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Bremerhaven (Photo:canadastock/Shutterstock)
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Maria Harding
Cruise Critic Contributor

Port of Bremerhaven

At first glance, Bremerhaven doesn't look like the world's most exciting port of call. Originally known as Wesermunde -- the seaport for nearby Bremen -- it was in the frontline of bombing raids during World War II, and nearly all its old buildings were obliterated.

About Bremerhaven


Pro

This modern city boasts a lovely waterfront for strolling and several museums honoring its history

Con

When exploring on foot, be mindful of the cobblestone streets, which can be a tripping hazard

Bottom Line

What Bremerhaven lacks in traditional charm, it makes up for with its own unique character


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But, out of the ashes, a smart, modern city has emerged. Modern-day Bremerhaven (which received its new name just after the war, in 1947) offers some unexpected treasures like a pretty harbor and a long promenade that offers views across the River Weser to the mouth of the North Sea area.

If you want historic buildings, you'd better head off to explore Bremen, about an hour's train ride away. Bremen is a lovely old Hanseatic League city, and it's well worth seeing for its museums, 11th-century cathedral and medieval old quarter, so tours there are popular. More than half of the passengers on our cruise opted for the day trip.

But, stick around, and you'll find Bremerhaven has a charm of its own, as well as a rich history it celebrates in some excellent museums. Of these, the award-winning Deutsches Auswandererhaus (German Emigration Museum) is quite rightly the most famous.

And, if you love the sea, this is very much the place for you because Bremerhaven likes to make the most of its maritime tradition. You can spend a day happily immersed in it, touring historic vessels at the harborside Maritime Museum, picking up nautical memorabilia at some of the quirky shops nearby, and even tucking into a lunch of freshly caught fish aboard a sailing ship dating from the turn of the 20th century.

A note for cruise travelers: Bremerhaven is more of an off-the-beaten-path cruise port, especially for English-speaking travelers, and it makes the occasional appearance on Northern Europe itineraries. Mostly German lines -- including Hapag Lloyd, Transocean Tours and Phoenix Reisen -- call there between May and September. However, a few British lines, namely Fred. Olsen and Saga Cruises, visit in the late fall for pre-Christmas shopping cruises.

Where You're Docked

The cruise terminal is roughly a 20-minute bus ride from downtown Bremerhaven and the Weser Dyke, a long waterfront promenade area where most of the city's main attractions are found.

Port Facilities

A bright, airy, two-level passenger terminal at the port features an excellent information desk staffed by English speakers. It also has clean and spacious restrooms, a shop that sells newspapers and some basic souvenirs, and a coffee bar. On the top floor, a well-equipped Internet cafe charges 5 euros per hour for online time.

Good to Know

Uneven cobblestones around the harbor area are definitely a tripping hazard. We recommend that you wear sensible, flat shoes to tour the town.

Getting Around

The port authority runs a bus that departs from right outside the cruise terminal to downtown. The 20-minute ride costs about 10 euros per person. If you prefer a cab, ask the staffmember at the cruise terminal's information desk to call you one.

Once you get down to the Weser's banks, you can enjoy a refreshing stroll along the waterfront, with great views out to the North Sea. You'll also find all of Bremerhaven's main attractions within walking distance, as the harborside promenade runs in front of Columbusstrasse, where you'll find shops and restaurants in the Columbus Center mall. Take the bus back to the port, or ask the staff at the tourist office in town to call you a taxi.

Bremerhaven has three railway stations, the most accessible being Hauptbahnhof, about a 10-minute walk from the Columbus Center. Choose between fast (40 minutes) and slow (one hour) trains to Bremen. There are also regional connections to Cuxhaven, Osnabruck and Hamburg. Because of the convenient rail service and difficulties with parking in Bremen and other destinations, most cruise travelers do not rent cars.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The currency is the euro; see www.oanda.com or www.xe.com for the latest conversion rates. You'll find ATM machines in the Columbus Center shopping mall.

Language

German is the official language. Some English is spoken, but a smattering of German will be a big help there, so consider bringing along a phrasebook.

Food and Drink

Northern Germany's great Hanseatic cities -- Bremen, Hamburg and Lubeck -- have a distinctive cuisine all their own. Look out for Braunkohl und Pinkel (cabbage and sausage). It's one of Bremen's best-known dishes -- also sometimes called Grunkohl und Pinkel, when kale is used instead of cabbage.

Other goodies include Pinkelwurst (a smoked sausage made with pork, oats, barley, suet, onions and other spices) and Bremer Labskaus, which originated as a dish for sailors serving onboard 18th-century sailing ships. Originally made with salt beef (Pokelfleisch), which kept well on long sea voyages, modern variations may use corned beef and even include herrings.

Here are some good eats in Bremerhaven.

Seute Deern is a turn-of-the-20th-century tall sailing ship on permanent exhibit at Bremerhaven's Maritime Museum. Its forward cabin is now a good quality restaurant, serving fresh seafood in an atmospheric setting. Salmon, eel, crab and herring fillets are on the menu, and catfish is a particular speciality. (Van-Ronzelen-Str. Tel. 0471 41 62. Open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.)

The German Emigration Museum's restaurant, Speisesaal, is a big hit with visiting Americans as the chef, Sven Krause, is a huge fan of U.S.-style steakhouses and recreates their style with his "steak and fish" menu. (Columbusstrasse 65. Open for lunch, noon to 3:30 p.m.)

You can't miss the Strom restaurant at the eye-catching Atlantic Hotel Sail City; it's just off Columbustrasse, right on the Weser waterfront, and looks a little like Dubai's iconic Burq al Arab Hotel. It's a good place for lunch, serving up international dishes and panoramic sea views. Try the goulash soup, fillets of plaice with sauteed potatoes and salad, or traditional German roast pork with Sauerkraut (pickled cabbage). (H-H Meierstrasse at Columbustrasse. Open for lunch from noon to 5:30 p.m.)

Shopping

Fans of nautical memorabilia -- and particularly models of ships, both inside and outside bottles -- will find plenty for sale in Bremerhaven, either at the maritime museum or in one of the little shops around the harbor.