BremenTravellers on a tour of Germany's northern plains should include a stop in this ancient city.
Bremen is one of only three metropolitan areas in Germany that are both a city and a state. With a total population of just 670,000, Bremen is by far Germany's smallest state.
Founded by Charlemagne in 787, the oldest coastal city in Germany has the country's second largest harbor after Hamburg. What started out as a small fishing settlement became known as the "Rome of the North" during the early Middle Ages. The city continued to prosper and by 1358 was strong enough to join the mighty Hanseatic League. In 1646 Bremen was granted the title of imperial free city. Together with Lübeck and Hamburg, Bremen was one of the few cities to stay in the Hanseatic League until its demise in the early 16th century. This development spelled the end of the port city's rise to international prominence. Today the city's official name still recalls this glorious period: Free Hanseatic City of Bremen.
While most of the historical sights are clustered around the Market Square in the old town, the ancient, crooked streets in the Schnoor area between the Cathedral and the river should not be missed in addition to the medieval harbor, called the Schlachte. Visitors should also keep their eyes peeled for images of a dog, cat and rooster standing on the shoulders of a donkey: the Grimm brothers' "Town Musicians" are ever present in Bremen.