In the large market square of Bremen, a limestone knight looks out across the centre of town. Towering in height, a sword in one hand and a shield resting on his torso, he is a symbol of a once powerful city.
A protector and a beacon of strength, this stone paladin has stood in the same place for more than 500 years.
The Bremen Roland
The Bremen Roland was erected in 1404 as a representation of the rights and privileges that Bremen had as a free and imperial city – controlled by the governing merchants and the guilds, not by the church or feudal lords.
To be a free city in the Middle Ages was something to be proud of, something they might erect a statue to boast of. But for cities like Bremen, which were part of the Hanseatic League, it also meant they were wealthy and had the funds for an imposing symbol in the market square.
And the Bremen Roland is indeed imposing. In total, it is 10.2 metres high, with a column supporting the main statue which is 5.5 metres tall. The statue itself was carved from limestone, with the shield painted gold.
The man depicted in the statue is called Roland, who was one of twelve ‘paladin’ – fictional knights of legend who were part of Charlemagne‘s court in the 8th century. It’s said he is the protector of the city and if his statue ever falls, so will Bremen.
There are lots of interesting stories like this to discover about Bremen, and I would recommend taking this very affordable city tour to get a good understanding of what you can find here.
Just behind the statue stands the Town Hall of Bremen. If the Bremen Roland was a symbol of the city’s power, then this imposing building was the practical embodiment of it.
The Bremen Town Hall
The Bremen Town Hall was the meeting place for the leaders and influential merchants of the region. Inside these elaborately decorated walls, decisions and deals were made that helped Bremen become an important trading point and member of the Hanseatic League.
The lower level of the Bremen Town Hall was used for merchants and theatrical performances. It was formed of one large hall with oak pillars that encouraged a free flow of conversation and easy negotiations.
On the upper level, the more important figures of the city would do their business. The decorations of the rooms here show the difference in status from those below.
Models of ships hang from the ceiling, large paintings show the conquests of the time, on one wall a story is written out for all to read.
A small room off the main hall is decorated entirely in gold.
Look up at the ceiling and you’ll see painted faces looking back at you.
Doorways, windowpanes, chairs and desks – they all have detailed and intricate designs worked into them.
Most of the population – now and for centuries before – only see the exterior of this building. The interior, however, is much more impressive and fitting of the role this town hall had in the history of Bremen.
A tour of the Bremen Town Hall
The Bremen Roland is in the main marketplace and you are able to see it for free at any time of the day. It is right in front of the Town Hall so you’ll be able to see the building’s exterior at the same time.
To visit the inside of the Bremen Town Hall, you’ll need to take a guided tour. It is best to book one of these in advance.
The tours are run by the local authorities and cost just €7. There’s normally one in English each day, and you can see the times and book the tour here.
The tour of Bremen Town Hall is a great way to see the different rooms of the building and learn more about what they were used for. You’ll also get explanations of the artwork and design elements inside.
The Town Hall has two main sections – the Old Town Hall from the medieval days and the New Town Hall, which was built in the early 1900s.
Although you will be able to see the difference between the two, they connect harmoniously and feel like the same building.
Where is the Bremen Town Hall?
The Bremen Town Hall is located at Am Markt 21, 28195, Bremen, Germany.
You can see it on a map here
How do you get to the Bremen Town Hall?
To get to the Bremen Town Hall by public transport, catch the train to Bremen and then it is just a 15 minute walk to the site.
When is the Bremen Town Hall open?
The Bremen Town Hall is open for guided tours in German at the following times:
Monday – Saturday: 1100, 1200, 1500, 1600
Sunday: 1100, 1200
The tours in English are at the following times:
Monday – Saturday: 1600
How much does it cost to visit the Bremen Town Hall?
You can only visit the town hall in a guided tour and it costs €7 per person. Children under 12 are free.
You can find out more information at the official website of the Bremen Town Hall.
The Bremen Roland and Bremen Town Hall are just two of the things to do in Bremen. There are centuries of heritage here and those stories are told in an excellent selection of museums and galleries.
But Bremen is also a university town and has a fun and relaxed atmosphere to it, especially along the banks of the river where people gather to eat and drink.
I would recommend taking a tour of Bremen when you visit, to learn all about the city. There’s this excellent night tour, which is only in German. But, don’t worry, there are also some great options in English here:
Soaking up the atmosphere, having a beer by the river in the evening, walking through the squares in the morning – these are the things that are particularly enjoyable in Bremen when you stay overnight.
I’ve got some accommodation tips here so you can make it more than just a day trip.
THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN BREMEN
The student vibe and the centuries of heritage mean there’s a good range of accommodation in Bremen for any budget.
For a good backpacker option, I would suggest the popular Townside Hostel in the student area.
For something affordable and central, ibis Bremen City often has good deals.
There is a wonderful design hotel called Designhotel ÜberFluss that you might like to consider.
And if you are looking for luxury, you can’t go past the modern Atlantic Grand Hotel.