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Bremen is a fascinating, historic German city, which seems clearly divided in look, feel and function between the old city (Altstadt) and the much larger new part of the city (Neustadt) – of which most visitors will encounter the historic centre first. Tune into our Bremen city guide to get a sense of what you can hear in the beautiful, historic Altstadt.

Bremen city guide

1. Haus des Glockenspiels

Bremen is something of a rarity in that two of its major tourist attractions are actually first and foremost sound-based, as opposed to something to go and look at. The first is the amazing Haus des Glockenspiels. Hidden down an unassuming but lovely old back street, the house features 20 porcelain musical bells, which put on a nine-minute show once per hour in the high season, accompanied by rotating image panels that tell some of the stories of the city. It’s unlike anything else, and it’s a must-listen for the sonically-curious visitor to the city.

2. The “Bremen hole” 

An outstanding sonic attraction that you can just walk right past if you don’t know it’s there. The most famous story relating to Bremen is the “Town Musicians of Bremen”, a tale by the Brothers Grimm involving a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster. It’s been immortalised by a statue in the city centre, but also by the “Bremen hole”. Otherwise resembling a bronzed manhole cover in the ground at Am Markt, dropping a coin into its central slot causes it to play a brief sonic experience based around donket brays, dog barks, cat meows and rooster crows – definitely a strange experience to hear these sounds emanating apparently from the ground beneath you!

3. Trams

Bremen’s trams are a key part of how its citizens get around – and just as important in defining how the city sounds, as you can hear them all day, every day. It’s a smooth, efficient network of modern trams that have their own character as they go about their business with the minimum of fuss – very distinct from, for instance, the trams of San Francisco or Amsterdam. Here are two sounds from the exterior as trams pass on a normal day, and from the interior as we ride towards the city’s Hauptbahnhof.

4. Hauptbahnhof

The main station of Bremen, in fact, is the next stop on our sonic tour. Its imposing, vaulted entrance hall is reminiscent of a smaller Grand Central in style, but offers some of the same sonic characteristics. Here we explore it at 9.00am on a busy working day, with sounds and announcements reverberating all around us.

5. St. Petri Dom

The stunning medieval Bremen Cathedral (or St. Petri Dom/Bremer Dom) closes our tour of the Altstadt. At 11am in this recording, the cathedral’s huge bells toll, reverberating off the walls of the squares below to create an all-encompassing sound that seems to fill the entire centre of the old city. As an added bonus in this recording, an accordion busker from an adjacent square adds some extra atmosphere towards the end, and of course we can hear one of the city’s ubiquitous trams passing by.