Once upon a time, a donkey ran away from its owner and set off for Bremen to find fame as a musician.

Along the way, the donkey picked up a hunting dog, a cat and a farm cock. With the donkey’s bray, dog’s bark, cat’s miaow and cock’s crow, the group settled into Bremen, chasing robbers in between sets. To this day, people still flock to see the Town Musicians even if they are statues. Yes, it’s just a fairytale by the Brothers Grimm, but along with Beck’s beer and Christmas markets, it’s put the city on the map. Replicas of the Town Musicians can be found in every cranny, with the most famous representation a bronze statue on the western side of the Rathaus. It’s one of many interesting attractions that decorate the dainty city.

Bunking down
Bremen isn’t brimming with hostels, but the best located is GastHaus Bremer Backpacker Hostel, close to the main train station, historic town centre and student district. There are also lots of hotels to suit a range of budgets. The tourist board’s efforts to attract visitors have led to a recent emergence of swanky new hotels, many found by the waterfront.

Full of years, but young at heart
From the rejuvenated Schlachte waterfront on the River Vessa to the Universum Science Centre shaped like a giant silver whale coming out of the water, Bremen’s makeover is alluring as much as it is admirable, especially because the city has somehow retained a yesteryear feel. Plenty of iconic landmarks of the Hanseatic city dotted around Bremen have been retained to define its sense of pride in its history. Such wonders include the Weser Renaissance town hall, the statue of Knight Roland in Market Square, the imposing St Petri Cathedral from the first half of the 13th century and the amazing architecture of Bottcherstrasse.

Green open space
Bremen is a green city and that’s not just down to the chosen colours of its two global players, Werder Bremen Football Club and Beck’s Brewery. There are many parks, gardens and open spaces to relax in while admiring the city. The historic Wallanlagen park wraps around the inner city like a green belt and in the summer the space is pumping with people.

Worth a look

Market Square
Located in the core of Bremen, the Market Square is rated as one of the most elegant in Germany. You’ll find buildings from the past eight centuries, as well as great people-watching perches from which to enjoy a coffee. The statue of King Roland is one of the first things to catch your eye, although its stare directs you to the eyesore that is Parliament House, a horribly laughable attempt at modernity. There is often some type of catchy live music going on and plenty of nearby shops provide an opportunity to obtain that happy balance of sightseeing and shopping.

Focke Museum
Bremen’s State Museum for Art and Cultural History offers a tour through 1200 years of historical events. It takes in the town’s century- long fight for independence through an innovative display of models, films, interactive media and text boards.

Saving the best for last, this 600-year-old must-see is a vast wine cellar which houses more than 650 different German varieties alone. Add to this ornate wine vaults, dazzling murals, tour guides who more than know what they’re on about and a restaurant where if you sinfully order a beer it will be served concealed in a white mug. The staff in the latter even wear historic costumes, and the wine and food was like I’ve never tasted before. Try the duck.

Bonus points for: Hot German men working the city bars
Loses marks for: Lack of public transport