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Introducing Bremen & the East Frisian Coast

Small is beautiful? Bremen is delicious proof of that particular pudding. Officially, the name describes a Hanseatic city and Germany’s tiniest state, but most visitors – shh, don’t mention it to the locals – would recognise it as more of a town really.

Or they might call it two towns, for the state of Bremen consists of a pair of distinct flecks of land dotted across the Lower Saxony landscape: industrial Bremerhaven at the Weser River’s mouth and riverside Bremen, 65km south. They’ve been linked politically since 1827, when Bremen’s mayor cleverly bought the river delta from Hanover.

And yet, despite its diminutive dimensions as both a state and a city, Bremen is a winner. Compact and easy to get to know in a weekend, it’s a perfect example of what’s called schön klein – the German equivalent of good things coming in small packages.

The picturesque red-brick capital will take you from an unusual Art Nouveau street to a quaint district of winding medieval lanes and on to an alternative student quarter, all within minutes. Imbibing the local Beck’s beer on the waterfront ‘Schlachte’ promenade, Bremers might even talk of their oyster-shaped science centre as one of several modernising features.

To the north, Bremerhaven is reinventing itself with an impressive Emigration Centre that’s a perfect companion piece to New York’s Ellis Island. Meanwhile, back in the capital, Bremen has long settled on its unique brand image, courtesy of fairy-tale writers the Brothers Grimm. Everywhere you move, the picture of four animals riding piggyback – The Town Musicians of Bremen – stares out from statues, souvenirs and shop windows.