For more than a millennium, the northern German city of Bremen has served as a European center of innovation. Once a maritime powerhouse and commerce hub, Bremen continues to lead the way in both industrial and urban advancements. From its seafaring lore to its present-day originality, it’s sure to enchant visitors with its varied offerings.
1. An economic powerhouse
Nearly 700 years ago, merchants throughout central and northwestern Europe banded together to form a guild. This Hanseatic League would link nearly 200 towns and cities in the interest of trade promotion and shared defense. Due to its strategic location on the River Weser, Bremen earned its spot as one of Germany’s Hanseatic cities and surged as a center of commerce. As a result, there are hints of maritime history throughout the city and travelers can explore Bremen’s seafaring heritage by strolling the Maritime Mile, visiting the country’s first man-made harbor (c. 1623), and admiring Germany’s last fully rigged sailing ship.
2. Old Town Hall
As further testament to Bremen’s tradition of innovation, Bremen’s breathtaking Old Town Hall holds UNESCO World Heritage status for its “outstanding example of the Weser Renaissance architectural style in northern Germany.” At 600 years old, this building is the sole European town hall to remain in its original form since the Middle Ages. Just outside the Old Town Hall, a statue of a knight stands sentinel. Legend has it that as long as Knight Roland stands, the city of Bremen will remain free—an impressive feat given that Roland has already been standing watch since 1404.
3. The Bremen Town Musicians
A few steps away, fairytales alight. The Bremen Town Musicians—four storybook animals in search of a better life—live immortalized in bronze, delighting visitors with their tale since the Brothers Grimm first shared their story in Grimms’ Fairy Tales in 1819.
4. The Schnoor Quarter
A few minutes’ walk south lives the Historic Schnoor Quarter, a neighborhood renowned for its quaint half-timbered houses. Bremen’s oldest neighborhood, the Schnoor welcomes visitors with souvenir shops, jewelers, art galleries, and cafes, all of which are tucked away in narrow lanes whose homes date to the 15th and 16th centuries.
5. Beck’s and Haake-Beck
Following a stroll through Bremen’s history, travelers might be inclined to seek refreshment. For a taste of the city’s 1,000-year-old beer-brewing heritage, visitors can tour the Beck’s and Haake-Beck visitor center. All tours come complete with a mini draught course, plus beer and snacks to round out the visit.
6. Airbus Defence and Space Headquarters
While Bremen holds a special place in Germany’s history, it also continues to stand at the center of German innovation, championing cutting-edge developments in industries as diverse as space travel, automotive engineering, horticulture, and cuisine.
For visitors with a lofty sense of adventure, the Airbus Defence and Space Headquarters offers tours in which travelers can enter a replica of the Columbus space laboratory, watch as Airbus builds rocket components, and learn what it’s like to live on the International Space Station.
7. The Mercedes-Benz Factory
For a more terrestrial adventure, a guided tour of the Mercedes-Benz Factory provides both insight into how Mercedes builds vehicles and an opportunity for visitors to put the pedal to the medal on The Rock, the facility’s off-road training track.
Offering an earthier take on innovation, the horticultural science center botanika provides a zoomed-in view of the life cycles of rhododendrons. Located within Bremen’s Rhododendron Park, guests have access to interactive experiments and multimedia stations over more than 43,000 square-feet of gardens.
9. Schlachte Promenade
Foodies seeking a taste of Bremen’s culinary originality need look no further than the Schlachte Promenade. Running alongside the River Weser just a few minutes’ walk from Market Square, the Riverbank offers cuisines from around the world, both on shore and aboard ships moored along the promenade. With upwards of 2,000 seats spread across its beer and summer gardens, there’s a spot for every visitor to take a load off and admire the flowing waters that first brought this city to global prominence centuries ago.