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In the Middle Ages, Bremen was a Hanseatic city and the wealth from those days is still visible in the pleasant historical center. Thanks to Bremerhaven, Bremen still is an important trading city. Together, these two cities form Germany's smallest state.
We recommend starting your visit to Bremen at the Marktplatz, the central square in the old part of town. The main example of Bremen's wealth as a Hanseatic city is the City Hall (Rathaus) on this square, construction of which began in 1410. The building in Renaissance style is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Guided tours are offered every day at 11 a.m., 12 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. We recommend taking a guided tour, as the interior is at least as impressive as the exterior. Besides, during the guided tour you will learn something about Bremen's history and typical customs. Right next to the City Hall, there's the large statue of Bremen Roland, the protector of the city. According to the legend, Bremen will prosper as long as this statue stands upright.
On the Marktplatz you will also find the impressive Dom Sankt Petri that dominates the square with its high tower. Construction started in the eleventh century, but over the centuries parts have constantly been added. Here as well, the interior is at least as impressive as the exterior. The church has no less than five organs and if you're lucky you can attend an organ concert.
And then of course there's the statue of the Bremer Stadtmusikanten, from the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, also on the Marktplatz. The musicians (a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster) never arrived in Bremen, but are still a symbol for the city.
Behind the Marktplatz lies the Schnoor neighborhood, a name that recalls the ship ropes (Schnüre) that were produced here. Wander through the old, medieval alleys, check out the art and antiques shops and eat or drink something in one of the many cafés and restaurants.
The Böttcherstrasse runs from the Marktplatz to the Weser River. In this street you'll find beautiful Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) houses. An impressive glockenspiel that chimes every hour is attached to one of the buildings. There are also many galleries and specialty shops (like glassblowers) in this street. Here you'll also find the Kunstsammlungen Böttcherstrasse. Plural with a reason, as it concerns two museums: The Museum im Roselius-Haus and the Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum. In the former you can for example see works by Lucas Cranach, including his famous portrait of Martin Luther.
Following a major renovation, the Bremer Kunsthalle opened its doors again for the public in the summer of 2011. It holds a large collection of paintings by for example Rembrandt, Rubens, Dürer, Picasso and Monet. Part of the collection has made a very special journey. At the end of World War II, the works were confiscated by the Russians, subsequently stolen from a museum in Azerbaijan, to turn up at an auction in New York in 2001. The Bremer Kunsthalle organizes exhibitions of large works from other museum's collections on a regular basis.
The Übersee-Museum is very centrally located, nearby the train station. Here Bremen's past as a trading city also shows. Merchants got their merchandise from all parts of the world and part of it has been brought together in this museum. You travel, as it were, from far-away continents to Bremen. For children there are interactive installations and they can also solve a riddle to find the museum's treasures.
Strangely enough, the Focke Museum about the city's history is not located in the center, but a bit further out, in Schwachhausen. Officially it is called the Bremer Landesmuseum für Kunst- und Kulturgeschichte, but hardly anyone knows it by that name. It is a fun museum about Bremen's history, its trade, its shipping as well as the exodus of Germans via the port to the 'promised land' of America.
Bremen is the home base of one of Germany's largest beer brewers: Beck's. The guided tour through the brewery ends with a beer tasting, during which you can also sample the 'Hakke' beer, that is only available in Bremen.
It is not easy to find a parking space for your rental car out on the streets, at least not in the city center. Fortunately there are various parking garages around the center. Electronic signs indicate garages that have availability. Bremen's center is a so-called 'Umweltzone', where you need a special sticker to be able to drive around. In general, rental cars do have such a sticker.
Bremen Airport is located southwest of the city center in the suburbs. There are flights to various German cities and some European destinations. You can easily reach the airport by rental car: From Bremen's center you take the Friedrich-Ebert Strasse or the Langemarckstrasse. The way to the airport is clearly signposted.