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8 November 2018 - Kerstin Radtke

Why the Schnoor in Bremen is one of the most beautiful streets in the world


Stepping back in time: Bremen’s idyllic Schnoor quarter combines architecture and history with entertainment, shops and places to eat

As darkness falls, the winding lanes of the Schnoor quarter take on a charm of their own.
As darkness falls, the winding lanes of the Schnoor quarter take on a charm of their own. © WFB/Jonas Ginter

An article in the New York Post has confirmed what everyone in Bremen already knows: the quaint Schnoor quarter with its string of 111 buildings (the word ‘Schnoor’ means string in Low German dialect) is one of the city’s highlights. With its lovingly restored medieval architecture, winding lanes and wide array of shops, cultural attractions and places to eat, the Schnoor quarter at the heart of the city is popular with locals and visitors alike.

The Schnoor in Bremen ranks among the most beautiful streets in the world. The New York Post hailed it as one of “The coolest streets around the world” in an online picture series. It was the only street in Europe to be featured. According to the article, history buffs would rejoice in ambling around the winding lanes of the Schnoor, and it is the perfect place to shop for jewellery and crafts, browse galleries or simply get lost in a maze of old alleyways.

Shopping and eating out: something for everyone in the Schnoor quarter

If you have the chance to walk through the pretty lanes in the early morning, in the evening or at night when the shops and restaurants are closed, you will encounter a tranquil haven far away from the hustle and bustle of urban life. As you’d expect, the Schnoor quarter is popular during the day and there are lots of people about. After all, the shops within these historical walls offer a wide array of quality items and products that are typical of Bremen. These charming little stores are perfect for browsing and it’s easy to find the perfect souvenir or memento of Bremen. The wide range of products on offer includes books and brushes, candles and children’s clothing, knitwear and textiles, nautical-inspired fashion, shoes and bags, CDs, musical instruments and sheet music. You’ll also find toys, models and antique toys and games, miniature barrel organs and storm-proof umbrellas from a prestigious umbrella manufacturer. What’s more, ornaments and Christmas decorations are on sale here all year round. From 1 April to 31 December, the shops are also open on Sundays from 11am to 4pm.

Enjoy local delicacies in an authentic setting surrounded by picturesque half-timbered buildings
Enjoy local delicacies in an authentic setting surrounded by picturesque half-timbered buildings © BTZ/Ingrid Krause

No visit is complete without sampling the local food and drink. Bremen is known for kluten (peppermint fondant), klaben (stollen-style cake) and babbeler (candy sticks), as well as tea, wine and confectionery, home-made ice-cream and waffles. Besides the traditional bakeries, cafés, tea shops and patisseries, there are also many inviting restaurants in the Schnoor quarter. They offer everything from rustic medieval-style dining to traditional hearty fare in baroque buildings where you’ll find labskaus (beef, fish and potato stew), curly kale and knipp (oatmeal with meat) to international restaurants serving Spanish tapas, Greek dishes or sushi. Visitors looking to have a drink or two can opt for a wine bar, Irish pub or other traditional taverns.

The best known ‘hidden champion’ in Bremen

“A lot of things are done on a small scale in the Schnoor – and that makes it special,” says Karin Take, project manager for business services and sales for central Bremen at Bremeninvest. “Many shop owners have less than 20 square metres in which to showcase their range of high-quality products. The Schnoor quarter is our little gem. It’s a pleasure to stroll around this car-free quarter and soak up its unique atmosphere. The surroundings make the shopping experience more special.” The Schnoor provides visitors with an authentic taste of Bremen and they can find unusual gifts and places to eat. Bremen’s ‘hidden champion’ in the heart of the city may be somewhat tucked away but it is benefiting tremendously from the growing number of tourists, much to the delight of Karin Take: “We are very proud of the complimentary review in the New York Post. It clearly shows that outsiders love the place just as much as the locals do.”

The Schnoor quarter: an architectural and historical gem loved by locals and visitors alike
The Schnoor quarter: an architectural and historical gem loved by locals and visitors alike © WFB/Anne Enderle

Medieval quarter with winding lanes, timber-frame houses and cobbled streets

More than a hundred listed houses and craft workshops dating from the 15th to the 19th centuries are nestled together in the Schnoor quarter. Named after its small but beautiful main street, the Schnoor quarter is accessible from all directions. It is only a stone’s throw from the World Cultural Heritage Town Hall and Roland statue, the cathedral and the market square, a short distance from the river Weser, and just a few minutes’ walk from the local court and the Kunsthalle art gallery. The medieval half-timbered buildings, narrow lanes and cobbled streets make you feel as if you are taking a step back in time as you stroll around this part of the city. The ensemble in the Schnoor quarter is part of a varied and extensive collection of historical buildings and monuments that are quintessentially Bremen.  There is much to discover behind the old, meticulously restored facades along the winding lanes. One of the doors, for example, takes you into the Hochtiedshus, possibly the smallest hotel in the world.

There are many surprises behind the facades – including possibly the smallest hotel in the world.
There are many surprises behind the facades – including possibly the smallest hotel in the world. © WFB/Anne Enderle

The historical buildings in the Schnoor quarter, some dating back to the Middle Ages, remained largely unscathed during the Second World War. They have been lovingly restored over the years and are listed sites of historical interest today. “There is hardly a town or city in Germany that can compete in this regard”, says Professor Georg Skalecki, Head of the Bremen State Office for Heritage Management since the end of 2001. The mention in the article in the New York Post was a gratifying confirmation of the importance of preserving historical monuments, the area for which Professor Skalecki is responsible. “It shows that the Schnoor is known around the world and acknowledged internationally as being an exceptional old quarter.” It gives Bremen a unique selling proposition in comparison with other cities. “Quarters like this that have not suffered war damage or been overrun with new building projects are usually only found in small towns.”

Idyllic little houses at the entrance to the Schnoor
Idyllic little houses at the entrance to the Schnoor © WFB/Anne Enderle

One of Professor Skalecki’s predecessors had a large part to play in the fate of the Schnoor. In the 1950s and 1960s, architect Karl Dillschneider (1904 to 1998) took a great interest in the Schnoor quarter, which according to Skalecki was “rather run down at the time.” “He raised the awareness of the quarter among the locals, initiated many renovation projects and made improvements. Even if we are critical of some of the work that was done from a modern-day perspective, things could have taken a very different turn. If people had failed to recognise the immense value of the Schnoor quarter at the time, it would probably have been completely redeveloped.”

Religion, art and culture

Nowadays, small galleries form a line along the Schnoor like a string of pearls – another translation of ‘Schnoor’ – and provide a window into the creative world of modern art. There is also a museum of antiquity exhibiting Greek vases. The Künstlerhaus Ausspann is an art gallery, now with a café, that hosts exhibitions, seminars, creative meetings and courses as well as being known for organising activities to assist the integration of refugees. For fans of plattdeutsch, a visit to the library at the Institute for the Low German Language is an absolute must. Performances at the theatre round off the programme of cultural entertainment in the Schnoor quarter. The House of History is in the perfect spot. Its concept of bringing the city’s history to life through entertaining stories is unique in Germany. In the exhibition, notable personalities from the past transport visitors back to bygone days. They regale visitors with fascinating and funny stories – with one or two grisly tales thrown in for good measure! The Packhaustheater in the Schnoor stages comedy and modern productions. Cultural references can also be found along pathways and in small squares where fountains and sculptures commemorate real and fictional personalities from Bremen. A guided tour through the narrow lanes of the Schnoor quarter is the best way to discover all the attractions, big or small.

The doors of the convent stay open for visitors from morning until evening
The doors of the convent stay open for visitors from morning until evening © Berit Böhme

For a tranquil spot away from the hustle and bustle of the city or for a special place to stay, head to the city’s only convent, which opened in 2002.

No matter whether you explore the Schnoor under your own steam or in the company of a guide, you will discover pretty winding lanes and beautifully restored half-timbered buildings, the likes of which are rarely found in Germany or other countries around the world. It’s hard to imagine a more beautiful old quarter than the Schnoor.

Further information about the Schnoor can be found here.

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