Ancient trading city
Few northern German cities can boast such an infusion of old and new as Bremen. This former Hanseatic town today makes much of the hardware for the European space programme. Hardworking and proud, the town’s ancient trading history and belief in modern partnerships make it a welcoming place to come and explore the whole area.
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Behind the glamour and glitz of glass-fronted malls such as the Waterfront (AG-Weser-Strasse 1) and Galeria Kaufhof (Papenstrasse 5), Bremen has a thriving bric-a-brac scene. Pick up a designer bargain at Northern Germany’s largest factory outlet, Ochtum Park (Bremer Strasse 107), stocking over 40 designer brands. Or wander down to the Weser quayside market, where musicians and street artists ply their craft between stalls selling everything from craft pieces to traditional German finger food. The regular flea market held on Bürgerweide and at the Hansa Carré (Pfalzburger Strasse 41) is a treasure trove for vintage lovers, while the haute couture scene is dominated by designer tailor Stiesing (Sögestrasse 35).
Food & Drink
It might be famous for its cabbage and smoked fish, but the emergence of a series of classy restaurants serving international cuisine has transformed Bremen’s foodie scene in recent years. The area around the river is home to some of the best restaurants in the city – chef Norman Fischer at Michelin-starred La Terrasse (Im Bürgerpark) leads the culinary brat pack in the area, whisking up modern dishes from classic ingredients. Nearby Katzen-Café (Schnoor 38) is a favourite with the locals and perfect for a light seafood-themed supper, while at Ständige Vertretung (Böttcherstrasse 3-5), you’ll find a politically minded crowd tucking into traditional cuisine and Rhineland beer.
Every year at the beginning of January, a tailor bearing a glowing iron attempts to cross the Weser River without getting wet feet. The custom dates back to 1829, and it still attracts an enthusiastic and lively crowd.
Germany’s biggest samba carnival takes place in late winter, hijacking the city centre with a riot of colour, music and dance. More than 100 samba groups from all over Europe join in the traditional annual Grand Parade, and a series of smaller concerts and events take place throughout the weekend.
This long-running music festival takes place every summer on the banks of the Weser River, and for locals, it’s one of the biggest events of the year. Around 200,000 revellers descend on the 1km stretch of riverbank to attend free concerts, see their favourite international bands and munch on delicious organic food.
This celebration of all things maritime melds several genres of live musical entertainment. The event is free to attend and ends with a stunning firework display.
The Freimarkt is one of Germany’s oldest and largest folk festivals, with over 300 fairground attractions and a scrumptious collection of traditional food stalls. The highlight of the event is the carnival float parade, which attracts crowds of more than 200,000 every year.
The crème de la crème of Bremen accommodation clusters around the central and beautifully landscaped Bürgerpark. Five-star Park Hotel Bremen (Im Bürgerpark) occupies a prime lakefront position and redefines the meaning of luxury with its heated outdoor pool, ice grotto and Michelin-starred restaurants. Mid-budget travellers can choose between elite international chains such as Courtyard by Marriott and a small selection of boutique design hotels. Hotel ÜberFluss (Langestrasse 72), on the river promenade, is an eclectic collection of rooms with a sauna, hotel and steam room that incorporates the oldest part of Bremen’s city wall. City Hotel Bremen (An Der Weide 18-19) is a good, if basic, budget option.