Bremen Bike It - Around and about
- Image Gallery
This tour shows Bremen the way it is, off the beaten tourist tracks – an exciting city with rough and smooth edges, full of contrasts, loads of history and tons of stories. The Bremen city centre tour shows how fast the city has grown in the last 170 years. Want to jump off and explore Bremen on foot for a few metres? On this tour, that’s exactly what you should do. The main station could be your starting point, or any other point along the route. Those starting at the station go through a tunnel to begin with, and right behind it is a different world …
1. Dawning of the 20th century
The other side of the railway lines marks the beginning of a district called Schwachhausen, a good address for the well-off for over a century now. Before the boom in construction in the 19th century, there used to be a cemetery here, but all that remains is a narrow strip of greenery. An elephant in clinker brick stands there today and cannot be overlooked. It was erected in 1932 as a ‘Colonial Memorial’ and renamed the ‘Anti-Colonial Monument’ in 1989. Within eyeshot you can see the impressive ÖVB Arena, Bremen’s biggest venue for events. We now take a right turn into Hohenlohestraße, whose Jugendstil buildings have changed very little since 1903.
2. Steeped in history
After riding through the ‘Tunnel of Peace’, we head on to Rembertistraße. Worth seeing here are the turn-of-century architecture (nos. 28-32) and the old ‘St.-Remberti-Stift’ (no. 27) – originally built as a hospital for lepers and now a senior citizens’ residence. A bit further on at Kennedyplatz, and grouped around some art in the public sphere, we find the Bremen Municipal Archives and its magazine tower filled to the brim, the former U.S. Consulate-General and the ‘Wallanlagen’ – once the old city fortifications and now one of Bremen’s most attractive parkland areas. Parallel to them runs the Contrescarpe, where the first bourgeois families escaped the mediaeval confines of the city around 1850, when the gates of the city no longer had to be closed at night. They built themselves magnificent villas in which to enjoy the freshness of summer. The eastward expansion of the city had begun.
3. Highway to hell – no way!
Continuing straight ahead we come to Ostertorsteinweg. On the right we have Bremen’s ‘Art & Culture Mile’, with the Goethe Theater, the Kunsthalle art museum and the two Classicist gatehouses now home to museums for sculpture and design. Past those, we turn into Mozartstraße. In the 1970s, urban planners had a crazy notion that would have had dire consequences for almost the entire Ostertor district. The plan was to build a motorway link straight through the area, but a huge wave of protest thankfully put an end to the ‘Mozarttrasse’. These residential streets with their typical ‘Bremen houses’ are called the ‘Milk Quarter’. The name comes from what used to be a cow shed and dairy. These historical townhouses were once criticised as monotonous, but are now more coveted than ever.
4. Riots on the Sielwall? The ‘Quarter’ lives!
On through the beautiful Bleicherstraße, then Kreuzstraße, to Sielwall. This road from Osterdeich, the ‘East Dyke’, forms the boundary between the districts of Ostertor and Steintor, which together form the ‘Quarter’. In the 1960s and into the 1980s, rents in the run-down houses were low and attracted eco-pioneers, students, punks, squatters and alternative life-stylers of all kinds. Quite of few of them now belong to the Establishment: eco-freaks became hipsters, and activist groups replaced by yoga courses. The Quarter has experienced a lot in its nigh-on 50-year history: street riots and drug scene, but also wild parties and festivities, not to mention generations of weird and wonderful people. The ‘Quarter’ is colourful like no other area in Bremen. And the Quarter lives!
5. Pleasant living in the ‘Quarter’
After crossing the Sielwall crossroads, we continue along ‘Dobben’. What used to be an arm of the River Weser was filled in when the city expanded into its eastern suburb. A right turn takes us into Humboldtstraße, one of Bremen’s ‘bike roads’, where you can cycle on finest asphalt and use the full width of the road. To the left and right stand rows of Bremen houses. In the mid-19th century, they were considered a safe investment by Bremen’s well-to-do. Within just a few years, whole streets of them were built at a breakneck pace. Criticised by contemporaries as monotonous, these historical townhouses are more in demand now than ever before.
6. From the Bermuda Triangle straight through the ‘Central’
We pass the legendary ‘Bermuda Triangle’, a small collection of pubs full of character and characters, their slogan ‘Bionade drinkers party elsewhere’. One of Germany’s biggest general hospitals lies straight ahead: the ‘Central’ Clinic, built in 1849 as a municipal hospital with a smallpox hospital, a maternity wing and surgery wards. Parts of the site will be turned into a new residential district in the years ahead. After cycling through the ‘Central’ we arrive in the Peterswerder district. As early as 1900, affordable houses for the less well-off were built in Achimer Straße. This collection of buildings is now listed.
7. Sporty, relaxing and very Bremen: the Osterdeich
Construction of the Osterdeich embankment more than 120 years ago turned continually flooded meadowland into very desirable housing areas. At weekends, people swarm to the grassy dyke for a stroll, to chill out, and of course to watch or play football. The Weser Stadium, home to the Werder Bremen football club, is right beside the dyke and important for fans in Bremen. There’s also sport a-plenty in the Pauliner Marsch, a green zone between the dyke and the river. In the Rollsportstadion and the Sportgarten, young people can practise (roller) skating, climbing or beach volleyball. Jürgenshof, once a dwelling mound for shepherds, is a good restaurant for those who enjoy traditional German cuisine.
8. ‘At the big bend in the River Weser …’
… is where you’ll find the most beautiful sunsets in Bremen, overlooking the little yacht harbuor, the River Weser flowing by and in the distance the old water tower known colloquially as the ‘upside-down dresser’. Café Ambiente, a former milk parlour and until 1983 a café for teetotallers, sits atop the dyke. At the Sielwall landing pier, we take the ferry to the other side. Although it was common to ‘swim across’, in the days when riverside bathing places were dotted along the Weser, the current nowadays is considered dangerous. Anyhow, taking a ship keeps you dry. Things get amusing when the captain makes the little ferryboat spin circles in the water. On the Stadtwerder, a peninsula between the ‘big’ and the ‘small’ Weser, gardens and allotments have bloomed and flourished for more than a century – in the midst of the urban jungle.
9. Bremen’s other side
Via a pedestrian bridge, we reach the Neustadt, or ‘New Town’, which is not that new any more. In the 17th century, the old city centre expanded in this direction. During the industrialisation era, it became increasingly proletarian. The Buntentor district, for example, lying parallel to the river, was the area where cigar makers lived. The living conditions for working class families were often miserable and led to formation of the first workers’ associations. Nowadays, the population structure is very mixed. We follow the Weserdeich, past the ‘Piepe’ lake, once part of the city moat, and cycle into the Neustadt with its throbbing theatres, pubs and cultural life.
10. Explosion in the Neustadt
Lahnstraße takes us to the ‘River Quarter’ – a lively residential area with whole streets in typical ‘Bremen house’ style. Turning right into Delmestraße, we then cross part of the former fortifications of the city – the ‘Neustadtswallanlagen’. A miniature version of the famous Bremen ‘Roland’ statue has stood on the ‘Neuer Markt’ since 1737. Continuing straight ahead, we cycle through Brautstraße, or ‘Bride’s Road’. Friedrich Ebert, later the President of Germany in the Weimar Republic, used to run a workers‘ pub here. The Brautturm, or ‘Bride’s Tower’, after which the street is named, was once a mighty fortress on the Weser peninsula, used for storing gunpowder. In 1739, it exploded after it was hit by lightning.
11. Coffee, beer and pug
After the industrialisation boom in the 19th century Wilhelmine period, coffee, beer and chocolate from Bremen’s Neustadt become known the world over. At the dyke, ‘Am Deich’, coffee has been roasted and a famous beer brewed to this day. After riding over the Stephani bridge, the tour heads for the city centre. The district around the St. Stephani church was completely destroyed in 1944. St. Stephani was rebuilt and in now a ‘church of culture’. A prominent new resident moved into this quarter in 2007, namely Radio Bremen and its new headquarters. Loriot, a famous German comedian and lover of pug dogs, was first made known by this public-sector broadcasting service. That explains the bronze sofa with a pug on it that now stands in front of the entrance. The tour continues along Schlachte boulevard, Bremen’s original harbour and now a riverside mile of bars, bistros and restaurants.
12. A trip through World Cultural Heritage
Before the big Wilhelm-Kaisen bridge, we turn left at the St. Martini church and head for the Town Hall via the Erste Schlachtpforte, then straight ahead to the Bremen’s ‘Marktplatz’ and its World Cultural Heritage – the Bremen Town Hall, built in 1410 and given a new facade in the ‘Weser Renaissance’ style around 1600, and the mediaeval statue of Roland. To the left of the Town Hall stands Bremen’s most-touched work of art – the sculpture of the Bremen Town Musicians, created by Gerhard Marcks in 1953. Please note! The marketplace is a pedestrian precinct. A walk down the adjoining Böttcherstraße is well worth it, though. This is where Ludwig Roselius, the inventor of decaffeinated Kaffee Hag, immortalised himself in brick.
13. Bremen’s drawing room, the Schnoor district and back
The architectural ensemble on the Marktplatz also includes the ‘Schütting’, where the Chamber of Commerce representing the city’s business community resides. Just across the way stands the Parliament building from the 1960s: the ‘Haus der Bürgerschaft’. The Dom, Bremen’s cathedral, rises to the left. A walk over Domsheide to the right of the Dom brings us to Bremen’s oldest district, the Schnoor. Shipbuilders and fishermen lived here in the Middle Ages, and poor people in the 20th century. The narrow streets and alleyways are a great place to get lost. Those who can find their parked bike again take the cycle path along Domshof, where there’s a market every day. A left turn at the end, along Schüsselkorb and Herdentorsteinweg, takes us back to where (almost) everything started: the main station.