As I sit in front of ALEX in Domshof with a stunning view of the St. Petri Dom on a unbelievably warm morning, I am indulging myself in one of my favourite pastimes of people-watching. Without fail (but not including Sundays as this is Germany) the rather modest market slowly but surely springs into life. People put up stalls, drive vans onto the square and all the while the city goes through the motions of everyday life. The occasional tram passes behind whilst scores of people commuting to work on their bikes duly dismount and meander through the market taking in all the sights and smells it has to offer. Others dismount, leaving their bikes propped up against the railings without locking them up and pop into the beautiful Deutsche Bank building on my right to take out some money, as cash is still very much king here, but more on that later. Bremen is an unspoilt city, tourists do flock and in their droves but it is not invasive on day to day life. There is no armada of open top buses shuttling people around the city but rather a pensive appreciation of what it has to offer. I had the pleasure of living and working here for almost two years and now I would like to be your guide through an alternative destination in Deutschland.
What to see?
Although Bremen is rather pint-sized but it can pack a punch with lots to see and do. Without a doubt the first thing you NEED to do is to is visit Bremer Marktplatz. From here you have an unobstructed view of not just the façade of the St. Petri Dom (Cathedral) but also the Rathaus (City hall) and whilst you’re there you can get to know the Bremer Roland who is conveniently placed beside a perfect photo spot. For those of you unacquainted with the stories of the Brüder Grimm (Grimm brothers) which include Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping beauty, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and The Bremen Town Musicians (not a bad collection eh?), you can visit the statue of the four unlikely heroes found in that final story by walking round the left side of the Rathaus, once there you will see that the hoofs of the Donkey propping his friends up on his back have become shiny as it is said if you rub them your wishes will come true. From here you need only face away from the Rathaus and walk down to Schüttingerstraße on the opposite side of the square – which if you have trouble locating will be where you will almost undoubtably encounter a busker with an accordion playing background music to your life – down this little side street that leads onto Böttcherstraße there are a host of bars and cafés as well as The Ludwig Roselius Museum and The Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum which was in fact the first museum in the world devoted to a female artist. Viertel is best explained as the artistic quarter, fantastic vibe all around and easily comparable with Shoreditch in London, definitely have a quick look on google maps to see what I mean. There is so much to see and do there I could write another guide just about it. Look below for some of my highlights. Schnoorviertel is another amazing place to walk around and drink in all the culture, how you would probably imagine a small German village, the streets are narrow and quiet with lots to discover. Pop into any of the shops and pick up anything from local trinkets to vintage watches. Try and get there early to avoid tours traipsing through and spending forever getting the perfect pictures.
Where to Eat/Drink?
- ALEX in Domshof – Staple chain restaurant with an outside area and 3 floors of seating including a rooftop area which is delightful in Summer.
- Café Knigge – Café located in the centre, huge variety of cakes and they door a banging cup of coffee.
- Wohnzimmer in Viertel – A mix between a bar and a café, the menus are made within old music magazines and the furniture looks like all the outcasts of your grandparents house. Definitely a different vibe to be had.
- Engel Weincafé in Viertel – Another café cum bar that do a top Flammkuchen which is always bettered by the wine they have on offer. Good for the bloggers among you as the interior is very chic.
- Hendrixx Bar in Herdentor – Smoking bar that has a great layout and is a good spot to catch a Werder Bremen game.
- Schlachte – All along this part of the river there is a plethora of Biergartens where you can grab a quick beer and sit in the sunshine. During winter there is Glühwein which is very similar to mulled wine, definitely grab yourself one and warm your cockles. Don’t forget to take the glass back to get your Pfand money back!
- Weinkontor St Petrus on Böttcherstraße – Great place for food and drink, they serve Gäffel which comes in very small glasses which they will top up without fail until you put your coaster on top of your glass indicating that you’re done.
- Burgerhaus – Does exactly what it says on the tin. Burgers galore, but don’t forget to take cash as they don’t take card!
- Buddhawelt Teehaus in Viertel – If you’re more of a tea fan than coffee this is the place for you. Try any of the wide selection of teas they have and sit in the garden where somehow it is completely undisturbed by the noise of the outside world.
- Brill No.6 in Am Brill – Café by day, bar by night. Fantastic cocktails and a smoking area on the top floor with a great view out onto one of the main crossroads in Bremen town centre.
- DO learn the word ‘Moin’ and use it as a greeting as often as possible.
- DO go to the local bakery and try all the different types of Brötchen (rolls).
- DO hire a bike, Bremen is almost completely flat and you can be anywhere within the city in a maximum of 15 minutes, also you don’t have to ride on the road with specific bicycle lanes on the pavement.
- DO explore every little crevice of the city, you really never know what gems you might find.
- DO pay attention to Pfand, basically in some locations you pay 1€ for your beer glass or cup, they will either give you a token which you give back with the glass or you just hand it back to them and they give you your money back.
- DON’T forget to have physical cash. I cannot emphasise enough how much cash is still king here.
- DON’T be surprised at the amount of places that still allow smoking indoors, its a huge part of German culture and is only just starting to change.
- DON’T walk on the red bit of the pavement, thats for the bikes!
- DON’T eat healthily. There is far too much cake to try!
How long should I go for?
If I am being honest you can probably do everything you want to do in a couple or maybe 3 days, to really enjoy yourself here and to make sure you’re not just hopping on and of the Straßenbahn (tram, literally ‘street train’) all the time it is really worth extending your stay to 4 or 5 days.
When is the best time to go?
This is a seriously tricky question. The lead up to Christmas in Germany is absolutely magical, if you’ve never had the pleasure of going to the Weihnachtsmarkt (German Christmas markets) then you have got something special waiting for you. Aside from Christmas any time in Spring i.e. late May is great, the weather starts to warm up and the café culture takes a turn for the better. October, specifically the 13th to the 29th is another highlight of the year here in Bremen. During the aforementioned 17 days Freimarkt that has been running since 1035 draws almost 4 million visitors each year, which for a city with a population of 557,000 is a stunning feat, Currywürst, Bier and a whole host of other Süßigkeiten (sweets) await you.
How to get there and get around?
- By Plane – For those of you familiar with Ryanair, yeah, them. You can fly from a host of airports around Europe. International visitors best bet is to go via London Stanstead or Frankfurt. You can also fly to Hamburg and get the train from there which takes about an hour. Bremen airport is the closest airport to a city centre in Europe and is reached with the number 6 tram in around 11 minutes. No need for those expensive connections!
- By Train – As expected you can get to Bremen via any number of other train stations around Europe, the possibilities are endless.
Getting around in Bremen is easily done by bike, Straßenbahn (S-Bahn or tram) and bus.
Is it expensive?
Not in the slightest. Coming from any major city you’ll notice the prices are very very agreeable and hotels are also not dear either. Best to book early to avoid paying a premium. The tram is also very cost effective and worth investing in a week ticket if there is more than one of you. Considering I’ve paid £5.40 for a Becks in London I jumped at the chance to pay €2!
One for the bloggers
If you’re looking to take pictures in Bremen you have plenty of options, Schnoorviertel gives you a classic old-fashioned German scene, whilst anywhere in Viertel allows you to get much better, grittier shots. Any of the roads leading off of Viertel are also great with many houses looking like they’ve been airlifted in from Kensington. Schlachte has a great view of the river, great during summer to get shots in the golden hour. You won’t have to get up especially early like in Paris or London to get shots without people in the background, around 8/9 would be good. Sundays are especially quiet which makes for fantastic shots.
Post expires at 2:49am on Thursday January 18th, 2018