the open air), or at a range of different possibilities in the heart of the city (even in a restaurant in a windmill, if that takes your fancy) – all these possibilities are open to you.
As I mentioned at the outset of this piece, Bremen is a historical city, and there is much to be seen and enjoyed. Tourists should start in the Market Square (Marktplatz) in the Old City, where many of the historically important sites are to be found. The Town Hall (Rathaus) dates back to the Renaissance.
On the West side of the Town Hall is the famous statue of the knight, Roland, the city’s protector, which dates back to 1404.
Close by is the famous statue of the four “Town Musicians” – a donkey, dog, cat and rooster – which is based on the famous fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm.
The Cathedral Sankt Petri can be found on the East side of the square. This impressive building dates back to the 13th century.
The tourist is then recommended to head off from the South side of the square down the famous Böttcherstrasse. This was famously constructed between 1923 and 1931 to resemble a working street as in medieval times (when it had been a street principally occupied by barrel makers), and is famed for its mixture of Art Nouveau and Gothic architecture. At the end of the Böttcherstrasse, standing next to the river Weser is Saint Martin’s Church, a Gothic building dating back to 1229.
The Schnoor quarter also provides a great deal of interest for history lovers with its narrow lanes, and houses from the 15th and 16th century.
The city has many other attractions worth seeing, a science park, wonderful botanical gardens, two museums (the Kunsthalle and the Focke Museum) which highlight art and culture, Beck’s Brewery (tours of which can be arranged) and training ships in the harbour. Guided Tours of the city, allowing these attractions to be visited, are available. Information is available on these at the tourist information offices.
When the evening comes, you will quickly realise that Bremen is a great city where the arts are concerned. There are many different theatrical companies and musical performances to suit all tastes. Major events can be heavily booked in advance, so early reservations are often recommended.
Sports fans should note that Bremen is the home of one of Germany’s major soccer teams, Werder Bremen. As the ground has a limit of 42,000, and most games sell out quickly, advanced booking is also recommended here. Horse racing fans will also be interested to know that a number of meetings are held every year at the local racecourse. Please check locally for details.
As with other northern German cities, the climate is reasonably mild. Severe weather in winter is quite rare, and in the summer you are rarely subject to excessive heat. Sometimes though the weather can be unpredictable, and among the clothing that you pack should be articles suitable to wear when rain comes.
Bremen is, as stated at the outset, not perhaps the first place that you might place upon your list of cities to visit. I am sure, however, that you will leave it with fond memories, and it is always a city to which you will happily return.