Basic Text: Scenic Bremen
Of peat barges, pirate ships and container terminals
Flowing through the heart of Bremen is the Weser river: an old trading route that was the driving force behind the city's emergence as a proud Hanseatic centre. The close proximity to the river and unspoilt countryside plays a big part in the lives of the locals. They spend evenings relaxing along the Schlachte Embankment or Sundays cycling through the neighbouring Blockland region. They go jogging in the Bürgerpark or travel by riverboat to watch Werder Bremen play football at the Weser Stadium.
Life by the river
Bremen's seafaring traditions are still alive and well today and have a big part to play in the city's unique appeal. The Schlachte Embankment along the Weser river is a magnet for locals and tourists alike and is the liveliest part of the city, especially when the sun is out. Other places of interest by the water include the fast-growing Überseestadt district, where Bremen's former docklands are being redeveloped, and the northern district of Vegesack with its 'maritime mile'.
When the sun shines down on Bremen, locals and visitors to the city head to the Schlachte Embankment on the banks of the Weser river. The terraces and gardens of the restaurants and pavement cafés command wonderful views of the water. Historical and modern ships line the quayside and add to the holiday mood. In summer, the beer gardens and outdoor areas along the embankment have seating for around 2,000 people and are open until midnight. The local food and drink can also be enjoyed on the water: the ships moored on the Schlachte offer a wide range of culinary experiences – from cocktails on the concrete ship MS Treue to dinner in pirate-themed surroundings on the three-masted Admiral Nelson. The theatre ship presents cultural entertainment, while the hotel ships offer excellent lodgings. St. Martin's quay is where the river tours depart: every day in summer, boats take passengers up and down the Weser on short trips or long cruises. There are tours of the Weser river and the harbour, breakfast or candlelit dinner cruises, tours themed on Bremen's delicious kale and pinkel dish and Weser riverboat parties.
A sandy beach at the heart of the city is only a short ferry ride away on the other side of the Weser. Sun worshippers can work on their tan here, and kids will love building sand castles. There's nothing quite like feeling the heat of the sand while watching the pleasure boats cruising by on the Weser river or cheering on the rowers and dragon boat racers. The beach and Café Sand are also the venue for the annual rubber ring regatta, which is followed by a concert and spectacular fireworks display.
Further downriver is a place that unites the historical and the modern aspects of maritime Bremen. In Überseestadt, one of the largest regeneration projects in Europe, the old Bremen docks are being transformed into contemporary residential, business and leisure quarters. The Hanseatic area of this fast-growing district can be reached on a leisurely stroll by the river, which follows a route along the extended Schlachte Embankment and through St. Stephen's district. This short trip along the Weser is also suitable for cyclists, and from May to September a river shuttle operates from the Europahafen here to the north of Bremen or to St. Martin's quay.
In days gone by, ships, cargo and rough-and-ready seafarers set the pattern of life for the docklands and its people. This makes the Überseestadt the perfect location for the Speicher XI Dockland Museum. Adjacent to a reclaimed harbour basin, the museum focuses on the last 120 years of Bremen's port. It brings to light historical events, personal recollections and raw human emotion in an exciting way that is easily understood.
Bremen's seafaring traditions are particularly well preserved in the Vegesack district, situated further north along the Weser river. It was here that Germany's first man-made harbour was built almost 400 years ago. Today, it is home to the 1,852m maritime mile along the Weser river, and a range of attractions including the multimedia Spicarium exhibition, museum harbour, captains' houses and signal station. Since 1996 Vegesack has been the mooring place of the Deutschland. This former training vessel, the only historical naval tall ship remaining in Germany, now serves as a venue for conferences and weddings and offers overnight accommodation.
Vegesack also hosts a variety of annual maritime events. One example is the Maritime Festival in August, which takes place around the harbour that was once home to a whaling fleet and Germany's largest herring fleet. This musical extravaganza in the north of Bremen features seafaring ditties, shanties from all over the world and a blend of entertainment, culture and fun. For three days, bands from Germany and around the globe as well as local shanty choirs transform the Vegesack district into a maritime open-air stage.
A boat trip on the Jan von Moor, which sails through north and north-east Bremen, offers a more leisurely experience. From Findorff harbour by Bremen Bürgerpark, the peat barge tour follows a centuries-old route through marshes and wetland that are otherwise inaccessible. This is a perfect tour for groups of friends and allows plenty of time to admire the passing scenery.
Relaxation is never far away in Bremen
Bremen is green. And not only because green is the colour of Werder Bremen football club and the Beck's brewery. The city is home to a whole host of idyllic parks, enchanting gardens and lush green spaces.
In the heart of the city is the Bürgerpark. One of Germany's most important country parks, it covers an area of more than two hundred hectares together with the adjacent Stadtwald forest. Starting just behind the ÖVB Arena, the Bürgerpark is a great place to get some exercise in the fresh air or just go for a stroll. There are lots of routes for joggers, and the beer gardens offer refreshments for cyclists touring the surrounding region. An extensive network of trails takes walkers past playgrounds, an animal enclosure and a mini-golf course. Visitors to the park can relax on any number of sunbathing lawns or explore the area on a boat tour.
Historical Wallanlagen Park, which retraces the old city ramparts, is equally beautiful and winds its way around central Bremen like a green ribbon. With its gently rising slopes, pretty winding moat and wonderful old trees, it has been a much-loved recreational area at the heart of the city for over two hundred years. The restaurant at the Mühle am Wall offers lovely views of the park.
Bremen's Rhododendron Park attracts visitors from far and wide. Unique in Germany, the park is home to around 550 of the world's 1,000 species of wild rhododendron, plus an additional 1,000 or so rhododendron and azalea hybrids. The 'botanika', the green science centre that opened at the park in summer 2003, presents an eye-opening look at the world of plants in three different sections: the Discovery Centre, the Himalayas/Borneo and the Japanese Garden. The authentically recreated landscapes here show the rhododendron in full bloom in their natural habitat. The tiny little bridges, the rocks, the ponds and the waterfall portray the connection between man, culture and nature in a fascinating way.
Knoops Park in the northern district of St. Magnus is one of the most beautiful parks in Bremen. It is named after the textile merchant Ludwig Knoop. Exotic trees, open grassy areas, an extensive network of paths and distinctive landscaping all contribute to the charm of this lovely space. The park also contains a sensory garden, whose braille panels give blind visitors the chance to find out about the various plants.
The German Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra of Bremen has been delighting audiences in the magical setting of Knoops Park for 20 years now. Since 1995 the park has hosted a series of open-air classical concerts called Summer in Lesmona, named after the epistolary novel by Marga Berg that was set here. Summer in Lesmona has lost none of its magic today and offers high-calibre music in a relaxing setting for families and for fans of culture and classical music.
The area surrounding Bremen is just as scenic as the city itself: the Blockland region, which borders Bürgerpark and the Stadtwald forest to the north, is a great choice for days out. There are cows grazing, fields as far as the eye can see, and idyllic inns and traditional farms along the dykes. Visitors can sit on wooden benches in the shade of trees enjoying homemade organic ice-cream and even watch the farmers as they milk the cows. This unspoilt region is well worth visiting and not only in summer.
The online tour planner provided by Bremer Touristik-Zentrale gives visitors a host of options for exploring Bremen and its surrounding area in an eco-friendly way. The various routes feature the most scenic cycle paths with plenty to see and do along the way.
For more information on Bremen and its many attractions, call the BTZ information hotline on +49 (0)421 30 800 10 or visit our website at www.bremen-tourism.de.