In the Middle Ages, Bremen was a member of the Hanseatic trading league and remains a centre of commerce to this day. Its easy accessibility, its variety and its choice are key attractions for the city's 550,000-plus residents and for people living in the surrounding areas. A total of around one million people regularly go shopping in Bremen. Additional demand is being driven by tourism, which is evident from the steadily rising number of overnight stays. The city centre in particular is a magnet for visitors from Germany and abroad – it is steeped in charm and boasts attractions such as the Bremen Town Musicians from the Brothers Grimm Fairytale, and the town hall and Roland statue on the market square, which together form a UNESCO World Heritage site.
As you would expect for a city of Bremen's size, the shops are not just found in the centre. Other parts of the city, such as the Viertel, or 'quarter', offer numerous opportunities for strolling around and shopping. There are also shopping centres and retail parks of all sizes, meaning Bremen has everything you could want of a shopping destination.
BID stands for business improvement district. In Bremen, BIDs are also called innovation zones. They are defined areas – ranging from pedestrian precincts and shopping streets to business parks or entire districts – in which the owners of the land or buildings can arrange for improvement projects to be carried out within a specified period.
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There's so much on offer in Bremen city centre, which occupies an area of 140,000 square metres. All destinations are quick and easy to reach for locals, commuters, tourists and people from the surrounding region – whether they're travelling on foot from the main train station, by public transport or by car.
The city centre has everything from large international chains to small independent shops that have been in business for decades. Big brands such as H&M, Zara, Anson's and Saturn rub shoulders with Bremen institutions such as Hachez chocolate, Stiesing designer fashion and Privatvergnügen tailored clothing. Variety is king in Bremen city centre. It's why people of all kinds love shopping here. They also love the wide choice of cafés and restaurants that can be found down the many side streets and on the market square. In summer in particular, these are great places to relax. What's more, you can enjoy free Wi-Fi access in the Ansgari quarter and in the Lloyd-Passage and Kontorhaus am Markt shopping arcades.
The main shopping areas in the city centre are Sögestrasse and Obernstrasse, Hutfilterstrasse, the Katharinen-Passage and Domshof-Passage arcades and the Lloyd-Passage arcade, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2015.
A number of exciting new shops have recently opened on Sögestrasse and Obernstrasse – including Rituals Cosmetics and the fashion stores Jack & Jones, Zara and Snipes. The Swedish fashion giant H&M is currently expanding and modernising its branch in the Carrée centre on Obernstrasse. Once the work is finished, customers will be able to browse a new H&M Home section as well as a huge range of contemporary clothing. This will make Bremen the first location in northern Germany to offer a permanent H&M homeware department.
Stores for sophisticated tastes can be found in the Katharinen-Passage and Domshof-Passage shopping arcades – including brand-name clothing boutiques such as Van Laack, René Lezard and Lacoste. The independent fashion retailer Stiesing is currently modernising its stores here. By fully refitting its branches both in the shopping arcade and on Sögestrasse, this Bremen institution is looking to continue a story of success that has lasted more than 100 years.
In recent years, the strong growth experienced in Bremen's prime city centre locations has also benefited the adjacent streets. On Knochenhauerstrasse and Schüsselkorb, for example, there are now hardly any empty stores. The furniture shop BoConcept, the outfitters L'Uomo and the underwear retailer Mey are just some of the many fantastic offerings. There are also lots of popular places to eat, including the pizza and pasta bar Vapiano.
The prime Am Wall location has long been known for its high-end stores such as Ligne Roset, Windsor and Bang & Olufsen. However, it suffered a great loss in 2015 when a fire devastated the long-established fashion store Harms am Wall. Bremen's senate immediately took action to stabilise the surrounding retail units. The closure of Am Wall to traffic is being taken as an opportunity to think about what options exist to develop and enhance the location, which still offers a great deal of potential.
Footfall in parts of the city centre is on the increase. The numbers on Obernstrasse, in particular, increased significantly in 2015 when compared with 2014 and with the average for the past five years. There are many reasons for this: the opening of Zara on Obernstrasse, as well as the additions of Marc O'Polo, Tamaris, L'Occitane and Gerry Weber, gave a real boost to the street and to Bremen's city centre in general. The statistics are also showing that online shopping and the growing number of out-of-town retail parks are not necessarily leading to a reduction in footfall. As long as the city centre is a pleasant place to shop, people will continue to go there.
The stable to upward trend in footfall and the low vacancy rate underline the appeal of central Bremen. However, this means that the demand for retail space is now outstripping supply. Spanish fashion store Pull&Bear, for example, elected to open its Bremen branch at the Weserpark on the outskirts of Bremen instead of in the city centre. This trend shows that Bremen is a strong retail location in Germany and that companies are keen to locate their stores wherever they can there.
The Viertel, or 'quarter', is another area of central Bremen that is popular with visitors from near and far. Between Ostertorsteinweg and Vor dem Steintor is a selection of quirky shops that only Berlin, Hamburg or Munich can rival in Germany. The wide variety of cafés and restaurants also helps give the area a charm of its own. The Schnoor quarter – the oldest part of Bremen – is a very different, but no less special place and is fully pedestrianised. Strolling around its picturesque lanes makes any shopping trip an experience.
But shopping in Bremen is not just about the city centre and surrounding streets. There's also much to discover in a range of outlying areas. The Waterfront and the modernised and expanded Weserpark are the best-known among people from outside Bremen.
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