Bremen: a regional capital and trading city with a long-standing maritime heritage. Bremerhaven: 1,000 years Bremen's junior but still steeped in history and with many tales to tell. These two cities together form Germany's smallest federal state – a world of experiences that is cosmopolitan, welcoming and full of pleasures, open to the new and respectful of the old.
Bremen's history goes back more than 1,200 years and is perfectly encapsulated by the baroque and Renaissance ensemble on the market square, home to the UNESCO World Heritage Town Hall and Roland statue, patrician town houses and the Schütting, Bremen's historical guildhall. Sightseers won't even need a map to find their way around. Two thousand nails made of brass and steel guide visitors from the courtyard of the Church of our Lady via the market square to Böttcherstrasse. Once a tradesmen's alley, this narrow lane is now a centre for art and culture, and a jewel in the crown of European cultural history. The people here appreciate the finer things in life – internationally renowned coffee, chocolate of the highest quality, rare spices, tasty fish specialities and, of course, world-class beers. These can all be found in the city's charming shops, where time seems to have stood still, or in more than 1,000 cafés, restaurants, bistros and bars. Just 60 kilometres downstream lies Bremerhaven, first established in 1827. From its port, millions of emigrants stole their last glance at Europe before going in search of a better life in America. Many found it, others failed. The German Emigration Centre® recounts their fates in fascinating multimedia exhibits that bring their great adventures back to life. By contrast, the Harbour Worlds complex is rooted firmly in the present day. Here you will find ATLANTIC Hotel SAIL City with its bold curved design, Klimahaus® Bremerhaven 8° Ost and the German Maritime Museum – three absolute must-sees.
Not far from the Maritime Museum is a fountain featuring a small gnome-like character known as the Klabautermann (water sprite). According to folklore this barely two-foot tall imp is the spirit of someone who died and whose soul took up residence in a tree. Should this tree become a mast of a ship, the spirit will transform into a Klabautermann, a welcome figure – in spite of all his bad moods and terrible jokes – because he watches over the ship and its crew. A charming legend – and a classic example of Bremerhaven's maritime heritage. You can find out about life at sea, and about the past, present and future of the entire region at the centrally located History Museum, whose bold, visionary architecture is a standout feature of one of the prettiest and most tranquil parts of this port city. Back in Bremen, another unusual exhibition building is the Weserburg, Bremen's museum of modern art. It is housed in four converted warehouses in the middle of the river and enjoys international acclaim as one of Germany's biggest contemporary art galleries and Europe's first collectors' museum. Staying by the water, the very modern Schlachte is Bremen's newly regenerated promenade alongside the Weser. There's always a great buzz here in the delightful beer gardens and outdoor eating areas – and all with beautiful riverside views, of course. If you find yourself heading back towards the nearby market square from here, don't forget to pay your respects to the Bremen Town Musicians, the world-famous characters from the Brothers Grimm fairytale. Touching the donkey's legs is said to bring good luck, but remember to use both hands. As far as the locals are concerned, using only one hand is simply a case of two donkeys shaking hands. And no visitor to Bremen deserves that!