If you have never been to Germany, your first question may be “Where is Bremen?” I had never heard of Bremen before moving to Germany, but was pleasantly surprised at all this historic city has to offer. Bremen has two UNESCO World Heritage sites surround the market square dating back over 1000 years making it one of the most impressive market squares in all of Europe. But besides all the history, Bremen has some whimsical statues with just as whimsical stories that are sure to entertain children. There’s no shortage of fun things to do in Bremen.
Bremen is a city of ~550,000 located in northern Germany, ~ 120 km south west of Hamburg. If you’re planning to visit northern Germany, I would highly recommend a day or two in Bremen. Bremen is a 1200 year old city and is bursting with history. Most of the sites are within the compact city center, which was the historic trading area of the city. Bremen was in the Hanseatic League – an economic alliance of trading cities along the coast of northern Europe in the late Middle Ages.
To ensure that Bremen remained a strong trade city, the Roland Statue was erected in 1404 in the market square. Roland is the protector of trade towering the market square at a studly 5.5 meters. The Roland Statue is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you like Bremen be sure to rub Roland’s knees since it’s said that by doing this you will return to Bremen.
Just a few meters away is another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Renaissance Bremen Town Hall (Rathaus in German). It was built in the gothic style in the early 15th century and renovated again in the 17th century, but this time in the Weser Renaissance style. It’s the most impressive town hall I have ever seen!
As if that wasn’t enough for one market square, there is also St. Peter’s Cathedral, a 1200 year old cathedral and the oldest church in Bremen. If you’re feeling energetic you can climb the 256 steps for what I’ve heard is a spectacular view. Unfortunately the cathedral was closed when we were there.
Just around the corner, is the very popular Town Musicians Statue. Based on a popular Brother’s Grimm fairy tale the story goes that a donkey, dog, cat and rooster all past their prime, headed out to make a better life for themselves in Bremen, without owner as musicians. Ironically they didn’t make it to Bremen, but the story has a happy ending. Legend has it that if you touch the donkeys legs you will have good luck so we did, but then we were quickly approached by a couple of locals who insisted that you only have good luck if you touch the donkey’s legs with both hands. So we went back and touched the donkey’s legs with both hands.
We continued on our self guided tour of Bremen and soon came to Böttcher Street. This just may be my favorite street in the entire world and wandering around here was one of my favorite things to do in Bremen! It is called a “secret main street” and is an old narrow street dating back to the Middle Ages where wine barrels were made. Böttcher Street has been transformed into a unique work of art with carvings and paintings lining the streets. Here you will also find the Glockenspiel House where 30 bells ring 3 times a day. If you miss the bells, which have a unique ring, don’t despair, besides gawking at all the wall art, you can easily entertain yourself on Böttcher Street with one of the museums, artist studios or restaurants. Böttcher Street is not very long, but I could have wandered it for hours. See a Photo Journey to Böttcher Street.
Another popular street in Bremen with a vivid history is Söge Street (söge means sow or pig, but in most of Germany, the word “schwein” is used for pig). In the middle ages pig stalls belonging to the working class were located along Söge Street. It’s said that the pigs ran up and down along the street eating everything in sight and thereby keeping the street free of trash. Quite the difference from it’s present state of a popular shopping street. Personally I would have preferred the pigs racing through the street to a shopping street, but perhaps that’s just me. You will have no trouble finding it as the entrance of Söge Street is marked with a statue of a Swineherder and several pigs.
I have to confess that my initial reason for visiting Bremen was because it’s near where my German fiance’s father lives but I was pleasantly surprised at all the fun things to do in Bremen and I will definitely be back to explore it more thoroughly. It’s definitely worth spending a day or two here and if you have time, I can’t recommend the German Emigration Museum enough, located just 65km in near by Bremenhaven.
Just in case you’re still not convinced of all the fun things to do in Bremen, did I mention that Bremen is also home to Becks beer? And yes, brewery tours are available.