First of all, where is Bremen? Pronounced ‘bray-men’. It’s in Germany and was explained to us by a local as a smaller version of Hamburg. Also, did you know that Bremen is home to the world’s largest Mercedes production facility and Beck’s beer? Despite this, you’re probably still wondering why we chose Bremen. If you’re feeling spontaneous like we sometimes do, Skyscanner has a fantastic search option where you can choose London (or your home location) to ‘everywhere’ and either choose a specific date, month or the cheapest month in the year.
How to get there
Flights cost us around £80 each return with RyanAir to fly at 8am on a Saturday. Watch out for additional costs though; if you’d like to sit with your travel buddy as RyanAir now charges around £7 each way. RyanAir also flies out of Stansted so there is a noteworthy cost associated with getting to the airport. At that time of the morning after getting home late the night before from my last adventure, we chose Uber. Cost £60 from North London.
When you land in Bremen, you can either catch the tram into the city for €2.75 per person (around 13 minutes) or MyTaxi for around €10 to €15 (around 16 minutes). Needless to say we caught the tram. It was really easy. Line six to Bremen Domsheide takes you right into the centre, a short stroll to the beautiful market square.
Where to stay
When we travel we often notice that Radisson Blu hotels are in a great location. They always catch our eye! So this time we decided to stay there. I have stayed there once before in Iceland and it feels like a hotel you might stay in on a work trip. Basic rooms with comfortable beds, a desk, TV and lounge chair. No balcony which is usually one of our must-have search filter features but for a two day trip was not a deal breaker. Also we booked our flights and accommodation via expedia.co.uk and the package for flights and accommodation was a total of £218 meaning our accommodation was only around £50.
Where to eat
- Breakfast: Teestubchen im Schnoor for the German style breakfast
- Lunch: Kleiner Olymp for the schnitzel and labskaus
- Dinner: Standige Vertretung for the currywurst and pizza
What to do
From our short 48 hours in Bremen, here are our top five recommendations for things to see and do during your visit:
- have a local Beck’s beer or coffee at one of the many cafes in market square (otherwise known as Marktplatz)
- book a walking tour to learn the history of the market square and its buildings, Schnoor neighbourhood and waterfront
- stroll through the car-free laneways in Schnoor
- watch the sunset from a bar on the Schlachte (waterfront)
- take a tour through the Beck’s brewery (we missed out as there are no tours on Sunday)
- book walking tours in advance to avoid missing out
- arrive at meeting points on time because if you haven’t already noticed, Germans are timely!
- tours through the House of History museum are only in German
- pack yourself a picnic to save money, beers from Lidl are around 25 cents each
- you’ll need approximately €100 p/p spending money for two days
Day 1 Saturday – Market Square, Bottcherstabe Street, Schnoor and the Schlachte
With Germany one hour ahead of London, it was around 10:30am by the time we arrived at the hotel. Our room wasn’t ready to check in yet so we left our bags there and set off for the market square. This is the scene that convinced us to book our trip to Bremen. The market square is surrounded by beautiful old buildings each with different character, colour, detail and history to learn about and explore.
It had been a long time since breakfast so after a few selfies we followed our noses to the nearby food market for a bratwurst. Yum! From this side of the square we noticed the gold wall sculpture at the entrance of Bottcherstabe street. We dodged the bubbles being created in the air by a man with a magical wand and bucket of soap to the delight of all the kids and explored what Bottcherstabe street had to offer. Our favourites were the Bonbon Manufaktur store (another smell that encouraged us inside), carvings in the walls and art sculptures.
From there we walked over to the Schnoor neighbourhood which is known for its houses lined up like beads on a string. Kleiner Olymp was our choice for lunch because of the tables outside in the sunshine. I tried the pork schnitzel and my partner tried labskaus. Given the pork schnitzel is self explanatory, the labskaus is mostly corned beef, potatoes and onion topped with an egg and a side of beetroot, gherkin and herring. Cost around €13 to €15 each plus drinks.
As we walked back towards the market square, the streets flooded with people, all the colours of the rainbow and party music. It was a gay pride parade! And there were loads of people involved including those waving from the back of trucks. They tried to involve us but gave up when we couldn’t speak back to them in German. After another ten minutes or so of people watching we stopped into Lidl to pick up drinks and snacks. Beers (even Beck’s) were around 25 cents each. So cheap!
Because of our early morning departure (aka tired) we took the opportunity to have a quick nap before picnic time at our accommodation. Snacking on grapes, Philadelphia cheese and Pringles we did a bit of research on where to go for the night. We hadn’t explored the waterfront yet so headed straight there from the hotel. During our research we found Kangaroo Island, an Australian bar and wondered what it would be like so stopped there first. Like the nearby biergartens (beer gardens), it’s a great spot for sunset. There were kangaroos on the menu and a mojito happy hour. Unable to understand the details in German, we ordered two jumbo mojitos thinking it was two euros each. Instead it was actually two euros OFF the normal price. Therefore €22 for two jumbo mojitos. Including €1 each deposit for the glass, refunded upon return. Not a place we would recommend but maybe it picks up later in the night.
It was time for dinner so we headed back towards Bottcherstabe street and tried a ‘flammkuchen’ (pizza) at Standige Vertretung. It was after 10pm so we were lucky to still be able to order food. It was delicious! To drink we tried a Gaffel Kolsch beer which is from Cologne. I first tried it when I visited Cologne a few years ago.
Day 2 Sunday – Walking tour and currywurst at Standige Vertretung
Our flight back to London wasn’t until around 9:30pm so we had plenty of time to explore more of Bremen. First things first the most important meal of the day… breakfast! We found ourselves back in Schnoor and after a quick scan of the menu, found a table inside Teestubchen im Schnoor, restaurant and cafe. Our choice was a very German style breakfast made up of two bread rolls, butter, ham, salami, boiled egg and salad. Enough to share though we did also order a side of scrambled eggs. Total cost including coffees was around €15.
As the clock struck midday we ran towards market square to try and catch the free walking tour. On the lookout for the black umbrella with a green ribbon, we found a small group of three people and a tour guide speaking Spanish. Frantically we walked towards other walking tour groups but couldn’t find any speaking English. Instead we went back to the House of History museum in Schnoor but were told that the actors perform in German and therefore we wouldn’t understand the stories.
Instead we wandered around at a slow Sunday pace, bought a magnet at a souvenir shop and found the tourist information desk near the market square. We asked if there were any other walking tours today in English and thankfully there was at 2pm with eight spaces left. It is offered in both German and English though we discovered when we arrived that we were the only English speakers. All other approximately 20 people were German. I certainly didn’t expect Bremen to be a holiday destination for other Germans! But I understood why when we visited these places and learned the following:
- Bremen is a state with two cities (Bremen and Bremerhaven)
- The Town Musicians of Bremen is a fairy tale by Brothers Grimm and you can visit the statue
- The Roland statue in market square symbolising freedom and independence was erected in 1404 and is a UNESCO heritage site
- The Bremen Ratskeller has barrelled wine dating back to 1635 (Queen Elizabeth has even sampled some) and bottles of wine dating back to 1727 (tested every 30 years)
- The spitting stone is where the last public execution happened in 1831, Gosche Gottfried poisoned 15 people and people still spit on the stone today to show their disgust
- St Peter’s Cathedral used to be part of Great Britain and is where baptisms happen today
- The smallest house in Bremen is in Schnoor and is 40 squared metres with 3 floors, no internal stairs and therefore you need a ladder to get to the top floors from the outside
- The Wedding House is the smallest hotel in the world and if you wanted to get married in the city you either had to live in Bremen or stay at the Wedding House for a minimum of two nights
- The old bath sculpture in Schnoor gives a sense of why they REALLY visited the baths that used to be there
- The glockenspiel bells ring at Bottcherstrabe Street a few times a day on the hour and part of the the brickwork rotates to reveal hidden historical art scenes
Well and truly ready for lunch we made our way to the Hofbräuhaus but unfortunately they were no longer serving food. So, we went back to Standige Vertretung on Bottcherstrabe Street for a currywurst. You definitely only need one between two people. And it’s good. Afterwards we had a Beck’s beer along the waterfront, this time at a biergarten called Luv. The time seemed to fly by but we still had time for an ice-cream in Schnoor before collecting our bags from the hotel and getting back on tram line number six to the airport.
Bremen is a great European city break destination, especially if you’re on a budget. And if you’re like us, you’ll enjoy that it hasn’t been discovered by everyone else just yet. Can you recommend any other lesser known weekend getaway destinations in Europe?