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A Weekend in Bremen, Germany

A weekend in Bremen, Germany: a pleasant place to visit with an interesting history as a Hanseatic city. Here's what we managed to see in two days. #Bremen #Germany via @rachelsruminationsA weekend in Bremen, Germany: a pleasant place to visit with an interesting history as a Hanseatic city. Here's what we managed to see in two days. #Bremen #Germany via @rachelsruminationsA weekend in Bremen, Germany: a pleasant place to visit with an interesting history as a Hanseatic city. Here's what we managed to see in two days. #Bremen #Germany via @rachelsruminationsA weekend in Bremen, Germany: a pleasant place to visit with an interesting history as a Hanseatic city. Here's what we managed to see in two days. #Bremen #Germany via @rachelsruminations

My husband and I recently spent a weekend in Bremen, which is about a two-hour trip from home.

A grand facade: grey bricks with ornate decorations above each window, around the roof line and especially over the central doorway. The building is symmetrical, with the doorway in the center, three windows on either side on the ground floor and 9 windows on the upper floor. There are small dormer windows in the roof and a big one centered with a point above it holding a figure of a man. a stairway leads up to the front door from each side.
The Schütting, or guildhall, in Bremen was built in 1537-8 and the entrance was added in the 19th century.

We didn’t choose Bremen because of anything in particular except that we wanted a weekend away, and we also felt we needed to be close enough to get home quickly if anything went wrong with the three teenagers we were leaving behind. At least I wanted to be close; my husband didn’t agree that it was necessary.

I had glimpsed a bit of Bremen on a school trip a few years before, and particularly wanted to explore the Schnoor neighborhood more thoroughly. So we went.

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Bremen Altstadt

The main tourist draws in Bremen are in the Altstadt area. Dominated by St Petri Dom cathedral, the marketplace at the center of town is home to a number of lovely buildings from the period when Bremen owed its prosperity to being a Hanseatic League member.

If you’re interested in Hanseatic League history, here are some other articles about Hanseatic cities:

The St. Petri Dom has two very tall spires, both square with green pointed roofs. The building is red brick with archways across the whole ground floor and a rose window centered above the entrance and between the towers.
St. Petri Dom in Bremen

The Rathaus is the old city hall, and, together with the Roland statue in front of it, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built in the early 15th century and renovated in Renaissance style in the 17th century. Unfortunately, when we visited, a mayor had recently died, so the Rathaus was closed to visitors. Nevertheless, the ornamentation on the exterior is intricate and worth some study.

The building is red brick. The balcony has an ornately carved railing and the wall behind the balcony has a row of tall paned windows with statues between each two.
one of the balconies of the Rathaus in Bremen

The Roland statue in front of the Rathaus is over five meters tall and is the largest of 26 such statues in Germany. Roland, apparently, is a symbol of market rights and freedoms, so again it’s linked to Bremen’s status in the Hanseatic League.

The statue is seen from below in this photo. The figure of a man (I think) holds a sword in one hand and has a shield across his chest showing a double-headed eagle on a gold background with gold words around it. His belt buckle portrays a woman (I think) ina blue robe, playing a lute or mandolin or similar.
Looking up at the Roland statue in Bremen. Notice the figure on his belt buckle; it seems to depict a musician but I don’t know what it signifies.

The other famous Bremen statue stands next to the Rathaus; it depicts a donkey with a dog, a cat and a rooster on its back, illustrating a Grimm fairy tale called “The Town Musicians of Bremen.” I wrote about the statue and the story in this article.

A row of buildings nearby on Marktplatz is also an indication of what much of the Altstadt must have looked like before the war.

A row of buildings, all in shades of brown with red roofs. Some have stepped roofs, some simpler points. All have a lot of windows. In front of them are tables and chairs for an outdoor cafe, but it's rainy and no one is sitting there. People are walking by.
a row of buildings on Marktplatz in Bremen

Böttcherstraße

Atop the entrance to the very short Böttcherstraße hangs a shining bas-relief called Lichtbringer (Bringer of Light) that was dedicated to Hitler by Ludwig Roselius, the man responsible for developing the whole street in the 1920s. According to Wikipedia, the font of all knowledge, Hitler rejected the artwork as “degenerate.”

The bas-relief portrays a figure of a human angled from top right to bottom left, head downward. He/she holds a very long sword, pointing to top right. Some sort of creatures, perhaps dragons, are lower right. The whole thing is shiny gold.
Lichtbringer

A stroll down Böttcherstraße shows some interesting architectural contrasts. The 1920s-era expressionist-style buildings (Hitler, apparently, did not like those either.) were restored after bombing in the war. One building, though, was built in 1588 and is now the Ludwig Roselius Museum. Since we only had the weekend in Bremen, we didn’t go inside, but it houses Roselius’s personal art collection.

A tall (7-8 stories) narrow red-brick building with black shutters on the windows. The center doorway is arched, and some of the windows up the center are actually doors.
The Ludwig Roselius Museum

The flowing organic shapes of the expressionist buildings seemed to me attractive and playful, and respectful of Roselius’s older building in their midst. One of these newer buildings is home to the Paula Modersohn-Becker-Haus, named after the artist it exhibits.

Both museums are open Tuesday-Sunday, 11:00-18:00. Admission: €10 ($11).

On the right is an arcade with arched columns in alternating red brick and concrete. ON the right is a red-brick building with interesting patters to the brick: sometimes protruding, sometimes not, forming circles and arches in the facade. The street ahead is brick paved.
looking down the Böttcherstraße in Bremen

On top of the Glockenspiel House is a set of 30 Meissen porcelain bells which are played three times a day.

Two pointed top strories of a building. Between them are horizontal bars, from which the small bells hang.
Glockenspiel House

This one-hour walking tour covers just the Böttcherstraße.

Weser River

If the weather is good, a walk along the Weser River is pleasant. On Saturdays in the warmer months a flea market takes place, which combines well with a promenade along the water. Kiosks offer food and, especially, beer to keep you going. You’ll be charged an extra euro for the glass, which you get back when you return it, but why not keep it as a souvenir?

Another option in the warmer months is to take a boat ride along the river or farther afield if the port of Bremerhaven interests you.

Schnoor

My favorite section of Bremen is Schnoor. This is the oldest surviving district of Bremen: only a couple of blocks, but lined with houses from the 15th to 18th centuries. While these were originally poor fishermen’s homes, nowadays it’s a pedestrian shopping district with lots of interesting little shops, galleries and cafés.

A narrow cobbled street. the houses vary in age. Some have exposed timbers and many lean a bit one way or another.
Schnoor, Bremen

This one-hour walking tour covers only the Schnoor section of town.

The Wallanlagen in Bremen

If you look at a map of Bremen, you’ll see that the old center of town is bordered on one side by the Weser River and on the other by a zigzag-shaped canal called the Wallgraben, the old city moat.

The points of the zigzag—what remains of the old city defensive walls—have been landscaped into beautiful gardens called the Wallanlagen. We walked from the Schnoor section around the center of the city through this lovely park as far as the unexpected Muhle am Wall, a Dutch windmill. This one was built in 1898 to replace several earlier ones, but apparently the Wallanlagen had 15 windmills in the 18th century. On a sunnier day we might have stopped here for a drink in the mill’s outdoor café, but as it was threatening rain, we gave up walking for the day and headed back to our hotel.

The windmill is quite high: it looks like the cylindrical building under it is four stories tall, made of red brick. Above that is the circular balcony and above that the windmill itself, with 4 vanes and a smaller windmill on the opposite side. In the foreground are colorful flower gardens in yellow, purple and white.
Windmill on the Wallanlagen in Bremen

This two-hour walking tour of Bremen gives an overview of the sights and starts at the Glockenspiel house.

While there is certainly more to see in Bremen—several more old churches, the Bohemian Viertal section, and quite a few museums—we felt that our weekend in Bremen was just enough for a little taste of the main tourist sights. Walking from sight to sight, we enjoyed ourselves, despite overcast skies and occasional rain.

And, in case you were wondering, we were happy to find that the teenagers we left at home didn’t “break the place” or cause any trouble at all!

Have you ever visited Bremen? What would you recommend doing there on a longer visit?

If you’re planning a weekend in Bremen, book your hotel through this booking.com link.

Other museums in Bremen

These museums all work together with the two mentioned in the article above to reduce pricing if you go to more than one of them in a day. Make sure to keep your ticket and ask at the next museum.

  • The Focke Museum: Bremen State Museum of Art and Cultural History (about the city’s history and general cultural history). Schwachhauser Heerstrasse 240. Take tram 4 to the Focke-Museum stop. Open Tuesday 10:00-21:00, Wednesday-Saturday 10:00-17:00, and Sunday 10:00-18:00. Admission: €6 ($6.60), €8 ($9) for special exhibitions, free on Tuesdays starting at 19:00.
  • Gerhard Marcks Haus (an art museum). Am Wall 208. Open Tuesday-Sunday 10:00-18:00, Thursday open until 21:00. Admission: €10 ($11). Free on the first Thursday of the month.
  • Kunsthalle Bremen (art museum). Am Wall 207. Closed until mid-May 2020. Once it’s open, assuming they use the same hours as before, it’ll be open Tuesday 10:00-21:00 and Wednesday-Sunday 10:00-18:00. Admission: €10 ($11).
  • Übersee-Museum (“Overseas” museum: cultures and natural history). Bahnhofsplatz 13 (opposite the central train station). Open Tuesday-Friday 9:00-18:00, Saturday-Sunday 10:00-18:00. Admission: €7.50 ($8.30) or €7.50 ($8.30) for special exhibitions. €11.50 ($12.70) for a combined ticket.
  • Weserburg Museum of Modern Art. Teerhof 20 (an island in the Weser river). Open Tuesday-Sunday 11:00-18:00. €1 ($1.10) per 10 minutes up to a maximum of €9 ($10) for the day.
  • Wilhelm Wagenfeld Museum (consumer design). Am Wall 209. This museum only does temporary exhibitions and is closed when an new one is being set up. When it is open, hours are Tuesday 15:00-21:00 and Wednesday-Sunday 10:00-18:00.

Getting to Bremen

By car, Bremen is about an hour and a half southwest of Hamburg. Train will get you there more quickly than that.

Pinnable image Image: the golden bas-relief "Lichtbringer" Text: What to see in ... a weekend in Bremen

14 Comments

  • Ruth - Tanama Tales

    May 13, 2016 at 3:22 am

    Hello Rachel, not sure if I have mentioned this in your blog but my German ancestor was from Bremen (or from the area), so, I have always had the desire to visit Northern Germany to find more about my roots. I am glad the city looks so great. Gives me more impulse to plan a trip to the area.

    Reply
    • Rachel

      May 13, 2016 at 8:28 am

      Let me know when you’re headed this way! The landscape around here, and between here and Bremen, is FLAT. Fields, farms, villages, the occasional windmill or canal. That’s about it!

      Reply
  • Catherine Sweeney

    May 13, 2016 at 4:47 am

    I just love the towns of Germany — at least the ones I’ve visited so far and judging by your post I’m pretty sure I’d love Bremen. I was actually in Bremen very briefly, just to make a train change. Wish I’d planned better and stayed.

    Reply
  • budget jan

    May 13, 2016 at 11:58 am

    I know what you mean about leaving teenagers at home. It was a great idea to be close on the first occasion – you will feel more comfortable from now on. Bremen looked like a good choice and it is nice not to have to travel very far for a couple of days. It sounds like an interesting place with the zigzags and 15th century houses turned shops.

    Reply
      • JD

        May 15, 2016 at 4:50 am

        I hope to visit Europe some day & it’s good to read about some of the “lesser-known” places like Bremen.

        And as for “teens” alone…I always think of those impromptu Facebook “parties” that you get to read about in the papers the next day- lol.

        Reply
        • Rachel

          May 15, 2016 at 8:11 am

          Haha, I know! Though none of them is the type to do that. A few years ago in our next-door town, one party got so out of hand that it made international news! That happened because the girl whose birthday it was set the event on Facebook to public and shareable rather than private. Thousands showed up! That may be the party you read about…

          Reply
  • Victoria@ The British Berliner

    May 16, 2016 at 9:24 am

    This is a lovely post Rachel!

    Bremen is a very nice historical town with (in my opinion) an English feel but then again, i say the same thing about Heidelberg which reminds me of York lol!

    I think a weekend is fine as Bremen is such a small place. However, my German in-laws live about 30 mins away in a town called Achim and Oyten. If you have a few more days, I would recommend them for the valleys, fields, lakes and horse-riding!

    Reply
  • Grey World Nomads

    May 18, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    This time your teens were nice and obedient to get your trust and next time they’ll have a great party 😉 #TPThursday

    Reply

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