Traveling to Germany? Most people think South… Bavaria, Munich, Oktoberfest… but one of my favorite cities to visit is Bremen, in the Northern part of Germany. This gem of a City/State, located on the Weser River, was once a part of the Hanseatic League, and as a result, gained enormous wealth that it poured into culture, as well as commerce. There are so many things to do in Bremen… here are just a few to get you started…
Things to Do in Bremen
Bremen is a lively and pedestrian friendly city. We went with kids, and they had a great time. At the time, there was a fair in the Marktplatz, so there was the added attraction of a carousel. Food is easy to find, and quite good. Take your time… enjoy the visit.
Start in the Bremen Marktplatz
The heart of the Bremen Altstadt is the Marktplatz, and much of the city is accessible from there on foot. Park the car… and walk… there really is much to see.
Bremen Town Hall/ Ratskeller
The Marktplatz of Bremen really is the heart of the city. Stand in one place and look around you… You will see the Bremen Town Hall (Ratskeller), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2016 the roof tiles have recently were replaced with new copper plates, and should go green in the next 20 years. The Ratskeller contains a fabulous restaurant (maybe a nice lunch stop?) and has been housing hundreds of varieties of German wine for over 600 years, and in fact, has been storing the oldest barrel of wine since 1653… You can’t miss it, the doorway is marked by a large wine cask.
St Petri Dom / St Peter’s Cathedral
The St Petri Dom (St Peter’s Cathedral) is an Evangelical Cathedral that anchors the western end of the Marktplatz. This medieval Cathedral was partially destroyed in WWII, but has been rebuilt and strenghthened. Because it is a Protestant Cathedral, it is plainer than other Cathedrals in Germany. On the other hand it does have a fun tradition associated with it… If a man reaches the” age of 30 and still is not married, he must sweep the cathedral steps until a young woman gives him a kiss and then he is released from his duty”. A women who reaches her thirtieth birthday unmarried must go to polish the cathedral doorknobs in the company of friends and family until she are released by the kiss of a young man… (Sounds like an interesting alternative to a single’s bar)
Bremen Stadtmusikanten (Bremen Town Musicians) Statue
In the corner of the Marktplatz is a funny looking Statue of a Rooster, on top of a Cat, on top of a Dog, riding on a Donkey... these are the Bremen Stadtmusikanten. Most German children know the Grimm’s Fairy Tale story of these brave animals by heart. ( The four Farm Animals ran away from home to be musicians in the big city, but ended up scaring a troop of robbers!) Today, the Statue is a popular tourist spot… and kids absolutely LOVE it! Grab hold of the donkey’s forelegs, and make it wish… it’s certain to come true.
Statue of Roland
As long as you are in the Marktplatz, why not visit the Statue of Roland? The Knight Roland was the first Paladin of Charlemagne, the First Holy Roman Emperor, and hero of the Battle of Roncevoux Pass. Why is this important? Ironically, this battle in the Pyranees was Charlegmagne’s only defeat. The army was ambushed by the Saracens on their way home from destroying Pamploma. Roland fought valiantly in the massacre that was seen as a symbolic struggle between Christianity and paganism. Out of it came the Song of Roland, an epic tale that is the oldest surviving work of French Literature, and the ultimate expression of honour and feudal values of twelfth-century France. It is cornerstone in the legends of Chivalry, Knights in shining armour and Traveling minstrels. As the story goes, as long as the Statue of Roland stands firm in the Marktplatz, Bremen will survive. (And, rumor has it, there is a spare statue of Roland hidden away by the town leaders to hastily set up, should the original one fall down). Odd fact alert- the distance between Roland’s Knees ( 55.372 cm) was considered a unit of measurement called the Bremen Ell (that’s should help on Trivia night!)
Bremer Loch (The Hole of Bremen)
Fun, as well as surprising… the Bremer Loch is a manhole cover with a special purpose. You will find the Hole of Bremen at the bottom of the steps outside the State Parliament building. When you drop a coin in, and you will be rewarded with the Stadtmusikanten thanking you. (a lot of animal noises). The money goes to the Wilhelm Kaisen Bürgerhilfe charity which supports selected organisations such as the workers’ welfare association and the German Red Cross.
Leave the Marktplatz by way of the Böttcherstraße. This 100 m street was the primary link between the Marktplatz and the Weser River, and is marked by interesting architecture, art, shops and museums. Look for the images in the brickwork (and check out the fun “statues” along the way) Be sure to stop and listen at the Glockenspiel Haus a magnificent carillon. 3 times a day, 30 Meissen Bells play tunes while wooden panels depicting pioneering seafarers and aviators appear on a rotating mechanism inside the tower.
A visit to the Schnoor Viertel (Schnoor Quarter) is like stepping back in time. The tiny Fachwerk buildings stand tight together along little lanes. The word Schnoor means string… and the quarter is named either for a “string of pearls” or the string that fishermen used to use to weave nets. Either way, today the area is an enchanting place to stroll (no, don’t even think about driving here). It’s easy to reach, just off the Marktplatz. Enjoy shops, cafes and loads of window boxes filled with flowers. Take your time, there are many surprises along the way… interesting fountains, and narrow passageways. Sit down on one of the many benches, and you can almost imagine you’ve stepped back in time…. the only difference is that the shops in the Schnoor Viertel are actually open on Sundays.
The Schlachte (meaning riverbank reinforced by wood) was once the commercial center of Bremen. It was here that river barges met up with sea-going Ships to import and export goods all over the world. After most of the shipping was moved to Bremerhaven, the buildings and warehouses along the Schlachte were abandoned until the mid-1980s, when it was converted to a Pedestrian way, and lined with restaurants and bier gartens. Spend an afternoon walking along the water, stop in to one of the many quaint eating establishments, or sit in the shade under a tree while drinking a bier. It’s the perfect escape from a hectic day of touring… and it’s family friendly.
Heading To Bremen?
Some interesting reading… and a map…