One of Germany’s 38 UNESCO World Heritage sites, Bremen is a handsome city filled with impressive architecture, a spectacular old town, playful public art, Brother Grimm folklore and plenty of budget attractions along the way. Best of all, it is possible to visit Bremen’s top highlights in just one day.
And with bus fares as low as €1 from Berlin, it can make for a super cheap excursion in Northern Germany. To get the most out of your visit, we’ve come up with the ideal itinerary to guide you through the city, so you get a taste of what you’ll find in this charming gem.
Arriving at the main train station
No matter how long you’re staying or where you’re coming from, you will almost certainly arrive to town at or near the city’s main train station. This fabulous brick building with its stripes and ornate detailing is worth examining more closely. Take a few minutes to enjoy the facade and get a quick taste of the city’s history from the giant tile mural in the station’s entry hall. Here you’ll find a Rossmann drugstore, while at the rear of the station are two grocery stores (Edeka and ALDI), in case you need to replenish your supplies before continuing onward. A small branch of the tourist information office, located on the left side of the entry hall, can outfit you with a basic town map. Just beyond this are the station’s lockers, where you can stash your luggage starting at just €3.
Stroll past a towering windmill
From here, it’s a short walk to Bremen’s old city center. You’ll pass first by a beautiful, gray windmill, in the spring and summer surrounded by flowers, which (believe it or not) is the most photographed site in the city. You’ll know you’re headed the right direction when you pass the sculpture of a herd of pigs! Following the pedestrian zone will lead you straight to the old and new city halls, the St. Petri and Liebfrauen churches, the Roland statue and the Bremen Town Musicians sculpture, all of which is sandwiched between two weekday markets.
Take a tour of City Hall
The only way to see the luxuriously decorated city hall inside is to pay for an hour-long tour from the tourist information. Guides speak both German and English. Your €5 entry fee grants you admission to the staircase area, a ballroom and the main council hall, including its golden room. The free and Hanseatic city’s long history is recounted on the hall wall, while statues, intricately carved woodwork, stained glass, hanging ship models and artwork round out the display. Tours are held multiple times per day and can be purchased in advance online.
Make a wish on a playful sculpture
On the west side of city hall is a sculpture of the Town Musicians of Bremen—a group of four scrappy animals, as the Brothers Grimm would tell us, who scared off a thief by standing on each others’ backs to appear larger. Hold onto both of the donkey’s legs to make your wish. In front of the city hall, you’ll find Germany’s largest Roland statue, a popular symbol of personal and economic freedom.
In temperate months, it is possible to climb the St. Petri tower for a view of this central area. Entrance to both churches is free, but the buildings’ highlights—mosaics, stone carvings, sculptures, detailed iron doors—are visible on the exterior.
Enjoy a picnic lunch with market-fresh food
On the northern side of the cathedral, there is a fountain and some wooden benches which make an excellent place to enjoy either a picnic lunch or fresh food from the daily market held here. Alternatively, a small sculpture garden situated behind the Bremer state legislature (the most modern building in this space, facing Roland) offers another quiet reprieve.
Wander the unique pedestrian zone along Böttcherstrasse
Down a well-marked alleyway toward the river (when in doubt, follow the sounds of the changing cast of street musicians parked here) is the Böttcherstrasse, a tiny, quaint pedestrian zone that was saved from Nazi destruction by the street’s patron, Bremen caffeine-free coffee magnate Ludwig Roselius. Here you’ll find special shops, a few restaurants and bars, two museums, an hourly glockenspiel and even an hotel—but also lots of adorable details. Give yourself a little more time to find all the hidden extras in this street.
From here, you can either:
1. Cut southeastward to wander the alleyways of the Schnoor district, taking the long way back to the train station by walking along the river on the wide riverside promenade.
2. Head along the northernmost edge of the Schnoor to visit Bremen’s Kunsthalle, a respectable collection of art with rotating exhibits of contemporary artists (€8 / €5 students / €3.50 under 21), then following the Wallanlagen park back toward the train station.
3. Or head straight back toward the train station to visit the Übersee Museum, an excellent and extensive ethnographic and natural history collection (€6.50 / €4.50 students).
With an extra day in the city, plan in a visit to one or both of the museums you might have missed and, if it’s the right season, an excursion to the Rhododendron Park to visit its 3600 varieties of azaleas and rhododendrons.