Bremen is an excellent day or weekend trip to make if you’re looking to explore a less mainstream, more off-beat city to the usual suspects of Munich, Berlin, Hamburg, and Frankfurt. Located roughly 1 – 1.5 hours from Hamburg by train, it is an excellent stop to make if you’re taking a trip through Germany, or making your way to/from the Netherlands from “The Fatherland” i.e. Germany! Christian lived in Bremen for four years, and I (Kulani) lived there for one (and we’ve made frequent trips back since!) I took a few official tours of the city, and we both ended up giving tours to my friends and family during various visits they made during our time there. Here are our top curated picks for a day/weekend trip to the city.
What To See
The Town Musicians of Bremen
This is a good place to start your tour of the city. Bremen is known for the musical talent it cultivates and its abundance of cultural communities. The “Town Musicians of Bremen” or die Bremer Stadtmusikanten, is a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. In the original tale, a donkey, a dog, a cat, and a rooster, all past their prime years in life and usefulness on their respective farms, were soon to be discarded or mistreated by their masters. One by one they leave their homes and set out together in search of a new life. They decide to go to the “free city” of Bremen, to live without owners, and become musicians there. On the way to Bremen, they see a lighted cottage. They look inside and see four robbers enjoying their stolen goods. Standing on each other’s backs, they decide to scare the robbers away by making loud noises. The men run for their lives. The animals take possession of the house, eat a good meal, and settle in for the evening. Later that night, the robbers return and send one of their members in to investigate. He sees the cat’s eyes shining in the darkness and thinks he is seeing the coals of the fire. He reaches over to light his candle. The cat scratches his face with her claws, the dog bites him on the leg, the donkey kicks him with his hooves, and the rooster crows and chases him out the door, screaming. He tells his companions that he was beset by a horrible witch who scratched him with her long fingernails (the cat), an ogre with a knife (the dog), a giant who had hit him with his club (the donkey), and worst of all, the judge who screamed from the rooftop (the rooster). The robbers abandon the cottage to the strange creatures who have taken it, where the animals live happily for the rest of their days. Ironically, the animals never reach Bremen, but the tale is told to show how open, and accepting of “outcasts” and “outsiders” the city is. Nowadays tourists and locals alike pose for pictures by this statue, occasionally touching the animals for luck. The rooster is supposed to be the luckiest of them all (if you can reach it!) The statue was built in 1951.
The entire Town Hall and Roland on the Marketplace of Bremen is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Bremen Roland was Paladin of the first Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne and hero of the Battle of Roncevaux Pass. The status is now considered an important symbol of freedom and trade for the city. The square that the Roland is situated on is lovely in the summer, with nearby bakeries and a “corner” stretch to sit on and people watch – or enjoy a pastry or Bremen chocolate from Hachez (store located by the square). Visiting in the winter? Enjoy the beautiful Christmas Markets located by the marketplace – don’t miss out on the Gluhwein (German mulled wine, served hot) and Feuerzangenbowle (known as German Fire Punch in English! It’s an excellent concoction of mulled wine and rum to warm the soul in winter, let’s say!)
The Bremer Rathaus/City Hall
The entire marketplace of Bremen is an important opportunity to admire the Brick Gothic architecture prevalent across the city. In plain terms, the buildings are pretty beautiful to see: it is considered to be one of Germany’s most beautiful town halls. The Bremen City Haall (Rathaus) is the seat of the President of the Senate and Mayor of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen. Tours inside are offered periodically, especially in the summer.
The Church of our Lady is an Evangelical Protestant Church, originally built at a time when men and women were not allowed to pray together in a church.
St. Petri Dom
Dom in German translates to Cathedral, not “dome.” This historical Lutheran church spans 1200 years.
Located at the bottom of the steps outside the State Parliament building, the Bremer Loch is a fun way to entertain the kids: drop in a coin and see what comes out! Proceeds go to different organizations such as the German Red Cross and the workers’ welfare association.
Located off the marketplace (there’s usually a sign outside this narrow street), Böttcherstraβe is a 110-meter long lane with restaurants and souvenir, chocolate, and art stores. Built in the 1920s, this was meant to take a dilapidated street and turn it into an art deco and brick-lined style pathway linking the marketplace to the Weser. Don’t miss out on the Seven Lazy Brothers at the Handwerkerhof craft center! One of the main attractions on Böttcherstraβe is the House of Glockenspiel.
House of the Glockenspiel
The House of the Glockenspiel contains a carillon, timed to go off at different hours of the day. There is a schedule outside the house, but times can vary, with more frequent ringing during the summer. Don’t miss on the revolving panel to the left of the Glockenspiel (bells) which depict explorers such as Leif Eriksson and Christopher Columbus.
The Schlachte is a promenade along the Weser river in Bremen, home to a variety of restaurants, riverboats, and bars. We recommend trying Bar Celona for dinner or drinks, one of the Paulaner beer gardens during a summer afternoon, or Kangaroo Island: which serves beer from around the world (I was pleasantly surprised to find Lion Beer from Sri Lanka, there!)
The Schlachte has some great bars to visit if you’re in the mood for a bar crawl. Check out our Bremen Bar Crawl Guide on Walkli.com for an easy to navigate, walkable guide to a night out in the city!
Bürgermeister-Smidt-Brücke and Wilhelm-Kaisen-Brücke
Cross the Bürgermeister-Smidt-Brücke or Wilhelm-Kaisen-Brücke to enjoy beautiful views of the city promenade and church towers, especially in the evening.
Bremen’s oldest district is a quiet area of the city filled with a maze of little lanes lined with 15th and 16th century houses. Enjoy a coffee or the little craft stores at this must-see quaint little quarter!
The Schnoor quarter can be hard to find: follow our walking map to Bremen, live on Walkli.com, to make sure you don’t miss out on this lovely sight!
Every day is Christmas at the Weihnachtsträume! The intricate displays at this store warrant a visit in and of themselves.
Die Bremer BonBon Manufaktur
Located in the Schnoor quarter as well as in Böttcherstraβe, the Bremen Chocolate Manufacturer is a great stop to make to take home some excellent European souvenir sweets.
There are plenty of areas to shop around Bremen (see Martinistraβe) but the Sögestraβe area is particularly popular for its abundance of stores, central location, and tourist-friendly atmosphere. From the main station (Hauptbahnhof), walk down Herdentorsteinweg down to Herdentor, across the little bridge with the view of a windmill over the river. You’ll see statues of a few pigs and a herder at the crossroads of Sögestraβe, Knochenhauerstraβe, and Herdentorswallstraβe. Walk down Sögestraβe for a collection of stores and markets, and a lovely Christmas market in the winter.
Take the 4 or 5 tram, or bus 20, 21, 33, or 34, to Horner Kirche to visit the stunning Rhododendron Park in the spring or summer. Entrance is free, and you can easily spend an hour or two enjoying the various gardens and pathways this park has to offer.
Looking for a more off-beat experience? The Viertel (Quarter), a 10 minute walk from the city center, is a colorful and bohemian part of the city, with a good variety of restaurants and bars to choose from for an afternoon or evening meal or drink.
What is a trip to a German city without a brewery tour? Tours of the Becks Brewery are offered in English and German, and you can easily select which you’d prefer when you book your tickets online. A mini-draught course, pretzels, and most importantly, a good variety of beer tastings are included in your tour – so enjoy!
Tours usually last around 3 hours and are conducted Monday through Saturday. Click here to see prices and to register for a tour (don’t be alarmed: the initial page will be in German. Enter your age (you must be above 16 years of age) and click the menu button (see below) to switch to English).
The largest funfair in northern Germany is held in Bremen in the month of October! Go on a few thrilling rides, sample the different flavored nuts, buy a Lebkuchenhertz for your special someone, visit one of the beer halls – and maybe even check out Halle 7!
Where to eat
Consider having a meal at the Becks restaurant (German and Italian fare) in the Schnoor or at the marketplace, Jacky Su (Asian fare), Alex (continental fare) by the city center, or Bar Celona (international fare) by Schlacte. Bar Celona also offers a good Brunch menu on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 to 2 pm, as well as a weekday breakfast menu from 9 am to 12 pm (Germans do breakfast really well! ;)) We can also recommend Vapiano for good food at a reasonable price: note that you receive a card at the beginning of your visit, and all food that you have made is charged to your card, which you pay for when you leave (there are chefs on site who will prepare your meals for you as you like from the menu, within reason). There are also a host of restaurants in the Viertel if you’re in the mood for something more eclectic away from the city center.
Konditorei (Café) Knigge is a cozy bake shop founded in 1889, “with 2 tables and 6 chairs.” While it has grown over the years, this café is still very warm with delicious baked goods, coffee, and tea, nestled in the city center of Bremen.
*Note that all the restaurants we’ve recommend above are close to the attractions we’ve detailed for your trip to the city – except for El Mundo, which requires a tram ride from the city center.
Top tip: German weather is fickle. Carry an umbrella and a sweater with you, even in the summer.
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