Top events in Bremen
The ice wager is a curious Bremen tradition dating back to 1829. Although the Weser hasn't iced over for many years, on 6 January the Three Wise Men and a 'tailor' still meet on the dike to check if the river is frozen. The tailor is then dispatched, carrying a hot iron, to see if he can reach the other side without getting his feet wet. Nowadays a dinghy waits by the riverbank to ferry the tailor across the water, keeping him bone dry of course, whilst a larger rescue vessel guards the middle of the river. During the celebrations, donations are collected for the German Maritime Rescue Service, raising over 450,000 euros every year. This outdoor reenactment with satirical speeches always draws lots of spectators to the riverside embankment.
This annual cycling spectacular, Germany's biggest six-day race, takes place early in the year in the ÖVB Arena. More than 24 professional cyclists including Olympic champions, world champions and European champions compete on the cycle track in over 20 disciplines to secure a podium place. It's a fun festival as well as a great sporting occasion, with live music, parties and international refreshments to enjoy between the contests.
Music Show of the Nations
The Music Show of the Nations, Europe's biggest indoor music festival, brings together top brass bands from all over the world. In January, around 800 musicians and folk dance groups perform in the ÖVB Arena, demonstrating their international friendship, showcasing their talents and celebrating their passion. Colourful costumes, gleaming uniforms and folk performances are as much part of the programme as rousing golden oldies and exhilarating marching music. Since 1965, the net proceeds from the Music Show have gone to the Bremen branch of the German War Graves Commission, with most of the money donated to international youth camps where young people are engaged in caring for war graves.
In February, Germany's biggest samba carnival bursts into life in the centre of Bremen. It's an extravaganza of dazzling colours, flamboyant costumes, fanciful masks, amazing stilt walkers and pulsating drum rhythms. The real highlight is the grand parade of all the samba groups, as a sea of people, drums and exotic costumes thrusts its way from the market square to the bohemian Steintor quarter.
The Osterwiese is a fun-filled, action-packed spring fair at Bürgerweide. People of all ages are whirled through the air, food from around the world creates a party buzz and almost 100 stalls, booths and rides offer the time of your life. You can nibble on goodies such as schmalzkuchen doughnuts, ride on the big wheel or the dodgems, or end up winning big prizes.
Jazzahead! at Bremen Conference Centre draws music lovers from around the world with a high-quality, diverse jazz programme that has put this event firmly on Germany's cultural map. It's a unique combination of a festival, a trade show, a conference and a symposium, attracting music lovers and trade visitors from Germany, all over Europe and overseas.
Poetry on the Road
The international literature festival Poetry on the Road has been a firm fixture in Bremen's cultural calendar for over ten years. Taking place in May every year, it specialises in contemporary poetry and has become one of Germany's most important literary events.
On the last Saturday in May each year, Bremen's museums and galleries stay open late for Museums Night, with many of them welcoming visitors from 6pm to 1am. As well as information about permanent and temporary exhibitions, there's always an entertaining programme of events and activities. During this seven-hour marathon, the museums and galleries offer guided tours, music, plays, readings, food and lots of activities for everyone.
At the international street circus festival LA STRADA, established artists and little-known new-comers demonstrate their many talents – performing in the fresh air, generating a happy summer mood and entertaining spectators free of charge. LA STRADA offers something for everyone: light, breezy entertainment, stimulating plays, acrobatic shows and fun for all the family.
Vegesack Harbour Festival
Since 1980 the district of Vegesack has held its own harbour festival – on the first weekend in June every year. This traditional celebration takes place around the oldest man-made harbour in Germany, once the home of a whaling fleet and Germany's largest herring fleet. Seagoing vessels of all sizes, most notably the tall ship Schulschiff Deutschland, provide the main focus for the event. Tours of the ships, cutter rowing and a packed programme on land with music on three stages, shanty choirs, street performers and a good choice of food and drink make this festival an unmissable maritime experience.
The Breminale arts festival is held at the fairground on the Weser riverbank. It lasts five days and offers a programme of live music in circus tents, outdoor art, jugglers and entertainers, inventive children's games, theatre, dance and poetry readings, as well as gorgeous food. Around 100 bands and performers entertain live and free of charge.
International sea shanty stars gather every summer at the Maritime Festival in Vegesack, in the north of Bremen, for an outdoor event that is unique in Germany. Around 30 bands and choirs perform more than 150 concerts featuring traditional shanties, modern rock and Celtic folk music. The festival programme also includes exhibitions by well-known artists, the traditional cutter rowing, water and light installations at the harbour and a grand firework display.
Summer in Lesmona
Every year, Knoops Park on the little river Lesum in northern Bremen becomes the enchanting setting for the open-air Summer in Lesmona festival featuring the German Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra of Bremen. Distinguished soloists and the full orchestra offer exquisite musical treats in an idyllic atmosphere. This three-day concert event is perfect for picnicking to music in a scenic setting.
Bremen Summer Theatre Festival – Shakespeare in the Park
Every year in August, Bremen Shakespeare Company performs Shakespeare in the Park, an outdoor tapestry of burning passions, broken vows, romantic longing and betrayed friendships. Seeing the bard's plays in the Bürgerpark is always a magical experience, for this green expanse in the city centre creates the perfect romantic backdrop – a worthy setting for works by the father of English literature.
Bremen Music Festival
Bremen Music Festival explores music's vast emotional spectrum, close up and from every angle, with 35 events in 16 venues in a total of 26 locations. This leading classical music festival offers a packed programme, with dazzling performances by renowned musicians who offer stirring journeys across the centuries, genres and continents – in Bremen, Bremerhaven and selected venues in north-west Germany. The opening night, which is fittingly titled Eine große Nachtmusik, presents a foretaste of the festival's variety, with musicians from around the world playing 24 concerts in eight venues around Bremen's beautifully illuminated market square.
Every year, Germany's oldest and third biggest public festival attracts over four million visitors to the Bürgerweide near Bremen's old quarter. Always held in the latter half of October, the Bremen Freimarkt has more rides than any other German fair, with in excess of 300 attractions offering non-stop entertainment across the 100,000m² fairground. There's also a quieter mini-Freimarkt on the market square, with piping hot doughnuts, roasted almonds and tasty liquorice set out on traditional-style stands.
Christmas market and Schlachte-Zauber Christmas market
Bremen's atmospheric Christmas market, with over 170 festively decorated stalls, is set around the UNESCO-listed town hall and Roland statue. It is said to be among the prettiest Christmas markets in the country, perfectly combining a historical backdrop with romantic Christmas lights and lovingly adorned booths. There's also the Schlachte-Zauber market, which lights up the Weser embankment with its historical, seasonal and maritime-themed attractions. Here it's like stepping back in time. In among the flickering wood fires and torches, spice sellers, blacksmiths and bone carvers display their wares.
Further information can be found in the events calendar at: