Free Hanseatic City
Germany’s smallest federal state comprises just two cities, the city of Bremen (population 550,000) at the Weser River and – 65 kms downstream at the rivermouth – the harbour city of Bremerhaven (population 130,000).
Both cities are surrounded by the flat green marshlands of Lower-Saxony and are the major urban centres in the north-western part of Germany.
Bremen once was known as the ‘Rome of the North’ and looks back to 1200 years of history. In 787, Emperor Charlemagne raised Bremen to the status of a diocesan town and used it as the base for the Chistianization of Scandinavia. Around two hundred years later, Emperor Otto I granted Bremen market privileges and thus created the basis for the development of town trade. In 1358, Bremen joined the Hanseatic League and became one of the most powerful cities and a major trade centre in the North. When the old German Empire was dissolved in 1806, Bremen finally became an independent, sovereign free state and called itself a Free Hanseatic City.
Apart from Bremen’s Beck’s beer brewery, the city is world-famous for the “Bremer Stadtmusikanten” (Town Musicians). In this fairy-tale by the Grimm Brothers four ageing und unhappy animals – a donkey, a dog, a cat and rooster – decide to go to Bremen and start a new life as musicians. They manage to chase some robbers away and make their home in Bremen – where you will probably still find them today. Just like the “Stadtmusikanten”, Bremish people are very happy with their city which is proud of its liberal, open-minded traditions and its well developed social welfare system. Most people live in small but cosy town houses, with neat little gardens, and all lined up along narrow streets with many parks in between.
Bremen is a very compact city. In a few minutes, you will get from the outskirts – location of the international airport – to the city centre, where you will find medieval lanes and magnificent architecture that radiates from the Market Square, a World Heritage Site, with the stunning Renaissance Rathaus (City Hall), the graceful Roland statue, the old “Schütting” trades’ centre, the State Assembly building, the imposing St. Petri Cathedral to the city’s oldest residential quarter “Schnoor”, and the exceptional Art Nouveau Böttcherstrasse which leads down to the Weser promenade. Regenerated “Schlachte” waterfront gives promenaders plenty to watch over right in the city centre. People can enjoy nautical rhythms along the River Weser and chill out in one of the many restaurants, cafés and bars.
Bremen offers a rich and diverse cultural life. From Bremen Theatre and the Shakespeare Company to the city’s strong collection of museums like the Kunsthalle Bremen, which is one of the country’s most prestigious foundation museums, or the Neues Museum Weserburg, Germany’s largest museum for contemporary art. There is something for everyone to enjoy, from musical productions and quirky variety shows to the city’s very own theatre ship.