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Bremen on the River

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.

Bremen. Sunset on the Weser

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